Mike Pomranz
Updated July 14, 2015

When it comes to losing weight, only one diet plan is guaranteed to work: burn more calories than you consume. It’s the concept at the heart of all scientifically sound diets: from cutting carbs to taking some crazy metabolism-boosting diet pill you saw on TV at 3am in the morning. So it’s important to know what a calorie is – and also know why not all calories are created equal.

The awesome people over at TED – whose never-ending stream of great video content is, ironically, part of the reason you can stare at YouTube all day and never burn any calories – recently delved into “What is a calorie?” The straightforward scientific answer is the stuff of high school science class.

However, this video serves as a solid reminder that calories aren’t as simple as they seem. As TED points out, “The calorie counts on nutrition labels measure how much energy the food contains, not how much energy you can actually get out of it” – meaning that similar calorie amounts can actually have different results on our bodies depending on the food.  Plus, different people can process the same calories differently; everything from enzyme levels to the length of your intestine affects the way individuals process food.

The moral: Though things like calorie counting apps can be helpful, but even those aren’t perfect when it comes to anticipating how you will lose or gain weight. 

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