Good nutrition goes beyond simply losing weight

Sure, calories matter, says Tanja Shaw. However, there are fundamental problems in this way of thinking when looking at food.

What you put into your body matters

Have you fallen victim to the “calories in, calories out” or “move more, eat less” mindset?

On more than one occasion I’ve seen an article outlining the exercise equivalents to eating ‘guilty indulgences’ pop onto my social media news feed.  Here’s how these articles go: They list a bunch of unhealthy foods, and list how many minutes of a particular exercise you need to burn the calories.

For instance, if you eat a piece of pepperoni pizza, you’ll need to go ballroom dancing for 90 minutes to off-set the ‘damage’.  A can of soda?  At least 40 minutes of brisk walking (one particular article recommended no-calorie drinks so that you can ‘avoid exercising away the calories’).   As for that super sized meal, be prepared for a real sweat-fest.

This way of looking at calories and food presents itself in other ways as well.  While enjoying a dinner out, you may think “I’d better go to the gym in the morning after this”.   And, at a conference last month, the keynote speaker described the total energy (calories) in a new protein product as the ‘caloric penalty’. Since this new product had fewer calories than other products, it’s caloric penalty was less.

I get that the intent behind these articles, and this way of thinking, is to deter you from consuming ‘unhealthy foods’, or at least guide you to make an informed decision when deciding to go ahead and indulge.

There’s no doubt that calories matter. However, there are some very fundamental problems in this way of thinking, and the perspective when looking at food. Let me explain.

First, from a purely physiological perspective, the ‘calorie equivalent’ of food has some flaws. In most cases, such as using online fitness calculators, the calories burned during exercise is overestimated. Combined with optimistic human inputs, we usually overestimate the calories burned during a workout and underestimate the portions that we eat. Trying to out exercise poor nutrition is completely futile.

This model also assumes the human body is a simple math equation, and that all calories are the same. Eat X number of calories. Burn X number of calories, and everything will balance out. The body is not a simple equation, and not all calories affect the body in the same way.

The human body is a highly intricate biochemical system with complicated processes, and different foods affect the body differently. For instance, protein requires a lot more energy to metabolize than carbohydrates. And, different foods will have different effects on your hormones, which affect your body’s ability to burn calories.

Perhaps the biggest problem with this way of thinking is that it implies that the focus of nutrition and exercise is to maintain an energy balance so that you don’t gain weight. Calling calories ‘caloric penalty’ or linking exercise as the punishment for poor eating is a slippery slope down to a disordered relationship with food and exercise, and to the on-again-off-again diet and exercise roller coaster ride.

This way of thinking completely ignores health.

Nutrition and exercise is so much more than calories consumed and calories burned so that you lose weight, or maintain your weight. It’s not about eating ‘good food’ or ‘bad food’ and then tracking your exercise obsessively to make sure you’ve burned it off.

What you put into your body matters, far beyond the scale. Your food will affect your energy, your mood, and your vitality. Eat real, whole foods that nourish your body and make you feel good, most of the time. Move your body to get strong and improve your health. And since you’re no longer obsessing about every calorie that you consume and burn, you can take all that extra energy and freed up time to live your life.

Tanja Shaw is a health and fitness coach, Rotarian, passionate entrepreneur, mom, runner, and owner of Ascend Fitness Inc. and host of the Fit & Vibrant You Podcast. Tanja and her team of expert fitness coaches inspire and coach others to become stronger, more confident and energetic versions of themselves.  Visit Tanja  at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com and www.tanjashaw.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Two Chilliwack women make weekly Crime Stoppers most wanted list

Ashley Felix and Raina McDonald wanted on unrelated issues

Chilliwack saw record-breaking chilly temperatures on Canada Day

It was 9.4 degrees below normal on July 1, 2020, with max temp at 13.5 degrees C in Chilliwack

Kilby Park in Harrison Mills under water

Area is often subject to flooding, Historic Site will remain open through the summer

Overnight fire destroyed garage at vacant house near downtown Chilliwack

The same property on Reece Avenue on the corner of Victor saw a suspicious fire last month

Chilliwack band Joanie Loves Chachi releases new album, already an award-winner

The local punk rock band’s new album ‘My Brother’s Karate’ available as digital download

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

Police arsenal deployed to avoid potentially violent situation: Mounties

Langley RCMP arrest armed Vancouver man after Tasering him on side street

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Ottawa jail inmates argue anti-COVID measures a breach of charter rights

The prisoners allege guards did not wear masks until April 25

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Most Read