Why Calories In vs. Calories Out Isn’t Such A Simple Equation For Weight Loss

For years we doctors have been encouraging folks to eat less and move more in order to manage their weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn up, the scale will tip in your favor, right? It turns out it’s more complicated than that. No longer do we believe that all calories are created equal. Let’s consider the 150 calories contained in a can of Pepsi. You can eat almost 2 cups of fresh pineapple or blueberries for that same 150 calories, and it would do you a heck of a lot more good. You won’t crash from the fruit the way you will from the soda, which affects what you eat later in the day.

So am I saying that WHAT we eat, as opposed to how much we eat, is the key? Absolutely. People who eat more plants…more vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy fats (avocados and olive oil, for example), find it far easier to manage their weight than those who eat a similar number of calories made up of processed foods, carbs, animal proteins and sweets. Highly palatable processed foods have contributed to an epidemic of obesity in the United States and around the globe.

If you want to shift the way you eat to manage your weight, try this trick. Start each meal with an “appetizer” of a fruit or vegetable or make at least 1/2 of your plate or bowl produce. We’ve changed the way we eat breakfast in this country so that we’re very heavy on the carbs. We eat enormous bagels, donuts or sugar sweetened cereals. This is not a recipe for weight loss. Breakfast needs to be heavy on produce and protein. Think eggs and spinach with a bowl of berries on the side. If you want some carbs, serve your egg(s) on half of a whole grain English muffin or on one piece of whole grain toast with a little butter. Or try Greek yogurt (PLAIN!) with fresh fruit and some nuts to load up on protein and produce. When you start your lunch with a large salad (with vegetables and seeds or nuts) and follow that with a small open faced turkey (whole grain bread) sandwich, you’ll find that you fill up on the  healthiest calories first.

Don’t get stuck in the calorie counting rut that plagued our weight loss advice for decades. Low calorie, low fat diets aren’t the answer for most people. Eating lots of real foods…vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats and whole grains is where you’ll find success as you move from dieting to changing your lifestyle. With this approach, you can eat large quantities of satisfying food. You’ll find that you can stick with this way of eating, without feeling hungry, for the long term. If you do find yourself hungry, check to make sure you’ve eaten enough protein and healthy fats. You may need to add some olive oil, some nuts, and even a few more calories in order to feel full.

Thank you for listening and I wish you the best of health!

Please follow me on Twitter: @LisaOldson

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Categories: Nutrition and Diet, Obesity and Overweight, Weight Management, Diet, Exercise

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Lisa, This is very interesting! Thanks, Christine

    Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:45:09 +0000 To: speechmom@hotmail.com

  2. Agreed. Although except for a few vitamins and a little fiber I am not sure that a bowl of pineapple is all that much better than a can of coke- they both send your blood sugar and insulin on a roller coaster for the rest of the day, right? But glad to see you are advocating for healthy fats, Dr. Lisa! I am also wondering what your thoughts are about the Time magazine cover story this month about how even sat fats are not the demon the medical community once believed them to be. Do you agree?

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