Should You Stop Counting Calories for Weight Loss?

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Should you STOP counting calories for weight loss? Is weight gain driven by hormones, not calories alone?

What if I told you that you could eat more, not count calories, and lose more weight by following one diet over another? You would probably be pretty interested to find out more. And that is just what the hormonal theory of obesity states. Intriguing, huh.

Can You Let Go of Calorie Counting and Lose Weight?

If you are anything like my husband, you just can?t understand diet without looking at calories. And we have finally gotten to the point in the United States that calories are posted on everything. Has that cut the obesity rate? No. But calorie remains king in how we view diet. 

We recently started a low-carb and intermittent fasting diet at our house. And calories are NOT part of the equation. No more calorie counting. Three days into it, my husband kept asking, ?Is that too many calories? Can I have that with all those calories? It seems like too many calories for my diet.? He relies on me to have the knowledge, but like so many loving husbands, continues to question my answers. He is truly clueless about this whole process but questions me at each step. Typical.

Like my husband, most of us have grown up learning calorie is king in terms of weight loss. A calorie in must be balanced by a calorie out in order to prevent weight gain. And if you match those numbers, you should be able to predict your weight to an exact science. The problem is that is not always true. In fact, most of the time it is not true. Why is it that you get on the scale expecting different results than you actually get?

Enter the Hormonal Theory of Obesity

That’s where the HORMONAL theory of obesity comes into play. The most popular work on this topic is written by Dr. Jason Fung, a kidney Doctor, in his book The Obesity Code.

In it, Dr. Fung looks at obesity as a HORMONAL imbalance, not a CALORIE imbalance. A key feature being the theory that a calorie in does NOT equal a calorie out. According to Dr. Fung, there are 2 key components to calorie imbalance:

All calories are not created equal.

Calories come from different sources – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The hormones that are triggered in our bodies and the resultant hormone levels vary in response to what TYPE of food is consumed as well as the timing and amount of that food itself.  For example: eating salad at lunch produces a different hormonal cascade in your body than eating a cookie before bed, even if you eat the same number of calories in both of the foods.

Our body responds to calorie shifts and adapts.

Our bodies are VERY smart and actually not the enemy. I know my waistline would beg to differ. Believe it or not, you body is trying to keep you alive. This need for normalcy is called homeostasis and results in our bodies finding ways to maintain balance. When you cut calories, your metabolic rate will decrease to conserve energy. In fact, studies have shown a 30% decrease in metabolic rate with a 30% decrease in calorie consumption.

Your body doesn?t want you to starve. And perhaps the most interesting experiment to demonstrate this was the Minnesota Starvation Experiment completed by Dr. Ancel Keys in 1944 published under THE BIOLOGY of HUMAN STARVATION. In this study, individuals volunteered for “semi-starvation? diets. These men experienced the feeling of profound cold, a decrease in metabolic rate of 40%, decrease in strength by 21%, decrease in heart rate, body temperature drop, and decrease in endurance.

And they became obsessed with food to the point of exhibiting hoarding behaviors. These men should have lost 78 pounds on calculations alone BUT they only lost 37 pounds. And when they began eating normally again, their weights actually ended HIGHER than when they started. Our bodies will react to decreased calories, and thus, calorie counting is not the exact science we thought it would be.

If you don?t count calories, how do you lose weight?

You change the HORMONES that result in weight gain throughout your body. And, the main hormone we are talking about is INSULIN. Insulin is the hormone required to bring sugar into your cells for energy to fuel your body.

With the modern American diet, we bombard our bodes with sugar. Insulin levels increase. With the addition of the 5 small meals a day, most of which have become carbohydrate rich snacks, insulin stays high most of the time.

You may recognize the name insulin from people you know, or you personally, who have diabetes. We know that diabetic patients who are started on treatment with insulin will gain weight. The hormone increases sugar absorption causing weight to increase.

should you stop counting calories for weight loss

How Do You Know if You Have Abnormal Insulin Levels?

If insulin is the driving hormone behind obesity, checking that would make the most sense. You can check fasting insulin levels but this is not a standard lab test. Checking fasting blood sugar levels or HgA1C, a 3-month average of your blood sugars, is more commonly done. in medical practice.

What If Your Fasting Insulin or Fasting Blood Sugar Levels are Normal?

As a former gestational diabetic who had to take insulin with pregnancy, I was very interested to find out my own fasting insulin level. And, believe it or not, mine was in normal range when I started this diet. Even with normal insulin levels, I had excellent weight loss. And I do believe it is an even better option for those who have insulin resistance.

How Do You Decrease Insulin Levels?

In order to lose weight, through the hormonal theory of obesity, you must decrease your insulin levels. That can be done through 2 important dietary changes:

  1. Intermittent fasting – this decrease in food intake gives your body a break from insulin production. That decreases the levels in your bloodstream. It also takes insulin production back to INTERMITTENT release instead of constant bombardment. That makes your body less resistant to insulin. 
  2. Low carbohydrate diet – by cutting out the carbohydrates your body will not need to produce as much insulin in the first place. Less insulin circulating through the body, less weight gain.

Simple Solution: The ?calorie? theory of weight gain is coming under question and may be replaced by a hormonal view of obesity. It makes a lot of sense and should result in excellent weight loss results. And you don’t have to bother with counting calories.

For More Blog Posts on Low-Carb and Intermittent Fasting, check out:

For More Information on The Obesity Code, check out: