The Calorie Conundrum


It’s very easy to fall into the marketing trap of ‘low’ being the better option.  Certainly having a low blood pressure or a low heart rate are goals for good health but when looking at food, should we choose low calorie or zero calories? Good question.

Many people just jump on the band wagon and follow the crowd. Did anyone bother to ask “What’s the problem with calories?” or better yet, “What exactly are calories and what do they do for the body?”

A calorie is a unit for measuring food’s ability to produce heat and energy. Are calories good then? Absolutely! Calories are good when they come from whole foods that contain a variety of carbohydrates, proteins, fibre and good fats but when we eat too many, calories in any form will cause weight gain. The trick is to balance what we consume with what we burn and ironically, as many people gain weight from undereating as they do from overeating.

When we eat too few calories, anything under 1200 over an extended period of time, our body goes into something called ‘starvation mode’. Once in starvation mode the body will naturally hold onto everything we consume in an attempt to protect itself. Being in this mode for too long makes for a sluggish and inefficient metabolism; and extreme vulnerability to fat retention.

How do we know when we’ve had enough calories? If you are eating the right kinds of calories, you will feel satiated after a meal and not feel hungry again for 3-4 hours. If you are eating the wrong kind of calories, (ex. processed carbohydrates) your metabolism will make quick work of them and you will feel hungry before 3 hours. If you have reduced your calories down to a minimum, you could have slowed your metabolism enough to lose your appetite. If you’ve eaten consistently all day and are starving before you go to bed, you either haven’t eaten enough or again you are eating the wrong kinds of calories.

Calories are good. Exactly how many calories a person needs per day all depends on their level of activity. Lying on the beach requires less calories than moving furniture around to paint a room.  Eat right, and your body will feel like it has had enough. Hunger is a wonderful reminder that it is time to eat and if it is just before you are about to sit down for a meal, likely you are consuming what your body needs so just listen to it.

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