A survey of people with diabetes conducted recently by this website, Type2Diabetes.com, found that 84% of more than 2,000 participants were unhappy about their weight – 70% said they are actively trying to lose weight. And, the most common strategy given for actively trying to lose weight was “cutting back on carbohydrates.” Chosen by 73% of those actively trying to lose weight, cutting back on carbohydrates easily topped “reducing the number of calories I eat” (55%). There’s a lot to talk about here, like the key nutritional role of carbohydrates, but let’s focus on calories. What is a calorie anyway?
What's a calorie?
A calorie is simply a measure of the energy contained in a substance. The calorie content of a food is determined by burning the food in a calorimeter, and measuring how much the heat produced raises the temperature of water. A calorimeter completely burns the food put inside, extracting all of the energy. You, however, only “burn” (extract energy from) the calories you need to run your metabolism and account for your activity levels. Calories you put into yourself and don’t burn – excess calories – are stored as fat in case you need them later. Those are the calories 84% of the survey participants have never needed, and are unhappy about.
Losing weight requires “burning” those stored calories, and that means taking in fewer calories than you actually need every day from food. Only when you change your diet (or your activity level) to create this “calorie deficit” will you use the calories you’ve stored as fat, and lose that extra weight.
Is cutting carbohydrates the best place to start?
Carbohydrate and protein each give you 4 calories per gram (113 calories per ounce). Fat, on the other hand, gives you 9 calories per gram (255 calories per ounce). Protein, carbohydrate and fat each offer important nutritional value, so eliminating any is not healthy. But, “cutting back on fat” gives you more than twice the benefit of cutting carbohydrates when it comes to cutting calories. It’s that simple.
Carbohydrates make an easy target with diabetes, and fad diets only add to the confusion. But, if you want more “bang for your buck” with weight loss it’s hard to argue with math.
Were the financial costs of type 2 diabetes surprising to you?