Counting Calories Doesn’t Work

Calorie counting is accepted as “the right way” to choose what to eat to lose weight, but the truth is it doesn’t work.

That isn’t hyperbole – calorie counting does not work, and I’ll prove it to you.

What if I gave you a choice between a small fries, and a piece of grilled fish, both with the same calories? If you are concerned only with the number of calories, they should both be equal. Whichever one you eat, you will consume the same amount of energy. So if you choose the fries, you wouldn’t be worse off would you?

Well yes, you would – a lot worse off. The reason is that it matters where the calories come from.

For Weight Loss, It Matters Which Calories

Most of the calories in the fries come from carbs and fat. The fat in fries is the worst kind of fat as well – trans fat – but that is another issue. For now we are concerned only with the calories themselves. About 148 calories come directly from carbohydrate, and 153 from fat.

Carbs are what are called “empty” calories. They have no function in the body except to provide energy in the form of sugar. So those 148 calories are digested and released into the blood stream to be turned into body fat if they are not immediately used, which most won’t be. Forget for the moment the increasingly damaging effect of the insulin spike those blood sugars produce, the point is that the carbs go directly to body fat.


Fat is generally better than carbohydrate in that it has some important functions to perform in the body, including helping transport vitamins and minerals, but it too contributes a lot of calories. The trans fat in this case is all bad however, and the result is that together the carbs and fat produce about 300 calories to be stored as body fat.

Lose Weight With Good Calories, Gain Weight With Bad

Now lets consider the fish. Only 3 calories in the fish come from carbs and 30 from fat. The bulk of the calories – 284 calories – come from protein. Protein gives what are known as “functional” calories because it has important roles in our bodies. Protein is needed for many things other than providing energy, including building and repairing muscle. Protein from the fish which is not used in those roles must also go through a complex and energy consuming process to be converted into sugar, and most of it is consumed. As a result, only 79 calories are left to be used by our cells or stored as body fat.

Also, because that energy comes through such a long process, the release of sugar into the blood stream is much slower and more consistent, and there is no potentially damaging insulin spike.

So although both foods have the same number of calories, they are vastly different in their effect upon our bodies. Which is why counting the calories they have is at best misleading, at worst irrelevant, and for weight loss just doesn’t work.

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