Calories Don’t Count! Oh, Really?

Cutting calories has been the foundation of successful weight loss ever since the first man or woman decided that it was necessary to drop some pounds of body weight.

In an attempt to stand out in the crowded topic of weight loss, some weight loss experts (and I use the term very loosely) will make a bold statement that goes against science: “Calories don’t count.”

Every successful weight loss is achieved by cutting calories. The calorie cutting approach ranges from straightforward – to simply counting calories to ensure a reduction in total calories consumed – to cutting out certain foods or groups of foods which in turn reduces calories.

Many weight loss plans will try to appeal to dieters by claiming, “no calorie counting necessary,” but whether you are counting them or not, if you are to successfully lose weight, you better believe that you will be reducing them. As sure as a pregnancy starts with the ovum meeting a sperm, losing weight starts with reducing calories. The body needs to use stored energy (body fat) because it’s not getting sufficient calories for fuel and that’s the basic formula for weight loss.

If you think you can lose weight without reducing your calories, you’re going to be disappointed. It won’t happen.

The supermarket is full of foods that have been processed to reduce calories. People want to be able to eat as much as they want and reduce their calories at the same time and that’s built a demand for reduced-calorie or zero calorie foods and drinks. Typically some real food ingredients are removed and chemically-created ingredients are added to make a food lower in calories. Sometimes the fat is reduced or removed to reduce the calories. While it seems like a good idea, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that might be wrong.

Take, for example, skim milk or fat-free milk has about 90 calories per 8 oz. serving compared to whole milk that has about 150 calories for the same size serving. Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.23.45 AMSkim milk seems to be the better choice for both reducing calories as well as promoting better health because the saturated fat is removed. Research is providing us with evidence that it may not be so. Children who drink low-fat or skim milk may be more likely to become obese.

Does that mean that children drinking a reduced-calorie milk will get fat even though they’re cutting calories?

No! It means that they will ingest more calories from other sources. It means that maybe drinking whole milk will created a longer lasting feeling of fullness which will result in an overall reduction of calories consumed from all foods.

Taking out the fat or reducing it in processed foods is one way to make a lower-calorie product. Another way is to use non-nutritive sweeteners (artificial sweeteners). These products are appealing because it’s a subtle promise that “eat as much as you want and lose weight.” As with the fat-free milk, studies are suggesting that these artificially sweetened foods may promote both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

If you come to the conclusion that eating foods that have been processed to reduce calories by removing fat and/or using artificial sweeteners are why you’re struggling with your weight, you may be correct. If you further conclude that your weight loss efforts will be enhanced by eliminating such foods, that too, may be correct.

If you think you can simply go back to eating foods that are high in fat naturally and/or sweetened with natural sugars such as honey, as a weight-management strategy, you may be incorrect!

Calories count even when eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods.

The good news may be that eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods is more satisfying and therefore you can eat fewer calories and stay feeling full longer. That’s the real benefit – fewer calories and increased satiety.

Weight loss requires reducing calories. We have been trying to replace natural ingredients in our foods with unnatural substances in the hopes that the replacements would enable us to eat larger servings with fewer calories. Now it appears that maybe it’s not larger servings that satisfy us; satiety comes from eating smaller servings of real food!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the chemicals in processed foods were what made you fat. It’s the calories! Calories count and they always will.  Do try eating more whole foods and fewer reduced-calorie processed foods, however, to see if that’s the way to feel full and satisfied with fewer calories!



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.