Monday, 22 April 2013

calorie counting is just dumb

The more I think about the idea of CICO the more I realize just how full retard it is. I mean, firstly, lets say you decide to cut your calorie intake to 1200 per day. Have you even thought about what it is exactly that your trying to achieve by doing this? You have NO IDEA what your energy expenditure is, and even if you did, the act of changing your calorie intake will change that expenditure.

This is exactly like a dog chasing its own tail going round in circles, because while your busy trying to lower your calories to decrease fat stores, your body is constantly monitoring your energy intake and adjusting your energy expenditure to match that energy intake so that fat stores are preserved and held constant.

The very moment you start consciously cutting calories, you become the dog chasing its own tail. Your chasing something which is in turn chasing you back.  Your trying to create a large gap between energy in and energy out, meanwhile your body is constantly trying to close that same gap,

Referring back to the Myths/presumptions paper on obesity, we can quite easily see why Myth #1 is false.....

Myth number 1: Small sustained changes in energy intake or expenditure will produce large, long-term weight changes.

This notion that if you over-eat 10 calories per day youll gain 1lb of fat in 350 days is completely backwards logic and putting the cart before the horse. The faulty logic is that "we need to regulate our energy intake to match our energy expenditure" to be weight stable. This is NOT how it works. This is backwards. Whats REALLY happening is that energy expenditure is constantly being tweaked to match energy intake. Its not that we have to fine tune our energy intake to match our energy expenditure over the long term to remain weight stable.

Instead, our energy expenditure is constantly being fine tuned to match energy intake over the longterm. THATS why normal lean people remain weight stable despite wild fluctuations in energy intake.

The reason it works this way is simple. Energy availability from the environment is unpredictable. The organisms body cannot force the organism to intake a certain amount of calories per day because that calorie availability is completely unknown and uncertain. Instead biology has evolved to manipulate its energy expenditure based on the energy intake the organism can achieve in that day.

To correct myth 1, it should be re-stated as....

Changes in energy expenditure will occur in response to changes in energy intake such that over the long-term energy expenditure will match energy intake..

All the evidence I have seen indicates that fat stores are the most protected commodity in the body. Long term starvation usually results in death from organ failure due to loss of lean mass, Death from starvation never results from fat mass reaching zero. I.E. , you never run out of calories. Your body values its fat stores more than the lean mass. But we also have to remember that lean mass loss in starvation is because your body is reducing energy output, like a crew on a sinking ship thats throwing stuff over-board so as to reduce its weight and keep it afloat, your body throws out stuff that contributes to energy expenditure.

I enjoyed the latest spark form Gary Taubes,  he makes the same point that many of us have been throwing around for yonks, i.e. that the overeating causes obesity type of thinking is circular logic.

Why do we get fat? Because we overeat.
How do we know we’re overeating? Because we’re getting fatter.
And why are we getting fatter? Because we’re overeating.
And so it goes, round and round.

I have argued previously that even the concept and word "overeating" is all but impossible to define. At no point can you feed someone amount of calories X and then confidently say whether or not you have "overfed" them.    This is because, the current way "overfed" is defined  is if you feed someone X amount of calories and that they gain weight from it. But it is (nigh) impossible to predict how much weight someone will gain from feeding them X calories.

Lets say I take a random person off the street, and feed them 5000 calories for the day. But thats the ONLY information I give you. How are you gonna predict if and how much weight they will gain? You cant, because I havent told you anything about the persons genetic and/or metabolic status, nor have I told you what im feeding them with. I could be feeding them with 5000 calories of doughnuts or 5000 calories of fatty meat and vegetables. Simply focusing on caloric intake alone gets you NOWHERE.


  1. +1.

    I'm starting to realize that calorie-counting is a tool that naturally lean people uses to abuse fat people: "He's is such a GLUTTON for eating more than 1800calories a day!!! No wonder he's so fat!!!!!"

  2. Agreed, +1. By the time you know energy balance, it's too late! The numbers you get from calorie counting are worthless.

  3. "All the evidence I have seen indicates that fat stores are the most protected commodity in the body."

    I'm a layman, so perhaps I'm ignorant, but this statement makes little sense to me. Not that I dispute it. If the statement is true, what exactly is the purpose of having fat stores? To keep warm?

    I'm sure the issue is complicated by many factors, but it seems strange to me that the body would endanger life by cannibalizing lean mass preferentially over fat tissue. Anyone set me straight? Thanks.


    1. OK bit of an exaggeration there on my part, driven by the fact that most people are incredibly resistant to fat loss.

      BUT a distinction must be made between what "ought" to be true and what actually is true.

      You might think that it "ought" to be true that lean mass be protected more than fat mass, but this is not what real world evidence can show us. For example back in the calorie restriction post "In Monkeys, After 30% calorie restriction for 5 years only fat-free mass showed reductions, fat mass was comparable to controls."

  4. The fat tissue acts like an organ in the body. Previously fat has been thought as a passive vehicle of energy storage - but recent research has revealed otherwise. Our fat tissue have a direct hand in our overall endocrine system.

    ...Following this logic, perhaps fat is so dearly protected by our bodies because as far as our bodies are concerned, it is just as vital as other major organs (ie. heart/lungs/kidneys?) I mean, when you go on a 1500-calorie diet your body will obviously waste muscles from your arms/legs first before chewing it from your heart. Perhaps fat is protected in the same way (ie. body is willing to sacrifice energy from other places before sacrificing our adipose stores)?