Imagine you were at a party and a friend from out of town talked about moving to your city. If you were to describe your city, with all of its parts, people, culture, and problems, could you do it effectively in one word? If you only talked about its parks – or traffic, or bar scene – would they be able to get a full vision of what their life would be? What you told them may be true, but they were still missing a big part of the picture.

This is just like our food. We know that food has vitamins, minerals, calories, carbohydrates, fats, proteins and more. In modern society, we also have chemicals, fillers, preservatives and food coloring to consider. But for years, we have been told that to lose weight, we just need to burn more calories than we take in.

nutrition-factsThe calorie content of our food is just one small piece of the complex puzzle of good health. Not only are there hundreds of factors that makes food what it is, (protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and more that are only now being discovered) we also have our bodies to consider. Individuals metabolize food differently, have different ways of storing and using fat, have different nutritional needs, and interact with the food in different ways. Does Michael Phelps, who at one point ate 12,000 calories a day, swim thirteen hours a day seven days a week? No! His incredibly fast metabolism affected how much he should be eating, and that varies from person to person. Metabolism is determined by muscle mass, age, body size and gender. So not only is the food much more complicated than calories in/calories out, but the way your body processes the food also affects how much you weigh and what your body does with the food you eat. You are unique, and your relationship to your food and what you need for good health is as unique as you are.

cokeLet’s look at this further. According to the calories in/calories out theory, 160 calories of coke is the same as 160 calories of, say, guacamole. The portions may be different, but if you are counting calories, you daily chart is essentially going to look the same – 160 calories lost. However, there is a whole lot more to take into account than just those calories. When you drink 160 calories of coke, your blood sugar will spike, causing a burst of insulin, and your liver then turns the sugar into fat. Dopamine is released, making you feel good, and the soda’s phosphoric acid (also the active ingredient in grout cleaner) binds with the calcium, magnesium, and zinc in your lower intestine meaning you will pee out those minerals that would have otherwise gone to bone strength. Your body crashes from the sugar overload after a couple of hours, and you become dehydrated. You feel hungrier and crave more sugar. A toxic cycle of fat storage, insulin resistance, and addiction can begin.

Now let’s look at the 160 calories of guacamole – it’s only fair to use something equally delicious because in reality, you don’t have to live on rabbit food to be healthy. Guacamole is a fantastic source of fiber, which can help keep cholesterol buildup under control, lowering your risk of heart problems. It’s high in fiber helping you avoid constipation and reducing the risk of hemorrhoids. It also has potassium, which regulates blood pressure. Avocados contain unsaturated fats, which reduce cholesterol levels. It also has vitamin e and c, which both benefit your immune system. Meanwhile, tomatoes are full of antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin A, which is great for eye health, hair health, and more. Because of the fiber, it does not spike your blood sugar, so it is a good treat for people with diabetes. How is that the same as coke, again?

The idea of calories in/calories out doesn’t take any of that into consideration. You can eat 160 calories of soda and feel hungry, irritable, and gain weight. Or you could eat 160 calories of guacamole and be providing your body with quality nutrition and building blocks for good health – while promoting weight loss and lowering risk of heart disease.

Dr. Sheetal Shah discusses the new researchFor years these myths have been perpetuated by doctors, the media, and the fitness industry, trying to convince us that if we just exercise more, we can eat whatever we want. In reality, intensive exercise can only account for about 10% of the weight a person can lose, and exercising will never outweigh a poor diet. Not to say you shouldn’t exercise – it is necessary for stress management and overall health, for keeping those pounds off once you lose them, but exercise alone – calories in/calories out – is missing most of the picture.

If you would like to learn more, Granger’s bariatric specialist, Dr. Sheetal Shah, offers a 4-class weight loss seminar that helps you cut through all the misinformation out there and provides real answers for your weight loss goals. Visit her Facebook page, SHA Weight Loss & Wellness, to see videos, dates, and locations.