Do Calories Count or Not?


Carrie: Hi, everyone! This is Carrie Brown and Mr. Jonathan Bailor.

Jonathan: Woohoo! What’s up, Carrie? How are you?

Carrie: Awesome.

Jonathan: Love it. We have been on just a…

Carrie: Rant.

Jonathan: A rant for the past three podcasts and it’s not going to end because you have brought up some follow up questions. This is a whole new era for the podcast, because you’ve come up with some good questions. I like it.

Carrie: I’m shaking the tree.

Jonathan: You’re shaking things up. Keeping it fresh, that’s what you do, so tell us about this week’s follow up questions.

Carrie: My burning question for this week is… drumroll, please.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Carrie: The rest of the world is all about calories in, calories out. You have been known to say that calories are important, but we don’t count them or something like that. I misquoted you, but you get my point.

Jonathan: Yes.

Carrie: Tell me about that.

Jonathan: Just to make sure I understand the question.

Carrie: Well, last week you said calories weren’t unicorns.

Jonathan: Yes. That’s true. A calorie is not a calorie, and a calorie is not a unicorn.

Carrie: Just talk about the whole unicorn thing.

Jonathan: Okay, the point I was trying to make, and I appreciate the question, Carrie. Oftentimes, like most things in our culture, people try to present issues as black and white. It’s very black and white. Vote Republican or Democrat. It’s just how our society works, so often in nutrition debates some people will say calories don’t matter at all. That is not true. Sometimes, people think that’s what I’m saying. That is not what I’m saying, and I very openly don’t say that in my writing. Then there are people that say it’s just all about calories, so there’s two ends of the spectrum. Calories are completely irrelevant, and calories are the only thing that’s relevant.

Okay, neither one of those statements are true. Calories exist, and if you want to count them, you can, and for example, if you counted the number of calories you are consuming — and let’s say you’re a 160-pound, 40-year-old woman who is moderately active and you found that through counting calories that you are consuming 4,000 calories per day. You would know given the context I just described that you were eating an insane diet, because it would be impossible for a woman of that size to consume 4,000 SANE calories in a day.

In some ways, the number of calories you consume is actually a proxy for the quality of your diet, because if you eat the proper quality of foods, your body will automatically regulate the intake of calories to be one that causes you to not store excess fat, so it’s not that calories don’t exist or that they don’t matter, it’s that nobody knew what a calorie was, let alone counted them, when we were all slimmer and healthier, so why is the supposed solution to our problem to start counting calories?

That is a bit like telling someone who has allergies they just need to count breaths in and breaths out and that will somehow cure their allergies. Like if you were to just breathe less, your allergies will go away. That’s not true. There is something in the air. The quality of the air is such that it is affecting your respiratory system. The quality of what we are putting into our bodies nowadays, both from the food, pharmaceutical and beverage perspective is such that it is changing our metabolic system and causing our body to store additional fat, and it does that by down regulating the amount of calories we burn naturally. Forget about exercise.

Over two-thirds of the calories you burn throughout the course of the day has nothing to do with physical movement of any form, let alone exercise, and the quality of foods we’re eating cause us to eat more calories than we need, so the quality of foods we’re eating drives the quantity of calories we need to eat until we feel full up, and it also drives the quantity of calories that our body burns off automatically down. That causes weight gain, but it’s not because we are eating too much and we’re exercising too little; it’s because we’ve broken our body’s automatic ability to regulate calories in and calories out, and because of that, we gain weight.

Calories exist, and they’re kind of a proxy for the quality of your diet, but they are not at all the focal point or — put it this way, if you never heard the word calorie in your life, and you just thought about food, you would be way, way better off, because calorie also does inappropriate things, like it equates food with exercise. What I mean by that is we read this in every freaking magazine on the magazine shelf, says something along the lines of, “Oh, you ate this cupcake that has 250 calories in it. Well, you need to go jog for this many miles to cancel that out.”
It says that the only thing that matters about that cupcake is that it has calories, and yes, you can burn calories by exercising, but what about all the chemicals and pharmaceutical-like substances that are in that cupcake? What about all the hormonal chaos it caused when you ate it? Again, thinking in terms of calories, it’s the wrong model. It’s like thinking that you cure a disease by bleeding people.

Carrie: Or if you ate the same number of calories as in that cupcake but you were eating non-starchy vegetables, the end result will be completely different.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Carrie: It’s not the calorie that’s important in that. It’s what it is made of.

Jonathan: Exactly, it’s not the number of calories you’re putting into your mouth that matters; it’s the reaction caused in your body by what you put in your mouth that matters.

Carrie: Quality.

Jonathan: That macro point there, Carrie, that it’s about the reaction, it’s so not about calories. For example, anabolic steroids. I bet none of our listeners have ever taken anabolic steroids. Certainly neither you nor I have ever taken anabolic steroids, but we all understand how steroids work intuitively. The way a steroid works is you shoot testosterone into your body, and testosterone goes to your brain and says “Hey, brain, build muscle,” and that’s what happens.

You can set a person on a couch, change nothing about the way they eat, shoot testosterone into them, and they will build muscle, because your body does stuff when your brain tells it to. There are people who are schizophrenic whose eye color changes when their personality changes.

Carrie: Really?

Jonathan: Yes.

Carrie: I want to see that.

Jonathan: Your brain controls everything, and it’s really, really smart, so just like testosterone says “build muscle,” other substances say “store fat” or “burn fat.” Calories are just a unit of energy. It’s just a measure. It does not indicate how that system, what that system is being told, it is no indication of that. That’s why thinking about the system and the body as a holistic, brilliant thing rather than a mathematical equation, which it is obviously not, is critical to the healing of us as individuals and also the healing of our culture which cannot sustain itself on the path we’re going with all this caloric misinformation.

Carrie: Fascinating.

Jonathan: Fascinating, so it’s not…

Carrie: I love that I get to sit with you every week and listen to this fascinating stuff.

Jonathan: This rant, but another aspect of what you ask, Carrie, that I get questioned about often is this idea of — for example, last week, I called non-starchy vegetables ‘the world’s most effective appetite suppressant’.

Carrie: You did.

Jonathan: I did, so people were like “Appetite suppressant, why would you want to suppress your appetite?” We’re not talking about starving yourself.

Carrie: We’re not trying to suppress our appetites. That is just a byproduct of what they do.

Jonathan: Exactly, and hunger…

Carrie: That’s not why we eat them.

Jonathan: Exactly. Hunger is not a happy state to be in.

Carrie: No.

Jonathan: Just like being tired is not a happy state to be in. Needing to go to the bathroom is not a good state to be in. We are at our best as humans when our core biological needs…

Carrie: Have been met.

Jonathan: Exactly, so every single human being on the planet cannot function optimally if they’re hungry. Fair?

Carrie: Fair. They can’t concentrate for start.

Jonathan: As we already covered, different foods have different abilities to satisfy you, so if it’s possible to eat nutrient-dense, hormonally healing foods that make you not be hungry after you eat — let’s say you’re a woman who is 160 pounds, and you don’t really exercise that much, and you’re premenopausal, and you eat the SANE lifestyle, and you discover that you’re eating 1800 calories a day, but you’re never hungry. It’s not like you should try to eat more calories. Your body has found a healthy point at which it stops eating and hunger is addressed at 1800 calories. Here’s what’s amazing, Carrie, is that woman — let’s call her Mary. If Mary is exercising eccentrically or she’s active, she may very well not be hungry at 1800 calories, but her body may be burning 2400 calories in a day because it’s going to find 600 more calories, maybe on her hips.

That’s when permanent, long-term fat loss happens when our body is able to do that regulation, when it’s able to say “You know what? It’s not natural for a human being to have 200 pounds of excess fat on their body, and I know that. My brain knows that, so as long as my brain can act on that information, I’m not going to be super hungry as long as I can eat sufficient nutrition, because my brain is like ‘I’ve already got the calories.’” Why would your brain tell you to eat more calories when it’s like “I’m swimming in calories. I’ve got lots more calories.”

Carrie: Because they’re Pringles.

Jonathan: Exactly, and that’s non-food.

Carrie: They’re tricky, tricky food.

Jonathan: Isn’t that just cool, though, Carrie, is that the body, when you eat the proper quality of food, it will cause, what’s called a ‘spontaneous reduction of core intake’. That’s what they call it in studies when they observe this. People who go SANE almost always end up eating fewer calories than they did before they went SANE, but they’ll also be dramatically fuller than they were. That’s amazing, but that’s why it works.

If you’re, for example, one of these participants in the study that was done at the University of Washington where their percent of their diet that came from protein went from fifteen percent to thirty percent, they unconsciously — the study conductors told them “Eat until you’re full. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Just like we talked about.” The participants on average ate over 440 fewer calories per day.

They weren’t trying to cut calories, and in fact, they reported being as satisfied, if not more satisfied, than the less SANE participants, but you can believe they’re going to be burning more fat because their body is like “Oh!”. It’s starting to reregulate itself, and if it needs extra energy, it’s going to get it in the form of stored energy until you get down to that natural healthy weight that we all know and that humans used to maintain without trying for thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

Carrie: Our bodies are fantastic if we just give them the opportunity to be.

Jonathan: Exactly. Your body doesn’t want lung cancer. Because of that, if you do not smoke and you do not inhale pollution, it is hard to get lung cancer. Your body fights against it. There are mechanisms in place where your body says, “Oh, these free radical cancer-causing things in my body, I’m going to try to neutralize those. I don’t want to die.” Everything about your body is designed to keep you alive. The point of your body is for it to not die, and disease and obesity causes people to die prematurely and the body is designed to not let that happen if we just don’t bombard it with the garbage that we are sold at our grocery stores and then our children are served at their schools.

Carrie: And that is that.

Jonathan: Carrie Brown, we’ve gone over the past couple of podcasts, so…

Carrie: That’s because you get so excited, Jonathan.

Jonathan: I do. I get excited, Carrie, but you gave a good example when we were talking before the podcast about how when you eat some of your SANE recipes, you naturally “eat less,” but you’re not trying to eat less, because we’re actually advocating eating more. Can you talk about the experience you have as a non-Jonathan Bailor who is living this lifestyle?

Carrie: For example, I make these things called ‘cheesy biscuits’ or ‘cheesy scones’ — if you’re British or Australian that will make more sense to you — and that’s a brilliant example, because I probably make them more than anything else I make. I can eat one and be perfectly happy whereas if they were made with traditional ingredients, white flour, I would probably eat four and still want more.

Jonathan: In both cases, to be clear, when you see this recipe on her website, CarrieBrown.com, it’s got much more healthy fat in it than you would find in a traditional biscuit recipe, so one cheesy scone biscuit has twice the calories of a traditional biscuit, but because it is the right quality of food, it’s going to activate your satiety centers appropriately. It’s going to make you feel satisfied, while if you consumed even more calories from a traditional biscuit, not only would you not be satisfied, but you’d probably just want more of them.

Carrie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Again, it’s so beyond the calories. What most dietary approaches would say is eat the low-calorie scone, first of all, or biscuit, and then just eat one of them, whereas we say “No, no, no.” If you’re hungry, eat the SANE scone and eat it until you’re full, and what you will find is that you will just get full at the appropriate point and stay satisfied, which is brilliant.

Carrie: It is, and they’re yummy. Everyone wins.

Jonathan: It’s a win-win. It shows. Again, slim can be so much simpler once we have that proper information because — again, and I’m going to keep saying this because day in and day out, we’re told the opposite. We are not flawed as people. We’re not broken. It’s not as if our brain innately — we don’t have control over our bodies and we need to count calories. That’s such a demeaning position to be put in. Our bodies are brilliant. You’re beautiful. You just need to enable your body to do what it is designed to do, and you do that through the right quality of food, getting sufficient sleep, getting sufficient water, keeping the stress levels down and smiling. Having a good time.

Carrie: That is what we mean when we say we’re living a SANE lifestyle.

Jonathan: Love it. Woohoo! Listeners, this week and every week after, please remember eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Chat with you soon.

Carrie: See you!

This week we clear up any confusion about whether or not calories matter.