Calorie. High calorie. Low calorie. Fat calorie, carb calorie. When I was younger, before I knew better, weight loss use to be about calories in and calories out. Even nutrition was about getting a certain number of calories from grains or dairy or meats. I remember my college days of counting up all calories eaten and all calories expended. But I, like so many, had gotten lost in this unit of measure.
A unit of measure. That’s all, that’s it. A calorie is nothing more than a unit of measure. So, what does this unit actually measure?
Does it measure the amount of nutrients you receive from a given food?—No. Does it measure the increase in your well-being that you get from eating a certain food?—No. Wait, does it measure the amount of energy the body is given? Absolutely not.
A calorie measures the temperature increase in water that incinerated material creates. And although our stomach can be seen as a metaphorical incinerator, the stomach processes involve acids and enzymes instead of straight fire. And technically, we can compute the calorie output of anything, so long as it is flammable. We could compute the calories of sticks, or leaves, or rope if we so desired.
Yet, many of us make the assumption that just because something has a caloric value assigned to it, the product is edible.
As soon as we make this assumption, we betray our digestive systems, our bodies and our health. We have all heard the term “dead calories”, usually in reference to candy, sweets, and processed foods. But these “calories” and foods aren’t just dead, they actually cost the body resources to process. Dead, to me, implies zero; but these foods do more damage than just taking up space in our digestive tract. Every time we eat foods that are devoid of nutritional value, foods that are not fit to eat, our body must expend energy breaking them down, and then neutralize the unusable foreign material. In many foods this includes: preservatives, pesticides, heavy metals, and plastics. So instead of a dead calorie, you (your body) ends up with a net loss.
And when we run our digestive systems without receiving any payoff for long enough, our bodies end up demineralized, protein deficient, enzyme deficient, and straight up nutritionally bankrupt. We literally have eaten ourselves into the ground. There are many symptoms of nutritional bankruptcy and perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest symptoms is excess weight or feeling bloated and puffy. Often, we think of people who are nutrient deprived as being grossly skinny, but for people who consume “dead calories”, their bodies have not been able to eliminate all of the toxins they have taken in and so they hold them…indefinitely…until the body has the resources to go through and clean it all up, or until the toxins become too much and the body just dies—whichever happens first.
Using calories to measure anything with food is like measuring the water volume of a pool with inches—the unit of measurement doesn’t involve enough dimensions to be meaningful…in fact, it just makes everything really confusing. And that is why people attempt to add adjectives like “nutrient dense” or “fat” or “dead”, these are all attempts to expand, or add dimensions to, a unit of measurement that lacks the robustness to provide any meaningful information.
“Calories” do nothing to measure or describe a food’s nutrient density, life-giving properties, or the body’s ability to actually use and absorb the nutrients. Calories just measure the water’s temperature change—that’s it. Asking me how many calories I eat every day is like asking me what color my height is, or how fat my hair is—it tells us absolutely nothing about what we really want to know.
So instead of spending our time looking at the calories of different foods or at our own calorie consumption, let’s determine which foods are actually edible and result in nutritional solvency, and eliminate the pseudo-foods that have kept us and our families locked in sickness and nutritional bankruptcy.