Calories – A Big Ole Mind Fuck

If you read the title of this blog post, you’re probably wondering why I’m not a fan of counting calories. Personally, I think that they’re hogwash. Do you know what a calorie actually is? It’s a unit of heat energy. It has nothing to do with nutrition. Yes, you read that right. Calories have nothing to do with nutrition.

What? Why don’t calories have anything to do with nutrition?

Calories don’t measure the amount of nutrition that is in what you’re eating. They are, as I said before, a unit of heat energy. A calorie is, in essence, “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water through 1 °C, equal to one thousand small calories and often used to measure the energy value of foods.” Yes, a calorie, when it comes to food, means little. They are basically an arbitrary measuring stick that some non-nutritionist person decided would make sense for us to count. Mind-blowing, right?

Hell yes.

Why you shouldn’t count calories?

Well, since calories are pointless, you really shouldn’t be counting them. Many bariatric patients go by how many calories they are supposed to eat per day. It’s kind of frustrating and sad that surgeons and nutritionists have people thinking that counting calories is a good thing. Truth be told, surgeons don’t have nutrition training and most nutritionists are being trained on the food pyramid, which, in many circles, is NOT an accurate portrayal of adequate human nutrition. Don’t believe me? How prevalent is obesity in our society? Has it improved or gotten worse since we started using the food pyramid?

Some people start off the bariatric lifestyle by eating 300 or less calories a day. Then, they move to 600, which is still starvation mode. When you starve your body consistently, your body stores fat and then when you start to eat more calories, it will store those as fat in your body. Ever wonder why so many bariatric patients gain weight back? Well, wonder no more. It’s because they count calories, not nutrition.

How do you count nutrition as a bariatric patient?

Truthfully, there are two great measuring sticks for nutrition in the bariatric diet – hydration and protein. A bariatric patient who is at least four weeks out from bariatric surgery should be drinking at least 64 oz of water every day. They can also drink other liquids, but water is important and you should not count the other liquids toward this total. You need to be hydrated to lose weight and keep it off. It also helps reduce loose skin. It won’t get rid of it, but it will reduce the presence of it.

Secondly, you want to count protein grams. Most plans suggest you eat somewhere between 60 – 75 grams of protein a day. Counts can be higher based on weight pre-surgery or gender. Men generally need more protein than women do.

After that, you should try to eat whole foods like fruits and vegetables. You can also have complex carbs (no, carbs are not the enemy). Processed foods are not the greatest and, if you can, limit them.

However you can eat anything really in moderation. You just have to make sure the food likes you back. What do I mean by that? Well, if you’re a weight loss surgery patient, you’ll know. If a food likes you back, it doesn’t make you nauseous, vomit or dump.

So, what are you going to do now?

I hope you will rethink counting calories as your main measuring stick. Success is not built on calorie counting. It’s built on eating nutritive food that will nourish and sustain you. If I were to count calories, I’d tell you not all calories are equal. A cookie and a bunch of kale may have the same calories, but I’d rather you eat the kale. Someday, maybe you will too. Why? Kale has more nutrients like vitamins and minerals than a cookie does. The cookie isn’t bad and you can have it once in a while, but, to keep weight off long-term, you need to make healthy choices at least 80% of the time.

It’s true.

For more tips and tricks on the bariatric lifestyle, please stay tuned to this blog. I love helping weight loss surgery patients at all levels of the spectrum. Contact me at for more information or to set up a free consultation call.