A Calorie is a Calorie…Or Is It?
The media loves sharing stories of the person who lost 100 pounds on the All-Cookie Diet, the celebrity who dropped five pounds in a week by drinking some magic juice, or the svelte marathon runner who ate only McDonald’s during his entire training. These stories attempt to persuade us that it really doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you balance your calories-in with your calories-out. What they fail to mention, however, is how that person felt during the process, or that for every person who found success eating that way, dozens of others failed.
In a world full of different philosophies of eating, critics frequently tell people to stop worrying so much about what you eat, that a “calorie is a calorie.” Similarly, people struggling to lose weight are often told that losing weight is a “simple” matter of calories-in vs. calories-out. There is a tiny bit of truth to the notion that all calories are created equal. However, like most things having to do with a system as complex as the human body, the whole story is far more complicated.
Imagine two men, equal in terms of current body mass and activity level. One decides that, for a month, he is going to eat only Snickers. Six regular-sized Snickers bars will net him 1500 calories per day. The other man will eat only home-prepared meals made from sustainable meats and organic produce. He doesn’t track calories, but let’s say he eats moderately-sized meals totaling 2000 calories per day.