Book Review: The Calorie Myth

By Jonathan Bailor

About The Author: 

Jonathan Bailor is a New York Times best-selling author, nutrition and exercise expert, and CEO of the wellness company SANESolution.  For the past decade he has been collaborating with doctors from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the Mayo clinic, and UCLA as he has been developing a permanent solution for the growing problem of diabesity.

During college Jonathan began working as a personal trainer.  It was here that he began seeing firsthand that the conventional wisdom of “eat less and exercise more” didn’t work.  With frustration, he quit his job as a trainer and began a 15-year journey into the scientific research of metabolism and how the body gains/losses weight.

The Big Idea:

Your weight is controlled by your “set point”, the amount of fat your body is working to maintain by controlling your metabolism through the coordinated efforts of your hormones, genes, and brain.

The Details:

        Your body is designed to maintain homeostasis, or a stable internal environment, to work for maximum efficiency.  This stability is much like a thermostat in a house regulating the temperature.  If your house gets too warm the thermostat turns on the air conditioning to cool the house until it reaches a desired temperature.  Likewise, when it’s too cold the thermostat again goes to work and heats up the house until the preferred temperature is met.

Homeostasis also explains why you have a difficult time losing weight.  Much like the thermostat stabilizing the temperature in your house, homeostasis creates a “set point” for the desired weight of your body.  This is generally a range of 10 pounds where your body speeds up its metabolism (the converting of food into chemical energy) or slows it down to keep your weight stable. Unfortunately, we are now beginning to understand how certain foods create a “hormonal clog” and send our body messages that raise our set point causing us to slowly, but consistently store fat and gain weight.

To reverse this trend, we need to focus on food quality, and not just food quantity.  By eating high-quality foods, our bodies set point will lower as the hormonal clog is removed and the body can adjust the messages being sent through hormones to our cells.  High-quality foods include non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole food fats, and low-fructose fruits.

The first section of The Calorie Myth explores the current beliefs, or myths, surrounding weightloss.  The first calorie myth examined is that weightloss can be calculated simply by the equation, calories in minus calories out.   It is false because it assumes that our body doesn’t do anything to counterbalance our efforts to manipulate calorie intake.  There are four major problems with the traditional quantity-focused (calorie focused) fat-loss approach that are detailed in this section.

The second calorie myth confronted is that a calorie is a calorie. There are four criteria that can be used for assessing the quality of the calories in our food so we can distinguish high-quality food from low-quality.  The acronym SANE is used to describe the high-quality foods that will make up our diets as the hormonal clog is removed and the set point is lowered.

The “S” stands for satiety.  High-quality foods should fill us up quickly and keep us full for an longer period of time compared to low-quality.  The “A” stands for aggression.  High-quality foods should not be aggressively be stored as fat by the body.  The “N” stands for nutrition.  High-quality foods should be dense in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids.  The “E” stands for efficiency.  High-quality foods should not be able to be efficiently stored as fats.

The third calorie myth is that all foods are fine in moderation.  The reality is that calories from sugars and sweets trigger a ridiculous amount of insulin to be released into our bloodstream.  Insulin is a hormone that will block the burning of fat and increase the storage of fat by removing the sugar from our bloodstream and storing it in our adipose (fat) cells.  High sugar levels are what cause the body to release more and more insulin into our bloodstream and is the foundation of what is known as insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance then becomes the backbone of our hormonal clog and causes our set point to increase.

Section two of The Calorie Myth focuses on the solutions to the current problem of havening an inflated set point.  It focuses on an approach that gives the most results with the least amount of time and money invested.  To simplify the process further, ten principles of SANE eating are discussed.  These go beyond simply what to eat but also focus on the mindset needed to creating lasting results, not yo-yo dieting.   This section also goes over six principles of smarter exercise which work in tandem with SANE eating to adjust your set point and get better results faster.

The Bottom Line:

The caloric approach to weightloss has been tried for decades with embarrassingly poor results.  The reality is that 95% of people who begin a diet gain back the weight initially lost.  And often they end up weighting more than when they began the diet in the first place.  Combined with the data that currently seven out of ten American adults are overweight or obese significant evidence exists that we have a problem and our methods for fixing it is not working.

Instead of believing the calorie myths that we have been told countless times, focusing on SANE eating and smarter exercise will remove the hormonal clog caused and allow our bodies to lower our set point so we can burn fat instead of storing it.

My Two Cents:

Peer-reviewed scientific research is showing that much about what we have been told about losing weight from the past several decades are in fact myths.  If the goals is fat loss and long term health. then we need to work with our body’s genetics, brain, and hormones to readjust our set point.  Doing so will switch us from fat storage to fat burning by allowing the chemical signals in our bodies to burn more calories as fuel instead of storing them as fat.

I agree wholeheartedly that the foundation of any sustainable lifestyle designed to lose weight and burn fat needs to be primarily focused on nutrition.  Learning from my own mistakes a decade ago, you can’t outwork a bad diet.

Despite working out for hours every week and trying to reduce your calories, your body will quickly adapt after an initial drop in weight and will fight your efforts to maintain homeostasis based on its internal messages.  However, if you adjust your set point, your body will keep the weight off by maintaining homeostasis through your newly lowered set point.

Over the next three months Danielle and I will be putting these principles to work as we are going to be making further changes to our diets.  We will be sharing our story on both Instagram and Facebook if you’d like to follow along or get assistance as you are working on your own journey.  Combined we have lost over 140 pounds and kept it off for the past 5 years.  However, we have not reached our personal goals yet and are excited to take all we have learned from this book and others and put it into practice.