Sunday, March 3, 2013

I can, and have, gained weight on a Paleo Diet

I mentioned on Facebook today that pretty much everyone that's told me "you don't have to count calories, as long as you eat the 'right' foods" has never battled a weight problem.  I seem to have touched a nerve.  It was a simple observation.  

The trendy thing in fitness & health these days seems to be that as long as you are eating whole, unprocessed foods, you don't need to count calories.  May God have mercy on your soul if you pop up on a Paleo or Vegan or Clean Eating forum and mention the "c" (calories) word.  You'll be drug to the town center, hung up by your toenails, and left to be ridiculed for all eternity.  Trust me.  I know.  

"Not all calories are created equally."  I hate that saying.  A calorie is a unit of measurement, like a mile.  Saying not all calories are the same is like saying not all miles are the same.  Now, not all miles will lead us to our destination, just like not all calories will get us closer to our ultimate goal of health.  Certainly, some calories offer more nutrition than others, but a mile is still a mile.  And a calorie is still a calorie.  

Calories count.  It is physiologically impossible to gain weight while eating in a caloric deficit and it is physiologically impossible to lose weight while eating in a caloric surplus.  It's simple physics.  The idea behind this new theory of 'calories don't matter' is that by eating whole, unprocessed foods it's impossible to actually eat in a caloric surplus.  That sounds great, if we lived in a perfect world.  We don't.  We live in an unhealthy, obese, metabolically dysfunctional world.  Most people that need to lose a significant amount of weight are no longer in touch with their satiety and fullness cues.  It is absolutely possible for a lot of people to over eat, regardless of what types of foods they're eating.  

I can, and have, over eaten carrots.  I can, and have, over eaten almond butter.  I can, and have, over eaten grass fed steak.  I can, and have, gained weight on a Paleo Diet.

This is not to say that I think everyone will have my same experience.  That would be absolutely arrogant and short sighted of me.   It's simply to say that someone that hasn't dealt with my issues doesn't have the insight to tell me that I don't need to count calories.  


  1. First off, I really like this post. It's open, honest, and I feel your frustration and pain.
    Because I've been there.
    And although I'm not going to tell you not to count calories, let's just say, oh don't need to count calories.
    But it takes a lot of patience and a lot of time.
    Out of habit, I still do sometimes. It's kind of like a fun game. But I don't let the calorie statement make me feel good or bad about my day, make me think I have to work out more tomorrow, or eat less. I think "Wow, for some reason, I needed 3200 calories today." And yes, I sometimes eat that much, albeit real, whole foods. This is a far cry from last year where I couldn't seem to get enough chocolate, fruit, rich cheeses, bread. Though I think those are fine, at the moment, they are not nourishing enough for my body, nor do I even crave them. I find on the days I consume those things, I just eat more overall, as my body is really wanting the vitamins and nutrients from greens, omega 3s, etc. This is coming off of years of trying to maintain a smaller weight on 1800 calories a day and lots of running because I was told by the doctor to 'lose a little weight'.
    Eventually I got so exhausted I couldn't keep that up. I ate and ate (a la Matt Stone's RRARFING) and when I stopping exercising completely (except for walks) and eating to appetite, I stopped gaining weight. I am going to trust in this very long and arduous process of stress relief, letting go, and just eating, without any second thoughts. My own personal key has been balancing my blood sugar, and regulating my appetite (high protein breakfast, large lunch, 2 light dinners) so that my body knows it will be fed.
    But it took years to get to that point "why am I eating right now?". I don't view anything as overeating anymore. It's feeding a need, be it nutritional or emotional. The emotional times are few and far between these days. I am just still outright damn hungry. Somedays its 2300 calories hungry, others its 3000+. My body balances all that out now. I haven't lost any weight since I leveled out 2 months ago (this whole process of just stopping the calorie madness has been 1 year in april), and I don't yet feel truly well enough to do exercise.
    Calories count. But I don't believe you have to count them. Eventually. It's not the calories that cause weight gain, it's what your body does with them, why it holds on so tightly, or decides to burn them up in the form of mental focus, physical energy, or warmth.
    I hope I didn't misunderstand your post at all, but it reminded me of a time where I felt a slave to calories and appetite frustration. And you may prefer/like how you take care of yourself, and that is completely wonderful. Just know it's not the only option in case you feel yourself inclined to think otherwise....

  2. I gained weight during the short time I was on the paleo diet...the challenge part. I only made it to day 10 and decided that this was not my goal. My goal at this time is to lose weight, not gain it to feel worse about myself and "feel better internally". If you don't feel good about yourself, the food you put into your body won't help that until you feel good on the outside.