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Can You Really Walk it Off?

Kelley Gilbert of Modernly Healthy shares her thoughts on the Calorie Conundrum


Do calories in really equal calories out? After you indulge in a 450 calorie donut do you just need to make sure you burn an extra 450 calories at the gym? The answer to this is NO! While working out has a myriad of health benefits and I highly recommend everyone does so, you cannot just simply walk off unhealthy foods you ate. First, even if this was true it would cause significant damage to other aspects of your health. Just think if you ate 1000 calories worth of butter every day. Even if you did "work it off," your cholesterol would be sky high. Most importantly, it is simply not the way the body operates. Eating 300 calories worth of sour patch kids for a year will have a drastically different affect on your weight than 300 calories worth of kale.

How Calories Work: To understand how different foods with the same amount of calories impact your weight in different ways, it is important to understand what a calorie actually is. One calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. The body uses its caloric intake as fuel to function. The old school thought that excess weight stems from an over consumption of calories is an oversimplification of weight gain and disregards the metabolic and hormonal impact different foods have. While caloric intake certainly is a factor, it is important we understand that it is not only controlling how much of something that we eat but what we are eating that paints the fully picture of a healthy diet. Your body gets calories from protein, fat, and carbohydrates and metabolizes each one of them differently. If you eat something containing fructose it is turned into glucose and can be stored as glycogen. However, if you have an excess of glycogen already then it can become stored as fat and raise your body's insulin levels. Increased insulin (a hormone) causes fat gain. On the other hand, protein takes about 30% of its own calories to digest. Additionally, it supports muscle growth, with muscle being an active tissue which then burns calories on its own throughout the day.

Why Only Cutting Calories Won't Work Long Term: Furthermore, just cutting calories or working out more won't work in the long term. If you were to cut your calorie intake by 15% it would only be a matter of time before your metabolic rate adapted to this and you would stop losing weight. Your body is designed to try to hold onto fat so if you decrease the calories you are eating the body will increase hunger levels and decrease calorie expenditure. You would have to keep on cutting your calorie intake every few months which would eventually have detrimental health affects.

The Take Away: For weight loss, portion control is just as important as working out. You could write volumes on how each contributes to weight loss and the health benefits related to them and many people have made millions doing just that. However, if we want to understand weight loss and gain, we need to look at the whole picture and not just portions of it. The fact of the matter is that FOOD MATTERS, and what you put in your body matters just as much, if not more, than how much of it you consume. This does not have to be rocket science, though. Let me break it down to some simple and achievable guidelines: First, eat real foods in their whole form, not processed. Second, divide your whole foods into three sections on your plate throughout the day and have 50% of your plate be veggies and fruit (more veggies than fruit though), 25% protein, and 25% whole grains (think quinoa, wild rice, steel cut oats).

Below is a recipe that follows these general guidelines and is compiled of real foods the whole family can enjoy!

Happy and Healthy Eating!
Kelley Gilbert / Modernly Healthy

Spinach and Pear Salad in a Maple Vinaigrette


For the Salad:

1 cup organic quinoa
Sea salt
4 handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves, washed, drained
1 large ripe pear, washed, stemmed and cored, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chilled chick peas, rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
A handful of pecans, pan toasted

For the Dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons golden balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly and place in a saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to a simmer until all the water is evaporated and the quinoa is tender- roughly 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and dump it into a large salad bowl.

2. Add the baby spinach, pear, chick peas, and chopped parsley to the quinoa and fluff.

3. Whisk together the vinaigrette, pour it over the quinoa salad and toss gently to coat. Season to taste with sea salt and ground pepper.

4. Just before serving, add the toasted pecans and lightly combine.

* Used with permission. Written by Kelley Gilbert of Modernly Healthy.

** Image via Huffington Post

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