Calories 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 all calories equal?
In the case of the first point – quality – no, 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.
On the second point, 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 ‘uppers’ 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 ‘downers’ sensations (feeling apathetic, depressed, lethargic, sluggish and also craving sweets) tend to be as a result of eating too much protein and/or fat.
Skip a meal from time to time
Thirdly, regarding when you consume calories, give your liver time to empty itself fully of glycogen before putting your next meal in. It takes approximately 12 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.
As a modern society we’ve been taught to see calories as inter-changeable with one another, no matter the source. This is utterly misleading and is one of the primary reasons we suffer from so much overweight and obesity. Giving thought to the what, when and how of calories will help you maintain normal (and ideal) weight and health.