Posts Tagged ‘Calories’

Nutritionists are Lying – A Calorie Isn’t a Calorie

I remember going to my first nutrition class at Penn State.

I was eager to jump right in since that was what I was there for, but had to wait until some of those darn pre req classes were out of the way.

I walked in day 1.  Liz Evans was our professor.  And she certainly didn’t look like the people I saw in the pages of the magazines I was getting all my information from up until this point.  Hey, you have to start somewhere.

Anyhow, after going over the syllabus, "one of the most important lessons in nutrition — in the entire course," Liz said, "is that all calories are equal.  Nutrition, health and weight loss are really simple" she continued "Calories in equal calories out, your weight is stable.  Calories out are more than calories in, you lose.  If calories in are more than calories out, you gain weight."

Like all the other students, I was writing as quickly as I could. 

And this message continued.  Through my masters and into my PhD, where my research focus was on teaching people how to lose weight permanently.

But it was then that I started to question things a bit more. 

REALLY?  Are all calories the same?

It didn’t make sense to me.  You see from a law of thermodynamics, it does make sense.  If you walk for 1 mile you burn 100 calories.  If you eat 100 calories worth of food, you’ve essentially created a "wash."  Nothing gained.  Nothing lost if we’re solely looking at this with regards to body weight.

But what if you compare extremes?

1 pound of sugar = 1,540 calories

~26 apples = 1,540 calories

Same calories.  But do you think the quality of 1 lb of sugar and 26 apples is the same?  Of course not…aside from the laundry list of nutrition problems eating a days worth of calories from just sugar would cause (nutrient deficiencies, scurvy, tooth decay, etc), how do you think the person eating the 1 pound of sugar would look, feel and perform after she did so?  Of course 26 apples isn’t the ideal "diet" either, but you get the point. 

It’s kind of like the saying, a pound of bricks is the same weight as a pound of feathers.  Sure, they weigh the same … but there are certainly different qualities between them, even though the scale may read the same. 

So as we started to look into this more on our own, with our own clients, and with our own writing & research … we changed our tune and go against the grain of mainstream nutrition to instead give this message:

QUALITY of the diet is more important than QUANTITY of the diet.

Of COURSE calories still do matter. 

But quality is crucial to permanent success.  And it made us even happier when we read a recent study by researchers at Harvard University confirming our point of how the quality of the diet — above and beyond just quantity — can help with fat loss.

The study certainly wasn’t the final word — and definitely had limitations — it wasn’t a "cause and effect" study, but rather a correlation study that asked over 120,000 healthy, well educated men and women about their dietary habits every 2 years for a total of between 12 and 20 years.

They then teased out some of the food items that were associated with weight loss or weight gain among the subjects. 

First, as a whole, they found that the average participant gained about 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) per year.  Who cares, right?  It’s JUST 1 lb.  The problem … year after year after year … that 1 lb adds up and people never lose it and long term it’s more and more dangerous.

The question, then, is what foods did they find contributed to the weight loss vs. those that contributed to weight gain?

Weight Loss:

  • Veggies
  • Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Whole grain foods

Weight Gain:

  • Sugar sweetened drinks
  • Processed meats
  • Potatoes

Interesting, huh?

Again, we’re certainly not saying there aren’t limitations to this study or this type of correlation study, but there were some interesting findings to consider.  The take home points from the authors were to not focus so heavily on calories and rather look at the quality — limit processed or refined carbohydrates and focus instead on veggies, fruits, and healthier food options … even if they are higher in calories (like nuts).  Basically a lot of this boils down to how these foods affect the hormones in our body – namely, insulin, a powerful storage hormone. 

Again, it’s not just how much you eat, but WHAT you eat. 

Just as an aside, we also don’t think potatoes are a "devil" food — we do think the ways people eat them (such as French fries) are.  Again, take this data with a grain of salt. 

At the end of the day, though, we want you to focus on overall diet QUALITY … our message remains the same.  Lots of veggies and fruits, nuts, healthy fats, lean protein and some whole grains.

Pretty basic.  But very effective.

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Less Sleep = More Weight

We’ve talked about the importance of sleep in the weight loss/weight maintenance puzzle.  It’s one of those pieces to the puzzle that’s often overlooked.  However, this is a big mistake as more and more science continues to mound that supports the sleep/weight gain theory.

So here’s the simple message — sleep more, weigh less … with most research suggesting the 8 hour mark being ideal for losing and maintaining your body weight.

But just when you think the "chapter" in this story is closed, another interesting study comes out …

… showing that as little as 80 minutes of less sleep per day adds up in terms of the calories you eat.

Check this out:

The study was recently presented at a conference.  The two groups of participants were divided — one group slept their usual time, while the other slept approximately 80 minutes (just 1 hour, 20 minutes) less per night.  This went on for eight nights.  The following days, subjects were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

The other piece to the puzzle – the group who slept less didn’t burn any more calories, so they weren’t waking up 1 hour and 20 minutes early to go out to Mohr Results Boot Camp or do any other type of workout.

And boy did they – this small amount of sleep "deprivation" — just 1 hour, 20 minutes, resulted in the subjects overeating 594 calories extra (the equivalent of nearly 7 cans of soda!).  All else being equal, this amount of calories would lead to over a 1 lb weight gain each week! 


All for a little shut eye.  Now the exact reason this happens is still being determined.  There are some data that suggest specific hunger hormones, namely ghrelin, are affected.  Or maybe it’s as simple as when you don’t get enough sleep, you have to eat more to boost your energy the following day to stay awake.  Maybe since you’re awake for longer, you’re eating more.  Regardless, this weight gain/sleep connection has been shown time and time again.

Here’s a similar study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that compared 2 levels of sleep — 4 hours vs. 8 hours — and measured food intake the following day.

They learned after just a single night of getting just 4 hours of sleep (sleep deprivation) the subjects at 22% (an average of 559 calories) more the following day compared to the group who got just 8 hours of sleep!

While this short term study was small, it definitely opens the door for more research on this topic to see if continued sleep deprivation (defined as 4 hours in this study) and subsequent overeating could be a major cause of obesity.

Bottom Line:

Burning the candle at both ends and thinking just "1 night of lack of sleep won’t hurt me" is false.  Sleep is an easy part of the equation to control — even aiming for just 1 more hour each night will help.  Every little bit of additional sleep helps!

Now go lay down!

Sugar: More Addictive than Drugs?

We talked recently about the dangers of sugar – an ingredient (among others) that is killing us! 

A friend of ours — Jeff O’Connell — just published a book, Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It, that is starting to gain some serious attention about this very topic.  Interestingly, Jeff has type 2 diabetes — but at 6’6, very lean and active, he’s certainly not your "typical" type 2 diabetes patient. 

So in the book he talks to a ton of researchers, physicians and others looking deeper at some of the causes of the disease that’s growing by 7,000 people PER DAY. 

Well, Americans are certainly eating enough sugar to make it toxic.  While surely there are some controversial nutrition recommendations in the book, it’s important to look at some facts about sugar. 

sugar is toxicAdded sugars make up about 16% of total calories in the American Diet — SIXTEEN!  That means 16% of the American Diet is not just void of ANY nutrients whatsoever, but it’s filled with completely useless calories.


And ‘added sugars’ means sugars from any source — white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soda, honey, organic cane sugar, etc.  The sugars mainly found in processed foods are added sugars and so are any sugars you personally add.  Basically, any sugar that’s not naturally found in foods like fruits, veggies or dairy products so don’t use these new "rules" as a way to say you have to stop eating fruits and veggies.  That’s taking smart guidelines and applying them to what you may want to hear.


Just to give you an idea — here are a few of the major culprits of added sugar in Americans’ diets.


  • Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks: 36% contribution to total added sugar intake
  • Cakes, cookies, pies: 13%
  • Fruit drinks and “-ades” (not 100% fruit juice): 10.5%

Sugar has earned a spot on the AHA’s black list — saying it’s basically a "negative nutrient" that needs to be limited for your heart’s sake (and, really, every other organ in your body too).

The AHA recommends that added sugar intake be limited to 100 calories (25 grams, or 6 teaspoons) per day for women and to 150 calories (about 37 grams, or 9 teaspoons) per day for men.  To be honest, even less would be even better…the less, the better. 

Keep in mind that now, the average American eats over 350 calories each day in sugar alone (about 22 teaspoons,or nearly 3-12 oz cans of soda)!  Talk about a way to make sure you gaining belly fat and ruining your health!

Added sugars have NO place in your body whatsoever.  NONE.  ZERO.  ZIP.  (NOTE: for certain athletes, sports drinks and post workout drinks CAN play a role, but that’s not the majority of the population).  Unfortunately the majority of the population are those who still drink too many of those things yet don’t move their bodies.

Here’s the deal.

Adding sugar to your diet is like pouring mud down your throat.  Gross, right?  Yeah, they have about the same amount of nutrients — actually, the mud probably has more!

The study I’m referring to was published in AHA’s Scientific Journal, Circulation … and they talk about the link between high sugar intake and insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and type 2 diabetes.  Of course we can also point to the increase in belly fat from eating too much sugar, which can lead to basically every other disease known to man.

Very simply, we are OVERFED YET UNDERNOURISHED!!!  And added sugars need to go.

In fact, the AHA has a very strong conclusion in their study: "There is sufficient evidence to link excessive sugar intake to the pandemic of obesity and cardiovascular disease."

Scary stuff.  That is, unless you’re not "in the know."

Tricks to limit added sugars

This is what we do to limit added sugars and make sure we don’t throw ouroverall "diet" in the toilet.

  • Eat whole foods with a max of 5 ingredients each (preferably just 1 ingredient) — fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, whole grains, & fish, as each are void of added sugars.
  • If it comes in a package, leave it on the shelf (think snacks, pastries, cookies, most breakfast cereals, etc)
  • Leave foods on the shelf if they have any of these as the first few ingredients: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar (dextrose, fructose, glucose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, syrup.

Kudos to the American Heart Association … most governing bodies haven’t stepped it up and made such a bold move.

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Lose Calories Easily to Shed Pounds

The first thing people do when they even think about losing weight is focus on everything they ‘can’t’ eat. 

"Fat is bad."

"Carbs are worse."

"I have to give up alcohol."

"No more snacking.  Ever."

"Desserts are done.  Someone else can enjoy my birthday cake this year."

What if it weren’t THAT hard, though?  What if there were easy calorie swaps you can make to lose calories easily without giving up what you think to be all of your absolute favorite foods?

You know what, there are. 

Remember, though…it’s not just about the calories.  It’s about the quality too.

  1. Use avocado in place of mayonnaise.  I tried this one the other day and it was great.  Felt like a tuna sandwich; something I haven’t had in a really long time.  But rather than using several TBS of mayo, I swapped it out for 1/4 avocado and a TBS of grainy mustard.  Gave the tuna the moisture it needed, much better flavor, and super healthy fats to boot.  Calorie Savings: 100.
  2. Use divided picnic plates for dinner.  These plates are perfect for portions — fill the largest section with veggies and fruit.  Fill one of the others with protein.  And the last with some kind of grain.  Calorie savings vs. eating off a "regular plate" — at least 200 calories/meal.
  3. Squeeze an orange or lemon on your salad.  When you’re eating a salad,  you’re looking for moisture as much as you are flavor from the dressing.  Use just 1 tsp of an olive oil based dressing (like balsamic vinaigrette) and squeeze half an orange or lemon over top of the salad.  Calorie savings: 200/salad
  4. Cut your peanut butter with carrots.  Huh?  Yup, it’s true — steam carrots until they can be mashed with a fork (like baby food).  Then blend 1/4 cup peanut butter to 3/4 cup carrots.  You’ll enjoy the same flavor, boost the nutrients, and…save 150 calories/serving.  Check out this video showing how to make better peanut butter.
  5. Use portabella mushrooms in place of buns or pizza "crust."  This is a no brainer — grill the mushrooms (or put in oven and cook at 350 for about 10 minutes, until tender).  If having a hamburger, just put the meat between the 2 mushrooms like they are a regular bun … or use it as a pizza crust and top with ingredients you choose.  Calorie savings: 75.  Nutrient Boost. 1000%!

Mohr Results Bottom Line: Losing fat doesn’t have to be a painful process.  Simple calorie swaps will make it simple to maintain this great new lifestyle of fantastic choices.

5 Fat Loss Mistakes!

Our goal isn’t just to talk about losing fat.  Anyone can lose fat, fast. What’s more important is discussing how to lose fat permanently! And I say lose "fat" because some weight is good — we don’t encourage muscle loss, so focus on body fat and you’ll be golden. Just the other day I was on the phone with a writer for a popular fitness magazine.  And the writer asked me what I thought were the top 5 fat loss mistakes that people make. He was surprised that there was barely a pause before I started rattling off the common problems I see with people who are trying to lose fat.  And it’s not that I’m some incredibly brilliant genius, it’s just that after working with 1000′s of people over the years, it’s very clear where people are struggling when trying to lose belly fat.

  1. Portions are out of control! This image is a perfect example of portion distortion.  Not that any of these are smart food options, but even if we went back to the smaller portions of each, we’d be headed in the right direction.portions-have-changed1So what can you do about it?  When at home, don’t serve family style.  You’ll eat more when serving out of a larger bowl or platter.  Read food labels, too, so you can see that sometimes 1 bottle, or 1 bag of a product, is often 2, 3 or even 4 servings!
  2. Thinking all calories are created equal! A calorie isn’t a calorie.  That might be in the face of science.  Some say that all calories are equal, meaning as long as you cut calories, you’ll lose weight.  Sure, but is your goal to lose fat or lose muscle?  And don’t you want to fuel your body with all the nutrients you can?  After all, slugging down a 250 calorie sugar laden soda is far from eating veggies and hummus, peanut butter and an apple for those same 250 calories. So a calorie isn’t a calorie — eat quality, don’t just focus on quantity!
  3. Outeating your exercise. Run 1 mile and you burn about 100 calories.  Walk 1 mile and you burn about 100 calories.  That means if you wanted to lose 1 lb/week through exercise only, you’d have to run or walk 5 miles every single day!  That’s not realistic or a good use of your time.  It’s much easier to eliminate those extra calories by replacing junk  with high nutrient fuel or eliminating calories from soft drinks, for example.  Exercise, yes, but you’ll get more bang for your weight loss buck by monitoring the foods you put in your body.
  4. Skipping breakfast as a way to "save" calories. Eat breakfast and you’ll weigh less.  It’s as simple as that.  Just eat the right types of foods — avoid sugary breakfast cereals and instead opt for fruit, raw nuts, yogurt, eggs and veggies, for example.
  5. Thinking exercise is your answer to losing fat. Exercise doesn’t work.  Nutrition does.  Sure, exercise needs to be a part of your fat loss routine, but even though you may exercise 1 hour/day, what happens the other 23 hours?

There you have it – the 5 most common fat loss mistakes! If you truly want to be permanently successful,avoid the mistakes above and you’ll be well on your way. Tomorrow we’ll be back with some fat fighting recipes!

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