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Why Taking Low Calories Does Not Equal Weight Loss

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Why Taking Low Calories Does Not Equal Weight Loss

This topic is probably the most confusing thing you can imagine. So often, I will have a patient come in that says, “You know, I’m not eating with many calories, I’m doing portion control, and I’m eating everything in moderation. I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight. I read in a book it’s just a matter of 'calories in and calories out' then you will lose weight.”

Calories are units of energy in food. We have three types of food:

  • Fat has 9 calories per gram.

  • Protein has 4 calories per gram.

  • Carbohydrates has 4 calories per gram.

If you don’t understand the hormone system you will think, “Wow, look at the fat content; it contains almost twice the calories therefore, I’m going to avoid fats and it’s going to help me to lose weight.”

You have hormones that react and influence all these three types of foods in different ways. If you have a small amount of protein – 3 to 4 oz, you will trigger the fat-burning hormone.

The proteins are there to rebuild body tissues like hair, nails, collagen, and certain hormones. If you actually consume too much protein, you will trigger the opposite hormone which is Fat Storing Hormone which causes fat storage.

Fat has the most calories but as far as hormones are involved, it's neutral.

I’m not telling you to start eating tons of fat.

There is this ketosis diet and it is used for children with seizers and it is also involved in the Atkins diet (high-protein diet). Ketosis is a breakdown of fat in the body. The fat converts to ketones and used as fuel instead of sugar.

The Atkins diet works like this: it is high-protein and high-fat – very little to low carbs. A lot of people lose weight with that because when you eat that much fat in oil, it forces it to release your own fat. Fat doesn’t always turn into fat.

Why I Don’t Recommend the Atkins Diet

I don’t recommend the Atkins diet because there are not enough nutrients like vitamins and minerals to sustain the body and it is hard on your liver.

If you have all this fat that is being burnt through the body, it has to go through the liver. It can plug the liver and can cause a lot of problems like a fatty liver, bad breath, and other side effects.

A lot of people will do it because it does help you lose weight but it is unhealthy and not long-term.

  • Fat is neutral with making fat and it will also force your body to burn its own fat. The fat is used as an energy source and will satisfy the hunger as well. There are some nutrients in fat but not a lot.

  • Carbohydrate will make you make fat or burn fat.

Some carbohydrates consist of sugar such as:

  • waffles

  • bread

  • crackers

  • pancakes

  • muffins

  • sodas

  • juice

  • alcohol

  • hidden sugars in yogurt

Vegetables are carbohydrates that are not sweet and not a starch. They have a lot of nutrients, fiber, and low sugar.

Vegetables do not convert to fat at all and it is a good thing you can do for the liver. Vegetables give you the nutrients you need to convert the proteins and fats into body tissues.

Of course, potatoes and rice convert into fat but the vegetable family does not. Calories react differently to hormones and it’s not as simple as 'calories in equal calories out'. It really depends on what type of carbohydrates.

Every single cell in your body is made of fat like your brain, hormones, nerves, and skin.

You need fat and protein to build the body but, you also need the vegetables to provide nutrition to allow the raw material to be converted into body tissue. That’s why we have these nutrients to help repair and build body tissues.


What Happens When You Get in Your 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s

What can go wrong is when you age, the hormone and metabolism change and all of the above is even more important. You really have to be strict about carbs going in your body.

You have to understand the function of protein and fats. You really have to keep the body clean in order to lose weight.

The more hormones decrease towards 50 years old, the more important to eat vegetables and fats. If you ruin your metabolism where it is slow, taking low carbs and no sugar would be important, too.

Sometimes, I have people ask, “Will I be able to eat Twinkies again?” I always say, "Well, let’s build back your metabolism first so you can eat a Twinkie again once in a blue moon."

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