Are All Calories Created Equal?

by Jen on November 8, 2013

Are All Calories Created Equal?



Calories seem to create confusion in many minds. Are all calories created equal when it comes to weight loss? Well yes and no.

First let’s look at what a calorie is. A calorie is a unit of energy…a very small unit. Kind of nuts how this small thing can drive us crazy, huh? Our food (fuel) is broken down into these units of energy and this is how our body operates.

One pound of body fat equals approximately 3,500 calories.

Now let’s look at a simple equation: If you eat 3,500 more calories than you burn in a given period, you’ll gain weight. Likewise, if you burn 3,500 more calories than you eat, you’ll lose weight. It may sound like a lot, but it’s not. It breaks down to only 500 calories less or more per day.

We need to also look at the different sources of calories. Our foods are primarily made up of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Each gram of protein has 4 calories, each gram of fat has 9 calories, and each gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories. All have nutritional value. There is also alcohol (with no nutritional value), but 1 gram has 7 calories.

Whew…ok, so if we can break all of this down into math, why isn’t it easier to be healthy and lose weight? This is the confusion that I spoke about. While yes, numbers are numbers and if you burn more than you eat, you’ll lose weight…this doesn’t mean that you’ll be healthy or that you’ll be losing fat instead of muscle.

Let’s say that you calculated that you need to eat 1,400 cal/day and workout 6 days/week to lose 2 pounds in a week, effectively creating a 1,000-calorie daily deficit. Here’s the issue, in theory, in one day you could eat 2 slices of Domino’s Veggie Pizza for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner, plus 3 Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies and ½ cup of Breyers Vanilla Ice Cream as snacks. Crazy but that one day only equates to 1,400 calories!

Is it healthy? NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

While yes, you could lose weight, you wouldn’t be healthy, you would be eating artery-clogging foods, and your energy would probably be in the toilet.

This is why I’m not a huge fan of Weight Watchers. I’m not saying Weight Watchers is bad, there are definitely some great things about it, but the points can be manipulated exactly how I laid out the above day’s meals, you can eat unhealthy, lose weight, and still somehow feel good about it. Trust me, I speak from personal experience with WW. I had food manipulation down to an art.

I’m going to make this easy for you. If you want to lose weight, follow these tips:

  • Eat healthy, nutritious foods 80% of the time. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping to make your choices.
  • Move your body 5-6 times per week. Yep. If you aren’t sure where to even start, I can help you.
  • Give up your soda and juices. Switch over to good ol’fashioned water.
  • Find support. Whether with a local friend or online group, just find someone/something that you connect with.
  • Limit alcohol to one flex meal per week.

If you follow these tips, they will work. Of course, I must always preface that there are those with medical issues who will experience some difficulty, but for the vast majority of people, results occur. Don’t allow confusion over calories stop you from achieving a healthy life. It’s right there in front of you. You just need to reach out and grab it.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joey Tipping November 8, 2013 at 6:28 am

Wow, such an excellent explanation of calories! You laid it all out there very clearly and precisely. Well done. This is very helpful. Thanks.


2 Jen November 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Thank you 🙂


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