The Asinine Concept of Counting Calories

Read time: 2 minutes

The energy balance equation, the “calorie-in calorie-out” concept based on the Law of Energy Conservation, is utter nonsense when applied to a dynamic, open system like the human body.

How is it that whole population can follow such advice as counting calories without further inquiry into whether this is even a natural practice? Did grandma do it? Did our ancestors do it? Did all hominids in the past several thousand years do it? Do lean, healthy, disease-free cultures do it? And how is it that we count calories yet still struggle with weight loss?

We are told to eat less and exercise more to create a negative energy balance, and to lower our cholesterol. And if that doesn’t work, then staple our stomach, or get on drugs for the rest of our lives, to control our weight and to lower our cholesterol. How is it that a critical mass occur in our nation to feed the profits of Big Pharma and their lobbyists, without an equal proportion of challenge?

And how long can we run on a treadmill and pump iron to cause a “negative energy balance,” when even a healthy meal that night can turn the whole mathematical effort upside-down? And much to everyone’s dismay, the human body is smart enough that, when billions of its tiny cells become starved with this negative energy balance (through more exercise or less food), it will trigger the evolutionary-based hormonal signaling to the brain that it is time to eat and nothing will stop the act — not tricks, not will-power, not medical intervention.

Then we’re screwed. “Fell off the wagon again,” we say with self-defeat.

Perhaps it’s time to abandon a mathematical equation that studies (extending back to last century) have repeatedly demonstrated to be a diet method of long-term failure, and to likely do more harm than good.

But then what?

Well, to start, remove the stuff that our bodies weren’t designed to metabolize — grains and sugar. As I’ve written elsewhere, and as many far more intelligent authors and scientists have written about, grains and sugar cause insulin resistance that leads to the divergence of calories into fat cells, and immobilization once there. Even on a reduced-calorie diet, if grains and sugar are still present, the body still suffers from the same scenario… except now it’s starving even more.

The fact is that grains affect different people differently, and some people have a greater propensity than others to become sick and/or overweight when consuming grains. But, no matter how our body responds to grains, it just makes sense to eliminate the stuff entirely; grains contain higher amounts of anti-nutrients (even after heating and cooking) and we’re all healthier with their removal from the diet. (There is absolutely no nutrient that grains provide that you can’t get far more from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.)

Let’s stop the non-sense calorie counting, and start enjoying real, natural food, and live free of numbers!

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7 Responses to The Asinine Concept of Counting Calories

  1. Al says:

    AMEN! That is the best post you have written. I am completely convinced that this is the WAY to long life health.

  2. Torrie C says:

    This is a great post, Johnny. My sister and my two cousins have struggled with obesity for years and were on all kinds of weight loss diet programs (from Jenny Craige to Weight Watcher to using the online FitDay calorie calculator site), but have never been able to lost their weight permanently. They were classic yo-yos and probably ruining their health. I could tell their experiences were always miserable, no matter which diet they happened to be on.

    Then finally they just started eating all their carbohydrates from only vegetables and fruits. They now eat as much meat as they want, including any fat that comes with the meat, and they eat almost anything else at any time. They don’t even count calories at all.

    ALL THREE lost weight, kept it off for over three years! They say they’ve never been so liberated, because now they eat all the beef with the fats, all the dark-meat chicken with skin still on, and cook almost everything in butter. Their favorite is especially good quality cheeses, they eat this at night because they say it completely satisfies and squelches any craving.

    I am sending them and others your blog, I’m sure they’ll really appreciate it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Johnny from The Lean Saloon says:

    Thank you both for reading. It’s my goal to 1) help others, 2) encourage and motivate others, and 3) give them a source that will either validate or add to what they already know and do, and let them add back in and share.

  4. Paula says:

    Johnny, what a helpful post. I’m really trying to rid myself of all the processed crap from my diet but it’s a challenge. I thought I had to stay away from carbs to lose weight but I’ve recently found acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash and all are very good foods and not to mention filling. I guess I can still have my carbs and eat them too.

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I absolutely love shrimp and I marinated in light italian dressing, garlic and then cooked it so I’d have it for my salads. Very tasty and good for you protein.

    Have a great day.

  5. Grok says:

    Like you said, the problem is we are surrounded by shit food.

    I believe calorie counting has a place… but it’s NOT in most peoples diets. Most just need to eat real food.

    I am calorie counting on my cut, but I do not obsess about it anymore. I know what needs to be done. I was eating a whole foods paleo diet and maintaining or just barely losing. I had to ramp it up in order to reach my super lean goal in a reasonable amount of time.

    I eat what I feel like I should eat to obtain my deficit. At the end of the day (and only the end of the day) I add them up in fitday. Once I’ve added for the day, that’s it! No more food! If I went over, oh well. If I went under, oh well. I know what I need to do for tomorrow… either eat less, or enjoy a little more 🙂

    Someone obese is not in the same category as you or me. They just need real food!

    Sub-15% bodyfat is where you need to start looking at calories & tightening things up for weight loss. Real food will work just fine for anyone fat. Just eat real food and you’ll be just fine people.

  6. Johnny from The Lean Saloon says:

    Dude, according to the recent videos of yourself on your blog, you are getting super lean!

    I agree with you that becoming SUPER LEAN requires extra vigilance with food quantity intake. In this case, I believe that intermittent fasting is a good tool (as I know you also use). Personally, I use intermittent fasting for positive health reasons and not to create a calorie-deficit. But, intermittent fasting is a great way to impart a calorie-deficit on a weekly average, which is often required for those seeking extreme body composition.

    Yes, calorie-counting has its place. In my book, it’s at the bottom of the page — but nevertheless on the page. Counting calories is suitable only after this elements: eating proper foods (paleo-based), after repairing fat oxidation impairment, after correcting metabolic defects, after intermittent fasting, and finally after a certain low body fat level has been obtained.

    Before these things occur, counting calories aren’t useful.

    For most overweight people, getting down to acceptable body weight and body fat levels would be a drastic improvement in their health and psychological bearing. Most people are happy to be at these levels, where their bodies feel and look great. Anything beyond this, for most people, is considered physiological extreme, and as such requires extreme measures — such as counting calories.

    In this circumstance, I do agree that counting calories has its place.

  7. Grok says:

    Thanks man.

    I hear you on the fasting bennies. That plays a huge role in my doing it also.

    “eating proper foods (paleo-based), after repairing fat oxidation impairment, after correcting metabolic defects, after intermittent fasting, and finally after a certain low body fat level” – Bingo. That’s where I’m at.

    Still carrying a lot of fat in my legs. Hunting season starts again this week. I dropped lots of fat during Kill to Eat, So we’ll see what the fasted walking brings this time 😉

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