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Are calories important?

They don’t matter!  Should I say it again?  They. Don’t. Matter.  What matters, in fact, are only three things – the quality (not the value) of calories, your cell’s ability to efficiently regulate hunger and satiety signalling and when you consume them.

Are calories equal? In the first instance, what this means is that all calories are not created equal.  You can’t substitute equal amounts of calories from fresh vegetables with those from commercial bread (for example) and expect your body to be able to use them in the same way.  Equally, the same number of calories from sugar will be utilised very differently to the same number of calories from olive oil, for example.

What matters is whether or not a food is real (in its natural state).  Can the body use all of it, in a positive way, for important bodily processes, or is some (or all) of the foodstuff likely to cause organ disruption (such as the pancreas and adrenals, when simple sugar is consumed), or other negative reactions?  Bottom line?  Eat real foods most of the time…

Regulating hunger/satiety. In the second instance, have you ever wondered how skinny people stay skinny?  You’ll notice they tend not to be too obsessed or concerned with food, don’t avoid any particular food group (notably fat), but don’t pick up weight either.  This is likely due to the fact that their cells are able to regulate the hunger/satiety hormones very efficiently and effectively.  These hormones are known as insulin and leptin respectively and they play a huge role in fat storage/release.

In order for these two hormones to operate optimally, you need to ensure that you eat enough of each of the food groups to suit your personal fuel needs.  The closer you can get to this, the more functional and healthy the cells will become.

Bottom line?  Keep a record of what you eat and how it affects you within about an hour after meals.  All ‘upper’ sensations (feeling wired, headachy, irritable, panicky or craving sweets) tend to be as a result of too much carbohydrate in the meal just eaten, whereas the ‘downer’ sensations (feeling apathetic, depressed, lethargic, sluggish and also craving sweets) tends to be as a result of eating too much protein and/or fat.

Skip a meal from time to time. Thirdly, give your liver time to empty itself fully of glycogen, before putting your next meal in.  It takes approximately 6-8 hours for this to happen, leaving both the muscle cells and the liver cells devoid of fuel.  This allows the body to tap into body fat stores, using the excess fat as fuel.  So – try skipping a meal on a regular basis (called intermittent fasting) and watch what happens.  Don’t do this if pregnant, breastfeeding, hypoglycaemic, diabetic, under chronic stress or if you have a cortisol dysfunction.

Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Tanya Wyatt

Tanya has written regularly for various health and fitness magazines such as Men’s Health, Marie-Claire, Cosmopolitan and Shape (she also served on the advisory board for Shape), as well as for local South Africa newspaper publications. In 2004, Tanya wrote two internationally released health and fitness-related books, both  published by New Holland. She recently wrote her third book, currently submitted to publishers for consideration.


New Field

2021 Tanya Wyatt / The Happy Body