Eat Less, Weigh Less? Eat More, Weigh More?
In a word, no. Especially if you’re talking about having less fat and fewer inches around your middle, vs. weighing ‘less’ because you now have less lean muscle mass. Though it’s true that these two concepts get
mingled mangled daily. You can lose ‘weight’ instantly if you cut off a hand or foot, but even if you were crazy enough to do that, your body fat percentage would actually rise. Dying would give you fewer pounds and inches, but that takes dieting to new extremes (I hope most of you are thinking). Still, CICO remains a Zombie Myth; no matter how many times you kill it, it returns to eat your brains. Let’s see if we can’t lay this Zombie to rest once and for all.
Those who believe that you must exercise more in order to lose weight must also believe that you must take fewer calories in than you burn out to lose weight.
Here’s the first problem: unless we have a well-equipped laboratory in our basements, we have no idea how many actual calories we’re consuming for any given meal, let alone in a whole day. Here’s why: a ‘calorie’ is nothing more than a measure of the energy given off by burning edible (food) matter to ash. Once someone invented a calorimeter in the 1800’s, you could burn various foods in it and measure the energy they gave off. Thus individual foods were given calorie counts roughly rounded off to the numbers we use today: 4 calories for each gram of protein or carbohydrate, and 9 calories for each gram of fat.
Unfortunately, real food doesn’t work that way in the real world. The carbohydrate calories per gram of some foods is 3.7, or 4.0, or 4.5, etc. Ditto for the true calorie counts for proteins and fat. Thus, we may have eaten 1200 calories on a given day, or we may have eaten 1100 calories that day. Or 1300. Without either burning your food in a calorimeter first, or sitting down with a list of known calorimeter counts, we just don’t know. To make matters worse, the underlying assumptions about converting food to energy in a calorimeter and then applying those numbers to the human body is incorrect.
For one thing, we don’t set our food on fire to be burned to see what ash is left. We eat our food instead, whereupon our individual metabolisms convert the food to energy in ways that reflect our open human systems (our bodies), rather than the closed systems of an engine or oven. Those people who dismiss your very correct statement that “calories don’t matter” by citing the “First Law of Thermodynamics” are only parroting what they’ve heard others say without understanding a word of it. The First Law of Thermodynamics specifically states that it applies only to “closed” systems, like a car for example. You put fuel in, and depending on a set of known variables (speed, weight of car, efficiency of engine), you can drive a set distance within a narrow range until the fuel runs out. Human beings are not closed systems, they are open systems and therefore it is not the First, but the Second Law of Thermodynamics that applies to us. Each human body has its own set of unknown variables (leptin signaling, T4/T3 conversion signaling, insulin signaling, etc.).
Are you a Type I Diabetic and thus by definition insulin resistant? Carbohydrates will get converted to energy (burned) or stored (as fat) differently for the same amount of the same food ingested by an athlete in top physical condition. Ten grams of carbohydrates for the diabetic may translate into two grams burned and eight grams stored, vs. all ten grams burned and used by that athlete. And in science, when you base a conclusion upon an incorrect underlying assumption (all food is converted to energy precisely in the same way for all people), the conclusion that comes from that assumption must also be incorrect. In other words, if the underlying assumption behind CICO is false, than CICO itself must be false.
Ditto for the “all calories (fats, proteins and carbs) are equal” theory — another incorrect assumption. We now know that calories from foods that raise insulin (carbs for the most part, and protein under certain circumstances) are either burned for energy or stored differently than calories that come from fat. Another nail in the CICO coffin. If the correct underlying assumption is: “Human beings are not mechanical engines or ovens but open systems in which many individual variables operate,” then the only correct conclusion vis-a-vis calories is that we have no outside (mechanical), independent way of measuring them for anyone but ourselves. Thus CICO is once again proven false, because if you can’t independently measure a calorie in, you certainly can’t measure or match it against a calorie out.
That’s the second problem: we don’t really know how to mechanically or independently measure real calories out. The best we can do is guesstimate. The numbers that appear on the “control panel” when we use a treadmill in the gym, for instance, may tell us that we’ve ‘burned’ 300 calories in our sixty minute session. That is not only a made-up number, it is meaningless for estimating CICO.
When you first start that treadmill, you must input your age and weight. Why? Because the algorithm used by the computer inside the machine needs those numbers to calculate your supposed “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) — that is, the number of calories you would burn during the same hour if you did nothing but lay in bed and breathe. That number (which cannot be counted mathematically, since it’s clear that the RMR of a top, muscular athlete will be quite different from that of an out-of-shape diabetic who is the same age and weight) is then added to the number of calories supposedly burned by the exercise. Which number, of course, is impossible to actually calculate for the reasons given.
That means if your calculated RMR is 150 — what you would have burned by laying in bed for thirty minutes — your “real” number of calories burned is only half the number shown on the machine. We’re not told that by the gym of course, because we’d all immediately see what a complete waste of an hour (from a CICO viewpoint) that session had been, and for weight loss reasons, we’d stop going. Thus, we neither know how many real calories a day we eat, nor do we know how those calories are processed by our bodies, nor do we know how many real calories we’ve ‘burned’ in exercise by our bodies. But if that isn’t the final nail in the coffin for CICO for any reasonable, thinking person, here’s what is:
Science vs. Faith
Science “laws” are those facts that are facts because they are not only true for everyone (The Laws of Gravity on earth for example), but because they are able to be replicated by anyone, over and over again without exception.
Faith (belief in something whether or not you can prove it true or false, and often a belief in something already proven false) is not only not a fact, it’s not able to be replicated by everyone. Constant exceptions and excuses are given as to why faith didn’t ‘work’ — as in: you didn’t try hard enough, you didn’t exercise enough, or you ate too much, for instance. Or you’re not virtuous enough, or you don’t believe hard enough, or . . . The excuses for failure of faith are endless, but always couched in words that try to make you believe that the unproven theory is a fact, and you failed it, not the other way around.
Before a scientific thought can become a Law or Fact however, it must first be a hypothesis — that is, a belief that is at least reasonably based in science. Contrary to today’s ‘science studies’ funded by Big Pharma, for instance, where the study design is meant to help achieve a desired outcome, real science for the last few thousand years has followed the opposite method. You design a study that will try to disprove your hypothesis, not prove it. If you can’t disprove it, you have your peers try to disprove it. If no one can disprove it in any way, and if your outcome can then be replicated by other scientists using your data, your hypothesis becomes a Fact. At least until it can be (if ever) disproven by another hypothesis tested and proven by the scientific method.
Let’s take gravity on earth. Earth. Not Mars, the Moon or the interior of a Spaceship. Climb to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa with a watermelon, hold that melon over the side of the tower and let go. What will happen? The melon will fall to earth. Take another melon, maybe a honeydew. The same thing will happen. Take up a million times a million melons. All will fall to earth. Ditto computers, chickens, their feathers or your mother-in-law. Without exception, all will fall to earth. That’s a scientific fact; on earth, gravity is a Law that governs all mass, no matter the height, weight or shape of any object.
But wait. Let’s rewind the clock and climb those steps again, as if we didn’t know what would happen, as if the Law didn’t yet exist. Let’s say our first melon falls, but the second melon — maybe a seedless watermelon — floats in the air or even disappears up into the sky. Maybe the occasional cantaloupe does the same thing. Do we still have a Law of Gravity? We do not. We have the Law of Seeded Watermelons — maybe — but that’s all. Do we know why the seedless watermelons float in the air? We do not. Can we predict which melons or objects will float later that day or tomorrow? We do not. All do we know is that we need a new working hypothesis, and that once we have one that can explain the exception to the rule, we’ll have to try and disprove it the same way, and fail, and then be able to predict and replicate it, before we can call it a Fact.
In other words, one of the most important takeaways from science is: If there is even one exception to a Law not otherwise covered by that Law (like the Law of Gravity only applies to the planet called Earth) — it’s not a rule, it’s still just an unproven hypothesis. Which is nothing more than a Belief dressed up in a cap and gown.
Another example is to mistake effect for cause. As with Yellow Fever. Back in the 1700’s “everybody knew” that the “damp air” of swamps caused the disease. The damp air entered your body via your lungs and ‘sickened’ you. The air was dampest in the summer, so if you were wealthy you left the plantation in the summer and went up to a mountain resort. And guess what? Folks who did that didn’t get Yellow Fever. Some folks who stayed down in the swamps did get it. Thus, the cause of Yellow Fever was proven: damp air. But as we all know, getting or not getting Yellow Fever had nothing to do with the air, and everything to do with the mosquitoes that lived in the swamp and carried the virus. The virus carried by the mosquito, and not the location, was the true cause of the illness. The mountainous air, too cold for virus-carrying mosquitoes to survive in was the effect.
Maybe it’s easy in hindsight to see that, but I contend that for thinking people, it was possible to see it back then as well. Not to see the real cause perhaps: a virus carried by a mosquito, but to see that it could not have been the damp air that caused it. Why? Because not everyone who lived in damp air or the swamp got Yellow Fever. Thus, the cause, even if unknown, had to be something else.
In the same way, most people who claim to have lost weight by eating less and exercising more are showing us the effect of something else; something unknown working on and in their bodies. We don’t yet know what it is, though we now have clues: the types of food we’re eating versus the types of food we should be eating — and not the amount of that food. If CICO were a scientific Fact or Law, it would, like gravity, have to work for 100% of people, 100% of the time. And I can say absolutely, without fear of contradiction, that it does not. Thus, CICO is only a belief, and not a very educated one at that, given the facts we do know now about food and metabolism.
Again, we go back to the Laws of Gravity. If I leap off the tower of Pisa and, instead of falling to earth float above the tower unaided, I have just invalidated that Law. If a single human being takes in fewer calories than they burn and yet they still do not lose weight, — or even gain weight — then CICO has been forever invalidated as a Law. Have there been such cases, scientifically documented? There have. Forgetting the personal experiences of individuals like me, who grew morbidly obese eating between 1100-1200 high carb, low-fat calories a day, we also have many cases cited by the medical community of morbidly obese patients locked into hospital Metabolic Wards. The only food those patients received were given to them by doctors, and the calorie counts were about 800 calories per day — yet those patients actually gained fat every single week.
Worse for CICO: we also have documented cases where people have eaten calories far in excess of their RMR, done no exercise at all, and either gained no weight or fat at all, or even lost weight. Check out these amazing threads at Magic Bus:
*You may have to register on the MagicBus.org site to see these; it’s free.
To prove how ridiculous CICO really is, two young, healthy male MagicBus members agree to eat excess thousands of high fat/low carb calories every day for a month, with no exercise. Their measured RMR was between 2300-2500 calories, so they agreed to try and eat double that amount, about 5000 calories a day. Eating that much is harder than it sounds; one of them (Jeff) resorted to drinking quarts of heavy cream daily to get there. Results after a month? One neither gained nor lost an ounce; the other lost weight.
Here are Jeff’s 30 day stats:
Day — Calories —– Total Calories
1 —— 4260 ——– 4260
2 —— 3101 ——— 7361
3 —— 6423 ——– 13784
4 —— 4606 ——– 18390
5 —— 4712 ——— 23102
6 —— 3884 ——— 26986
7 —— 3990 ——— 30976
8 —— 3375 ——— 34351
9 —— 4875 ——— 39226
10 —– 4827 ——— 44053
11 —– 3981 ——— 48034
12 —– 4772 ——— 52806
13 —– 3597 ——— 56403
14 —– 3504 ——— 59907
15 —– 3981 ——— 63888
16 —– 4967 ——— 68855
17 —– 4676 ——— 73531
18 —– 3386 ——— 76917
19 —– 4091 ——— 81008
20 —– 3635 ——— 84643
21 —– 3807 ——— 88450
22 —– 2849 ——— 91299
23 —– 3347 ——— 94646
24 —– 3293 ——— 97939
25 —– 3385 ——— 101324
26 —– 3143 ——— 104467
27 —– 2682 ——— 107149
28 —– 2275 ——— 109424
29 —– 2237 ——— 111661
30 —– 2998 ——— 114659
Jeff reports that on Day 30 he ate 2998 calories, of which 74% was fat. He ate sausage, cheese, ribeye steak, 2 glasses of chardonnay and 1 MGD Light. He writes:
“Well, there we have it. During the past 30 days I have over-consumed 48659 calories. At 2200 calories per day times 30 days, that’s 66,000 calories that my body would have required. I actually consumed 114,659 calories. That’s a difference of 48,659 calories. 48,659 divided by 3,500 is 13.9. So, I should have gained 13.9 pounds, or thereabouts. Tomorrow we will see the final results. For those interested, I drank about 4 gallons of heavy whipping cream.”
Jeff did post the next day. Here it is: “This morning I weigh 169 pounds. No change from 30 days ago.”
If CICO were a fact, if eating 3500 fewer calories a week than one ‘burns’ a week must result in the loss of a pound that week, and if eating 3500 more calories a week than one ‘burns’ must result in gaining a pound that week, then for every human under the sun, this must be true. If there is even one exception, than CICO is neither a Fact nor a Law. It is simply a belief that has been dis-proven in every single controlled study of the last five years, and for hundreds of thousands of year in human reality/experience before then. This is also why animals in the wild never get fat, no matter how much they eat in a given week or day, and no matter how much they gorge when food is plentiful in season.
Here’s a fact: Despite his eating nearly fifty thousand excess calories in a single month, Jeff didn’t gain so much as a single ounce. But if CICO is a fact, he must have gained weight. Since a fact cannot be both true and untrue at the same time, and Jeff did not gain weight, CICO cannot be a fact, but must be nothing more than an unproven belief. One may as well hold a feather in our mouths, and like Dumbo, be able to fly. Not just believe that we can fly, but actually fly. Any CICO believers out there willing to test this on themselves? Thought not.
We don’t know how many calories we really eat on a given day. We don’t know how many calories we really burn in a given exercise session. We do know that some people can eat far fewer calories than they ‘burn’ just by breathing (let alone by adding exercise) and still gain weight, and we know that some people can eat far more calories than they ‘burn’ just by breathing (and not exercising at all) and either not gain an ounce or even lose weight.
Thus CICO is worse than just an unprovable belief, it’s a fraud perpetrated on obese people by the Big Pharma/Gym Franchise/Diet Plan/Supplement/Diet Book/Medical-Industrial Complex to sell them two things: insecurity about their lives (if you’re fat it’s your fault; if our diet, book or pill doesn’t work, it’s your fault, not ours), and very expensive, ongoing ‘cures’ (in the form of food, books, gym memberships, advice, supplements, pills and injections and surgery) that cannot possibly cure them, except by coincidence.
Even worse, by continuing to insist that CICO is a fact rather than a belief (equivalent to continuing to insist that damp air causes illness), controlled studies on the real causes of obesity remain almost non-existent and woefully underfunded. Which virtually guarantees a continued income stream to the Complex as they remain able to prey on vulnerable people for decades to come. After all, where’s the profit in stating the real fact: stay in bed, eat a lot of animal fat, a little protein, no processed sugar and a small amount of carbs from vegetables, fruits and modest amounts of starch carbohydrates — and you will lose weight, cure your Type II diabetes and eliminate your hypertension. No profit there at all.
Better for the bottom line to continue to sell the CICO theory to the American people, along with their fat-free “healthy” foods that contain lots and lots of sugar. To see for yourselves what this does to you, watch this cute little four-minute video: Death By Sugar. And Maltitol and Agave syrups do exactly the same thing.
Happy Calorie Counting!