Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work in the Long Term for Weight Loss

Welcome, Empower Nutrition listeners, to a special episode addressing the common challenges of traditional weight control methods.

If you’ve felt frustrated by counting macros, carbs, calories, or points, you’re not alone.

In this mini-episode, we dive into the physiological factors influencing appetite, cravings, and metabolic health, challenging the idea that self-discipline is the sole key to sustainable weight management.

1. Stable Blood Sugar:

  • Explore the critical role of stable blood sugar in metabolic health.
  • Uncover the nuances of subclinical insulin resistance beyond routine lab tests.
  • Understand how factors like exercise, stress, sleep, and carbohydrate proportions impact blood sugar levels.

2. The Microbiome and Metabolic Endotoxemia:

  • Delve into the microbiome and metabolic endotoxemia, highlighting issues of low gut diversity and insufficient fiber intake.
  • Grasp the consequences of an imbalanced microbiome, including leaky gut and systemic inflammation.
  • Learn actionable steps to support the gut microbiome through probiotics, prebiotics, polyphenols, and dietary choices.

3. Lean Mass and Muscle:

  • Address the often-overlooked factor of lean mass, especially in women.
  • Understand why focusing on muscle is crucial with age, impacting metabolism and blood sugar stability.
  • Uncover the significance of structured strength training programs in maintaining and gaining muscle at any age.


  • Counting things may offer temporary relief, but the real solution lies in understanding and addressing the physiological drivers of hunger and cravings.
  • Prioritize stable blood sugar, nurture the microbiome, and focus on lean mass for lasting success in health.
  • True empowerment comes from a holistic approach to well-being.
  • Wishing you a joyful holiday season, and stay tuned for more insights on the next episode of the Empowered Nutrition Podcast!

Ready to dive in? Listen here.

Love it? Hate it? We’d love to hear your feedback!  


Hey, empower nutrition listeners. If you’ve ever counted anything, then this episode is for you. And by anything, I mean if you’ve counted macros, if you’ve counted carbs, if you’ve counted calories, if you’ve counted points or whatever other thing you’ve counted to try to bring some kind of self-discipline, some kind of control, some kind of ability to lose weight by restricting over time, supported by quantifying foods, you’ve probably learned that that doesn’t work in the long term. And there’s a very real reason for that. The reason for that is that for virtually everyone who struggles with weight loss resistance or with weight gain and metabolic consequences of that, there’s more going on here. In fact, the only thing going on here is physiological processes that change your appetite, that change your hunger, that change your sugar cravings. It could change your cravings in general and that change your satiety.
So the big thing that we need to understand is that there shouldn’t be any shame involved in this because it has nothing to do with self-discipline or with willpower or with drive or with care. It’s just about basically almost everybody having really atrocious poor advice when it comes to weight and metabolism. So this is a mini episode. I know it didn’t sound like that, but this is a mini episode. I’m gonna quickly hit through the three things that we work on primarily when it comes to metabolic health with our clients so that they don’t have to count anything that can just eat naturally to their appetite, the amount of food they’re hungry for and have satiety and not have to be restricting, and then suffering with shame when even all that restriction doesn’t work in the long term in terms of getting them healthier. So let’s start with the first one.
The first one is having stable blood sugar. The reason why this is important is that when we have big spikes in our blood sugar, we get a release of a hormone called insulin, and insulin stays out for quite some time, and it basically flips what’s called the metabolic switch, which prevents you from being able to access any stored energy. IE burned body fat, IE loose weight. So here’s where a lot of people get tripped up is they’ll say, oh, I’ve gone to my doctor once a year. I’ve had my routine labs and my blood sugar is normal. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have what I would call a subclinical insulin resistance where your blood sugar is too high on average, it’s going too high after meals. And for the majority of cases that we see on our patients who wear continuous glucose monitors, we’ll see high overnight levels for sure.
So, and another kind common thing I’ll hear people say is, oh, like I’m sure this doesn’t apply to me ’cause I’m only eating health food. I’m not eating like candy and like drive through tacos. It’s not about that. Many people with have blood sugar problems on eating whole foods, clean diets, and in fact, sometimes that can be be the cause of the problem. So this isn’t about like, do you get trashy drive-through or not at all? So blood sugar is a big one. Again, when we, when we have our clients wear CGMs, we’ll see spikes after meals that are too high. We’ll see major spikes when they wake up in the morning and overnight and all of those things are causing too much insulin. And then because insulin is blocking you from accessing any of your stored energy, you have this energy crisis that makes that your body like correctly responds to by stimulating hunger.
Like, oh, we need energy. We can’t get any energy from storage, so you need to go eat a snack. Ideally a high carb snack because we’re dying. So that causes hunger and cravings. Things that can lead to this are too much fasted exercise, eating too low carb, even if it’s a whole foods clean diet, too much stress getting not enough sleep or eating too many carbs from healthy sources. So it might just be that someone has, we’ll see all the time, it’s like, okay, you’re eating healthy foods but not in the right proportion. So maybe your breakfast is like oatmeal with fruit on it, and then you’ve got like a bunch of rice with minimal protein at lunch, and then you’ve got very little protein in your like whole grain pasta dinner or something like that. So it can be that carbs are just out of proportion.
So things that to do about this would include, I like to have, if they can, people start with a CGM so we can see their individual food responses. Some people will respond better to bananas and sweet potatoes and vice versa. So that’s important. And also to help work out an individualized pattern of how often should you be fasting each day or how long should you be fasting each day? And then dial in some like sort of patterns of eating of of like which types of carbohydrates and what proportions at what times a day basically. Okay, so that was number one in this mini episode. I’m going quick, but if you guys want more details on these, let us know. Number two, top thing we see is a driver of weight gain and weight loss resistance and people who, who generally are incredible and successful in every way in their life is the microbiome.
So this is called metabolic endotoxemia. And I know we’ve talked about it a little bit, but I can’t over express how common this is. This is, most people in America have this, and so it’s not this rare thing. And basically what it is is that there’s low gut diversity in the microbiome and not enough fiber intake so that you’ve got where the healthy gut bacteria are really low and they’re not getting enough food. And so they get real desperate and they start eating what’s called the mucus layer. But it’s basically the jello layer that the bacteria live in that lines the gut. And the problem with that is that that that mucus layer that’s getting eaten up by these bacteria who are desperate to get some food is what is the thing that protects your gut lining. So now you have this unprotected gut lining that becomes damaged and permeable, and then you have too much of what’s called translocation or crossing over of unhealthy gut bacteria pieces called LPS.
Those are crossing through the impaired gut lining into the bloodstream. It’s, people call this leaky gut, but it’s technically called intestinal permeability. But neither case you have these pro-inflammatory bacteria pieces coming through the gut wall into the bloodstream and triggering an immune response. And that immune response kicks off a bunch of pro-inflammatory cytokines and immune system mediators that are systemic. They go all throughout the body via the blood and they impact many organs in the body, including the brain and the nervous, the rest of the nervous system. What happens there is you lose sensitivity the receptors to satiety hormones. So you’ll eat a meal and still be hungry, you’ll want seconds or you’ll feel like you need to eat a lot of food to feel full, or it’s hard to ever feel full, or you’ll get hungry shortly after eating. Or you’ll always wanna have snacks.
You’ll have a hard time making it between meals without snacks. That’s all due to this dysregulation of satiety hormones or a lack of sensation to them due to this systemic endotoxemia. Things that can cause this, aside from just a lot of people being raised on a low fiber diet and having it from childhood are if you could then have this vicious cycle of like a digestive condition like IBS because of the dysbiosis of your microbiome and then you further don’t tolerate fiber and you further restrict fiber, you, you get in a vicious cycle with that. But it can even be someone who struggles with their weight due to metabolic endotoxemia. So then they get convinced that they should go on like a low carb ketogenic diet. They don’t do it correctly, meaning eating a lot of fiber. And so now they’re eating low fiber due to their low carb diet and unknowingly they’re exacerbating the problem that they had from the beginning.
So it really is critical to nourish the gut microbiome, feed those healthy gut bacteria so that they don’t then eat their own house basically, which kicks this all off. The ways you do that are by finding probiotics, prebiotics, and polyphenols or plants that are brightly colored to have every day fermented foods can help as well. But really getting gut microbiome centered in your eating is really critical, and you can do that without having to eat a lot of carbs. So you know, probiotics and prebiotics, those are supplements you can get fiber if you could. Don’t, you know, there’s
Ways they can help you. If you feel like you don’t tolerate fiber from foods, there’s certain fibers that you can take as a supplement that are easy to tolerate. Polyphenols, you can get brightly colored plants that are low in fiber that are easy to tolerate, that’s not too hard to do. The problem is just understanding that this is happening and then therefore making it a focus really is something that we don’t see people typically doing without, without us helping them to kind of clue them in that this is even a thing. All right, the third and final thing for today on why counting things never works in the long term is lean mass or muscle. So it tends to be, especially that with women, they may or may not be exercisers, but in either case, they’re not focused on muscle. So that’s a major issue because we know that with age, everyone loses lean mass. If you’re not aggressively promoting lean mass and the low lean mass or muscle that you have, you’re gonna have a lower metabolism and then you’re also gonna harder, have a harder time keeping your blood sugar stable. So that connects to the first thing we talked about with having a big insulin release after meals.
We see, when we see clients who have focus on their muscle, they tend to have more stable blood sugar and they also, when we measure their mepo, we have like a device where we can measure our client’s metabolic rate through their breath. They have a higher metabolism because it takes energy to maintain muscle. So it’s critical to focus on muscle, especially I would say once you kind of hit like maybe 30 years old, you need to strength train in a, in a like actual, like sports nutrition, like legitimate way three times a week. And by legitimate, I mean it needs to be a way that’s gonna actually follow the principles of strength training, not just be this kind of like one-off thing that doesn’t make sense that nobody knows if it’s actually doing anything. It needs to be that you’re actually in some type of program that’s gonna help you gain muscle.
I’m 40 years old, I have more muscle now than I’ve ever had, but that’s not a mistake. So it’s not that you can’t maintain it, but it’s, you do have to make it a focus. Okay? So it’s not impossible to have, so that’s good. You can even gain muscle at any age basically, but you, it doesn’t happen on accident. In fact, you don’t even maintain it if you’re not serious about it. So lean mass is huge that if I could have one thing for Christmas, I would have every woman focusing on her muscle. So those are three reasons why counting things doesn’t work for people. The reason is that there is a physiological drive that’s dysregulating hunger and cravings and appetite and to count things is just trying to fight that. But nobody can fight their body’s natural impulses forever. So those the, when the newness wears off, the excitement wears off. Then the high hunger, the high appetite wins in the end. So what if you work on these three things of your blood sugar stability, your microbiome and your lean mass, you’ll actually have a lower appetite. You’ll actually have less hunger, you’ll actually have less cravings. That’s the way you win in the long term. I hope this was helpful for you. Wishing you happy holidays if you’re listening to this when it goes out and see you on the next episode.

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