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Understanding Calorie Density: The Secret To Losing Weight Effortlessly

-> May 17th, 2012 <-


Weight loss is a simple matter. If you eat more calories than your body needs you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs you will lose weight. It doesn't get any simpler than this. Yet we humans tend to analyze and theorize even the simplest things until they're so complicated nobody can figure them out. We do this when it comes to losing weight.
We confuse the above principle when we rephrase it as “Eat Less, Move More”, or “Eat Less, Exercise More”. We've all heard it phrased this way often enough and it has become the standard formula for losing weight. And it sounds like the same thing as the principle above, doesn't it? It isn't. One is talking about eating fewer calories, the other is talking about eating less food. When we rephrase it to say “Eat Less” we focus on eating less food under the mistaken belief that doing so is the best way to eat fewer calories. It isn't. The truth is that we eat the amount of food we do for a reason. We have a biological drive to eat food and we tend to eat the same weight of food every day. If one day we eat more or less than our normal, we tend to compensate for it the next. If we repeatedly eat less food than our biological drive tells us to, we find ourselves spending every waking moment thinking about food and feeling like we're starving to death, until eventually we give in and eat our fill. This is why diets fail so many people. While some people do succeed with this, they're few and far between. They're the ones with superhuman willpower, or they're sadists and like self-torture! But most people only suffer and fail. Repeatedly. Countless diets come and go, and all of them work under the same principle, which is that we can muster the willpower to do something different for a certain period of time, and the hope is that you'll lose enough weight to make you happy before you run out of willpower. These diets fail because they work against the powerful biological drive we all have to eat. Some people, because they can lose the same 25 pounds over and over every time they try their specific diet, actually believe what they're doing is working! They eat what they want until they decide they're too fat, then starve and deny themselves until they're at a more acceptable weight, then repeat the process over and over. That is not health or success, that is a cycle of abuse.
Fortunately we don't need to east less food. We only need to eat fewer calories. They are NOT the same thing. Repeat that to yourself! Eating fewer calories is NOT the same thing as eating less food. Eating fewer calories leads to weight loss and success. Eating less food leads to hunger, pain, and eventually, failure. What's the difference? Some foods have more calories than other foods. Once you understand the fact that you tend to eat the same weight of food every day it's as simple as satisfying your appetite on those foods that will do it with fewer calories! You will not find it easy to lose weight eating cheeseburgers, french fries, ice cream and milkshakes. Those foods have enough calories in relation to their weight that you'll find yourself hungry again before you've burned off the calories they provide. On the other hand, you'll find it hard not to lose weight if you ate nothing but broccoli. Broccoli is so low in calories compared to it's weight that you would likely be sick of eating it before you consumed enough calories to gain weight. In fact, it is so low in calories that you'd waste away into nothing, even if you ate pounds of it at a time. Fear not! I am NOT pushing an all broccoli diet! I am only explaining the concept of Calorie Density.

Calorie Density is the relationship between how many calorie a food has compared to how much the food weighs. Since we tend to eat the same weight of food every day we can satisfy our appetites with foods lower in calorie density and consume fewer calories overall for the same volume of food we're used to, and start to lose weight while satisfying our appetite. Or we can satisfy our appetites with foods higher in calorie density and consume more calories overall, staying at our current weight or perhaps even gaining. The basic principle one needs to understand is that if we are not losing weight on our current diet then we need to start eating more of the foods that are lower in calorie density.
With the mental focus being on eating MORE of the lower calorie density foods we are not setting ourselves up for failure. We are not setting ourselves up for the pitfalls that await people who try to eat less food. We are, instead, setting ourselves up for success! It is nice to step on a scale and see that your heroic efforts to eat less have caused you to lose weight. It is a far greater joy to lose weight and realize you didn't have to deny your God given appetite for food! The one lasts only as long as your willpower holds out, the other lasts as long as you want it to because you aren't denying your appetite, you're satisfying it.
For our sake, we'll define Calorie Density as the number of calories in a pound of a specific food. I know, we seldom eat an entire pound of any one food, but that's not the point. We're not measuring actual food we're eating, and WE ARE NOT COUNTING CALORIES. We're measuring the difference in calories between different foods of the same weight. With Calorie Density it's not important how many calories are in any one serving of food, it's important to know how that food compares to the same weight of another food. I've chosen to use a pound as the measure of weight because some low calorie foods would read 0 if we measured in too small an amount. We could use any weight we wanted to. It could be calories per ounce, kilogram, or ton, as long as we measured each food the same.
Below is a list of some foods and how many calories there are in a pound of that food. Keep in mind that the foods listed below show the calories for how we're likely to eat them. Nobody eats raw chicken, uncooked rice, or unpopped popcorn. The only numbers that matter to us here are the calories of the food as it is when we're ready to eat it.

(I've taken the information below from http://cronometer.com)

FoodCalories-Per-Pound
Lettuce, Iceberg64
Celery, Raw 73
Peppers, Sweet, Green, Raw91
Spinach, Raw104
Cauliflower, Raw 114
Cabbage, Raw114
Strawberries, Raw145
Cantaloupe, Raw154
Broccoli, Raw154
Honeydew, Raw163
Brussels sprouts, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt163
Butternut Squash, Baked182
Onions, Raw182
Carrots, Raw186
Oranges, raw, navels222
Apples, raw, with skin236
Blueberries, Raw259
Mangos, Raw272
Cereal, hot, Purity cracked wheat, prepared313
Oats, regular and quick, cooked with water322
Potatoes, boiled395
Bananas, Raw404
Potatoes, Baked427
Corn, boiled, drained, without salt436
Rice, brown, long-grain, cooked504
Millet, cooked540
Quinoa, cooked545
Barley, pearled, cooked558
Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked563
Rice, white, long-grain, regular, cooked590
Beans, black, boiled599
Turkey, breast, roasted613
Beans, pinto, boiled649
Kentucky Fried Chicken, Coleslaw654
Spaghetti, cooked, enriched, with added salt713
Pork chops, boneless, broiled731
Chickpeas, boiled745
Chicken Breast, meat only, roasted749
Beef, ground, 95% lean/ 5% fat, broiled776
Taco Bell, Soft Taco with chicken, cheese and lettuce858
Steak, lean, fried in olive oil890
Ice Cream, Vanilla940
Ice Cream, Chocolate981
Tortillas, ready-to-bake or -fry, corn, without added salt1008
Chicken thigh, meat and skin, roasted1040
Beef, ground, 80% lean / 20% fat, pan-broiled1117
Bread, whole-wheat, commercially prepared1121
Smuckers Seedless Strawberry Jam (Preserves)1135
Burger King, Whopper, with cheese1135
McDonald's, Big Mac1167
Bread, white, commercially prepared1203
Burger King, Chicken Tenders1312
McDonald's, Chicken McNuggets1321
Beef, Chuck Roast, trimmed to 1/8” fat, braised1339
Honey1380
McDonald's, French Fries1435
Burger King, French Fries1503
Pork sausage, fresh, cooked1539
Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popcorn Chicken1594
Cheese, swiss1725
Pretzels, hard, plain, salted 1725
Kraft, Stove Top Stuffing Mix Chicken Flavor1730
Popcorn, air-popped1757
Rice cakes, brown rice, plain1757
Sugars, granulated1757
Cake, chocolate, commercially prepared1766
Cheese, cheddar1830
Beef Jerky, chopped and formed1861
Crackers, saltines (includes oyster, soda, soup)1911
Cheese, parmesan, grated1957
Tortilla chips, yellow, plain, salted2265
Nutella2454
Potato chips, plain, salted2461
Bacon, cooked, pan-fried2420
Milk Chocolate2429
Nuts, Cashews, dry roasted, with salt added2606
Peanuts, all types, dry-roasted, with salt2656
Peanut butter, smooth style, with salt2670
Nuts, almonds, dry roasted, without salt added2701
Chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids2715
Margarine, regular, with salt3237
Butter3255
Oil, Coconut3913
Oil, Olive, Extra Virgin4013
Oil, Canola4013


So what does all that mean to those of us trying to lose weight? Simple. If you fill up on foods higher in calorie density you're probably going to gain weight. If you fill up on foods lower in calorie density you're probably going to lose weight. If you're wanting to lose weight and it's not happening, you need to look at the foods you eat and replace some of the foods higher in calorie density with foods lower in calorie density.
Sometimes the same food can have a wide range of calorie density depending on how it's processed or prepared. One example is corn. Whole kernel corn, boiled in water, is 436 calories per pound. But if you grind that corn into corn flour, process it into tortilla chips, and bake them with a little oil... you now have a whopping 2265 calories per pound! It is similar for potatoes. Boiled potatoes are 395 calories per pound. But if you eat them in the form of McDonald's french fries you have 1435 calories per pound, and if you process them and deep fry them in oil to make potato chips you now have 2461 calories per pound! Long grain white rice is 590 per pound while long grain brown rice is only 504 calories per pound! Make rice cakes out of that and you now have 1757 calories per pound! Let's look at wheat. You can take whole wheat berries and cook them up in water to make a wonderfully nutritious breakfast cereal. So few people do this that I couldn't find a calorie count for preparing them that way. But I did find a cracked wheat cereal in the list that weighs in at 313 calories per pound. Not bad! If we take that wheat and grind it into flour and make whole wheat spaghetti out of it then we now have 563 calories per pound. Still not too bad. But if we process that flour into regular spaghetti we now have 713 calories per pound! And if instead of spaghetti we make bread out of that wheat we now have 1203 calories per pound! Process it even further into saltine crackers and you're looking at 1911 calories per pound!
From this we learn that the more you process a food the more calories it's going to have when you eat it. The more you process food the more calories it has. And the less nutrition it has. And the less hunger satisfaction it gives you. This introduces our next point, which is Satiety. The satiety of a food is how much it satisfies your appetite. How much a food satisfies your appetite depends on it's weight, volume, and how long it takes your body to digest. The longer it takes your body to digest food the longer it's going to be before you're hungry again. Does it do any good to satisfy your appetite on foods that will pass right through you and leave you hungry again? No. Your body will digest bread faster than it will digest cracked wheat cereal. Bread is made from wheat which has already been ground into flour. It contains millions of air pockets which immediately soak up digestive fluids and break apart. Think about how long a slice of bread will stay intact if you put it in a bowl of water. Not long. Within a few seconds it's soggy and falling apart and you can't even lift it whole from the bowl without it falling apart. Your body has to do very little work to digest it because it's already been processed. Pasta is also made from flour, but it's much denser and has a lot of water infused into it. Put pasta into a bowl of water and it'll eventually get mushy and fall apart, but not instantly like bread does! It digests slower and therefore gives you more satiety. Cracked wheat cereal goes even further. It will take much longer to digest. Your body really has to work at it because it's not been ground into flour! Notice this simple principle: The more you process the wheat the more calories it has, the less nutrition it has, and the less appetite satisfaction it gives you. This is true of all foods. The more you process food the less nutrition it has, the more calories it has, and the less it will satisfy your appetite. The more whole, intact foods you eat and the fewer processed foods you eat, the easier it will be to lose weight while satisfying your appetite.
What do I eat that allows me to stuff my belly as full as I ever have, yet lose weight effortlessly week after week, month after month? Easy!! I eat mostly whole foods less than 600 calories per pound. I occasionally stray to foods higher on the list, but not often, and I am careful about how much of those foods I eat. I limit processed foods in my diet. I don't eat any meat. It's simply too high in calories and gives less satiety than other foods lower in calories. Being a lifelong meat eater who swore I could not satisfy my appetite without it, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that potatoes, rice, and beans offer more satiety than meat does! That's right!! Potatoes, rice, and beans will stick with you longer than meat will. No wonder I routinely went looking for leftovers in the fridge 3-5 hours after eating a dinner loaded high with meat. I seldom do that now because I'm still satisfied with all the potatoes, rice, pasta, and beans I eat for dinner! You can live just fine without meat. And if you cant give it up, then focus on eating MORE of the lower calorie dense foods and without even thinking about it you'll naturally eat less meat. It's true! And almost effortless, and painless.
When I talk about not eating meat I always here the same question. “Where do you get your protein?” I get my protein from the same place everyone else does. From the food I eat. Since I didn't write this to focus on protein, let me sum this topic up shortly. The World Health Organization says an adult needs 5% of their calories to come from protein. 6% if you're a pregnant female. White rice meets this requirement with 7% of it's calories coming from protein. Potatoes have 8%, brown rice has 9%, corn has 11%, oatmeal has 15%, and black beans have 27%. An even higher authority than the World Health Organization agrees! Mother Nature herself! Human breast milk contains about 5% of it's calories from protein. At no point in our lives do we grow faster than as an infant, doubling in size in just a few short months! Mother's milk is the perfect food to see us through this period of profound growth, and it contains only 5% of it's calories in the form of protein. Is there really any time in our lives when we need more? No. I'm exercising and building muscle mass just fine on my current diet, and there is a growing list of professional athletes who are discovering they can perform better than ever on a vegetarian diet. It's almost as if our entire education on nutrition in our country has been paid for by the meat and dairy industry! (Smile)
Let's talk about sugar and fat! Honey is 1380 calories a pound. Sugar is 1757. Margarine is 3237, butter is 3255. Olive oil and canola oil are both 4013 calories a pound! Adding any of these to foods to our diet can have only one outcome: It adds calories without adding satiety. You can easily double the calories in food by adding sugar or fat to it, without adding one bit of extra appetite satisfaction. You simply do not need any added sugar or fat in your diet. Not even the “healthy” oils like Olive Oil. You can get all the essential fats you need from whole plant foods. But our diets are loaded with sugars and fats and we're loath to give them up. Without them foods are bland and boring, right? Well, yeah! But only because we've been bombarding our taste buds with unnatural amounts of sugars and fats. If we stop overloading our palate with them we find we actually enjoy the tastes of food without them. It's true! It's like when the electricity goes out and suddenly everything goes quiet. The TV goes off, the radio goes off, the computers, refrigerators and heaters stop humming and everything is eerily silent. For a few minutes, anyway. And then you start to hear things. The natural sounds of the world. The wind outside. The birds. The neighbor's wind chimes. A dog off in the distance. By the time the power comes back on you've grown accustomed to these new sounds and for a brief moment actually miss them once all the noise of modern life returns. In a similar fashion your taste buds will adapt to not loading your food with sugars and fats, and what's more, they'll actually like the new tastes they experience! Some people have no trouble simply cutting down on the sugars and fats they add to their diet. More power to them! Some other people, however, find it very difficult. That is because some foods are very addictive. Sugars, fats, and cheeses are all highly addictive foods. People who are addicted to them will find it difficult to merely eat less. To those people I would suggest eliminating those foods entirely. You wouldn't suggest to a heroin addict that he merely cut back his habit to a more manageable level, would you? Of course not! You'd tell him the only way to overcome his addiction is to cut it out entirely. The same goes for food addictions. You can't cure them by merely cutting back. To be free from their hold you have to cut out the foods you're addicted to.

Summary
Start eating more foods lower in calorie density and you will naturally, without even thinking about it, find yourself eating less of the foods higher in calorie density. At some point you may choose to eliminate entirely some of the foods higher in calorie density, and your health and your weight will thank you for it! Stop adding excess calories to your food in the form of sugars and fats, and allow your taste buds to experience a new world of subtle yet delicious tastes. Doing these things will lead you to a diet that is rewarding, healthy, and lets you lose weight effortlessly while satisfying your appetite fully. If you have only a few pounds to lose you might only need to tweak your current diet a little bit. If you have more to lose, bigger changes might be necessary. If you have a lot to lose, like me, you may need to make even bigger changes yet. Not everyone has to make the drastic changes in diet that I have. While it's true that I've come to believe that a low-fat vegetarian diet is the healthiest for all humans to eat, you don't have to agree with that to put Calorie Density to work for you. I had 300 pounds to lose, that called for BIG changes! But even the drastic changes I've made are rewarding and easy to stick with because of this one simple fact: I get to eat as much as it takes to satisfy my appetite. And whatever level of changes you decide to make for yourself you can be assured of that same thing: You'll lose weight AND satisfy your appetite in the process, making it a “diet” you can live with for the rest of your life.
Eat Well! 
Raymond Cool
-Note-
It's very likely that some of the foods you eat aren't in the list I included. To look up the calorie density of foods I didn't list you can go to http://cronometer.com and on the right side of the page towards the bottom you can “Search Foods”. Pick the food you want, enter 454 for the number of servings and from the pull down menu select Grams for the unit of measure. 454 grams = one pound. Doing this will give you the number of calories in one pound of any food in their database, and will let you compare it to foods in the list above. If you have trouble with these instructions, contact me with a list of foods and I'll run them for you!

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