Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's the Calories Dummy

A new study once again bursts the bubble concerning lower-calorie foods.

It turns out that we respond to calories in food more than taste. That's why when we eat low calorie versions of foods, we're not as satisfied. In a nutshell:  
We are so convinced that the tongue is the source of culinary joy — we eat too much ice cream because we want to make our mouth happy — but it’s not. Instead, we eat calorically dense foods because we are also trying to pleasure this secondary pathway, which responds not to the nuances of flavor but to the brute intake of energy. (On a more depressing note, this research also explains why the obesity epidemic is so hard to fix. Let’s imagine, for instance, that some genius invented a reduced calorie bacon product that tasted exactly like bacon, except it had 50 percent fewer calories. It would obviously be a great day for civilization. But this research suggests that such a pseudo-bacon product, even though it tasted identical to real bacon, would actually give us much less pleasure. Why? Because it made us less fat. Because energy is inherently delicious. Because we are programmed to enjoy calories.)
I've blogged about this before. The reality is that if you want ice cream, you're better off eating a small bowl of real ice cream (and the absolute, best, creamiest, most natural stuff you can find), then eating a lot of some reduced calorie pseudo ice cream crap. 

Your body isn't fooled by some low calorie pseudo-food.   It wants the real thing, and so will respond by just eating more of whatever plasticized, aerated junk you're eating.   In the end you wind up eating more calories then if you just went and how the real stuff to begin with.

The way to cut calories and lose weight (and maintain it once you've lost it) isn't to eat reduced calorie anything.   The key to weight loss and maintenance is PORTION CONTROL.  

Michael Pollan in his Food Rules exhorts to eat less, but eat better.   The reality is, that once you get used to it, you really only need to eat a lot less then what you've grown accustomed to eat.   We're so used to humongous, steroid-sized portions of food, that we've forgotten that we can actually survive all morning on what is now called a "mini" bagel.    

The trick I found, was to gradually reduce portions so that my "new" normal is almost half the size of what I previously ate.   Trying to reduce "cold turkey" didn't work because my body was used to the bigger portions and I was too hungry between meals.  By gradually reducing porions, however, I adjusted with little discomfort.  

So now when I want dessert (and because I have a sweet tooth, I frequently do), I can limit myself to one, really good cookie, or one scoop of really good ice cream.   I take my time to eat my indulgence, and afterwards I'm completely satisfied.  


  1. It's funny how simple the formula to losing weight is but how hard it is to actually follow it. I've never been about low calorie anything I've either switched to something healthier or just had the real deal. Great blog!

  2. It's carbs and insulin, not calories.