Part Three – The Calorie Myth
Have you ever wondered why those last few kilograms are so stubborn and hard to shift?
If you’re anything like the majority of people, this phenomenon is not only frustrating but also disempowering. It can lead to negative beliefs such as:
- “There’s something wrong with me.”
- “I’ll never get to where I want to be.”
- “I have bad genetics.”
- “My body shape is hereditary.”
- “I have a slow metabolism.”
Ironically, these beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, as they promote a ‘giving up’ mentality. Nothing great can ever be achieved if we give up before we get there. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t – you’re right!”
In Part One, we looked at the Nervous System and how it influences our body to stay the same and to resist change.
In Part Two, we looked at the Circulatory System and how the quality of our blood and where that blood is going to is more important than the quantity of our blood.
Now let’s look more reasons why our body makes it so hard to remove stubborn fat.
3. The Calorie Myth – What is a myth? A myth is an idea that, despite being commonly believed, is categorically false. One of the biggest myths in the fitness industry is the Calorie Myth.
So, what is this myth exactly? You’ve heard of it before. You may have even said it yourself. The myth is that all you have to do to lose weight is to burn more calories than what you eat.
The equation is simple.
Weight = Calories In – Calories Burned
Calories are a unit of measurement of how much energy has been burned. So if this number is positive, it means you stored more energy and put on weight. If this number is negative, it means you burned more energy and lose weight.
But this equation and, indeed, this mentality has many fundamental errors, and it is the purpose of this article to draw your attention to these errors so you can be empowered to make better choices when it comes to your weight management.
To begin, let’s look at a common case study of a working, slightly overweight, middle aged woman.
She gets out of bed and, due to her busy schedule, misses breakfast on most days and has a coffee instead to wake up – a Skinny Flat White of course, because fat, she’s told, is bad for you. She has trained her body over many years to not even think of food in the morning, and does not feel hungry until midday is approaching. She has another coffee and gets through until lunch time and, conscious of her weight, has something light for lunch.
She goes back to work or duties while thinking of relationship, financial and other stressors, maybe nibbling at something in the afternoon, and at dinner time has meat and three veg, with a glass of wine.
To her surprise, as the weeks turn into months and the months turn into years, she creeps on weight. And it seems to be getting faster and faster!
Maybe this is what ‘getting old’ is, she thinks to herself, as she certainly isn’t eating enough food to justify the scales reading heavier and her clothes getting tighter. Sure, she’s not a fitness fanatic, but she is active enough and doesn’t understand why she’s putting on weight!
So, using the conventional Calorie Myth, why would she be putting on weight? What’s more, why is this phenomenon so common?
Not just among women, but among men too?
For starters, the conventional logic of calories in vs calories out does not work here. It just does not make sense. For the woman in our example to gain weight while consuming less than say, 1200 calories per day, that would mean that her body is burning 1000 or less calories in the day.
Now, even if she didn’t exercise, her body burns at least that amount in normal survival functions, like thinking, digesting, breathing, coordinating motor functions and fighting against infection. So it is just not possible that she can eat that little and put on weight, unless there is more to the story then we’ve been led to believe..
Let’s broaden our perspective on the Calorie Myth, and if we do, this story starts to make a lot more sense. Here are 3, less commonly known concepts about calories that are hardly talked about.
- Starvation Leads To Fat Gain – Because your body’s primitive survival mechanisms take priority over your normal metabolism in times of trouble. Notice I didn’t say “Weight Gain.” I said, “Fat Gain.” While these CAN be related and happen at the same time, this is not always the case. For when your body is consistently not getting enough fuel to function properly, it tries to burn less in order to cope, while storing fuel away for later (fat) because it’s unsure when you’re next going to feed it properly.It’s similar to if you were driving your car and you didn’t know how long the fuel light had been on for, and didn’t know where the nearest petrol station was. What would you do? Drive pedal to the metal (burn more energy)? Or conserve it and drive slow, trying to ration what little fuel you had left (conserve remaining energy)? Your body will do the same, and under extreme conditions, it has to switch off certain functions due to the lack of fuel which begins the onset of cellular death.
- Not All Calories Are Equal – Because those calories can come from 3 different sources – Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates (there’s actually 4 sources if you include Alcohol, but that’s a topic for another article). Protein and Carbs deliver roughly the same amount of energy per gram and Fat delivers double what those do. But what is most important is that the body will select which one it wants to burn depending on its internal conditions.For example, under normal conditions in Australia, we have normal to high blood sugar levels, plenty of glycogen (like ‘back-up’ stored carbs) and so we will burn a majority of energy from Carbohydrates during the day. Another example: If we are malnourished and have an insufficiency of fuel, our body will start to catabolise (break down) those tissues which it deems to be expendable and that are burning too much energy. After all, just like a car, if we want to use less fuel, we need a smaller engine, right?The result? Your body ‘eats’ your muscle tissue, degenerates your bones and sacrifices your immune cells. Why? To conserve energy and consume the protein they were made up from. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. It’s super smart, but not very desirable. This creates a slower metabolism resulting in weight gain, higher risk of sickness, and more difficulty fighting infections. Starting to sound familiar?
- I Can’t Control My Metabolism – This is false. ‘Control’ may be an overbearing word for some, but you certainly can ‘influence’ it. As we have just discussed, putting your body into deprivation can slow down and negatively influence many important bodily functions. So what about playing Devil’s Advocate. Is the converse also true?You may have noticed that many of our articles refer back to the concept of Balance. This is because it is Balance (Homeostasis) that the body constantly strives for. The idea of calories is no different. I will leave you with the following thoughts.
If you eat WELL but not indulgently,
Exercise FREQUENTLY but not excessively,
And Think CLEARLY but not compulsively,
Then and only THEN will the Calorie Myth stand true, and work as it should for you.
But if you act to the extreme and be out of balance in your efforts, then there will always be consequences.
Cause and Effect. Action and Reaction.
About the Author: Dale Ingram is the Business Development Manager of Revival and General Manager of Papilio System. He is the co-creator of the Papilio System. He speaks publicly and is passionate about raising awareness of the Power we have within ourselves to make positive Change in our lives.