Despite the fact that every lasting healthy lifestyle (whole foods, paleo, vegetarian, low-carb, low-glycemic, Mediterranean, etc.) focuses on what we eat rather than how much we eat, the mainstream still seems to insist that if we just counted our calories more conservatively, we could end the obesity epidemic. The proven fact is that calorie counting approaches fail 95.4% of the time. That’s a higher failure rate than quitting smoking cold turkey.
Just Breathe Less
Blindly eating less to cure obesity is like breathing less to cure allergies. It may offer temporary “relief” but ultimately fails because it is masking symptoms rather than fixing causes. Will eating only 1,200 of anything cause you to lose weight? Yes. So will cutting off your leg. That doesn’t mean either is a good idea. Counting calories is a euphemism for starvation. It’s the definition of an eating disorder. And the sooner you are able to free yourself from oppressive calorie myths, and instead enjoy eating more—but higher-quality food—the sooner you will live your best life.
How To Free Yourself From Oppressive Calorie Myths
Shifting our focus from calorie quantity to food quality is easier said than done considering the constant barrage of calorie myths we’re hit with daily. To help you free yourself from disproven calorie math, here are six of my favorite common sense reasons calorie counting cannot be required for long term health and fitness.
6 Reasons Calorie Counting Is Crazy
- Nobody Knew What A Calorie Was BEFORE the Obesity Epidemic
If we need to constantly count calories to avoid obesity, then how did we have about ten times less obesity before anyone knew what a calorie was, let alone count them?
- Every Other Species Avoids Obesity Without Counting Calories
If we need to constantly count calories to avoid obesity, how does every other animal on the planet avoid obesity even though they cannot count?
- We Don’t Need to Count Anything Else We Eat
If we need to constantly count calories to avoid obesity, why don’t we need to count everything else? What about Vitamin C in and Vitamin C out? How about Zinc in and Zinc out? And what about counting the other 18 minerals, 12 vitamins, 9 essential amino acids, 8 conditionally essential amino acids, and the 2 essential fatty acids?
- No Other Life Sustaining Bodily Function Needs to Be Counted
If we need to constantly count calories to avoid obesity, then why don’t we need to “count” blood sugar to avoid diabetes? Or what about “counting” blood pressure to avoid hypertension? And how is it that when we take more water in, more water out happens unconsciously?
- It Is Impossible to Count Calories In
The only way to actually count calories in the real world would be to only eat food that has nutrition facts labels on them. Even in this impossible case, these labels have a 10% margin of error. While this may not seem like a big deal, considering that the average person eats about a million calories per year, and 10% of a million is 100,000 calories margin of error, which translates into 30 lbs. worth of body fat, couldn’t we each gain 30 lbs. of fat per year even after counting every calorie we eat due to measurement error?
- It Is Impossible to Count Calories Out
If we need to constantly count calories to avoid obesity, then how do we accurately account for the 400 to 700 calories our liver burns daily? Or what about the 200 to 400 calories we burn digesting food daily? And how do we count the 100 to 700 calories we burn per day building and repairing bodily tissue? 75% of the calories we burn every day have nothing to do with exercise, walking, or anything measured by any expensive fitness gadget, so how are we supposed to accurately and practically keep track of these?
The Flat Earth Theory of Weight Loss
Counting calories is the flat earth theory of weight loss. It’s reasonable. It’s intuitive. But it is wrong once we understand modern science. The research is clear and the common sense is undeniable. Every single society and species that ever existed that focused foods found directly in nature—vs. processed low-calorie edible products—stayed slim without counting calories. Similarly, when any culture or creature starts eating processed edible products, they start seeing increasing rates of obesity and diabetes.
Ending obesity is not about eating less or exercising more just like ending depression is not about frowning less and smiling more. Both health and happiness are about quality, not quantity. They are about filling ourselves with so much good that we don’t have room for bad. It’s what we did prior to the obesity and diabetes epidemics and it’s what we’ll do to end them. No math needed.
Here’s a quick how-to video to help you focus on food quality instead of calorie quantity.
– Jonathan Bailor
New York Times Best Selling Author of The Calorie Myth
Collaborating with top scientists for over 10 years, analyzing over 1,300 studies, and garnering endorsements by top doctors from Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins, Yale, and UCLA, Jonathan Bailor is a New York Times Best Selling nutrition and exercise expert and former personal trainer who specializes in using high-quality food and exercise to simplify wellness.
He has registered over 25 patents and authored the New York Times Best Seller The Calorie Myth (HarperCollins). Bailor serves as a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, hosts a popular syndicated wellness radio show, blogs on The Huffington Post, and consults for organizations around the world. His free 28-day quick-start eating and exercise guide is available at BailorGroup.com.
A Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of DePauw University, Bailor lives outside of Seattle with his wife Angela and works to enable others to live better through simple, proven science.
1Crawford D, Jeffery RW, French SA. Can anyone successfully control their weight? Findings of a three year community-based study of men and women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Sep;24(9):1107-10. PubMed PMID: 11033978. & Summerbell CD, Cameron C, Glasziou PP. WITHDRAWN: Advice on low-fat diets for obesity. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jul 16;(3):CD003640. Review. PubMed PMID: 18646093. & Pirozzo S, Summerbell C, Cameron C, Glasziou P. Should we recommend low-fat diets for obesity? Obes Rev. 2003 May;4(2):83-90. Review. Erratum in: Obes Rev. 2003 Aug;4(3):185. PubMed PMID: 12760443. & ” A word about quitting success rates .” American Cancer Society :: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2011. <http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/GuidetoQuittingSmoking/guide-to-quitting-smoking-success-rates>.
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5.. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/ & http://www.prb.org/Articles/2002/HowManyPeopleHaveEverLivedonEarth.aspx & http://www.google.com/publicdata/directory
Urban LE, Dallal GE, Robinson LM, Ausman LM, Saltzman E, Roberts SB. The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy, commercially prepared foods. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jan;110(1):116-23. PubMed PMID: 20102837; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2838242.
A sampling of supporting research:
– Wang Z, Heshka S, Zhang K, Boozer CN, Heymsfield SB. Resting energy expenditure: systematic organization and critique of prediction methods. Obes Res. 2001 May;9(5):331-6. Review. PubMed PMID: 11346676.
– 1998: Poehlman E T; Melby C Resistance training and energy balance. International journal of sport nutrition 1998;8(2):143-59.
– Whitehead, Saffron A.; Nussey, Stephen (2001). Endocrinology: an integrated approach. Oxford: BIOS. pp. 122. ISBN 1-85996-252-1.
– FAO/OMS/UNU. Necessidades de energia e proteína: Série de relatos técnicos 724. Genebra: Organização Mundial da Saúde, 1998.
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