Why a Calorie is a Calorie but a Calorie isn’t a Calorie

No one has ever lost weight without a caloric deficit. As far as weight is concerned, it’s a simple equation:

Calories consumed – Calories used = Weight gained or lost

(Sort of. There are some differences in the energy it takes to digest the various macros, but as far as I’m concerned these differences are negligible.)

It is simply a matter of energy expenditure based off of the conservation of energy law: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_energy

If you consume more energy than you use, that surplus energy has to go somewhere. It can’t just disappear, even if those calories come in the form of something “healthy” like kale or grilled chicken.

With that information, one could easily come to the conclusion that the type of calorie you eat doesn’t matter, that 20g of sugar in a cookie is the same as 20g of sugar in an apple. Not so fast! While the topic of energy expenditure and fat loss can technically be explained in these terms, in the real world it’s more complicated.

Even in this context, the type of calories you consume DO matter. Even if you didn’t need to worry about your general health, eating “healthy” foods is still more conducive to fat loss.

Why Unprocessed, Whole Foods are Generally Better for Fat Loss

In most cases, whole foods will help you achieve a caloric deficit more easily than processed, or otherwise junky foods. But why?

Because we are hungry!

We eat when we are hungry, even if we have consumed sufficient calories for the day. Otherwise, people wouldn’t unintentionally gain weight.

It is much easier to overeat junk food than “healthy” foods because they are more satiating per calorie. In other words, they are calorie dense and nutrient light. Said differently, 100 calories of pizza will not be as much food as 100 calories of broccoli.

Now, it is possible to get fat and sassy whilst eating tons of broccoli, but it would be extremely difficult. Volume of food is very important in feeling satiated ==> more volume with less calories is a win for weight loss.

Consistently being in a caloric deficit = weight loss.

People binge when they feel deprived. Feeling hungry, or otherwise unsatisfied, all the time is a sure fire way to feel deprived. If we eat filling, nutrient dense foods we are more likely to feel satisfied and happy. This happiness and satisfaction leads to compliance which leads to consistent progress.

Food gives us feels. The feels we get from food influence our food choices. To make good food choices, we must be cognizant of this relationship. If we ignore our psychology and why we have cravings, then all calories are created equal (more or less.) But in the real world, getting our calories from healthy foods is paramount in keeping us on the road to achieving our weight loss goals.

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