Originally published in Jejune Magazine
On average, carbs and proteins give 4 calories per gram of food, while fats weigh in at 9 cal/gram (2). All this means is that fats are more densely packed with potential energy sources than the other two macros. That doesn’t mean fats need to be completely cut out when “watching your weight” or trying to shed some pounds (see above section on fat and cholesterol). So you see, neither carbs or fats are inherently “evil” foods that will cause you to gain weight and have endocrine disorders. Combining foods properly and eating small portions of them will ensure proper nutrient intake, a healthy blood sugar balance, and calorie control. And, like mentioned above, fats help one feel more sated from the meal, allowing us to feel more nourished from smaller quantities of food.
In addition, not all calories are created equal. What I mean by that is that the source of calories really does matter in terms of providing nutrients and supporting one’s health. Eating a diet of “junk” and “empty calories” (processed packaged goods with lots of additives, sugars and chemicals, for instance) and then working out in the gym, will only go so far to help you mind your weight with the calories in/out equation. Sure, for a time, your body may appear in top physical shape, but such a diet will start to take a toll sooner or later. For example, consider a person who gets their calories entirely from candy, or entirely of meat, or entirely of ice cream. Do you think such a person will be a picture of health, even if they “burn off” an equal amount of calories to that which they took in?
This is why calorie counting is not a foolproof method to achieve a healthy weight. Calorie counting in conjunction with eating an already balanced diet of macro- and micronutrients, however, is a different story altogether. We can keep in mind the relative calories per gram of the macronutrients we consume with the end goal of losing or maintaining a certain weight; but this must not overshadow the importance of nourishment with proper nutrients. Moreover, some people can take calorie counting overboard and become obsessive-compulsive about logging each and every morsel of food and drink they indulge in.
Calorie counting can have its place on the road to keeping a healthy weight, but as with most things in life, it has to be taken with a grain of salt and used in moderation. I believe the big picture of consuming a diverse variety of well sourced, nutrient-dense, whole foods trumps calorie counting, any day.
(1) “Calorie.” Merriam-Webster. Nov 9, 2019. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calorie
(2) “How many calories are in one gram of fat, carbohydrate, or protein?” USDA National Agricultural Library. Nov 9, 2019. https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/how-many-calories-are-one-gram-fat-carbohydrate-or-protein