All Calories are NOT created equally!

Why Counting Calories is NOT the Whole Story

Written by Del Baldwin, 2021

Founder and Co-Owner, Delirium Fitness

Most of us have been taught that if we want to lose weight, we have to count and restrict calories.  Using this theory alone could lead to imbalances in hormones and energy levels; affect sleep and stress; and actually cause long-term weight gain.  Restricting and counting isn’t the end game.  It’s also the quality and type of food we eat.  Imagine feeding your Bugatti low octane gas!

The Basics  

There are 3 MACROnutrients.  Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.  We need them all for optimal body function.  In Europe, on food labels, it says “energy” not “calories”.  Calories are important, we need them!  Overly restricting our caloric intake and/or thinking about calories as “the enemy” is not going to help you lose weight in a healthy manner.  What will help is becoming more knowledgeable about the calories that are your friends and will help you feel great and be at an optimal weight.


  • The body’s main energy source
  • Each gram of Carbs has 4 calories


  • Help with tissue repair and growth  
  • Each gram of Protein has 4 calories


  • Needed to protect your organs and for healthy hair, skin and nails
  • Each gram of Fat has 9 calories.

If you are interested in the molecular make-up of macronutrients, here is a good resource:,carbohydrates%2C%20proteins%2C%20and%20fats

Growing up, Fat was the enemy.  We were eating margarine instead of real butter because it had less fat and calories, yuck!  Then, we were told to avoid all carbohydrates.  Now, plant-based diets are the “fad” and all processed foods are evil. It’s hard to know what to eat.  Thankfully, weight loss programs such as Weight Watchers have finally moved away from calorie counting alone and now consider the different effects that the macro-nutrients we consume have on the body over time.

About ten years ago, while I was being schooled on this, I was at a little league game and heard a lady turn down a hamburger because it was “too fatty” and instead ate an entire bag of Twizzlers.  It was the epitome of being stuck in the mindset that fat was the enemy.  

So, let’s talk about why the hamburger was the better choice, assuming both the hamburger and the bag of Twizzlers had the same amount of calories.

1. The thermic effect of food

I find this fascinating!  Your body uses more calories digesting protein than it does carbohydrates and fats.  As a matter of fact, here is the percentage of calories your body takes breaking down each of the macronutrients.

Fat: 2–3%; Carbs: 6–8%; Protein: 25–30%

Using these numbers, your metabolism is naturally higher when you include sources of protein in each meal/snack!  Let’s say you have 200 calories of protein, only 150 are left after digestion, whereas if you have 200 calories of fat, 196 are left.  Put simply, protein takes more energy to metabolize and revs up your metabolism!

2. Satiety

Studies show that proteins and healthy fats reduce your appetite, leaving you feel more satisfied, and eating fewer calories overall.  They lower the release of hunger hormones, and hormone production, overall, is better regulated when you consume protein and healthy fats.  If you are interested in the studies, here are a couple, among many:

3. Glucose versus Fructose

There are two main sugars found in foods: glucose and fructose.  Glucose is metabolized by all the organs in the body, whereas fructose is metabolized only by the liver.  Gherin is a hormone that tells us when we are hungry, the more gherin we release, the more hungry we feel.  Studies show that fructose ingestion releases more gherin than glucose.  It has also been proven that consuming a large amount of fructose increases triglycerides in women.  The body converts calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides, and they are stored in fat cells.

4. Glycemic Index, why a carb is not a carb

Refined carbs: stay away.  Below is a simple visual that may be helpful to you when you are choosing what carbohydrates to eat.  Notice, it is related very closely to the glucose versus fructose issue as well.  To put it simply, “Refined carbohydrates tend to be low in fiber and are digested and absorbed quickly, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar. They have a high glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar.

When you eat a food that spikes blood sugar fast, it tends to lead to a crash in blood sugar a few hours later. When that happens, you get cravings for another high-carb snack.

This is also known as the “blood sugar roller coaster.”” (source:

Additional Information on Choosing Superior Calories

Now, you can see why, in our example, hamburger versus Twizzler, the hamburger would have been a better choice!  But there is even more to the story.  There are “better” types of all three macronutrients.

Let’s use another example to further illustrate the difference in all the macronutrients..  

I love eating out!  And I eat everything!  Let’s say I am at a burger joint, and I have the options of various proteins, and “buns”.  You see, although the hamburger was a better option than a bag of Twizzlers, it might not be the best option when you can choose learner protein sources; or protein sources with “healthy fats” versus saturated fats.

Most proteins contain fat.  Fat can be categorized as trans, saturated or unsaturated.  Trans fats should be avoided all together, as it is man-made (in other words, you won’t find trans fat in food that you find in nature).  Unsaturated fats are generally plant-based and liquid when at room temperature, whereas saturated fats are generally from animals and are solid at room temperature.  Think of olive oil versus lard.  White meats are generally lower in saturated fats than red meat. Saturated fats, though they are the same calories per gram of unsaturated fats, are much harder for our bodies to break down, so they often get stored.  They are not water soluble so you don’t just “pee them out” if your body doesn’t need it.  Saturated fat can clog your arteries, and often leaves you lethargic. So, when given an option of a bacon burger or a turkey burger with avocado (also a great source of unsaturated fat)….I think you can guess what I would suggest choosing.

As for the “bun”.  We already discussed the glycemic index. Simple white carbohydrates, as we saw from the glycemic index chart above, are not the best for your body. The type of carbohydrates that your body loves are called complex carbs. Complex carbs take longer to break-down and usually contain fiber, which we need for proper digestion.  Choose whole grain or even go with the lettuce wrap.  I LOVE my sandwiches on pickles or cucumber instead of bread!

SUMMARY:  Many people want “guidelines” for the amount of fat, protein and carbohydrates they should be consuming.  I don’t believe in offering such general advice and would have to know someone’s body type, lifestyle and goals quite well prior to making any such recommendations.  Most dieticians recommend:

  • Carbohydrates 30-40% of your diet
  • Proteins 30-40%
  • Fats:  20-30%

(now, do NOT forget that fats contain more calories per gram, so these percentages are percentages of CALORIES, not GRAMS)

The only general advice I can give is:

  1.  Have all three macronutrients with every meal.  
  2. Choose carbs low on the glycemic index
  3. Choose lean proteins
  4. Choose unsaturated fats.  
  5. And, of course, try to stay away from overly processed foods.  

As for how many calories you should be eating…I don’t know your fat/muscle ratio, your activity level, goals etc. Please be careful if you opt to count calories not to use a “general” guideline.  All things about an individual should be considered, and if you are really aiming to lose weight, I highly recommend hiring a nutrition consultant, a nutritionist, or a dietician.  

I want to be VERY CLEAR that you still have to eat reasonable portions of food and you DO have to have less calories than you burn if you want to lose weight, but the better you eat according to these principles, the better you will feel and the more likely you will maintain your habits and weight loss.

If you enjoy this topic, I highly recommend the book “Eat Smarter” by Shawn Stevensen

One Important Footnote

As an aside, I am passionate about educating the world to the evils of diet soda/pop.  Which has zero calories, but can have a long-term effect on your body, including your weight.  Thankfully, it seems to be more “mainstream” now and people are “getting it”.  Here is a simple visual that will hopefully stick in your brain and keep you away from diet soda/pop.


How do I know if I should lift heavy or lighter?

By Del Baldwin
January 11, 2021

This is one of the most common questions I get. Here is the basic answer: It depends. But it’s not complicated. These are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Are your joints healthy?  
  • Do you have any joint pain?  
  • How many reps/what is the timing of your set?

If you have healthy joints and no pain, do not be afraid to go heavy, but expect to do less reps.  If there is a higher rep goal, choose lighter weights.  Here are some general guidelines:

  • More than 12 reps or more than :45 seconds= always go lighter so you can finish successfully in good form.  
  • 8 or less reps, :30 or less= heavier
  • 8-12 reps, :30-:45 seconds: (most common) Go with a challenging, but not terribly hard weight set.  You want to be struggling by 10 but still in good form and not at risk for hurting yourself.

If you experience pain or have unhealthy joints, always go with the lighter options and try to get more reps in.  

Here is the math.  Whether you do 10 reps at 20 pounds or 20 reps at 10 pounds, you are still pushing or pulling 200 pounds total.  Do more reps with less weight if you experience any pain, you still get the work!

If this is something that interests you, here is some more information.  Your instructor should be considering the following:

  • Where is the weight according to the joints working? (or “How long is the lever?”)
  • How large is the joint at work and its major moving muscles?
  • How many joints are working during this exercise?

A good instructor will say “grab lighter weights for this one” when switching from one exercise to the next according to these criteria.

An example of “longer” lever would be a lateral raise.  The distance between the shoulder (the joint working) and the weight is long, so you would choose a lighter weight.  Think of the difference between that and a bicep curl, where the joint working is your elbow–a much shorter lever, so a heavier weight.

As for the size of the joint (LOL, read that again!), think of the size of your hip complex and all the huge muscles supporting it versus the size of your knees.  You can go heavier with a deadlift where the joint is the hips, than you can with a squat, which is knee-dominant exercise.  

As for the “number of joints working”….a bicep curl or tricep kickback use one joint, the elbow, so automatically there are less muscles being recruited.  These are very focused movements.  But now think of an overhead press or pushup.  Shoulders, elbows, wrists.  Many muscles.  And many larger muscles (back, chest) so you can go heavier the more joints are working and the more muscles recruited.

Another fun fact:  The more joints at work and the more muscles recruited, the more calories you are burning!

Gravity is another force at play for consideration, but that is on the instructor!  If you are not working with an instructor, please pay close attention to how your body feels and choose wisely.  Exercise should be fun, but it can be serious business, too.  The most important thing is to err on the side of safety.

Self Care, Self Love and Selfishness

You Cannot Pour from an Empty Cup

-Del Baldwin, January 3, 2021

Self Care

I have always been into fitness and self care.  But it was mostly surface.  “Work out and eat right because you will look and feel better.”  “Meditate and pray so you will get what you want.” This attitude wasn’t “bad”…BUT, I realized through deep discovery is that I was not giving self care the right meaning.

Self care is much deeper than just “feeling good” and “getting what you want.” Caring for yourself helps you live out every other part of your life to a level you never imagined; and results in you caring for your loved ones and even strangers more fully. Self care leads to self love.  And self love is the key to loving others and living a happier, more fulfilled life.

So, what is considered self care?  It is everything that you do for yourself that is good for your mind and body.  Exercise, eating right, skincare, meditating, reading, fresh air, taking your vitamins, learning new things, socializing with people who lift you up, not berating yourself when you do something that goes against who you want to be, dancing, getting a massage, drinking more water, going to bed earlier, drinking less, flossing.  The list goes on and on and on.

Self Love is Self Acceptance

I now believe that the ultimate act of self love is treating yourself like your best friend.  Accepting your humanness and all that you are.  And working from a place of accountability rather than shame.  Getting to that place requires self care.

My entire life I gave myself “grades” in my head  in every aspect of my life. Literally.  I would give myself a grade for my mothering, my friendships, my work, etc.  I was a judge of myself, not a friend.  And then, I saw this quote

“Love is the Absence of Judgement”

-Dalai Lama

Proceeding in this manner, as a judge, may have helped me achieve some of my goals, but it left me feeling inadequate, unloved, and incapable in the long run.  I didn’t love myself.   It also resulted in me performing only “for the grade” and not out of a genuine place.  Grading and judging myself put me in a position of grading and judging others, too…constantly comparing myself against them. Comparison and judging myself and others left me feeling empty, disconnected and anxious.  I even graded my self-care (“100% today because I ate well, worked out, flossed, got 8 hours sleep, etc”).  How ironic is that?  I was putting my self care into a construct that was stressing me out.

Self Care Begets Self Love & Self Acceptance

I am so pleased that through the years, I have had a gradual awakening to my new sense of self love through my self care habits.  Rather than perform self care habits  for the sake of the potential results, I now do them to fill my cup.  To be my own friend. To be that person who I want to hang out with all the time. To encompass the upbeat, accepting, forgiving, compassionate, positive nature I seek in friends.  NOT to “get 100%” on everything because that is actually NOT somebody I want to be friends with!  Who wants to be friends with the “I do everything perfectly” person?  Am I perfect or even close? Absolutely not!  And, in the past, when I wasn’t, I would judge–even berate myself!  Now, I laugh and enjoy the ride.  There are many times when I have to talk to myself and forgive myself for things that I have done that are against this nature. There are many times that I have to talk to others and ask for forgiveness for acting against this nature towards them.  But I actually believe now that the ultimate self care is becoming your own best friend. And this self care is the start of self love.  Becoming somebody you want to hang out with…because face it…you’re stuck with yourself!  You don’t have to be perfect to be your own best friend…your “other best friend“ certainly isn’t perfect. 

Treating myself this way has allowed me to love and serve others at a higher frequency. I’m a better mother, a better partner, friend, teammate, a better coach.  I don’t grade myself now, but if I did, ironically, those grades be much higher because my energy isn’t caught up in what I “haven’t done right.”  I have released that negative energy and it has cleared the path for MORE.  More energy, more abundance, more love for myself and others. Again, irony.  My relationships were once based on comparison, based on judging. And it wasn’t because I came from a bad place… I wanted everybody to be the best them, just like I wanted myself to be the best me. I just had it all wrong . You’re not going to be any less by treating yourself well! And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about “looking and feeling your best”… that will happen naturally. It’s about being kind. It’s about caring.  And that starts with yourself.  Giving yourself grace, compassion, and caring for yourself.

This doesn’t mean that you should sit around and eat Doritos and watch TV “because you want to” all the time… But you wouldn’t be here reading this If that was your attitude. It’s not about making excuses for yourself. It’s about knowing you’re human, that you are unique and exceptional exactly the way you are.  You can hold yourself accountable without shaming yourself. 

How do you feel about yourself when you are by yourself?  

When you practice self-care, you are treating yourself like a friend.  You are loving yourself.  When you are flexible and forgiving of yourself for not being perfect, you are being a good friend.  You like being with yourself.

So, Why Do We Feel Self Care is “Selfish”?

As Brene Brown says “In a society that says ‘put yourself last’ self love and self acceptance are almost revolutionary.”

Think about that.  Our society tells us we should not put ourselves first.

Many people struggle with the notion that self care feels selfish.  We have jobs, we have children, spouses, pets, homes.  Shouldn’t they all come first?  Shouldn’t all our money, time, resources, to those “other” things?

“‘Selfish’ has always gotten a bad rap. You should do for you.”-Matthew McConaughey

It’s an old adage, how can we fill others’ cups if our own is empty?  Let’s face it, sometimes it feels like we expect others to help us fill our own cups, and then we are frustrated and resentful when they don’t rise to the occasion.  If, however, our cup is already filled because we have filled it OURSELVES, that need diminishes, and suddenly, your relationships and “duties” feel like less of a struggle.

So, NO, it is NOT selfish.  It is the opposite.  Allowing yourself time to care for yourself only benefits those around you!  Fill YOUR cup.  Nourish YOUR mind, body, soul….and suddenly, you are free and independently able to give more to others without needing them to do the same, even though they will also start filling yours more because you will attract it, you will act worthy of it, you will not be demanding and needy.

Fill your cup through self care, love yourself as a friend, spread the love to others.  It’s really quite simple.


Some of us are really good at this, some of us are still learning.  I challenge you to think of ONE, just ONE, self care practice besides exercise that you are going to work on for the next 2 months.  It doesn’t have to be something that takes a lot of time, it just has to be an intentional practice that you have been wanting to get into or get “back” into.  It can be mental (practicing not judging) or physical (walk the dog every night).  Maybe it’s something really small like taking your vitamins.

Now, write it down in your planner or your notes section of your phone or wherever you write shit down that you need to remember to do.  Even set a reminder on your phone to pop up!  With each self care practice you adopt, you are deepening your love for yourself and your abilities to give to others.  

Ask my husband, I’m all about self care. My mother-in-law thinks I am selfish…so she is the judge and I am at peace with her assessment because I know that I receive my family each day with so much abundance of love and gratitude because I am not burned out.  There is no more resentment.  Because my cup is FULL, and I MYSELF have filled it and do not expect them to.

(Still, I am also going to do the challenge because my skin-care has gone to shit!)

Here are some other links for self care ideas: