Why Dr. Atkins Thought
Calories Don't Count
Dr. Atkins, author of numerous
books heavily promoted the
idea that calories didn't count.
You could eat as much of the
allowed foods as you wanted,
and that idea was very appealing.
So appealing in fact that millions
of people have tried his diet
strategy since 1972 when Atkins
wrote his first book, Dr. Atkins'
Since that time the proliferation of books
about the low carb diet has been staggering.
It leaves one to wonder, just how many different
ways can you fix meat?. The answer may lie
in the over 841 books featuring low
Meanwhile, back to the original question:
How many calories can I eat and still lose
weight? Do calories count? Was Dr. Atkins
right, or wrong? Who knows the truth and
will they please tell me?
The word calorie is simply
a way of measuring the amount
of available energy a given
food would provide. The mathematics
have been simplified so we can
easily think in terms of how
many calories we need versus
how many we are eating, and
any deficit should equate into
weight loss. Only sometimes
that simple equation doesn't
hold true and therein lies the
rub. You'll get arguments and
fist fights over whether calories
count. Suffice it to say, I
think they do. You can think
what you like.
It doesn't make much sense
whether your tracking calories,
fat grams or carb grams to simply
ignore the total calories a
given food contains. If it did,
then we would have all gotten
slimmer eating the low fat foods.
We didn't because they never
were low calorie, in fact, sometimes
the low fat version contained
more calories than the original,
and yet, since it was low fat,
people would eat more. Not smart,
but that's what happened.
Now we're seeing the same thing
with reduced or low carb products.
I recently made a low carb -
sugar free cheesecake for a
friend's birthday. She's been
on Atkins for over a year and
it's worked pretty well for
her, so I wanted to make a special
treat just for her. It turned
out very well, but what got
me was the overall calorie count
and the fat count was outrageous,
mainly because I made a crust
from almond flour (ground almonds).
So is the ground almond better
than say a graham cracker crust?
I don't know, but calorie-for-calorie
I think it makes sense to just
eat what tastes the best to
you, and forget all this counting
for one day.
Calories do count because you
cannot feed a normal human being
over 5,000 calories a day and
expect that person to lose weight
because they are not eating
carbs. It's just not that simple.
One reason people eating low
carb think they are always hungry
when they eat low fat is that
it's true! At least it seems
true. When I was eating a very
clean diet (low fat, no processed
foods, no fried foods, etc.)
I was hungry - about every three
hours I'd have a piece of fruit,
or a bagel, or yogurt, or whatever,
and to some people that is intolerable.
Being hungry multiple times
a day? Who needs that?
The fat content in foods creates
a feeling of satiety (makes
you feel more full) and if you
ate high protein or high fat
it takes longer to digest as
well, meaning it will be a little
longer before you are hungry
again. That is how the diet
is designed to work. You'll
not feel hungry as often, and
hence will likely eat less,
even though you are eating as
much as you want (or at least
you think you are).
The best way to test the theory (I must
warn you that no one has ever been brave
enough to do this test) go on a mixed nuts
only diet. If calories don't count then
you could eat a couple pounds of shelled
peanuts every day, and you'd stay slim.
That's the theory. Let's test it. Who's
willing to eat 10,000 calories worth of
peanuts, almonds, cashews or any combination
thereof? Any takers? I doubt it.
Atkins may have given people
more credit that he should have.
People want fast and they want
easy and eliminating bread seems
easy enough. After all, many
folks don't like vegetables
anyway so skipping them is pretty
easy, and what about grains?
Also easy to miss rice and beans
and grains when you weren't
eating them anyway. The only
thing difficult to give up is
the white flour and white sugar
products simply because they
are everywhere, and we've grown
so accustom to eating out of
a box or bag.
If you buy food at the grocery
store that comes ready-made,
then you are likely eating white
flour and white sugar -- and
if you're eating "low carb"
then you're eating non-nutritive
sweeteners (fake sweeteners).
Approach to Low Carb Dieting
What's the sensible approach to low carb
dieting? Easy. It only takes three steps:
1. Wean yourself away
from fast food - don't
even go in the front door -
why tempt yourself? You may
be able to order something else
from the menu today, but how
long can that last while everyone
around you is eating what you
really want? It's far easier
to get in the habit of eating
something else. Why do you think
non-drinkers rarely frequent
2. Stop eating cookies,
crackers, any snack foods, unless
you make them yourself.
Why is it okay if they are homemade?
Think about it. If you are going
to have to make them yourself
a few things need to be in place.
You need the time, you need
the ingredients, and you need
the will to make them in the
first place. If and when those
are in place, you go ahead and
cook up a batch and enjoy it.
What generally happens is you
might think about making some
cookies and then you remember
everything else you wanted to
do and the idea of baking cookies
gets pushed back. Easy way to
eat less, isn't it? If I just
trotted off to the store for
a box of cookies, then I'd eat
them all quicker than you can
say, "Who ate the last
3. Wean yourself off
sugary drinks. Soft
drinks, fruit juices, and all
those cute new drinks being
sold today in expensive fancy
bottles, they are death to your
dieting efforts. Imagine the
money you'd save if you just
stopped buying them? My favorite
is orange juice mixed with champagne
with a sprinkle of Amareto (I
think it's a Mimosa or close
to it). I love those but the
calories? Sky high, so I don't
make a habit of drinking them.
Why Am I
So Sure Calories Do Count?
Because my body tells me so. When I make
a change in my usual eating habits, such
as not drinking a daily glass of wine, I
always lose about three pounds after about
six weeks. That tells me something. Just
that one difference, a couple hundred calories
a day, over time and pounds are lost. When
I go back to drinking the wine my weight
slowly creeps back up by about two or three
pounds. Not much, but enough. That tiny
difference in weight can mean the difference
between my pants being comfortable or slightly
If you eat a handful of nuts
every time you walk by the candy
dish, those calories add up.
Drop that one habit. Just say
no. If you eat a nightly dish
of ice cream, try skipping it
just once a week. Tiny changes.
It's similar to the concept
of saving money. Once you get
used to the idea of tucking
that $5 away every week, slowly
the money pot begins to grow
and you no longer feel the pinch
of not having that $5. Tiny
changes, slowly add up to big
results, and the one skipped
Starbucks can easily mean $4
a week savings. Imagine the