Allie’s Corner: The Calorie Myth
Welcome back to “Allie’s Corner,” where our favorite Physician Assistant Allie Nowak, certified in functional medicine through the Kresser Institute, shares tips on how to invite greater health and wellness into your everyday life.
You probably recognize that 200 calories worth of pasta isn’t exactly the same thing as 200 calories of salmon. Without even thinking about it, your body can probably feel the difference between an afternoon snack of an apple and almond butter versus a super-size candy bar.
“The calorie myth” acknowledges that a calorie isn’t just a calorie. In fact, calories from nutrient-dense whole foods impact our bodies and moods differently than those from nutrient-poor processed foods.
“Quality really matters, and the more we focus on quality foods, the better we feel,” said Allie Nowak, physician assistant and functional medicine specialist at Clinic Sofia. “When people are mindful about what they eat, they tend to turn to whole foods that make them feel good from the inside out.”
Nowak shares the following tips for making your calories count in a healthy way:
- View calories as fuel. “Our bodies need energy, and high-quality calories provide that,” she added. Just like you fuel a car with gasoline, your body needs sustenance for everything it does all day. Calorie restriction can actually backfire.
- Sometimes you need to eat more instead of less. Some people restrict calories to the level that their metabolism slows and they reach a “fight-or-flight” response that negatively affects thyroid and adrenal function as well as hormones. “Eating more may seem counterintuitive, but it can lead to weight loss for some individuals who have been restricting calories below their body’s core needs,” Nowak said.
- Track your calorie intake for a couple days. While Nowak doesn’t necessarily recommend doing this every day, keeping track for a week will give you a ballpark idea of what you’re consuming and where you might need to make changes.
- You do not have to be perfect. “We are all human, and we like to go out to eat, celebrate special occasions and enjoy an ice cream cone,” she said. To that end, Nowak recommends an 80/20 rule where 80 percent of food intake is nutritious whole foods, allowing 20 percent for food freedom to ensure that the diet and lifestyle are sustainable.
If you have questions about calories, diet, nutrition and other lifestyle issues, Nowak is available for consultations and is accepting new patients at Clinic Sofia.