To Eat Less Calories or Carbohydrates?

That is the question- at least for weight loss.

We as a nation are severely plump. About a third of us are obese- meaning that an averaged height woman (5'4") is approximately 60 pounds over her ideal weight. Sixty pounds! I am not talking about a dress size bigger. I am talking about A LOT of ADDITIONAL calories and A LOT of ADDITIONAL calories from carbohydrates. I say “additional” in my obnoxious CAPITALS because we all need both calories and carbohydrates to properly function, but not in the amounts we are currently eating. 

Therefore, when the oh so tantalizing nutrition debate on whether calories makes us fat, or the quality of calories (i.e. carbohydrates) makes us store fat, I say BOTH.

It’s a fact. When we eat too many calories, we store them as fat. The fatter we get, the bigger our fat cells get and the more they wreak havoc on our hormones affecting our metabolism and inflammation that can increase our risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and other metabolic conditions. A good rule of thumb (if you don’t have a pre-diagnosed thyroid or hormonal condition) is: if you can’t lose weight or have been gaining weight, you are probably eating too much and are not expending enough energy.

I agree, calories are NOT created equal. If you look back to the 1970’s you will see that with the rise of sugar intake and other refined grain products came a rise in overweight/obesity. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin secretion, a hormone that helps utilize glucose for energy and store fat. Therefore, the quality of our food is definitely important, and the more we focus on balancing our blood sugar with healthy/complex carbohydrates rather than sodas and white foods, the more control we’ll have over how we use and store our energy. 

A few practical things you can do to reduce both calories and refined carbohydrates are the following:

*Do not skip meals, especially breakfast, since it’s been linked with higher calorie intake throughout the day.

*Eat fiber-rich foods: vegetables, fruits and whole grains. A piece of bread should have at least 3 grams of fiber and a serving of cereal should have 5 grams.

*Snacks should not exceed 200 calories and should ideally be a mix of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Examples are: Greek yogurt, a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts, a slice of partly-skimmed cheese with a whole grain toast.

*Specifically for lunch and dinner, half your plate should be fruits and/or vegetables (preferably vegetables).

*Do NOT, for the love of g*d, eat fried food.

*Do not drink your calories. Most sugary drinks have no nutrition, only calories.

*KNOW & UNDERSTAND that the US spends about $60 billion a year in marketing unhealthy foods like fried chicken, soda, sugary cereals, and pizza; therefore, if you can’t stop thinking about that burger & fries from Burger King, to a certain extent, it’s understandable. Just be aware and try to logically think if you would’ve wanted that burger & fries if it wasn’t advertised on every TV, computer, and magazine in your immediate surrounding. 

As Dr. Nestle said so eloquently, we “must learn to eat less but eat better.” And this simple notion- takes time and energy, pun intended.

If you are interested in a 10-minute free consultation on weight loss and other nutrition-related issues, please contact me at Include your name, number, and a good time to reach you.

Dr. Marion Nestle addresses “Why Calories Count”

G. Taubes “What Really Makes Us Fat.”