This one really drives me crazy. When it comes to considering which foods to eat or not eat, we should consider all foods on the planet in two ways. First – is the food good or bad for your body and secondly – what is the calorie value of the food?

First question – Is the food good for you? The amount of salt, saturated or trans fat, sugar ect. in any food has absolutely nothing to do with adding or reducing body fat. High amounts of these indicate that the food is not good for your system or that it is an unhealthy choice. In other words, consumption of these foods could lead to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and many other conditions.

Second question –What is the calorie value of any given food?

 This is the only consideration when it comes to adding or reducing body fat.  It is merely a matter of physics, or heat energy. Any human body, no matter what size or age requires a certain amount of calories or energy to be in balance. Let’s call this your ”maintenance calorie level.” If you eat more than this amount, you will store the number of calories over your maintenance calorie level as fat. If you eat less than your calorie maintenance level, your body will use its storage or body fat to get you back up to calorie maintenance level for the day.

 Here’s an example, Say that your ”caloric maintenance” level is 2000 calories/day.  If you eat 2000 cal today, you will not store any extra fat or burn any stored body fat. You will be in balance. If you eat 2100 cal today you will store 100 calories as body fat. When you accumulatte a total of 3500 extra calories you will have added 1 pound of fat. On the other hand, if you eat 1900 cal,today your body will be forced to use 100 calories of existing body fat and when it uses 3500 over time, you will have lost 1 pound of fat.

Ideally your diet should consist of a mix of all three. Most nutritionists agree on about 65% carbohydrates, about 23% proteins and approximately 12% fat.

There are situations or life stages where these numbers can vary. Pregnancy, periods of metabolic growth and athletes who are weight training should obviously increase the protein percent.

Let’s look at the way all three of these macronutrients are digested and absorbed. Carbohydrates are used exclusively for energy. Fats are used mostly for energy but are also important for some other processes in the body. Protein is the really important nutrient. Not only is it used for muscle support, maintenance and growth but also for a myriad of other purposes such as hormonal structure, transport of other nutrients, hair and fingernail formation etc.

I have come up with a great way to explain this in layman form. Look at your mouth as if it were a hole in your body in which you put food , kinda like stuffing peanuts into a bag. Once any food (protein, fat or carbohydrates) gets inside your body through this hole it can only do one of three things: Become part of your body like skin, bones, muscle, cells, teeth, hair etc., be available for energy and actually used or stored, or pass out the other end. Now, to be more precise, protein is the nutrient that generally becomes some body part, fat and carbohydrates either are burned as energy or are stored for later use as body fat. There are however a couple of other structural uses for fat. It’s as simple as that.

It is true that carbohydrates are structured in such a way as to provide a quicker energy source whereas fat functions as a longer term energy source.

So the question still remains, in a weight loss program what should I cut out of my diet? This gets a little bit tougher. As we discussed in an earlier blog calorie intake is what matters. The proper way to reduce your caloric intake is to reduce your consumption of fats and carbohydrates, more specifically bad fat and processed carbohydrates. My next blog will address the issue of bad versus good fat and carbohydrates. See you then.

Okay, let’s and you start with listing some of the more popular diets on the market. There’s the Atkins diet, the Hallelujah diet, the South Beach diet, the Hollywood diet, low fat diets, carbohydrate free diets, sugar-free diets, protein diets and the list goes on and on. Here’s the real truth.

If you subscribe to or purchase any of these diet plans, in the process of beginning the program, the format that you are directed to follow by the maker of the plan is always designed around your specific demographics, meaning age, sex, body weight, activity level and so on. Somewhere in a questionnaire or form they get this information from you.

Now, the only reason any of these diets will work for you is, regardless of the colorful design, interesting packaging, super claims etc. the plan is  designed to restrict your calorie intake to a point where you are eating less calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight causing your body to use storage energy (body fat) to make up the difference.

Let’s look at a  specific example, Weight Watchers plan uses points instead of calories. Here’s how that works. A point represents between 60 and 70 cal. So if you are assigned 20 points a day that calculates roughly to 1300 cal. which Weight Watchers has determined is the CALORIC LEVEL you should be at to lose about 1.5 to 2 lbs of fat/week. Now let’s look at a low fat diet plan where you are assigned a maximum of 30 g of fat per day. The explanation here is a little more complicated. A gram of fat represents 9 cal. and If you’re limited to 30 g of fat per day, that’s 270 cal. Fat occurs as a natural macronutrient  in a large variety of foods. By limiting your fat grams you are also limiting the volume of food that you eat. If you cut back on fatty foods, you will just consume less calories.

Your next question might be, if it’s all about calories why do I see so many new and different weight loss plans on the market? Why don’t they say just reduce your calories and you lose weight?

Here’s the answer to that. Our brains are wired in such a way that we get excited about something new and different. People who promote these programs know that. If someone told you they would sell you a diet plan for let’s say $100 and when you bought it you got a piece of paper in the mail that said eat 1000 cal a day, you’d probably be upset.

Now look at this scenario. I’d like to sell you a weight loss plan for $100. Here’s what you get: A plan that is designed for your body type and through extensive research into “somatatyping”, I’ve developed this plan that’s designed especially for you. I’ll call it the “Soma” diet. When you get your package in the mail you get this combination of colorful cards. One card has a picture of your body shape on it. Also included are cards that have letters on them, one letter per card going from A through Z. The card with letter A on it has a picture of five different fruits, the Card with the letter B on it has a picture of five different vegetables on it. The rest of the cards have a selection of other food groups on them. You are instructed to select and eat one food from say every other letter in the alphabet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (A,C,E,G etc.). On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you are instructed to select and eat one food from the cards with the other letters of alphabet on them (B,D,F,H etc.).

This plan obviously is more exciting and different but the truth is, again it boils down to the same thing. The plan is instructing you to consume less calories than you need to maintain your present weight, usually in an amount that will cause you to lose about 2 pounds per week.

Just what is a Calorie anyway?

We are always hearing about calories. We say cut your calories and you lose weight or if you want to gain weight add calories to your diet. Well, I bet you’d like to know just what a calorie is.

A calorie is not an object that you can touch. It’s actually a unit of heat or measure of heat. Let me explain it this way. All foods are composed of some combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, fiber, water or some amount of micronutrients. When you put food into your body and I do mean through the hole that is your mouth it becomes one of four things: part of your body such as muscles ,skin, bones, guts etc., Body fat, waste products, or heat.

Now, your specific body mass or body weight, whatever it is, requires a certain number of calories to maintain that mass or weight. Let’s say for example it’s 2000 cal per day. If you take the total calories consumed in a day and it is more than 2000 cal you will store the extra calories in the form of body fat.
Conversely, if you consume less than 2000 cal in a day (let’s say 1800) your body will take 200 from its storage (body fat) and you will lose weight.

Here’s the tricky part. We are talking about the total calories in a day, including all fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Fats and carbohydrates are used almost exclusively for energy. Protein on the other hand is used for multiple purposes including maintaining structures and transport of nutrients and even though it’s primary purpose is not energy it can be used as energy and certain situations, therefore it is included in the calorie total for the day.

What your body actually does is convert the carbohydrates or fat you have eaten either into body fat or actual heat that radiates from your body into the atmosphere and is recycled.