The Calorie Fallacy

The Calorie Fallacy

Learn about the myth of calorie counting, and why it's not necessary when you're on your health journey with Melrose.

One of the biggest myths of the last five decades is what we refer to here at Melrose Health as 'The Calorie Fallacy'. 

For fifty years we have been told that weight gain or weight loss is a measure of energy in versus energy out, and therefore to lose weight you must simply be in calorie deficit. Through the 1970's and 1980's this lead to an abundance of calorie counting diets, the invention of the point system, low, lite or non-fat 'food-like' products, and the popularity of slogging yourself at the gym to burn thousands of calories.  

In recent times we’ve finally seen the shift back to healthy wholefoods, instead of starvation, but it can be hard to let go of a calorie counting past, or unlearn what you have always thought to be true. So let us help you - here’s why we don’t count calories:  

1. Calories are not created equal.

Our macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fats) produce varying hormonal responses and therefore metabolic environments, which either promote or discourage fat storage. 

  • Example A: Carbohydrates are equivalent to protein in energy, but when eaten in excess can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. This is the recipe for fat storage. Long term this will create insulin resistance, the precursor to obesity and diabetes. 
  • Example B: Fats are more than double the energy of carbohydrates and protein, but offer satiety and hormonal control – the keys to long-term fat loss (excluding refined vegetable oils and trans fats of course). Low fat food products are a thing of the past. They are not whole foods and most of the time, are higher in sugar than the full fat version. 

2. Fat loss is about hormonal control.

Hormonal control comes not only from managing your carbohydrate intake (to control insulin), but also from controlling your stress. With efficient stress management techniques, you manage the stress hormone cortisol and continue to promote a fat burning environment. Eating less and exercising more are huge stressors for the body and ironically can lead to weight gain, often seen as the "cortisol pouch" - that stubborn abdominal fat around your middle. 

3. The thermic effect of food.

The amount of energy required to break down our macronutrients – known as the thermic effect of food – varies significantly. Your body burns far more calories digesting protein and fibrous vegetables compared to simple sugars like pasta, white bread or packaged cereals. Digestion actually requires a large amount of energy (this is a good thing!), which can be accelerated with better food choices. You can truly turn your body into a fat burning machine. 

4. Food quality creates natural portion control.

If you focus on food quality, the quantity can take care of itself. After all, it's very uncommon to overeat broccoli or binge on chicken. Fill your plate with predominately non-starchy vegetables, quality protein and good fats from salmon, avocado, grass-fed butter and ghee, coconut oil, Melrose MCT, nuts and seeds, and you will be so satisfied that you won’t go near the bread basket, or even consider that lemon meringue.

Counting calories is not the answer to health.  The answer is to nourish your body with food as nature intended. 

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Steph Lowe

Steph Lowe is a Sports Nutritionist (BSpExSc GDipHumNutr), triathlete, founder of The Natural Nutritionist, a hub for celebrating the importance of real food, and author of The Real Food Athlete.

With a passion for spreading a positive message about real food and the incredible effect it has on performance, Steph launched The Natural Nutritionist in 2011 and is on a mission to inspire others to make health a priority in their lives.