Why 'Calories In, Calories Out' Is Believed To Be A Weight Loss Myth

Losing weight can be a daunting endeavor. Something as simple as eating can quickly become a source of anxiety as you try to figure out what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. When searching for these answers, everyone on the internet and social media seem to have an opinion. Navigating these suggestions and diet methods can get a little bit complicated, especially when sources begin to contradict each other.

And then there's exercise. Like with diet, there are endless workout routines, programs, and tips floating around online. Each one promises the best results in the shortest time frame — these claims make it difficult to sort myth from fact. Needless to say, the information on weight loss is overwhelming.

Perhaps one of the biggest myths, according to Harvard Health Publishing, is the belief that 'calories in, calories out' is the most effective weight loss method. This explains why counting calories may not be working for you.

Weight loss factors besides calories

The idea behind 'calories in, calories out,' is exactly what it sounds like: to lose weight, you simply have to burn more calories than you consume, so your caloric intake should be lower than calories burned. Easy, right? Not so much. "This idea of 'a calorie in and a calorie out' when it comes to weight loss is not only antiquated, it's just wrong," obesity specialist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, told Harvard Health Publishing.

The truth is, it's a little bit more complicated. When it comes to your body burning calories, you have to consider your metabolism, what foods you're eating (i.e. processed or unprocessed), and, perhaps the easiest to overlook, your gut's microbiome. Your gut consists of trillions of organisms, and while this is standard, there are specific types of organisms that can impact your digestion. For example, the organisms in thinner people's guts vary from people who are overweight, according to the article.

The types of food you consume also counts. Processed foods are metabolized differently than unprocessed foods. For example, artificial sugars like high fructose corn syrup are composed of the same chemicals as the sugars in fruit, but the liver has a harder time breaking down the artificial sugars.

The metabolism's role

Metabolism also plays a role in burning calories. Some people naturally have a faster metabolism than others, meaning they burn calories faster. Your body needs energy in the form of calories to do things like breathing, digesting, and repairing cells. Those with a faster metabolism use more energy to do these baseline physiological actions. While factors like genetics and hormones influence how fast or slow your metabolism is, a general trend is that the greater your muscle mass, the more calories you burn, which correlates to the amount of physical activity you get. With that being said, cutting too many calories at once can slow down the metabolism, making it harder to lose weight, or if you do lose weight, it could be from muscle loss.

Some effective ways to lose weight and keep it off include making more healthful lifestyle choices. Adequate sleep is a great place to begin. Lack of sleep can increase your appetite since your body is searching for energy. Another thing to consider is the types of food you're eating. Swapping out processed foods for unprocessed ones can help bring the results you desire. Reducing stress can help make these prior points easier. Stress can impact your sleep and create cravings for fat and sugar. So if you're stressed and tired, processed, sugary foods have a greater appeal. Figuring out healthy ways to cope with stress can be a huge step in the right direction if weight loss is your goal.