The reason why calories count

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From these basic explanations and definitions, you can now clearly recognize the importance of counting calories. Keeping track of calories is just as important as keeping track of the deposits and withdrawals to your bank account. If you fail to pay attention to your finances and you make more withdrawals than deposits, you would soon find yourself broke and in debt. It's the same with your body, although in the case of calories, the reverse is true: If you don't keep track of your calorie deposits, you'll soon find yourself with an overstuffed calorie account in the form of unsightly and unwanted body fat!

Despite the obvious importance of watching your caloric intake, many diet programs insist calories don't matter as long as you eat the right "secret combinations" of foods. For example, in 1961, a book called "Calories Don't Count" was published by Dr. Herman Taller. The program was one of the first to promote high protein, very low carbohydrate diets (VLCDs). Others followed, the most popular of which was "Dr. Robert Atkin's New Diet Revolution."

The common denominator in most of these VLCDs is the claim that by removing most or all of the carbohydrates, you can eat an unlimited amount of calories from everything else (protein and fat). This is where the phrase "calories don't count" originally came from and that's why you hear about this idea so often. Unfortunately, the concepts of eating unlimited anything or of calories "not counting" are dead wrong!

According to the "calories-don't-count" theory, if you eat certain foods, or certain combinations of foods, you can eat as much as you want and you'll still lose weight. In our lazy and pleasure-seeking society today, this idea sounds wonderful, but this is physiologically impossible. The reason you lose weight on VLCDs without setting calorie limits or requiring calorie counting is because they tend to reduce appetite and cravings.

VLCDs allow you to eat more fat, which makes you feel full sooner. You also tend to get fewer cravings because eating fat and protein in the absence of carbohydrates levels out your blood sugar and insulin levels. The end result is you automatically eat fewer calories. The weight loss experienced on these programs comes from a calorie deficit, not from any "magical" effect of the diet itself. If you were to follow a VLCD, but you consumed more calories than you burned up in a day, you would still gain body fat. The often-made claim, "Eat all you want and still lose weight," is one of the biggest and most common lies told in the weight loss industry.

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