FALLACY: All calories are created equal
TRUTH: Most people can understand that not all fats and carbohydrates are created equal, but so many of us have the hardest time understanding that a calorie is simply NOT a calorie. Take this for example: 100 calories of asparagus (which is about 2 cups and has 10g of protein, 10g of Fiber and 0 Fat) and 100 calories of chocolate cake (which is less than 1 ounce and has 1g of protein and 1g of fiber, 5g of fat) is NOT the same. This is common sense, right?
What does this tell you? This means that if you eat quality food like lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, low and non-fat dairy, healthy fats, etc… you consume fewer calories, and more quality, filling food than when you eat chocolate cake and/or the cheeseburger with fries. The thought that it’s just about counting calories when it comes to losing or maintaining a healthy weight is not valid and will not product the results you are looking for.
You should, however, continue to watch your portions when you do eat the cheeseburger and fries. The empty, calorically dense foods such as cake, fries, fatty burgers and processed foods may seem appealing, but the fact is - they do NOTHING for your body. What happens when we eat these foods over time? The answer is damage to your body such as weakened muscles, unbalanced hormone levels, and trouble maintaining and losing weight. Any weight you do lose is actually water and muscle - making you skinny-fat (flabby), and increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Ask yourself, how do you want to feel? How do you want to look? How do you picture yourself 15-20 years from now? Do you want to be healthy, energetic and have self-esteem or do you want to be taking medications, tired all the time, and feeling poorly about your self-image? The choice is yours and you can take control now!
FALLACY: Foods have “Negative Calories”
TRUTH: The term “negative calories” means that a food actually takes more calories to process than it delivers. Take celery, for example. It is thought that we burn more calories chewing and digesting the food than the food actually contains. Dietitians, nutritionists, diabetic educators and commercial weight loss programs have used the concept of “Free Food” forever to describe foods with a negligible calorie count that, presumably, one can eat with thoughtlessness. The “Negative Calorie Effect” - usually embellished to claim certain foods actually take more energy to digest then they actual contain.
This simply isn’t true. In reality, there really are no “negative calorie” foods. Calories wasted in extracting nutrients are already considered in calculating the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF is the indicator of how much energy the body needs to expend to simply digest and absorb a certain type of food) Proteins have the highest TEF at 25%, followed by carbs at 5% and fats at 2%.
What does all of this mean? Lets say, for example, you eat a can of tuna, which has 100 calories, your body will expend about 25 calories just digesting it. Now an apple also has 100 calories, your body will only expend 5 calories digesting it. Celery, which we often hear has "negative" calories, contains about 10 calories per stalk and expends 2 calories, which means we actually still consume 8 calories. No big deal, but to say it has no calories is simply NOT true.
Foods like celery, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, chicory, greens, sprouts, mushrooms, onions, and other vegetables that are basically water, nutrients and wrapped in a bundle of fiber. They are just tasty, nutritious, filling, very low calorie foods. You can think of them as healthy, nutritious foods, but don't be thinking you're consuming air.
FALLACY: You can eat whatever just exercise more
TRUTH: There is nothing more irritating to me than when I hear people say, "I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want" or "I'm going to exercise so I can burn off the crap I ate earlier today." Does this make any sense to you? The fact is, just because you exercise and your energy needs are now increased, this doesn't mean you can now eat whatever you want and expect to maintain your weight and/or improve body composition. Exercise on its own does tone, strengthen, and build muscle. It is possible to get larger muscles through continuous exercise, but without improving the quality of your diet, your body fat will still be covering all that muscle you're working hard to achieve. To put it simply: YOU CANNOT EXERCISE AWAY POOR FOOD CHOICES. The amount of muscle versus the amount of fat determines BMR and RMR (minimum amount of energy required to keep your body functioning, including your heart beating, lungs breathing, and body temperature normal), then it’s the amount of energy expended to the amount of energy “calories” consumed.
THE PROOF: According to their menu, one order of Outback Steak House Cheese Fries contains 2,140 calories. If you share this appetizer with three other people, you'll consume 535 calories. Add 4 tbsp. of ranch dressing and you've consumed over 800 calories before your main meal has begun.
A woman weighing 127lbs running at 5mph for 30 minutes burns 231 calories. That means that she needs to run for 1 hour and 45 minutes to make up for the cheese fries. She also needs to take into account what she ate the rest of the day. Too many times I hear people say that because they exercised that day that they can "treat" themselves to fast food or other poor choices. Or perhaps they feel they deserve to treat themselves for doing so. Yes, exercise burns calories, but WHAT and HOW MUCH we eat still is what makes the difference.
So, what's the key to weight management? Stop counting calories - doing so isn't telling you whether or not a food is healthy. Focus on the quality of the food you eat rather than quantity. It's not about restricting and denying yourself of foods you enjoy, but rather it's about consuming quality food most of the time. It simply comes down to making better food choices - more consistently day in and day out. Limit the "junk" food and lean towards quality foods such as lean protein sources, fresh vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, and low and non-fat dairy. Make an effort to move more during your day and most importantly, have fun!