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THE CALORIE MYTH

The calorie theory is probably the greatest "scientific swindle" of the twentieth century. It is nothing more than a trap, a deception, a simplistic hypothesis, not based on any validated scientific data. And yet it has dictated our eating habits over the last fifty years.

Look around and you will see that the plump, the portly, even the obese are those who religiously count the calories they consume. Everything that has been called a "diet" since the beginning of this century, with a few exceptions, has essentially been based on the low calorie approach. What a shame!

No long term or serious weight-loss can ever be reached through this method; not to mention the dangerous side effects that can occur. At the end of this chapter, I will get back to the scandalous "socio-cultural" effects of the calorie theory that are a direct result of what can be referred to as "collective conditioning."

ORIGINS OF THE CALORIE THEORY

In 1930, two American doctors, Newburgh and Johnston of the University of Michigan, put forth the theory that "obesity stems not from a deficient metabolism, but from a diet too rich in calories." Unfortunately, their study on energy equilibrium was based on limited observations and had been conducted over a period of time that was much too short to establish any serious conclusions.

But despite these weaknesses, the publication of their study received much acclaim and was immediately accepted as irrefutable truth. Their word has since been considered gospel. Several years later, however, Newburgh and Johnston, somewhat troubled by the public excitement over their discoveries, quietly published some serious reservations they had on their findings. But nobody paid any attention. Today, the conclusions of their initial study are integrated and enshrined in the curriculum of most Western medical schools.

CALORIE THEORY

One calorie is equal to the amount of energy or heat needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water from 14 to 15 degrees centigrade. The human body needs energy, first and foremost, to maintain its body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When the body is active, additional energy is required to move, to speak, or simply to remain standing in a vertical position. Then, more energy is needed to eat, digest, and carry out the basic activities of daily life.

The body's daily energy requirements vary with age and gender, and from one individual to another.

The calorie theory is as follows:

If an individual needs 2,500 calories a day and only consumes 2,000, a 500 calorie deficit results. To compensate for this deficit, the body will draw from its stored fat reserves to find an equivalent amount of energy, and weight-loss will follow. If, on the other hand, an individual regularly consumes 3,500 calories whereas 2,500 would suffice, the excess 1,000 calories will automatically be stored away in the form of fat. The theory is therefore based on the assumption that there is never any loss of energy. The theory is purely mathematical, directly inspired from Lavoisier's theory on the laws of thermodynamics.

In light of this theory, we may ask ourselves, how did prisoners in Nazi concentration camps survive for nearly five years on only 700 to 800 calories a day? If the calorie theory was indeed correct, the prisoners would have died once their fat stocks expired-in other words, within a few months. Similarly, we can ask ourselves why hearty eaters who consume about 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day never grow fatter (some even remain desperately skinny)? If the theory is true, these hearty eaters would weigh over 1000 pounds after only a couple of years.

Moreover, how does one explain that certain people put weight even though they restrict their diet and reduce their daily ration of calories? Ironically, they will continue to gain weight while they are starving themselves to death. Statistics have also proven that more than 50% of the obese eat less than the average.

THE EXPLANATION

Why does weight-loss fail to occur despite a reduction in one's caloric intake?
Actually, weight-loss does occur, but only temporarily. The reason why Doctors Newburgh and Johnston erred is because they conducted observations over too short a period of time.

The phenomenon works like this:
Let us imagine that an individual needs 2,500 calories a day and consumes accordingly. If, suddenly, the ration of available calories falls to 2,000, the body will then use the equivalent amount in stored fat to compensate, and weight-loss will result.

Now, if the individual continues to consume 2,000 calories every day instead of 2,500, human survival instincts will cause the body to adjust its energy needs according to the amount of available calories. Since the available ration is no greater than 2000, and the individual can consume no more than that amount, the body will stabilize its energy expenditures by lowering its daily requirements.
Weight-loss will quickly be interrupted. But the body does not stop there. Its survival instincts will drive it to take even greater precautions and create a stock to store potential energy. In other words, if the body is only given 2,000 calories, well!... it will reduce its daily needs to, say, 1,700 and preserve 300 calories every day in the form of stored fat.

So, we obtain the opposite results than we had hoped for. Paradoxically, even though the individual eats less, the body continues to store fat and progressively regain weight. A human body, constantly driven by its instinct to survive, behaves no differently than the dog who buries his bone when he is starving. A dog who is not being well fed usually acts on his primal instincts, and hides his food to create reserves in order to keep himself from starving to death.

How many of you have fallen victim to this unscientific theory on caloric equilibrium?

Most members of the medical profession today are hiding their heads in the sand. They realize that their patients are not losing weight, and accuse them of cheating. You have surely seen obese people who are dying of hunger, especially women. Too often, psychiatrists' offices are flooded with women with neuroses because they rely on the calorie theory to lose weight. They become slaves to a vicious circle they cannot escape, for fear of gaining back any lost weight.

The number of weight-loss therapy groups-of the type "Overeaters Anonymous" is another socio-cultural phenomenon created by the calorie theory. Members are applauded for a couple of pounds lost and put to shame for a couple of pounds gained. The psychological cruelty of these practices harks back to the Middle Ages.

Many doctors will hardly ever question their rather elementary knowledge of nutrition, since the scientific basis of their understanding is rather slim. In fact, physicians, in general, are not particularly interested in the subject. I have noticed that, among the twenty or so doctors with whom I worked before writing this book, all had taken a specific interest in nutrition, and conducted research and experiments, because of a personal weight problem.

What I find most disheartening is that the calorie theory, an unproved theory, was able to develop and propagate itself among the general public in such a widespread manner. Today this theory has unfortunately become an accepted fact, one of the cultural "givens" of Western societies. The calorie theory is so anchored in our minds that many cafeterias or local restaurants, so that no one will feel alienated, post the amount of calories in each dish. Every week, at least one women's magazine headlines a new weight method based on the calorie theory and designed by a group of professional nutritionists. These diets usually allow a tangerine at breakfast, half a cracker at 11 o'clock, chick pea for lunch and one olive for dinner.

We may wonder how the hypocaloric approach created a delusion for such a long period of time. There are two answers to this question.

First, a hypocaloric diet always procures results. Food deprivation, the basis of the approach, inevitably leads to weight loss, but the results, as we have seen, are always temporary. A return to the starting point is only systematic, but in most cases the gain is superior to the loss.

The second reason is that "low-calorie" products are an important economic stake today. The calorie exploitation, under the guidance of "qualified nutritionists," has turned into a tremendous market, one that primarily lobbies to and benefits the food industry as well as a few distraught chefs who have lost sight of the true definition of gastronomy.

The calorie theory is false and now you know why. But do not think you have overcome the most difficult part. The theory is so ingrained in your mind that you will inevitably continue to eat according to its basic principles for some time. When we begin to explain the new method of eating I have presented in this book, you may feel confused because the information here will seem to contradict what you think you already know.

Please follow with: Insulin - Pancreas and Why we gain weight




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