Thinking about food as life in a global sense, this post was inspired by a husband and wife we recently met; two Doctors that are involved in research and wellness living in Boston.

Sitting at my desk in Greece, my thoughts circle back to the Mayr Clinic, a place in Austria where many people go to lose weight and rejuvenate themselves. As I have not been, my opinions are more from the sidelines:

What I have noticed is many friends who visit the clinic end up eating sporadically, selectively narrowing foods into channels of good at this time of the day, and less desirable at other times. Then they add the notion of fasting and exercising more, what I believe to be a recipe for disaster, a mouse trap.

So why do we gain weight, and how can we keep our weight in check. There is no doubt that exercise impacts weight loss and calories impact weight gain, so what is the effect of both on my body’s ability to store fat versus burn fat.

while I am not a scientist, it seems simple and complex at the same time. As I understand it, a calorie of fat is more of a problem than a simple calorie, and hormones influence calories and fat storage more than you think. But do people ever wonder why Japanese remain relatively slim? It is probably due to the fact that they consume much less fat than we do in the west and food combinations are very strict.

For example, traditionally at the end of every meal Japanese eat; miso soup, rice and fermented pickles. Is diet the key to longevity? According to the United nations the Japanese have the greatest proportion of centenarians in the world.

The Japanese are not the only people who claim that diet influences longer life and the effects of a good diet are believed to be true:

While the calorie unit is important to understand, it is not a new thing and by formal definition, and we are still unsure as to the exact origin. The calorie was not associated with foods and diet initially and was more a measure of combustion; the amount of heat energy required to raise one gram of water from 14.5 to 15.5 degrees Celsius at atmospheric pressure. One-thousand calories is equal to 1 kilocalorie, or 1kcal for short.

The history of calories is very interesting and gives us some perspective on understanding the importance of calories in establishing a rational basis for food selection and the analysis of foods and their physiological energy value.

The important thing to remember is that a calorie (or kcal) tells you how much energy you get by burning the food. As a general rule carbohydrates contain between 3/4 kcal per gram, proteins are about the same and fats contain almost double, approximately 9 kcal per gram.

What you eat and count calories in part, your genetic makeup impacts how your body partitions and stores fat, and insulin is probably at the top of the list as a peptide hormone and is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. When you eat foods that have the increase insulin levels and increasing your cell’s resistance to insulin, your body prioritizes fat storage over fat utilization.

The energy content of food and calories do matter, but perhaps less important than the metabolic effect of food on our body. From my perspective metabolic effect is key and as I said, hormones matter because when you properly control the hormonal influences on metabolism you can reduce or even eliminate the compensatory eating reactions typical of a dieting metabolism.

If you take a calories first approach, these compensatory reactions will get worse. This is the reason why people are unable to stay on “eat less, exercise more” programs. 66% of people who use the popular calorie driven mantra of “eat less, exercise more” end up heavier than they were before they started the diet.

Think about it when it comes to diet as it is more complex than just simple calories. Consider the idea that foods are either healthy to eat, or not and food combinations are balance is integral to longer life. If you are a believer in this theory, I like this study: