When is food advice like one of those TV zombies? When it includes a weight-loss “fact” that is just plain wrong but just won’t die.
If you’ve ever heard the wrong-headed assertion that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and that losing weight is simply a matter of cutting calories, you’ve been the intended victim of zombie dietary advice that has killed many a weight-loss plan and destroyed healthy lives.
But the paleo philosophy of eating represents one of the biggest threats to this myth, which is why most modern diet “gurus” are against it. Eating the way the ancients did means you base your meals around protein like grass-fed or wild caught meats and fish, eat fruits and vegetables, and skip the grains. And when it comes to counting calories? Fuhgeddaboutit.
That’s why so many critics attack the paleo diet. Because paleo eating shows that it’s what you eat, not necessarily how much you consume, that makes the biggest difference in your health and your weight.
Yes, the food you eat contains energy measured in calories that the body uses to fuel its activities and, sometimes, if you eat foods that spike your blood sugar, construct body fat. But, contrary to what many doctors and other misguided dietary “experts” often tell you, when it comes to putting on padding around your middle, not all calories are created equal. Some are more problematic than others.
Counting on Google
Speaking of problems, the misguided modern theory of calories is being propagated by the biggest source of information in the world today: Google. The search giant is coming into the calorie battle on the wrong side of history.
Google is developing a computer program that analyzes food photos and estimates how many calories are contained in the pictured meal. It’s called Im2Calories, according to a report in Popular Science.
The story in Popular Science sees this new app as a way for Google to join the fight against obesity. It forgets to mention that merely counting calories in food is a worthless way for you to lose weight or improve your health.
Diabetes and calories
And if you think cutting calories to lose weight is a good way to reduce your risk of diabetes, you’ve been bamboozled by the calorie zombies.
A study at the Steno Diabetes Center in Gentofte, Denmark, shows that it’s your selection of food, not the number of calories you consume, that most significantly influences your risk for diabetes.
This research looked at how identical twins – in each case one was overweight and one of normal weight – responded to eating a fast food meal. They found that eating fewer calories and being thinner doesn’t protect the body from the harm created by fast food items containing damaged fats and too much sugar.
“This report, however, shows that a calorie is not just a calorie as some would contend,” warns Gerald Weissmann, who edits the The FASEB Journal, where the study was published. “Exactly what we eat and drink, and not just the number of calories, may be the most important factor in our health.”
Calories are not health or weight destiny. Research shows that the time of day when you eat your meals affects how your body deals with calories, too. If you’re active at night and skimp on sleep, your body will try to put on more body fat no matter how many calories your try to cut.
And when you work the night shift, eating any amount of calories of food is considerably more fattening than they would be on somebody who works during the day.
“When people are on a shift work-type schedule, their daily energy expenditure is reduced and unless they were to reduce their food intake, this by itself could lead to weight gain,” says researcher Kenneth Wright, who directs the Colorado University-Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory.
And even if you aren’t awake all night, just staying up late watching TV, working on the computer or merely looking at videos on your smartphone can warp your body’s use of nutrients and calories.
“Shift work (and staying up late at night) goes against our fundamental biology,” explains Wright. “Shift work requires our biological day to occur at night and our biological night to occur during the day and that’s very difficult to achieve because the sun is such a powerful cue.”
The anti-fat index
As I’ve pointed out before, cutting carbs – especially sugar – and eating a low-carb, paleo diet is the best way to lose weight. Time after time, studies show that compared to a low-carb diet, a reduced calorie, low-fat diet doesn’t cut it.
So even if Google releases its new app that can let you almost effortlessly count calories all day long, your weight-loss diet will be dead on arrival if your brain’s been eaten by the calorie zombies.
Research has shown that a better approach than counting calories is to be aware of the glycemic index of the food you’re eating so you can keep sugar from giving you a belly bulge.