Get Everything You Ever Wanted : Calories



When most people think about weight loss and daily food consumption, the first word that comes to mind is calories. In my experience, the mere mention of the word makes most
people go pale, but at the same time, most people simply don’t know what it means. For this reason,
I would eliminate calorie from the English language if I could. The word is not bad in and
of itself, but it is widely misunderstood!

In this chapter, I present the facts about calories so you can be in-the-know. Then, I clarify
some common misconceptions about what calories are and what calories do so you can make
healthy decisions about how and what to eat. Finally, you will use an easy equation to estimate
your daily calorie requirements to lose weight or maintain it. Then you can forget about counting
calories forever. (Really!)

Learn the Facts

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition), a calorie is “a
unit equivalent to the large calorie expressing heat-producing or energy-producing value in food
when oxidized in the body.” In plain English, a calorie is a unit of energy that is released from
the food you eat and used to power the body.

The body needs energy from food—calories—to perform many functions, the most obvious
of which are exercise and other kinds of physical activity. However, the body also requires
energy to function at the most basic level: to breathe, digest food, and maintain organs and organ

Believe it or not, it is possible to eat too few calories! The most serious problem with
low-calorie diets is that although they may bring about weight loss, they also can cause serious
health problems. One common side effect of low-calorie diets is muscle breakdown, which can
occur when the body doesn’t receive enough calories from protein. Especially vulnerable is the
heart, a muscular organ. If a person does not consume an adequate amount of calories each day,
the heart muscle begins to break down, possibly leading to serious conditions such as cardiac

Also, following low-calorie diets off and on over time can have negative consequences
for overall health. Low-calorie diets typically do not supply enough energy to keep organs and
systems healthy and, in effect, can lead to malnourishment. For clients who have repeatedly followed
such diets, I recommend high-calorie meal plans that provide their organs with adequate
fuel to repair themselves and regain health.

End the Calorie Debate

The American public has been told, time and time again, that consuming more calories
than the body burns leads to weight gain. However,
this statement is only partially true. In the following
sections, I clear up some common misconceptions
about calories.

“A calorie is a calorie.”

The old school of nutritional thinking teaches that all calories are created equal. Weight loss and weight gain are strictly a matter of “calories in, calories out”: Regardless of the calorie source, you’ll lose weight if you burn more calories than you eat and gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. This explanation seems logical enough, right? Unfortunately, it fails to account for modern research findings that the calories from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats have different effects on body metabolism—in other words, some calories really are healthier than others. To grasp this concept, a basic understanding of metabolism is helpful. Two important metabolic reactions involve insulin and glucagon, hormones that are released during the digestion of food consumed. In general, insulin causes fat storage, and glucagon causes fat to be used for energy (rather than stored). Your body needs both of these hormones so it can function properly, but when the insulin–glucagon balance is ideal, your body will actually build muscle while burning fat. Getting the proportions correct is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and eating the right foods for your unique metabolism type—regardless of the calorie content of those foods—is the best way to do that. Certain foods affect insulin release much more than other foods.
These foods are refined carbohydrates, which include white breads, sugars, most baked goods, and most processed snack foods. Consuming such foods causes insulin levels to increase quickly (giving a short, high energy boost) and then decrease quickly (leading to low< energy levels and listlessness). When your body releases too much insulin, you may feel hungry soon after eating. Conversely, protein causes the release of glucagon, which can decrease hunger and control appetite.

By the way, it also is incorrect to say that all fats—or carbohydrates, or proteins—are
created equal. Different fats (e.g., fish oil vs. hydrogenated oil) have vastly different effects on
metabolism and health in general, as do different carbohydrates (e.g., low glycemic index vs.
high glycemic index) and different proteins (animal vs. plant). The differences are highlighted
throughout this manual.

As you see, making educated choices about where your calories come from is important
when you are attempting to control appetite, lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight in the long

“Calories don’t matter.”

This school of thought says that if you eat proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in certain
ratios, then the number of calories is unimportant. For example, for proponents of metabolism
typing, the only thing that matters is eating the ideal foods in the right proportions for your metabolism
type. This approach can be effective if you eat those foods in the ideal amounts for your
body; however, consuming larger amounts will cause you to maintain or gain weight rather than
lose it.

If a meal plan for weight loss isn’t created with calorie counts, then on what is it based?
Ideally, each of us would know when to eat and when to stop eating simply by “listening” to the
body’s hunger and satiation cues. Unfortunately, though, most people who struggle with their
weight have lost the ability to recognize when they are hungry or full and often eat when they
feel stressed, bored, or pressured socially.

To account for this inability to listen to the body’s cues, the Diet Solution Program
recommends that you estimate how many calories you need to consume daily (Determine Daily
Calorie Requirements, later in this chapter) and then use the result as a tool to determine ideal
serving sizes (Step 2: Determine Your Allowable Food Servings, in the Chapter on Daily Meal
Planning). Then, by paying attention to your body’s cues over time you can create and adjust
future meal plans accordingly.

“I can’t eat that much and still lose weight.”

Many people are surprised by the generous portion sizes and the amounts of food that
I recommend for healthy weight loss. But the truth is, with the right foods, you can eat sizable
quantities of food and lose weight at the same time! Most dieters decrease their food intake so
much when they want to lose weight that they do lose some pounds, then quickly plateau. At that
point, they have no recourse but to eat even less food, which triggers starvation mode and makes
losing weight and feeling good difficult, if not impossible.

Please don’t be afraid to eat. If you eat the right foods, in the right amounts and proportions
for your metabolism type, then you will lose weight and feel great. You must change your
mind-set from “calorie counting” to “choosing the appropriate proportions and serving sizes” for your body. And whatever you do, don’t be lured into the trap of counting calories, because that
approach is not sustainable—or healthy—in the long term.

Determine Daily Calorie Requirements

Even though the word calorie is loaded with bad (and wrong) connotations, the Diet
Solution Program suggests estimating your daily calorie requirements as a means to an end. This
number is used to determine the correct number of servings of each food type for each meal
(Step 2: Determine Your Allowable Food Servings). That’s it—no counting calories at each meal,
or ever! (In fact, for my clients, I often do the calorie calculation myself and choose the appropriate
meal plan without ever mentioning the word calories.) Instead, you will record in your
Success Journal the individual servings of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that you consume at
each meal and your total servings for each day.

How many calories are enough—that is, enough to provide energy for your body to
perform all its necessary functions and activities and bring about optimum health? Daily calorie
requirements vary from person to person and depend on weight, foods consumed, sleep, stress
and activity levels, age, and a long list of other factors that affect metabolism. Because of these
many variables, no machine, calculator, or equation can determine the exact number of calories
that a person needs daily. However, my experience indicates that the following calorie equation
provides a good starting point, even if it is not the most scientific method.

Read the following instructions straight through once, then perform the easy calculation
for yourself, recording your results here. You will need to refer to this information while you
work through the Chapter on Daily Meal Planning.

• Multiply your current weight (in pounds) by 13, 14, or 15—use 13 if you have a
particularly slow metabolism and do not exercise much, 14 if you perform moderate
exercise three or more times per week, and 15 if you exercise vigorously more than
three times per week. The result is your daily calorie requirement for weight maintenance:

_____ pounds × ___ = _______ calories per day

• For healthy weight loss, you must reduce your maintenance calorie intake by 20% (in
other words, consume 80% of the maintenance amount). Simply multiply your daily
calorie requirement for weight maintenance by 0.80. (Note: Do not reduce your calories
by more than 20% in an effort to lose more weight; doing so may put your body
in a starvation state, which would slow your metabolism and make weight loss even
more difficult). The result is your daily calorie requirement to achieve healthy weight

_______ calories × 0.80 = _______ calories per day

For example, consider a 180-pound female who does moderate weight training and walking
three times per week.
Maintenance plan: 180 pounds × 14 = 2,520 calories per day
Weight-loss plan: 2,520 calories × 0.80 = 2,016 calories per day
Her customized weight-loss meal plan should provide about 2,000 calories per day.
Remember that these daily calorie requirements are only guidelines. Some people need
fewer calories to lose weight, and others need more. The goal is to consume as many calories as
possible while still losing fat, because the more fuel you give the body, the harder your metabolism
will work, and you want to keep that metabolism cranking to see long-term weight loss. The
truth is, the healthier your body is, the more food you can eat and still achieve or maintain your
ideal weight. Find your daily calorie requirements here: