10: Don’t Count Calories & Why Diets Don’t Work

10: Don’t Count Calories & Why Diets Don’t Work

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Why counting calories is pointless and diets don't work

In this episode, Jonathan Bailor, author of The Calorie Myth breaks down the problems with the calorie theory of weight loss. Jonathan covers topics like why eating less or exercising more won’t ever truly solve a weight problem, how stress affects weight and clears up confusion with the often-misquoted Law of Thermodynamics.

Jonathan and I Discuss

1:45- The disconnect between technology and science
3:00- Why Calories don’t count the way we think they do
3:30- Weight isn’t a moral issue. People who weigh more aren’t lazy
4:29- The idea of “just eat fewer calories” is akin to telling those with depression to just frown less and smile more
6:45- How calories can count, we just don’t need to count them
7:15- The “Calorie Myth”
7:29- Calories in/calories out and why it doesn’t work
7:44- The role of the hypothalamus
10:55- The four laws of thermodynamics and why it isn’t as simple as eating less and burning more
11:31- Why most interpretations of the laws of thermodynamics are completely wrong
12:31- the problems with eating less
13:46- Why you’ll lose muscle and fat if you just eat less
14:16- How calories are different
15:00- The four factors of quality food: satiety, Agression, Nutrition, Efficiency
15:48- Foods that the more you eat, the healthier you get
16:05- Foods to avoid
16:38- How foods manipulate hormones
17:13- How to get your brain to tell your body to do something
19:44- How hormones signal the body to build muscle or gain fat
18:55- Why exercise alone won’t help you lose weight
19:45- Where “exercise” comes from
21:15- One step to be healthier

Resources Mentioned

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Until next time, have a healthy week!

Jonathan Bailor of the Calorie Myth on Wellness Mama Podcast

Have you ever counted calories? Did it work for you? Share your story below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I have done calorie counting in the past and was “successful” in loosing weight. All the cravings for garbage were still there and I would have indulgences here and there. I don’t think I ever felt healthier just a little more confident in my clothes. When my husband returned from deployment all he wanted was the calorie loaded American comfort food and all my hard work was out the window! I now know the reason those comfort foods made me gain the weight back and it wasn’t really anything to do with calories. I have lost more weight and kicked most of the cravings to the curb by eating closer to a 80/20 paleo diet. I try to keep my 20 as close to primal/paleo as possible, like sweets that are nutrient dense but every once in a while I want some rice with my mexican or asian food.

  2. I argue with my fiance about this all the time. He tells me to count calories to lose weight and I tell him it will not work. I did the 21 day sugar detox about a month ago and felt awesome with it. I will be doing it again and I’m starting to think sugar is the root of a lot of my problems (overweight, anxiety/stress, PMS, etc.). I tell my fiance that a 100 calories of soda is different than 100 calories of broccoli. They are both the same amount of calories, but they affect the body in drastically different ways.

  3. I really enjoyed this podcast and learned a lot. You did a good job interviewing. Keep it up – I’m looking forward to your upcoming podcasts.

  4. Calories suck. Calories are the gateway to anorexia, from my personal experience.

    Wellness Mama, Katie, you have changed my life. For the better, and I want to say thank you. If I hadn’t stumbled across your blog and read about how grains are bad for you and fat isn’t, I would probably still be anorexic.
    Thank you. After dropping the grains and adding healthy fats and proteins into my diet, I feel calmer mentally, (as I used to be scared and immediately exercise – “burn off” calories after eating–nothing more stressful then being scared of fat) my MOODS have SO improoved, my allergies are GREATLY reduced (still a bit of dairy keeping them there that I try to avoid) my hair quit falling out, and slowly but steadily, my skin began to glow. GLOW! Not greasy skin, GLOWING skin!

  5. I too counted calories. And I too battled anorexia. At my worst, I was down to 300 calories/day. Not even remotely healthy! But I was so proud of myself and my extreme willpower.
    I have not been that way since high school, but until 3 years ago I was still low (read almost NO) fat & all about the whole grains. (And I ate a lot of sugary treats that were “low fat.”)
    I am so thankful for websites & podcasts like this that challenge the old wisdom of the “experts.” I feel so much better now. And I hope I am modeling much better habits and food attitudes for my children than I grew up with. I have a son and a daughter. It would break my heart if either of them ever treated their bodies with the kind of disdain that I once treated mine.

  6. I’ve never counted calories, seems like such a waste of precious time but just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this podcast, I’ve listened to them all and I think this was the best! Thanks!

  7. Absolutely fascinating. Makes me want to tell anyone who will listen. I agree with Bri too – you have really changed my life for the better.

  8. Honestly, counting calories is the only thing that has ever worked for me. I get frustrated when I hear it “doesn’t work”, because it’s horribly misleading. At it’s core, taking in fewer calories than you burn each day mathematically results in weight loss, and it’s the only way you’ll lose weight; there is no magic bullet to weight loss, it’s simple math.

    That being said, when I “diet” to lose weight, I naturally avoid foods that are high in processed sugar or carbohydrates because these foods tend to be high in empty calories, and I’m aiming for eating enough food to make me feel satisfied, if not full, which means a lot of foods that are higher in fiber and lean/fat free protein, as well as vegetables and fruit; all things that can be lower in calories. I’ve also noticed that after I’m not eating sugar or a ton of processed carbohydrates, that I don’t “Crave” them like I do if they’re a regular part of my diet. But sugars like fruit, and some types of natural juice (like juice in smoothies where there’s fiber) don’t cause cravings.

    Ultimately, yes, counting calories does work, and every diet out there is essentially counting calories, but dressed up in a way that makes it feel different. Cutting out excess sugar, fat, and processed foods in your diet along with eating at a caloric defect is a completely sustainable and healthy way to eat, and I’ve maintained such eating habits for most of my adult life at a healthy BMI for my height.

  9. So nice to read positive comments from readers on how your site has changed their life for the better.
    Never counted calories, it always seemed silly to me.

  10. At the end of the day… having an idea of how many calories I consume is the ONLY way I can lose weight. That doesn’t mean I can’t eat a super healthy clean grain free diet. But it’s easy to over-do nuts, butter, fats, seeds, etc. Being petite, I don’t need as much food as my husband and yet I can easily eat the same portions as him. If I do, I would gain weight. Proof that I need to personally be aware of calories is that I can go months and months even on a keto diet and not lose a single pound if I eat too many calories. It’s happened before. But as soon as I make sure I am not eating more than 1500 calories, the scale moves.

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