• Low Calorie is Not Synonymous with Healthy

    This is something I see over and over again, so excuse the rant post.

    Everyone thinks they are an expert on nutrition these days.  You can find nutrition information all over the Internet telling you how to lose weight and exercise.  Everyone believes it is really simple science of calories in = calories out.

    We run into special sorts of…first world problems in my profession.


    Suzie read a journalist’s article on a website promoting beauty and fitness (nothing illegal in this realm on advice giving) with ads promising “pound shedding” and “fat blasting” and “washboard abs” (keyword rich content).

    It may have even been one of those websites that requires you click to get to the next sentence 20 times in a slide show format because it optimizes the number of ads that can be shown per user who is dying to learn the secret to a ripped physique on this credible website (I’m not serious about the credible part).

    In the article, vegetables are promoted as healthy for everyone in large quantities because they are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  MyPlate does something similar for the general population–making half your plate fruits and vegetables.

    While this seems innocuous and may be an article promoting a much needed message when 2/3 of the population is overweight, sometimes the type of person reading this article can take things too far.

    Suzie works out 6 days a week for 1-2 hours a day and is an active student walking to classes.  She sometimes eats breakfast, has a salad for lunch because salads are healthy, and she watches her portions using the standard portion sizes recommended on the side of packages for serving sizes.

    She also runs when she feels tired and has a recent history of a stress fracture and tight muscles.

    Suzie might be eating 1300-1600 Calories on a good day and isn’t even meeting her RDA for protein (the lowest recommendation for protein), and of course, she wants to lose weight and tone up.  This is a common goal for many women.  She has these insane cravings for sweets and feels guilty when she eats them because they are “not healthy.”

    Suzie underestimates her workouts and overestimates her portion sizes while tracking her calories to the calorie.  She’s not losing weight and she is frustrated.

    Is encouraging another salad for lunch for this individual healthy?  No.

    Furthermore, the thought of going up on calories from 1600 to 2000 Calories seems like a dumb idea to her since, yea she might gain some muscle, which would solve the firming and toning issue.

    Anyhow.  Nutrition is about matching nutrient needs to the individual.  Population messages are important but need to be taken in context.

    It is important to match macronutrient needs (total calories, protein, fat, carbs) to the individual’s activity.  A message telling the population to choose low calorie foods and skimp on portion sizes is not an appropriate message for people like Suzie who is an “overachiever” with her goals and doing nothing wrong but reading nutrition messages on the Internet that are not tailored to her.

    If you like this post please comment and share with your friends.  If you resonate with Suzie and would like to schedule a consultation, please send me an email.

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