There has been much debate lately about how much calories we should eat and, when we reach that final number, what to do about it. The entire ethos of calorie counting is at odds with some of the newest research. For instance, one recent study in Nature Human Behaviour reported that calorie reduction does not prevent metabolic changes that might set in and lead to weight gain. A second study published in the journal Current Biology found that calorie restriction actually enhances fat metabolism by boosting telomerase activity, which turns on genes that control these processes. Additionally, research in mice suggests that when compared to untreated mice, even those with calorie restriction saw weight gain and found eating less causes even greater metabolic effects.
The results are disappointing. Even calorie-counting communities for success eat more — not less — food. And instead of following food-calorie reduction diets, some researchers are beginning to recommend basic shifts in eating patterns. For instance, instead of eating on an empty stomach as their food guides instruct, some people are drinking a small glass of water before eating and eating only when they are thirsty.
And calorie-counting methods may not be the best way to help you lose weight anyway. Most calorie-counting fans believe that counting calories is the key. “If I start counting calories, then I know exactly what I’m eating. If I start counting calories, then I’m going to follow that diet for the rest of my life,” said personal trainer Jon Vargas, who works with Usher. But scientists are increasingly skeptical of this assumption. The “third way” approaches advocated by Mark Hyman of the Cleveland Clinic and Yale University, for instance, focus on the problems with calorie counting. They focus on changing how much you eat as opposed to counting calories, or “changing eating responses.”
In fact, it seems like the data and evidence regarding calories are confusing so many people. In 2015, Peter Strasser of the Mayo Clinic made headlines with his finding that an addiction to counting calories for weight loss is normal. Followers of this compulsion are likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms if the obsession is broken.