The problem with counting calories

I have a friend who is a dedicated calorie counter. In order to control her weight, she carefully notes the calorie value of all the food she eats and the amount of exercise she needs to take to burn it off. If she indulges in an extra treat, she will note it and compensate by working out more the next day, according to a formula that relates the type and duration of exercise to the amount of calories that need to be burned. This requires a lot of bookkeeping but she is a very organized person.

My friend may be a little on the extreme side when it comes to calorie counting but the idea of calorie balancing has taken hold of people’s imaginations. This most simple version of this view argues that if the amount of calories consumed is greater than the amount expended in exercise, you will gain weight. To lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than what you consume. Because of the rise in obesity and its associated health problems, restaurants now provide the calorie value of their menu items and there are a huge number of websites and apps that help people keep track of their caloric intake.

But this article by Peter Wilson says that this faith in the calorie model is misplaced and that too many other factors influence weight change to make it useful, and that part of its rise was caused by a deliberate attempt to place the blame for obesity exclusively on the fat content in food aided by the 4-4-9 rule-of-thumb that gave the calories for one gram each of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

So began the war on fat, in which Atwater’s calorie calculations were an unwitting ally. Because counting calories was seen as an objective arbiter of the health qualities of a foodstuff, it seemed logical that the most calorie-laden part of any food item – fat – must be bad for you. By this measure, dishes low in calories, but rich in sugar and carbohydrates, seemed healthier. People were increasingly willing to blame fat for many of the health ills of modern life, helped along by the sugar lobby: in 2016, a researcher at the University of California uncovered documents from 1967 showing that sugar companies secretly funded studies at Harvard University designed to blame fat for the growing obesity epidemic. That the dietary “fat” found in olive oil, bacon and butter is branded with the same word as the unwanted flesh around our middles made it all the easier to demonise.

Wilson argues that the issue is far more complicated.

The calorie as a scientific measurement is not in dispute. But calculating the exact calorific content of food is far harder than the confidently precise numbers displayed on food packets suggest. Two items of food with identical calorific values may be digested in very different ways. Each body processes calories differently. Even for a single individual, the time of day that you eat matters. The more we probe, the more we realise that tallying calories will do little to help us control our weight or even maintain a healthy diet: the beguiling simplicity of counting calories in and calories out is dangerously flawed.

Calorie counts are based on how much heat a foodstuff gives off when it burns in an oven. But the human body is far more complex than an oven. When food is burned in a laboratory it surrenders its calories within seconds. By contrast, the real-life journey from dinner plate to toilet bowl takes on average about a day, but can range from eight to 80 hours depending on the person. A calorie of carbohydrate and a calorie of protein both have the same amount of stored energy, so they perform identically in an oven. But put those calories into real bodies and they behave quite differently.

The process of storing fat – the “weight” many people seek to lose – is influenced by dozens of other factors. Apart from calories, our genes, the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut, food preparation and sleep affect how we process food.

Our fixation with counting calories assumes both that all calories are equal and that all bodies respond to calories in identical ways: Camacho was told that, since he was a man, he needed 2,500 calories a day to maintain his weight. Yet a growing body of research shows that when different people consume the same meal, the impact on each person’s blood sugar and fat formation will vary according to their genes, lifestyles and unique mix of gut bacteria.

Some people’s intestines are 50% longer than others: those with shorter ones absorb fewer calories, which means that they excrete more of the energy in food, putting on less weight.

There’s a further weakness in the calorie-counting system: the amount of energy we absorb from food depends on how we prepare it. Chopping and grinding food essentially does part of the work of digestion, making more calories available to your body by ripping apart cell walls before you eat it. That effect is magnified when you add heat: cooking increases the proportion of food digested in the stomach and small intestine, from 50% to 95%. The digestible calories in beef rises by 15% on cooking, and in sweet potato some 40% (the exact change depends on whether it is boiled, roasted or microwaved). So significant is this impact that Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard University, reckons that cooking was necessary for human evolution. It enabled the neurological expansion that created Homo sapiens: powering the brain consumes about a fifth of a person’s metabolic energy each day (cooking also means we didn’t need to spend all day chewing, unlike chimps).

Exercise does, of course, have clear health benefits. But unless you’re a professional athlete, it plays a smaller part in weight control than most people believe. As much as 75% of the average person’s daily energy expenditure comes not through exercise but from ordinary daily activities and from keeping your body functioning by digesting food, powering organs and maintaining a regular body temperature. Even drinking iced water – which delivers no energy – forces the body to burn calories to maintain its preferred temperature, making it the only known case of consuming something with “negative” calories.

Today Camacho could be described as a calorie dissident, one of a small but growing number of academics and scientists who say that the persistence of calorie-counting compounds the obesity epidemic, rather than remedying it.

A nerdy footnote to address some confusion this issue: The calorie is the name given to the unit of heat energy and is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1C. If one had one kg of water, one needed 1000 calories or one kilocalorie (kcal). The kcal is sometimes written as Calorie to distinguish it from the calorie but if there is no chance of confusion, the capitalization is dropped. So now, in the context of food energy, a calorie actually refers to a kcal or Calorie.


  1. garnetstar says

    I must agree that the calorie is a very inaccurate model. If one takes a quantity of a food and oxidizes it at high temperature until all the carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen are converted to the oxides, that is the amount of energy that food contains.

    But nothing like that happens in our bodies: that every bond of a food is oxidized and releases its energy, as in an oven, can’t happen. Right there is a fundamental inaccuracy in this measure.

    And, as you say, exercise has definitely proven not be be effective for fat loss in terms of how many calories it burns. I think that its helpful in weight loss in that it signals to the brain that it needs to shift the metabolism to allow for daily activity, so how foods are metabolized changes. It isn’t a quantitative “exertions x burns x calories”.

    Then, there is always signalling to the brain as to what sort and quantity of nutrients are being absorbed. If one severely cuts down on fat intake, for example, and the gut notifies the brain of that, it shifts the metabolism to stubbornly hang on to the body’s stores of this essential nutrient. Only when the brain is convinced, by regular fat intake, that plenty of it is available and regularly coming in, will the brain allow its stores to decrease. So, low-fat diets were a particularly bad choice, and high-sugar diets often provide few nutrients, so the brain prompts you to eat more, in the hope of gaining those.

    The calorie, and “a simple balance of outake exceeding intake”, is indeed outdated.

  2. OverlappingMagisteria says

    However…. it seems that counting calories does work effectively as a weight loss method: The evidence seems to be not strong… but in its favor.

    I’ll agree that simply counting calories is greatly oversimplifying what happens. But any normal person is going to need some sort of simple system in order to stick to it. I can’t imagine someone doing a weight loss regimen that includes genetic testing, gut bacteria monitoring, intestine length measurements, etc… Calories are the major factor that can be easily modified so if you want a simple method that works (although perhaps imperfectly) then that might be it.

    Although, I agree with the authors point that trying to game the system by avoiding certain types of calories is not good. Always eat a variety of food. Count your calories if you want a rough idea. Do everything the author suggests to get a full picture if you have the time and energy for it.

  3. Jazzlet says

    From wht I have read and from the experiences others have shared it seems to me that there are some groups that most people fit into when it comes to trying to lose weight. Some do very well on low fat diets, others on low carb diets, others on calorie counting, others just by following the guidelines for proportions of vegetables, proteins and fats but eating less, and others on the 2:5 fasting : normal eating diets, probably there are others that I’m missing out. The key thing for an individual that needs to lose weight is to find what works for you, by which I mean what fits into your lifestyle so you actually stick to it, and then to remember that the change is for life or you’ll put it all back on again.

    That’s unless you happen to need to take a drug that makes you lose weight which happened to me and meant I lost two stone without trying, nice while it lasted.

  4. Marshall says

    While it’s true that counting calories to that degree of accuracy does virtually nothing (due to the fact that we cannot track calories to that degree of precision, like you say), nearly every weight-loss study shows that simply tracking calories at all helps in losing weight. The reason is that when one is cognizant of calories in their diet, they tend to restrict them even subconsciously. This effect is nearly universal--so while it’s okay to discourage people from counting with such accuracy, their doing so is still better than not counting at all.

    Also, despite the fact that we can’t accurately count calories, at the end of the day our weight really is just calories in versus calories out. Many people eat right around the cusp of their typical energy expenditure, and a small bit of exercise would put them in the calorie deficit needed to lose weight (or break even)--and the lack of exercise is what causes them to slowly and steadily continue to gain weight throughout their entire lives. Not to mention the myriad health benefits that exercise bring.

  5. Sam N says

    It’s well and good to point out inaccuracies in the ‘calorie count -- calories burned = change in weight’ model, but it fundamentally points out the strong relationship that calorie intake and expenditure have with weight. If you are going to criticize it, I’d like to know a better first approximation.

    I would propose people use a different, relative, method for losing weight: increase your exercise some, switch some of the simple sugars you are eating into vegetables, monitor weight for a couple of weeks. If it is decreasing, continue until goals are met. If not, add a bit more exercise, more vegetables over simple sugars, and measure again. I believe that would work for most people, if they can adhere to it. This is easier to do, the more you cook for yourself, otherwise it’s hard to control the inputs.

  6. garnetstar says

    Well, no, it isn’t really calories in, calories out. There is, for example, a good connection between drinking sugar-free sodas, which have zero calories, and weight gain. I’d suggest that that has to do with your taste buds signalling to your brain that lots of sugar is coming in, and the brain adjusting the metabolism to deal with all the sugar it thinks it’s getting.

    Absent near starvation-level calorie intake, it seems that when lower calories lead to successful fat loss, it’s because the person has achieved that lower calorie intake by substituting more real foods for processed ones. The brain’s getting more nutrients, and there’s no need to mandate more eating in the hope of getting them.

    Although the exact mechanism for fat loss indeed seems quite individually variable, a good place to start, for everyone, would be to keep their brain happy by substituting real food for processed as much as possible. At least then, the brain will believe that there’s plenty of nutrients available, there’s no need to encourage more eating, and it is OK to reduce the body’s fat stores, as they aren’t needed to preserve the organism.

    I remember a group of ballerinas, who were already plenty thin, eating very low-calorie diets, and physically extremely active, exclaiming in disbelief when, on the advice of a nutritionist, they increased fat in their diets and successfully lost body fat. They were relying on the calories-in, calories-out model, and not on what information their brains were getting about what to do with the calories they did eat.

    That’s more important: not so much how many calories you eat, but what those are signalling to your brain, and then what your brain decides to do with them. So, as a simple thing that most people could easily start with, increase real foods and decrease processed ones. Then go from there, see what works for you.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    British conservative politician Ann Widdecombe was fat. Then she started eating less and doing more exercise. And she got thinner, what with thermodynamics being a thing. As I imagine happens to most celebrities who lose weight, she was contacted by a publisher interested in putting her name on a diet book. In one of the very, very few things she has done that I admire, she turned them down. She did so on the basis that any such book she’d be prepared to put her name on would consist of four words: “Eat less. Exercise more.”

    It’s an oversimplification, yes, but a useful one. It’s one that works, repeatably.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t sell books, or make fat people feel good about the fact that ultimately they are in general simply eating too much. We thus end up time after time with people telling us “it’s not as simple as that” with varying degrees of anger and/or condescension, to which the only sensible response is “duh”, and to hide the biscuits.

    “Eat less, exercise more” is the best first approximation. Anyone trying to make out that it is much more complicated than that is usually either trying to sell something or trying to abdicate responsibility for their own failure to eat and exercise appropriately.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    There’s an interesting parallel here with the last but one post: it occurs to me that the people insisting “it’s not as simple as eating less” are very, very similar to the people insisting “it’s not as simple as cutting CO2 emissions”. Which is to say, they’re right… as far as those two statements go. But they’re both disingenuously trying to make something that really can be usefully simplified seem complicated and difficult because they don’t like the implications for their own behaviour.

  9. garnetstar says

    @8, not really. Those ballerinas were extremely disciplined, their own behavior was far more controlled in that respect than most of ours will ever be. But, in trying to lose more fat with just eating less/moving a whole lot, they were working against their own biochemistry. When they remained quite disciplined about their eating and activity (I presume), but gave the brain the nutrients it needed, they lost fat.

    I’m just saying, no matter what fat-loss style works for you (low calories, exercise more, low-fat, low-carb, what have you), it really won’t succeed well until you aren’t fighting your own biochemistry. A simple place that many people can start is to eat more real food, less processed, then try what methods succeed for them. And that could be calorie restriction, more exercise, low-fat, low-carb, or any of the myriad ways that individuals have succeeded. Just give yourself a better chance of success by eating more real food.

    The analogy to climate change isn’t apt, as a biological system over which we cannot exert complete conscious control isn’t involved. We can completely control CO2 emissions, but not all biological mechanisms. You can completely control what and how much you eat (as the ballerinas did), but not what your brain makes your metabolism do with it.

  10. lorn says

    Yes, and no. Caloric counts are approximations. Combusting food to determine calories is only roughly related to calories derived from human metabolism and non of this accounts for the variations between individuals or that within individuals at various times and conditions.

    On the other hand, while calculating calories and applying a crude math to weight loss is inexact there doesn’t seem to be any more reliable methodology for reliably determining who gets fat and what, and how much, they can do to lose weight.

    Reminds me of the claims that ‘there are ancient Chinese herbal cures for cancer’. I think, great. The ancient Chinese must have had a nearly cancer-free society. Of course, they didn’t. I looked it up.

    Okay, so counting calories isn’t so good. Is there a country or large population that uses a system that reliably prevents and corrects for excessive weight gain? As far as I can tell, no. Yes there are general principles that seem to work, or at least slant things in your favor. Exerciser is good. Avoiding processed foods seems to help some. But there are plenty of people who exercise and avoid processed foods who are, at best, still struggling.

    One researcher noted he could roughly estimate how overweight a person was by counting the number of diet books they owned. Concern leads to stress, which leads to overeating, which leads to excessive weight gain, which leads to more concern.

    Psych majors are mentally unstable. Burglars obsess over not getting robbed. Stuffing women in burkas causes men to obsess over woman’s bodies. Focusing on weight causes weight gain. Humans can’t seem to win for losing.

    Okay, counting calories is wildly inexact and inefficient. Does anyone have a more effective alternative method that works reliably for most people? Or is this just about complaining to complain.

  11. garnetstar says

    @10, See, that’s the problem: we don’t have an effective method that works reliably for most people. Obesity has become a serious world-wide problem, and nutritionists, doctors, etc., don’t know what to tell people to do about it. Counting calories can certainly be tried, but for many, hasn’t been successful, so what to do?

    Looking for more effective alternate methods that work reliably for most people is the whole point: that’s how scientists discovered all the possible effects that the author of the article cited discusses. They’re trying to find something to recommend to people for whom counting calories isn’t efficient enough.

    There is more than one peer-reviewed study that shows that people now who consume the same amount of calories as people in the mid-20th century did, are still siginificantly heavier than those people in the mid-20th century. Scientists are trying to think of something in today’s environment that might account for that, thus the theory of obesogens (I’d look into processed foods, myself). Anyway, the situation is very complicated, the health problems are urgent, and working to be able to recommend courses of action that are more reliably effective to many more people is a very necessary goal.

  12. Jazzlet says

    You have refered several times to “processed food”. What exactly do you mean by that? I ask because it is a very broad category and without more information about what you mean not very helpful. For instance I have in my freezer peas, sweetcorn, broad beans and a variety of herbs, in my cupboard cans of tomatoes, kidney beans and fish; for some of those I am actually better off nutritionally using the processed version than the fresh unless I grow the food myself. I am not in any way trying to catch you out or being overly pedantic, it’s is more that with out knowing what you mean I’m not sure whether I agree with you or not.

  13. sonofrojblake says

    Focusing on weight causes weight gain

    And yet jockeys and boxers and others seem to be capable of focusing on, and simultaneously losing, weight. It’s almost as though what actually causes weight gain is nothing to do with focus and everything to do with eating and drinking too much.

    that’s the problem: we don’t have an effective method that works reliably for most people

    And there’s the pernicious lie, again.

    No, the problem is we DO have an effective method that works reliably for most people, it’s just that most people won’t do it. They might claim they have (“oh I tried the Atkins diet but it didn’t work” is, in my experience, code for “I had bacon and eggs for breakfast every day for three weeks but I drink Guinness at the weekend so what are you gonna do?”).

    For most people, eating less is the single, simple thing they can (but won’t) do to lose weight. It’s the old Chesterton quote about the Christian ideal: eating less has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

    Restrict someone’s calorie intake and physically prevent them from cheating and lying about it: there’s no ethical way I can think of to carry out that experiment in the modern world, but various historical occurrences (famines, concentration camps etc.) all point to the same result, and it’s not a Gaussian distribution where some people succeed in losing weight and others don’t.

    I don’t think we do the obese and overweight any favours by permitting it to appear more complicated than it is. And in any country with a socialised medical system (such as the UK), we don’t do ourselves any favours either, wasting as we do millions every year treating the diabetes and joint problems (among many other issues) that these people present with at their doctors. We’ve successfully made tobacco smokers and drink-drivers social pariahs because of the harms they do to others as well as themselves. Who’s next?

    “processed food”. What exactly do you mean by that?

    I would have thought it was reasonably obvious, in this context. “Processed” means “prepared in some way beyond merely preserving”. Fresh-frozen peas? Not “processed” -- although obviously they’ve been subjected to a picking, sorting, freezing and packaging “process”, nothing has been added to them.

    I’d guess that most of the food by cost in my local supermarket is processed. It manifests as, for example:
    -- cuts of meat coated in sauces
    -- salads containing things like croutons and dressings
    -- any and all sauces
    -- desserts, cakes and confectionery including biscuits and chocolate
    -- snack foods like crisps or coated nuts
    -- many breakfast “cereals”
    -- canned goods in syrups and sauces
    -- ready meals and convenience food such as pot noodles

    The latter in particular are often ridiculous in the amount of additional salt and sugar they contain. An average can of baked beans can contain up to six teaspoons of sugar -- or put another way, about 10% by mass. If your food has been cooked by someone outside your house, it’s probably full of crap you would never put in it yourself.

  14. garnetstar says

    Jazzlet, yes I do mean, by processed food, food that’s been, essentially, adulterated. Had this, that, and the other added to it, had various things stripped away, been subjected to things like heat or other processes only in order to prolong shelf life or appearance at the expense of nutrients, then had lots of other stuff added to give flavor or mouth appeal. Things that don’t exist in nature that have been whipped together by adding a lot of chemical ingredients. Lots of things on sonofrojblake’s list @14.

    sonofrojblake @14, I don’t see that your assertion that eating less hasn’t been followed, is lied about, is supported by much evidence? Your personal experience, or anecdotal, isn’t sufficient. The research evidence seems on the other side: that people have done that, have adhered to it, and have not succeeded. That is why the many studies to find out more about it, to recommend methods in addition to it. If these studies found that calorie restriction alone was successful, they wouldn’t be looking into intestine length, individual variation in digestion and in gut biota, obesogens in the enviroment, etc.

    People are often calorie-restricted and prevented from lying about it in today’s society, at spas. Especially weight-loss spas, where diets are prescribed and monitored and exercise is mandatory. What they see is a small amount of temporary weight loss, often mostly due to shedding water weight because of low carb intake. But, it is neither successful in reducing obesity, nor permanent. Even those who spend months there (which costs quite a bit) are not successful.

    And so, I don’t see on what basis you asset that it is only people lying about adhering to lower-calorie diets that is to blame? What about the person discussed in the article, who kept spreadsheets and photographed his calorie intake, without success in weight loss?

  15. garnetstar says

    Jockeys, boxers, wrestlers, dancers, and fashion models, are self-selected from a pool of people who are able to succeed using calorie restriction and whatever else they do. Those who do not succeed using the same methods do not become jockeys, boxers, dancers, etc. A low percentage of people are physically capable of this.

    Also, those professions (except, I guess for dancers or perhaps fashion models) do not stay at their low weights. They starve down to a low weight for an event, then go back up by eating more calories. Yes, anyone on or near to a starvation diet will lose weight. The Nazis determined scientifically, at one of their slave camps, that nearly all adult men and women will eventually starve to death on 900 calories/day (and so they fed their slave laborers just above that). But, going that low temporarily, getting your weight down by starvation, and then eating more to get it back up and not starve, is what jockeys and boxers and wrestlers do. It isn’t a successful lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight.

  16. Sam N says

    @14, well I think you point out your own contradiction. Calorie restriction is ineffective precisely because it is difficult.

    A straight-up calorie restriction will leave a large number of people in a state of hunger, distracted to the point that leisure, and in some cases even work can suffer. Then add to that, that this needs to be kept up, over a large period of time, and worse, your own body, which typically tries to defend it’s greatest recent weight will take measures to reduce catabolism of the very visceral fat most people most want to be used up. But it is with certainty, as rojblake states, that reducing calories enough will necessarily result in weight loss.

    I suppose this is where garnetstar is probably trying to interject methods to reduce effective calorie intake without producing excessive hunger, but @15, I think you are vastly overstating how well scientific studies measure caloric intake--they actually rely overly often on people’s memories and assuming their recording--they then tend to validate them by, still relying on people’s memories and ability to record things, but over a shorter period--a bit circular. There are very few studies where diet was actually controlled, for obvious, ethical difficulties. Nevertheless, you point to some things that have a solid grounding in basic science. Like not using broken down, simple, sugars, which more effectively bind to taste receptors than complex starches, thus are far more effective sweeteners. The problem being, those simple sugars produce glucose spikes that impede controlling your own caloric intake without hunger.

    A simpler way to do this is to replace foods with added simple sugars, white rice, or simple breads with vegetables that will take up a greater volume, and take longer to break down, delivering calories over a longer span, ideally before triggering another episode of hunger. Skimping on fats and proteins seems to be a bad idea, as both tend to be broken down and absorbed more slowly, and likely also help in staving off hunger. This makes sense from a basic science perspective, but I’m not aware of good studies on that.

    I hope this was the broader point Mano was trying to make. Not that calorie counting is bad per se, but without taking into account how the food will be digested could lead to producing hunger that could be avoided by taking into account the type of calories consumed.

    Personal experience with replacing simple sugars with vegetables still left me hungry (although I was quite aggressive about it, losing 2 lbs per week). This is where 2 additions helped greatly. 1 exercise. By exercising first thing in the morning, I could delay my first meal for a good 2 hours in the morning. This has the added benefit of helping burn calories. 2 benadryl. I would get too hungry to sleep, and so I would take 25 mg about an hour before I intended to go to sleep.

  17. Heidi Nemeth says

    The American Beverage Institute, the lobbying group for the soft drink and alcoholic beverage manufactures of this country, has long suppressed the knowledge that added sugars and alcohol (which is a super sugar with 9 cal/gram) are the big problem.

    Look at the World Health Organization’s recommendations for adult daily sugar intake, or the Brit’s NHS’s recommendations. They are way lower than most people today manage to consume. Sugars are empty calories which don’t provide the nutrients the body needs -- leading to hunger beyond caloric intake requirements. If we eat a nutritious diet free of added sugars, most people get the satiety signal they need to maintain a healthy weight. It only takes 10 extra calories a day to gain a pound a year. Health organizations have noted that added sugars are the primary cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Yes, sugars are more responsible for heart disease than cholesterol or fats.

    Try to remove added sugars and alcohol from your diet and you’ll be avoiding eating out at most restaurants, refusing most snack foods, refraining from most drinks except water, and avoiding most celebrations -- which almost always always include sugary foods.

    Added sugars and alcohol are cheap calories, easy to store, delicious and addictive. No wonder obesity is epidemic!

  18. sonofrojblake says

    Calorie restriction is ineffective precisely because it is difficult.

    By that logic, French lessons are “ineffective”. It’s an odd redefinition of the word.

  19. garnetstar says

    Sam N., ITA that accurate calorie counting, say, for a study, is very difficult, as it does rely on self-reporting. Nutrition science is a very difficult field too, there are so very many variables.

    And yes, one thing that substituting real foods (vegetables, protein, fats) for things like sugar does is keep your brain from thinking it needs more food and driving you into excessive, sometimes uncontrollable, hunger.

    I think that the point of the article is that calorie-counting alone, in the sense of simple “calories in/calories out, is an outdated idea, and that people, and doctors, nutritionists, etc., need to address the problem of weight gain with additional methods. Not exactly deleting all calorie counting, but adding methods that help make up for its deficiencies, and will help more people to succeed.

  20. says

    If I needed to lose weight, I’d take a different approach. Calorie counting seems too complicated and pointless for me.

    I determine how much to eat based on how I feel. Do I feel hungry? Then I’ll have a meal. Do I feel satiated? Then I won’t eat any more for some hours. I think that feeling hungry is very unpleasant, therefore I must always have a diet that doesn’t cause me to experience hunger.

    If I eat 500 calories worth of carrots cooked in butter, then I feel like I have eaten lots of food, and I won’t be hungry for hours. If I eat 500 calories worth of chocolate, then I feel like I haven’t eaten at all, and I still want more food. Thus, in order to lose weight, I’d stop eating all those foods that don’t make me feel full. Incidentally, that’s mostly sugar. Instead I’d switch to eating more foods that make me feel satiated, for me such foods are mostly vegetables, also fats, meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc.

    My observation is that how full some dish makes me feel has little relation to how many calories it has. Things that are high on sugar like chocolate or ice cream or soft drinks don’t make me feel full. Thus, if I had to lose weight, I’d have to reduce my consumption of these foods. I’d also reduce my consumption of bread and grains in general. This one might be a purely mental problem I have, but I don’t perceive sandwiches as “real food.” I have to eat a lot of them before I will feel satiated.

    By the way, I say “if I needed to lose weight,” because I’m perfectly happy with my current weight.

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