You are listening to, Not Another Diet, The P odcast. This is episode four. It's the first part of a two-parter that I'm calling the cult of Calories. Why the Cult of Calories? Well, I think it's really important for everyone to understand that this has become baseline information on weight loss. There's almost no talking about losing weight without the subject of calories and then by extension, calorie counting coming up. And I really want to challenge that thinking in your mind because I think it's counterproductive. And there's two questions that I love to ask about calorie counting. Is it necessary and is it a good idea? And what I want to do in these next two episodes is break down exactly why we do this, why it's counterproductive, and then the final is really why it's harmful to you.
This is part one, and I'm calling it the fallacies of calorie counting and why we keep trying, I like to call this running into a brick wall. This is basically how I think of calorie counting as a practice. And there's really not a person that I've spoken to almost anywhere who hasn't relied on this practice or this idea and gone back to it over and over and over again. And when I bring members into my program, one of the very first things I have to do is help them understand why it's been so difficult and such a failure, and help them understand why this practice is really contrary to their long-term health gains. And so we're going to do it now together. I'm going to do it with you because boy, if you listen to any of the podcast episode, and I'm going to try to make all of them in season one, which is sort of centered around the idea of freeing yourself, really liberate you from bad ideas.
This is the one I think that traps people endlessly into over and undereating. And I think of it as a loathsome practice. I'll give you my little story about how I came to never use these apps again, which most of us use apps for calorie counting. And by the way, when I use the calorie myth, it's really important to understand that could be colors, that can be points, it doesn't matter. They're all based on the calorie myth, which is actually an article I'm going to reference later on in this podcast that makes some amazing points. Now of course, all of your information can't come from one article, but it gives us a good starter. So in my own life, this was around the time I had that scale incident that I talk about in episode one. This happened within a week or two of that.
And I remember, I don't know if I was on the Weight Watchers app or some other, or MyFitnessPal or whatever, and I was putting figs into an app. So figs, fresh figs, just fruit, just fresh fruit. And I love figs and I eat them with a abandon now, but at the time, I was trying to lose weight and I felt like I had to do this in order to lose weight, which I think if you're listening, you can probably relate to that. This whole idea of suppressing yourself through calorie counting as though food is a counting exercise and eating is a counting exercise. And if you just had the math, you would be able to have success. And despite the vast amounts of data, that is not the case. People continue to blame themselves. And so that's the purpose of this two-parter is to really like, I really want you to free yourself from this idea.
But in any case, I was putting figs into an app and each one was worth 50 calories. And I don't remember whether it was points or not, and I don't know what happened to me. And of course, letting go of dieting is an evolution, but I remember just being disgusted with the fact that I was only allowed to have two figs, two figs. There's a bowl of figs sitting in my kitchen and I'm allowed to have two. And that was the calorie allotment I had for the day. Now, I came to understand later that that calorie allotment was like a child's like 1200 calories is what children consume. Not grown adults who have things to do and don't want to spend all their time being hungry. But I just was like, this is crazy. This can't be right. How did people go through millennia eating fruits and not have to put it into an app to figure it out?
And I think I deleted it right from there. I just thought, this is bonkers and I don't care how many calories a fig has, I'm going to eat them and I'm going to do it with a joy. I want to eat this thing and feel great about it. So that's my own story of letting go of the practice of counting calories. But everyone who's losing weight is looking for life-changing magic. Tell me the thing which we covered in episode one, but if you want life-changing magic, let me give it to you. Stop doing things that clearly don't work or making, trying to make bad ideas work in your life and then blaming yourself for the product.
If you come to understand why calorie counting is so destructive, you can let go of it. And in this episode, I'm going to lay out why I think it's a trap and the trap is back and forth in the dieting and why I think it brings disordered eating. And also if you've ever had the thought, but if I could just stick to the plan, it would work. Yep, that's also a trap. And most importantly, I want it to be that you don't lose all these years of your life, of your one precious wonderful life to a horrible idea with very little science behind it in terms of long-term lasting results. So the best I'm going to be able to tell you about calorie counting is if you need to lose weight temporarily and quickly, that is a way to do it. But if you are tuning into my podcast or have read my writing or gone through my program, then my guess is what you really want is a long-term stable, healthy weight.
And I see no path from calorie counting to that perfectly reasonable outcome. One of the key reasons that people get sucked into calorie counting schemes, and yes, my personal bent on all of this is going to come through, but I've never, this podcast is my opinion. So you're tuning in to get my opinion, but also backed by years of work. In any case, one of the key reasons that we get sucked into calorie counting is because we assume because we've gained weight that we don't know how to eat, we don't know how much to eat or we don't know the right things to eat, but that one has some merit, but not in the way of calorie counting. Calorie counting will not reveal to you what you should be eating, but we look at our bodies and say, well, I don't know how to eat, and so I need help figuring out my portion sizes and holding my eating down.
And that's a problem in and of itself. But I think I'm going to just try to tackle these things one at a time and a little more narrowly. What I think is that that's the wrong story. Your eating is not a math problem. And one of the key things that I was able to discover is how important it is to tune into yourself, how important it is to listen to your body, how important it is to feed yourself things that actually allow you to do that. And that only happened when I was able to finally put those apps down and really had committed to myself. And it wasn't that difficult at that point. After 20 years of doing something, I think you can safely say that it's not going to work out for you. But listening to yourself when I didn't have this crutch anymore was when I was able to finally do this.
So I think the word that I'm looking for, I'm going to mispronounce it here, but is proprioception. Your ability to tune into yourself. Your ability to understand your body is a really fundamental component. And I'm going to give you an analogy that I think is better than the calories in calories out analogy. And so we tend to think of these apps, calorie counting apps. And again, could be colors, could be points, it doesn't really matter, it's all the same, it's based on the same ideas. We think of it as training wheels. If I do this for a little while, I will, then the mythology is, and I say mythology because even these companies know that that's actually not the result for the vast majority of people, which makes it an awesome business model, but maybe not great for you. But the idea being like if I have these training wheels for a little while, what I can do is go forward in my life and then I'll do this for a little while and then that'll teach me to how to eat.
And that's only true if the issue was that you just didn't understand portion sizes, which that's fundamentally not actually the problem for most people. In any case, what it's actually closer to, here's a better analogy. Have you ever used your phone for g p s in a new city and you're walking? This is especially true with walking, but honestly it works with driving too, where you start with some place and you need to get to another place. So obviously that's what you're using your G p s for, but you don't exactly know where you are. And you're so busy looking at your phone that you're just walking blocks and blocks in one direction and you're so turned around sometimes. This has definitely happened to me where it tells you to walk in one way and you walk in the opposite way and then your phone tells you to turn around.
In any case, you get the idea. Even if you get to your destination, which hopefully you have, you're not that clear about where you are or how you got there. In fact, for the most part, people can't actually even retrace their steps. And there's actually a scientific study on this one that came out that people who use G P S versus reading a map actually don't understand how they got there. And I think of apps as that, and that's a best case scenario. Best case scenario is you lost the weight, but you actually ended up no better position because the issue wasn't about you holding your eating down. The issue was about how you are triggered in modern life constantly and triggering yourself to eat and eat more. And how do you then tune back into yourself? That's a different question and one that calorie counting apps will never be able to answer.
So that's one issue I like to call calorie counting a test tube idea. What I mean by that is that it's good in theory. So the theory but terrible in practice. And the theory of course is that if you just understood what each of these foods has in units of energy that would somehow fix the problem going forward and you can just add it up and it's math and you'll sail on in your life. And of course, human beings are far more complicated than that. We're much more tuned into our environments. There's all kinds of ways in which people are triggered to eat, and hunger is only one of them. But interestingly enough, the one that calorie counting apps actually don't address at all. But the problem is that calorie counting is an idea outside of human behavior and or actual lives. It doesn't account for all of the ways you are upended or encouraged to eat obesogenic things or don't realize what you're eating.
And of course, some nutritional information is absolutely key, but it's not the foundation. The foundation is not knowing units of energy. And if I haven't told you this before, I lost all my weight without counting a thing, not a thing, not a calorie. I didn't use portion measurements. I didn't hold down my eating in any of the ways in which diet culture encourages you to essentially suppress your eating. The other issue with calorie counting is that it makes you the problem. You are the fundamental issue. You gain the weight, you are the problem. Well, I got news for you. You are not the problem. Yes, I understand the problem may be showing up on your body, and I understand I don't know you. So if in your mind you're thinking, well, Rebecca, you don't know me, okay, but I still know that you're not the problem.
And I know this because we as a population have essentially become obese and you can't have an entire population this is happening to, but then the solutions are about you essentially being an issue. And what I mean by you are the problem is that what apps just encourage you to do is like, okay, just eat less. Just eat less. And I mean, if I walked up to you on the street and said, okay, just eat less, you would roll your eyes at me and you'd be right. But instead, we're paying for apps to just basically tell you that and not really give you information as to what is happening in the first place that causes the overeating. I think that that would be much more helpful information. And in fact, in my own life and in my member's lives, this has been crucial information. It turns out that your ability to listen to yourself and how you eat is not problematic.
How could it be that across an entire population were all problems? It doesn't look at a picture even from 50 years ago and the entire landscape looks different, or food look different, people look different. I don't think we as a population have all of a sudden changed so much. I think what has happened is that the world has changed and we don't know how to cope with it. The other thing that it does in making you the problem is that it creates intense self-doubt. And this one breaks my heart the most, maybe not the most, because I think having pleasure and food is super important. But this idea of doubting yourself to deeply doubting who you are and how you can function in the world is really a terrible, it's corrosive. Let's call it what it is. It's corrosive. You don't need to doubt yourself.
You actually need to strengthen your relationship to yourself and strengthen your ability to use judgment going through the world. But calorie counting really makes you look back at your food choices and think, oh my God, oh my God. And when you go back and forth as people have, and I'll lay that out a little in a little more clearly, you'll find that the way in which we use these things in our lives cause us to doubt ourselves and quite deeply. And you actually need confidence to make progress on your health. So how did we get here? How did it become, as I like to call it, the cult of calories? Just because everything is about calories. It's on every package, it's in every discussion. It's the basis for the vast majority of weight loss plans, and it's one that I've almost thoroughly rejected. There is a side note as to where I think calories are useful.
By the way, I like to look sometimes. Sometimes when I'm buying packaged food, which I try very hard not to, but occasionally it's useful for density. And in fact, when the whole idea of calories was invented, that's exactly what it was for. There was a man named Wilbur Atwater in the 18 hundreds who discovered the calorie. And the purpose of it at the time was to help people identify food that had a lot of density to it, meaning that it was had a lot of energy caloric. It was for the purpose of figuring out if you wanted to avoid something that was super dense, you could use this unit of measurement, which by the way, the science was in a bathtub. I'm sure that the science has progressed some. The whole purpose of this section is not to give you an exact rundown of science.
It's not meant to be a science lecture, but to pull from these ideas and then help you understand how it came to be that we use them. I think that's really important. We have a whole society that runs on ideas, but you have to go back and look at these things to see if they actually are useful. Do they serve us or do they help companies sell you nonsense, which I would vote the latter. Having said that, that's where it came from. It was science in a bathtub in the 18 hundreds, and it was for the purposes of figuring out the density of food. That's it. And that's the only way that I use it now that I think, Hey, this is actually useful for that. So there's this really fantastic article on Medium called the Calorie Myth, and I've pulled some information from here, but other things that I've known about, and this is sort of a mix of things, and he has this wonderful quote to begin with that I resonated so much with.
And he says, this is more or less the central myth of the Western diet. The word myth here doesn't necessarily mean that calories aren't real. It just means that calories are a story around which we organize our western beliefs and values, just like ancient societies that had their own culture shaping myths about why it rained and which spiritual beings ran the show. I love this quote. It's so funny, and it's so true. We have a whole mythology that goes around proper eating, weight gain, weight loss, and this constant idea, which I think sort of reduces us to robots like we're calories in and then calories out and calories in, calories out. Well, the world, and you are far more complex than that. And what's interesting is simultaneously the remedy is actually much more simple than counting calories. If you've ever found that process exhausting, believe me when I tell you you're not alone.
It's one of the key reasons that people end up dropping this is that they really, really hate doing it. So how did we get to the point where it became something for weight loss? Well, we're going to fast forward from the 18 hundreds from the bathtub to the 1960s, which is, and by the way before I say this, I am in no way blaming feminism for packaged foods, but we had a lot of women enter the workforce and either leave homemaking behind or do what we do today, which is basically all of it. And companies stepped in with their products, their food products to make life easier, like prepared meals and powdered orange juice and all the things that we know is the precursor or the beginning of modern food processing. So the 1960s is really where that started ramping up. And in fact, it has ramped up and ramped up and ramped up pretty significantly all the way to now, which it keeps on going.
And you can actually look at the rise of food processing at the same time as the rise in obesity, exactly the same. Just put one chart right over the top of the other and it becomes very clear what the issue was. And in podcast number one, or in episode one, I talk about our mothers, our mothers with their weight anxiety. What I didn't talk about in that is that our mothers were not uniquely flawed either. What they were were sort of victims of food processing and they had weight anxiety, and they began the culture of diets. And then by the way, okay, so now we're fast forwarding because companies service food on one end that creates a problem metabolically. And then on the other, now we've got diets. And I spent the night at a friend's house recently, and she had this, it was meant to be funny.
Somebody had given her a magazine from the 1960s that was all about dieting, and it was horrific in all the ways you can imagine. But I remember this spread with ideal meals, which all of them were disgusting, by the way. I don't know if you've looked at American food from the sixties. It's like things in jello, like hot dogs and jello and things. I mean, it's just totally disgusting and all processed and all of it had a calorie count on it now. So now you're being fed food through these companies promising you less time in the kitchen, which I dunno, I dunno about you, but I think of it as happy time in the kitchen. I sort of love making meals, so I'm not really sure I wanted to get out of there, but so you've got this food that supposedly saves time as though we're all units of productivity and on the other now it's causing a problem.
But hey, what the issue is is that you just didn't count enough. You didn't understand how to count what it was that you were eating. And this right here that I'm describing that started in the sixties is now in full ramp up mode. The difference today is that you've got these apps that are just super sophisticated looking and they've got colors and they'll tell you they have nutritionists behind it. And maybe that's true. It's certainly not a rousing endorsement for those people in that profession, although I don't dismiss nutritionist, but whatever. Where I'm going with all of this is that you can see that this is a trap. It's a trap. What is happening is that this food is creating metabolic havoc. And then there's companies simultaneously on the other end that have the remedy. And the remedy is apparently, and this is the conundrum that we live with today, because when you're counting food, when you're actually doing the math of counting food, what kind of food are you counting?
Think for a moment. What are you counting? Is it figs? Probably not. What it most likely is, is food that has a package and a calorie count on the back and neatly falls into both buying processed food and goes right into that app. You can even scan barcodes now, which sounds like a time saver. I think it's sort of horrifying. You're really just in this stream of buying a whole lot of processed food. And that's the issue. And I think most people when I talk to them or they come into my program or whatever, what they tell me very clearly is that they want to eat naturally and in tune with their body. I do customer research all the time, and this is the phrase I hear over and over again, and I am not feeding anybody anything. This is the one they want to eat naturally and in tune with their body.
Now let's reference back to what modern food has become and tell me what the path is. And if you know it, great, but I don't, and frankly, I found my own way out. So I don't really want to go back, but I don't know the path from eating food, high food processing and counting to eating naturally and in tune with your body. And if you think about it for a second in the marketing, how murky is that in your mind? You're bringing the mythology with you when you download that app that you're going to be able to go from there to what I just described. Really, if you want to eat naturally and in tune with your body, that requires an entire other system, a complete other way of thinking about food and yourself and tuning into yourself, you actually need a guide to help you understand you not the units of measurement of any given food that you're going to eat.
So here's a quote from one of the articles I've written. I probably have over a hundred on medium if you feel like exploring. I have a little publication there called Not Another Diet, and the quote is this, tracking calories is a diet culture answer to deal with the effects of food processing. It's an artificial boundary designed to make you eat less temporarily. This practice leads people to believe there's something wrong with their hunger or bodies as the weight returns or they can't deal with the restrictions anymore. What we don't understand about calorie counting or apps or colors or points or spreadsheets, by the way, that's a true story. One woman told me that she joined a program and had to put all her food into a spreadsheet, which I think you can just kill me now. There's no way I'm going to ever do that.
That sounds horrible, but there's an analogy I want to give you that I think is more appropriate for what you're actually doing when you're putting your food into a device. It's just a device. And in fact, the whole practice of putting your food is just a device you can think of. The whole way of doing that is a device to suppress your eating because if you're spending your time, if you have an allotment and you're registering, you will eat less for a little while. That will happen. How long you can maintain it has to do with you. I could never do it. I just couldn't do it. I'm a person who eats a lot and I like the process of just feeding myself when I'm hungry. I think that's a really great thing to do. I don't know know how else to describe it, but I love it.
I like to eat and I like to eat when I'm hungry and I don't want to be disconnected from that. But there's a wonderful analogy that's a pot lid analogy that I like to use. So if you have a pot and the flame is on high and it's boiling, boiling on the inside, what you can do to suppress the boiling for a little while is put a heavy lid on it. If you've got one of those Jose or whatever, you just put that lid on it and the steam stops coming out. But as you well know, the flame is still going. The flame underneath in this particular case represents what's driving your eating. And this is a great analogy for how actually people end up getting derailed on these diets because the flame is still going and eventually the boiling comes through and the lid starts clattering and comes off, and that's you going like, I cannot put another thing into this plan.
And this is really how diets function. And the main reason that people end up going off of them. I mean, there's so many others, it's really hard to say everything in one podcast, but if you take away anything, it's that you have not really dealt with what's driving the eating. And by the way, it's not a personal deficiency. It's not that at all. It's most likely a combination of sugar processed foods and misunderstanding the triggers in your environment if you can boil it down to those things. But the last thing I'll tell you is that when you put your food into an app or a calorie count or whatever, you're disassociating from yourself, you're not listening to your internal mechanisms, which are crucial for not only healing yourself, but trusting yourself and enjoying your food and enjoying the right amount of food to produce a healthy weight. These are not pie in the sky aspirations. So if you're like my members and what you have said to yourself is, I really want
To eat naturally and have that produce a healthy weight and eat in tune with my hunger, guess what? That's not a pie in the sky aspiration. That is your internal wisdom rising up and talking to you. Join me for part two where we are going to talk about the real world effects. What actually happens to you when you embark on the process of a counting calorie diet.