A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie…Isn’t it?


Calories count food label That’s true if you’re a bomb calorimeter (a device used to measure the energy [calories] contained in different foodstuffs).  But the human machine is a bit more complex.  The fact is that we all have individual metabolisms that affect how we use calories, and the end result is that a certain number of calories for one person can mean for another person quite a different thing in terms of body weight.

Which is good fodder to support the idea of mindful eating (intuitive, eating).  Our bodies’ appestats are designed to tell us when we need calories, and that’s one of the major premises of mindful eating.  That we listen to signals from within to tell us when to eat and when to stop eating.

So next time you see a chart claiming that if we substitute a lower-calorie choice for  something we regularly eat, we’ll lose a certain amount of weight, be skeptical.  There’s no way that can be accurately predicted outside a metabolic laboratory.  (Even then, there may be limitations.)

4 responses to “A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie…Isn’t it?”

  1. A calorie is a calorie and a pound is still a pound. But 2000 empty calories and 2000 balanced calories makes a big difference. I would rather be 170lbs of lean, healthy muscle than 170 lbs of fat.

    I like your Blog, BTW. Keep up the good work!

  2. Marsha says:

    Good point, Chester. There’s definitely a difference in the quality of the calories we choose to eat, regardless how much of them we choose to eat. I’m with you, too, on liking lean, healthy muscle. But I do like a bit of fat,too. It plays an important role in protecting our bodies. And for us women, it gives us those nice curves…..


  3. anonymous says:

    Fat also regulates metabolism, keeps our endocrine systems working, helps insulate us against cold, stores cholesterol and vitamins, cushions our brains, and gives us important energy stores that keep us alive if we get sick.

    I wouldn’t want to be 170 lbs of muscle any more than I’d want to be 170 lbs of fat, because I’d be dead both ways…

    I do agree with Chester that 2000 calories of healthy food is better than 2000 empty calories in terms of keeping us healthy. Too many people out there count calories thinking that it’s healthy to eat less regardless of WHAT it is that is being eaten!

  4. Marsha says:

    Agree with you all the way, anonymous!

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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