Counting calories

As you know, counting calories is a method widely used by nutritionists to understand how much food is needed for healthy eating. You can find calorie spreadsheets on all the packaged food items in the supermarket. And with all of the information available, it’s still quite complicated to figure it how much to eat. How did we live before we started counting calories?

The history of what, how and where calorie counting started is very interesting: What is a calorie? A unit measuring the heat required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius. The term was introduced by the French chemist, Nicolas Clement-Desmier (1779-1841). Please pay attention to the century he lived in.

The first calorimeter was invented by Joseph Black in 1759-1763 in England, but the father of modern dietology is the American scientist, Wilburn Olin Atwater, who lived from 1844 to 1907. He was the first scientist to produce the well known caloric value of carbohydrates, proteins and fats in his calorimetric “bomb”.

In 1896 Atwater developed the caloric value tables, used by modern nutritionists to calculate the energy value in food. At the end of the nineteenth century (XIX) scientist did not yet know about vitamins, micro-elements, antioxidants and their importance for the human body. They did not understand the role of calcium and phosphorus, did not take into account the energy expenditure of the human body, digestion, they did not talk about the digestibility of food, depending on the physical condition. The modern scientists claim the human body will need more energy to digest raw food. I will give as an example the research of the Japanese scientist, Kioko Oka (K.Oka et al, “Food Texture Differences affect Energy Metabolism in Rats”, Journal of Dental Research, 2003, 82, 491-494), performed in 20 rats given food of the same caloric value but prepared differently. Rats that ate mashed meal, weighed on average 6% more than those eating solid food. And the first group of rats had 30% more fat than the other rats in the study group. The rats eating highly processed food grew fatter.

The system of caloric value of Atwater does not take into account the metabolic portrait of the individual: we are all very different. And this means that the caloric value system does not take into account the real nutritional value of the food digested by each individual body.

I suggest that we move from the end of the XIXth century to the XXIth century, by stopping counting calories. And reach the ideal body weight using modern methods.

I confess, there was a time when I shredded the table of products’ caloric value, trying to accurately calculate the number of calories I had overeaten for the allowable amount of 1200 calories per day. I remember those days as a nightmare. I was eating ice cream, trying to forget my guilt for quitting one more impossible diet. And the  battle with food lasted for years …

The calculation of calorie exacerbates stress, resulting in forming the cortisol hormone, which leads to appetite increase …

Look at these 10 steps to healthy eating:

  1. I listen to my body
  2. I eat when I am physically hungry
  3. I eat the food that I want at the moment, choosing healthy options
  4. I eat at the table
  5. When I eat I’m completely focused on food on my plate
  6. I notice all the sensations that I feel when eating food: tastes, smells, texture, sounds.
  7. I swallow food before putting another piece in my mouth
  8. I try to eat in a beautiful environment with people who are pleasant
  9. I control my portions
  10. I strive for progress, not perfection.

That is  how I dropped 30 pounds! 15 years ago and kept it off. It looks easy, doesn’t it? When I discovered the ten points to healthy eating, it was as if a load fell off my shoulders. I felt lighter, as if a gentle wind of freedom encircled me,a sensation that emerges when we begin to eat as was conceived by nature.


In the comments to this article, please describe your experience of counting calories.

With Love,

Irina Cazazaeva

Author of Slim Book and Hollywood Body Method