The Skeptoid Diet

I’ve been losing weight recently. Like, a noticeable amount of weight.

I don’t bring this up to brag (well, okay, maybe a little). I bring it up because, inevitably, people ask me about this weight loss. They want to know what “plan” I use or which macros I’m eliminating to achieve such results. How can I achieve significant weight loss without following the advice of some diet guru in a white lab coat toting a bestselling recipe book?

It’s simply because I control my calories in vs. calories out, I tell them. Yes, that’s it.

I am continually stunned by the number of people who tell me I’m wrong when I tell them this. They tell me that THIS diet or THAT eating plan will help me lose more weight or will cleanse the toxic chemicals that make me fat in the first place. They tell me that because they avoided gluten or ate like a Japanese grandma they had lost weight, too, and they felt so much better than when they ate processed junk food!

I usually just nod my head at this point, because it’s a casual conversation and I need to resist the urge to call them on their ignorance. But in my mind, I’m practically screaming, it’s the calories, stupid! 

As an example, let’s look at the long-lived Atkins diet. Here’s a suggested Atkins diet menu on the official Atkins website. I picked a day from their “Stage 1” menu — Wednesday of Week 1 — and totaled up the calories. The result? 1500 calories, which is a common “dieting level” recommended on many diet & fitness websites and books. It’s not just Wednesday, either. Every day in the first two weeks of the sample Atkins menu adds up somewhere in the 1200 – 1500 calorie range.

Atkins is old news, though. Let’s look at something trendier: the Paleo diet. Eat like a hunter-gatherer, be lean like one, too. Once again, I went out and found a typical starting Paleo diet meal plan and totaled up a typical day’s calories. And once again, each day added up to 1200 – 1500 calories, depending on portion size (the menu’s a bit vague).

For the hat trick, I looked up the Mediterranean Diet, too. I didn’t even have to do the math this time, these websites did it for me. And no surprise, both sample menus add up to about 1500 calories.

Will you lose weight on these diets? Yes! But not because you’re avoiding carbs, or eating a lot of fish, or mimicking the cavemen. You’ll lose weight because each plan has you reducing calories to typical “dieting” levels.

The popular extreme example of the calories-in-calories-out premise is, of course, the Twinkie Diet, where a nutrition professor lost 27 lbs. subsisting solely on cakes, chips, and cookies. I am not on the Twinkie Diet, but I’m also not denying myself some pleasure foods. Here’s a partial list of things I’ve eaten in the last week: chocolate chip cookies (homemade); a Taco Bell burrito and chips; a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte (not skinny); a pasta dinner with garlic bread; and a container of Wendy’s french fries. And yet, in that time, I’ve also lost three pounds, because I have simply burned more calories than I have eaten.

It seems obvious, but maybe it isn’t. Maybe I need to package this simple truth in such a way as to make people take notice. So, I’m starting my own diet plan.

Announcing: the Skeptoid Diet!

Need to lose weight? Feeling ugly and bloated? Tired of fad diets with ridiculous restrictions based on shoddy science? Then try the Skeptoid Diet, the only diet plan scientifically proven to help you lose weight.

The Skeptoid Diet works by using the ancient secret of kilocaloric cellular respiration (KCR) to help you burn off excess pounds. For thousands of years, the Chinese, Mayans, and Finnish have been using the secret of KCR and  its vital, all-natural partner, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), to keep fit and thin. Maintaining proper KCR is the hidden diet trick that doctors don’t want you to know! It’s true! Just try asking them about KCR; they’ll probably report you to the NSA! [Oh, heck, the NSA was probably already listening.]

But now, for the first time ever, we here at Skeptoid are going to reveal the secret of weight loss via KCR to you!

  • Step 1: Eat fewer calories.
  • Step 2: Burn more calories.
  • Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you die of accident, natural causes, or whatever ultimate end the world has in store for you.

I know what you’re thinking: can it really be that simple? Of course it can! But if you really want more, then don’t hesitate to put in your pre-order for The Skeptoid Diet: The Book! and The Skeptoid Diet: The Cookbook! where we will provide you with a complete list of what foods to eat (hint: all of them) and which to avoid (hint: none of them), as well as delicious recipes that reflect the core of the Skeptoid Diet plan (all of which you could probably find online somewhere).   The Skeptoid Diet: The Book! and The Skeptoid Diet: The Cookbook! are both due out next year, sometime. Maybe. Makes a great gift!

About Alison Hudson

Alison is a writer and educator living near Ann Arbor, MI. She blogs regularly about skepticism, games, and the transgender experience.
This entry was posted in Pseudoscience and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

118 Responses to The Skeptoid Diet

  1. Except perhaps maybe certain foods are more addictive than others, if you notice, the 3 diets you mention reduce carbohydrates and sugars quite a bit. I would like to see some hard data on how Sugar affects our bodies; I can only speak from experience, but man… it’s addictive.

    That being said, I completely agree that a calorie is a calorie. I think certain foods react in certain ways with certain bodies, however. And sometimes our choices can help. Eating “whatever” isn’t exactly awesome advice. It’s good to be aware of how you feel after certain foods, I think.

    • Alison Edwards says:

      There’s plenty of hard studies on PubMed about sugar consumption if you’re interested. I always love a good PubMed dive.

      The point of this article wasn’t to argue about the long-term effects of certain macros, though. It was simply to point out that ANY diet that restricts calories to a level below what you burn will, de facto, lead to weight loss. From a caloric perspective, I could consume nothing but 1500 calories of high fructose corn syrup a day and still lose weight if I burned more than I consumed.

      • Ron Snowden says:

        But, over time the high fructose corn syrup would lead to diabetes. That, is something you don’t want to do! The same applies to diet colas!

        • Alison Edwards says:

          The point of this article wasn’t to argue about the long-term effects of certain macros, though. It was simply to point out that ANY diet that restricts calories to a level below what you burn will, de facto, lead to weight loss. From a caloric perspective, I could consume nothing but 1500 calories of high fructose corn syrup a day and still lose weight if I burned more than I consumed.

          • Reg. says:

            The major problem there is KNOWING how many calories you have burned. After years on Atkins with large quantities of power walking and calorie counting as well, my body kept adapting to altered balance of input and output so that it took 3 years to lose 10% of my weight and ALL from the wrong places.

            I need to mention also that diabetes is frequently caused by antibodies from viral infections attacking the pancreas, and age 11 is the critical threshold.

    • Perhaps I am not typical, but I find that food falls into two categories, the things I like, which I find quite addictive (and sweets would be on that list for me), and those I do not like, which I find quite easy to avoid.

  2. Craig Good says:

    I quite agree.

    http://skeptoid.com/blog/2011/09/27/how-does-a-skeptic-lose-weight/

    As for “a calorie is a calorie”, it’s important to remember that calories ingested aren’t necessarily calories absorbed. But whatever kind of calories you eat, eating less of them is the key.

    I don’t endorse the headline of the following link, but the information is interesting.)

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/11/12/3889049.htm

    FWIW, I am still tracking my calories and still maintaining my goal weight.

  3. Moral Dolphin says:

    This is not good news. Now everyone will avoid my cooking!

  4. CP Thorpe says:

    The simplest diet is the one that works best: Eat less, exercise more.

  5. shrike1978 says:

    I’m currently doing only step 2. I haven’t lost a pound, but I’ve lost a lot of body fat and gained a lot of lean muscle, which I am quite happy with as I don’t have a weight goal, but rather a fitness goal (~10-12% body fat). As step 1 goes, I’m just listening to my body. Tae Kwon Do is an intense workout and not getting enough calories will inhibit my training. I’ve noticed since I started that I’m naturally eating smaller meals and craving different things…more veggies and such.

  6. I’m afraid a healthy diet is not so simple as a caloric deficit. There are good calories and bad calories: hormonal response is not to be ignored. Glycemic index is not to be ignored. I recommend watching the University of California’s excellent series on obesity (gets into diet in general, and hormonal response, etc). http://www.uctv.tv/skinny-on-obesity/

    • Alison Edwards says:

      If we’re talking about a long-term, yes. But my point in this piece isn’t to talk about long term healthy eating. It’s to point out that all these fad diet gimmicks don’t work because of the gimmick. They work because of the caloric reduction. They all just hide it behind their preferred selling point.

      • I would also differ with that. Remember Atkins? That was saying “eat as much as you want, just don’t eat carbs.” And there were other, similar diets. And, to a certain extent (in terms of weight loss at least), they work.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          I was on the Atkins diet for two years. The *perception* of the diet was “eat as much as you want,” but that was *not* the reality preached in the Atkins publications. Atkins always had portion control as a secondary element. They didn’t like to talk in terms of calories, and usually didn’t give them in recipes or menus, but at no point would the actual Atkins diet condone, say, pigging out on bacon and cheese just because it was low carb. Actually, it was when portion control fell by the wayside that the diet stopped working for me.

          • Reg. says:

            I agree, Atkin’s was never about ‘eat as much as you like.’ This and their reticence to talk in calorie counting was an attempt to make the diet more convenient and it worked against success.

            That UCTV program taught me things I had not known so I hope everyone sits through it to the end. Sugar does result in fat storage and is 50 time worse than other calories. Fructose does threaten the liver and delaying seconds is essential. Consumption of fibre is critical. It’s true, there IS a conspiracy to undermine public health by those who seek to gain.

        • Fergusonlooter says:

          That’s not what Atkins said, dummy.

    • Bill says:

      There are some types of calories that get converted into glucose- they are your ‘good’ calories. Then there are other types of calories that get converted into glucose- they are your ‘bad’ calories. Then there are special calories that are not formed into glucose- they are ‘non-existent’ calories.

      • es says:

        Nope. The body can directly metabolize calories in several forms. Glucose, free fatty acids, ketone bodies and alcohols. Glucose can be metabolized by nearly every cell in the body. Many muscles and organs can metabolize fats. The heart and brain (and other muscles and organs) can metabolize ketone bodies, and prefer them to glucose.

        Plus, calories from protein are often not metabolized at all. Proteins are broken down for their nutritional content. Only some of those calories are converted to glucose.

        • Anonymous says:

          Nope, you need a basic cellular respiration refresher course. Your muscular respiration is the same as all other cells. Everything is broken down into pyruvate or acetalcoA to start the krebs cycle. Ketones cannot be directly utilized for energy. any more than fatty acids, proteins or glucose. Keytones are not a shorter step just a different one.

          • CarbShark says:

            OK, I was responding to Bill’s comment that all calories get converted to glucose.

            Clearly this is false and you and I agree on that.

            As for my claim that various cells can metabolize fats; ketones; glucose, that is true. The breakdown you are describing is a metabolism that occurs within cells.

            You are also right that ketones are not a shorter step. In order to metabolize ketones the liver needs free fatty acids, which can come from TGs or dietary sources. Ketones. FFA and glucose do not need that extra step. But, here’s the thing: If your primary fuel is glucose, the liver does not make ketone bodies and FFAs are drawn into fat cells to form TGs. But, when you’re in ketosis, the body is using three fuels at once: glucose; FFA and ketones.

  7. For many people, weight loss is a great goal to have. But, I also think weight is the wrong metric for what constitutes a goal. What we really mean when we say weight loss is fat loss, and they are different things. As you lose weight, you can lose more or less fat vs muscle and your diet will be a huge component in that. In fact, Skeptoid addresses this (http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4335) which prompted this post by me http://blog.michaelgruen.com/2012/11/the-best-alternative-to-the-juice-cleanse-ever/ — now one of the most heavily visited pages on my site.

    But, secondly, staying at a caloric restriction for a long period of time is difficult if you lose fat mass too quickly. Less fat means less leptin, and if your brain senses less leptin, it makes you hungry. So while, yes, thermodynamically you’re correct; pragmatically, it is equally important that the you consume the right mix of calories, depending on goal and level of pain/hunger tolerance one might have.

    • Alison Edwards says:

      There are many more issues involved in long-term healthy eating and living than simple caloric intake. You’re absolutely right. But the point of this article wasn’t to say that calorie count is the only thing ever in eating that someone need be concerned with; it was to point out that, at a basic level, “calories in calories out” is the root of all diet plans. Thermodynamically speaking. 😉

  8. Julie says:

    I’ve been using the MyFitnessPal app for over a year to lose about 25 pounds, a very sustainable and easy to maintain way to keep an eye on my calories (and macros, including sugars and transfats, etc). People seem so bored when I tell them all I had to do was watch my calories. Paired with the FitBit, I even know how many calories I’m burning. The heavyset lady down the street is always going on fad diets and body cleanses raving on about how great organic food is, and ironically has the only obese kids in the neighborhood. Woo getting passed down through the generations and having a negative effect….

    • Alison Edwards says:

      Neat! Believe it or not, MyFitnessPal + FitBit has been my tool of choice these past few months as well. It provides a nice balance of caloric monitoring and activity monitoring without unduly stressing me out about either one. I have the FitBit Flex, which is also a nice visual reminder for me whenever I reach for a cookie …

  9. Bill Brown says:

    I’ve lost about 20 pounds this year, which is how much I wanted, and kept it off by a simple diet: The No-S Diet. “There are just three rules and one exception: No Snacks, No Sweets, No Seconds Except (sometimes) on days that start with ‘S’.”

    It eliminates one of the biggest hassles your Skeptoid Diet embraces: counting calories. Three one-plate meals a day with no sweets five days a week is achievable and should be within the right range. The weekend relaxation of those rules makes it easy to maintain.

    http://www.nosdiet.com/

    • Alison Edwards says:

      I haven’t heard of the No “S” Diet before, specifically, but the concept is pretty interesting. He’s set up parameters for eating that virtually guarantee a reduction in calories, assuming one sticks to the spirit of the rules (“What? This heaping pile of cheese-and-bacon-covered nachos with sour cream IS one plate, and it’s not sweet!”). By setting up a scenario whereby the net calorie total over the course of a week or a month is almost definitely going to be lower, he’s concerned less about day-to-day variance.

      Intriguing, but IMO will probably be less effective in the long run because of that variance. It would definitely be something to consider more when trying to maintain a healthy weight than when trying to drop a significant amount.

      Thanks for sharing the link.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I lost lots of weight doing the Ducan diet. Basically, I got so bored with the food I was allowed to eat that I just stopped eating- so yes, unsustainable, but less calories in is the only method that can ever work.

  11. Brian Walker says:

    Also consider from where the weight will come. Do you want to lose water? Fat? Muscle? Drink a pint of water and step on a scale… you will weigh about a pound more than before you drank it… did one get fat from the weight gain? Nope. It’s water. Muscle burns more calories than fat. If you put on a pound of muscle you weigh more but will burn more calories. It is more about body composition than about weight alone. If you atrophy muscle instead of losing fat your metabolism slows… you may weigh less but not the ideal! Then take the almond which all of its calories are not relinquished as it gets passed through the gut. There are recent studies discussing how gut microbe balance effects the absorption of calories as well. Weight issues are complex and, though for most I would agree it is about calories, there are other factors.

    • Alison Edwards says:

      Yes, weight loss is a complex issue, especially when talking about sustained weight maintenance over time. That was beyond the scope of my point, though, which was merely to point out that the “gimmick” of these gimmick diets has nothing to do with the specific gimmick, but with the reduction of calories. When the Atkins diet says “Cut carbs and you’ll lose weight!” they offer a lot of science-y talk about ketosis, etc,. But if you lose weight in the first month of the diet, it’s not because your body has kicked into some alternate energy burning mode. It’s because the diet they’ve given you probably contains a lot fewer calories than you were eating before.

  12. Drew says:

    One important thing to remember is that a calorie is a unit of energy. From a simple weight reduction standpoint, a calorie is a calorie. Opposing arguments like to point to the fact nutrionally speaking certain macro-nutrients are needed by the human body, which is true but the important thing to remember is that calories are not nutrients…

  13. spectator says:

    Hi Alison,
    This is the first time I’ve read something you wrote. LOLROLF!
    You totally cracked me up:D
    Looking forward to reading more of your comedic take on life.

  14. Moral Dolphin says:

    Alison, hope you notice for next time you blog on health issues, diets have all the testimonial worm cans open within one day. Its nice you remained polite in your responses.

    My only observation to normal average humans gaining and losing weight is inactivity and inability to do things for themselves. Ask any young parent who works; there isnt much time for your old favorite staple activities and its hard to even have the extra time to seek out the best “bang for buck” foods for you and your growing family.

    Its pretty nice to do things for yourself so you can comfortably get through the day.

    I think the Australian health campaign of the 80’s said it best;

    Life, be in it..

  15. Alex Viada says:

    I love how you posted up good, no bullshit advice, and are immediately swarmed by people offering bullshit advice.

    • Reg. says:

      Hang about Alex.

      Tiny observation, I’m sure we can say without fear of contradiction that there are tens of thousands of weight loss diets out there which all maintain that theirs are better than the rest. Bullshit is not dinner to a dung beetle, it just looks that way.

      … and why do you love it? You don’t do you? Calories in versus calories out is obviously the best way of losing weight but some bodies adapt at different rates to others and may more easily absorb certain foods over others.

      Fat has a double the calorific value of sugar and if the “wisdom of the body” tells it to grab the fat FIRST, then the sugar was totally unnecessary. That’s no good to the fence to fence corn growers tho.

      Due to dietary deficiencies the average height of people landed in Australia in 1788 was something like 4 foot 8 inches. Take a look around you now. Totally down to diet.

      It’s the variability of the individual that’s responsibility for what you term bullshit. If you expect everyone to fit the same dietary response then you haven’t got a clue.

      • Alex Viada says:

        You’ve effectively said nothing whatsoever. The major point was that the author simply stated the most important variable when attempting to lose weight, with the overall point that too many individuals dance around this variable by attempting to manipulate a host of much smaller, often irrelevant variables.

        The responses were a flurry of notes stating “Well you forget that ____ is really important”, i.e. those same smaller, irrelevant variables. No, these are not nearly as important. Not compared to the variable she stated. The vast majority of comments above are worthless to the average dieter. I fail to see how discussing dietary deficiencies of certain populations in the 1700’s or mentioning that some people absorb certain foods over others at different rates (10 years in pharma and nutrition science and I’ve yet to see any hard data showing genetic or other inherent propensity for differing absorption rates of certain macronutrients in non-disease states) is relevant.

        Cheers.

        • Reg. says:

          Then it seems you may be suggesting that the conversation was ended at the mention of calories in versus calories out.

          You remind me of my cardiologist who agreed with his colleague when he advised me that because my body was the best laboratory for testing the side effects of medications, I should get off meds that adversely affected me. But when it came to the use of Lipitor or Crestor I should ignore their crippling side effect and just keep taking them because HE said so.

          I don’t think I can trust a schizophrenic cardiologist who literally ranted against a left-wing plot to undermine health. Not that I’m suggesting you’re similarly hard-line Alex.

          Thanks.

          • Moral Dolphin says:

            As I said, a diet and exercise article is a great opportunity to harvest anecdote….

          • Reg. says:

            As ’tis also said, just about ALL serious investigation begins with anecdote. Get over it, you’re too close to your task.

          • Moral Dolphin says:

            Sorry Reg, you are providing your personal anecdote as usual and its indicating that you are pretty much the same as Karolyn.

            Its distractive from the fallacy gathering (a calorie is not a calorie) that is being presented and I am clearly collecting.

            We really dont care what hypochondriacs who know better than their practitioners think. Especially those wisened by the literature of conspiracists. These abound every skeptics forum and we can just sit back and see..they havent taken the matter in hand but have the opportunity to whinge mightily, incessantly and deny the benefits of action.

            May I remind you that both Stephen and Alison have both said, “I have done something for my health”. The response to this is always; “Evil abounds and we know more about nature than the best estimates of science, an internet/social media/ tv quack told me so”.

            Thats called religion in every book.

            In your case, if a doctor finds you have some sort of reaction to statins and ignores it, he/she should be reminded.

            Slagging statins based on misinformation gleaned from religious loon web sites/TV is just a bit passe. Remember Reg, you are the one who proclaimed that its clearly not worth it to you to actually analyse your claims before posting them. Adding the fact that TV will just do find only indicates…you watch a little too much TV for your science.

            Have you bothered to do a simple bit of school child stoichiometry since your outburst on why our sense of smell is investigated?

            To both of you, whining about your states various is about as entertaining as watching TV. Thats one thing good about social media and fora, the EPG never changes..

            Mind you, you havent posted on the benefits of child mortality as Karolyn has.

            How about telling us what you have done for yourself and the results.

            Nothing worse than a 5 foot 15stone bucket of butter whining about how they disagree with their professionals about health…

            Mind you there is something distasteful about being treated by a morbidly obese health professional as well.

            I wonder if any skeptoid blogger should do an article on home dentistry or back yard veterinarian practices. Clearly Karolyn has covered kevorkian pediatrics. Can you beat that Reg?

          • Reg says:

            Oh fcuk MD you promised never to respond to one of my comments (again.) Can’t I trust you to keep your word over one single rant? My skepticism was obviously justified. Do you really expect me to wade through your latest irrational outpourings? Well bugger off.

            I claim the right to be skeptical about your ability to judge anything actually, not least of all about Karolyn, your ongoing obsession.

            Alex and his unqualified one liner deserved to be treated with a smidgen of skepticism. And ffs if you must start every rant with SORRY, please don’t expect me to take it at face value, you’re always pissing in somebodies pocket.

            Do you have a humanist pursuit MD? Something outside your various obsessions? I don’t mean feeding the poor or the animals or cooking, I mean an artistic pursuit that develops your tiny world into something that is less critical and more all-encompassing, because it seems at the moment that you seek to be exclusive, heaping scorn on anyone who disagrees with you.

            Oh sheert I’m wasting my time again….

            …and no, you may not remind me, as if you’re really asking…

            ….then you want me to tell you what I’ve done for myself…. are you pissed or something? You’ve just finished belly-aching about anecdote and now you pretend to ask for more.

            Back to your meds you crazy person. Kisses.

  16. Just a thought: Hunters Gathererers probably did not evolve their diet in order to be slender, rather in order to stuff themselves as much as they could for they could not know how long it would take to find another good prey or another prolific tree.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve understood that cooking their food made such a dramatic difference in the availability of vitamins that they never looked back. Making the poorer cuts more palatable and reducing the need to hunt. Then it was only a matter of discovering the advantages of alcohol. Yeah the grog done it.

  17. I find this thread rather curious. And dogmatic.

    Yes, a calorie is a calorie, but this assumes you’re setting fire to your food, not ingesting it. Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are processed differently and have different metabolic consequences.

    We’ve moved from a diet that was relatively high in fat to — since the 1970s — a diet that’s relatively high in carbohydrate. At the same time, obesity has increased. There’s a common belief that physical activity has decreased, but there’s little evidence to support it. So are people just consuming more calories on average? And if so, why?

    • Alison Edwards says:

      Regardless of where the calorie is coming from — fat, carb, or protein — a caloric deficit will lead to weight loss under normal circumstances. I have yet to see anyone disprove this point. Are macros important for long-term health and weight management? Sure. But a caloric deficit is a caloric deficit regardless of the macros involved.

      Regarding your second point: The evidence indicates that that, yes, it’s a problem of people eating more calories on average than they burn, mainly because they are consuming larger portions of more calorie-dense things like sodas. For example, see these studies:

      http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5304a3.htm

      http://jn.nutrition.org/content/135/4/905.long

      Where macros play into things is that a lot of the increase in caloric intake comes from carbs, and specifically sugars. Not because sugars make us inherently fatter; just that they are very calorie-dense and therefore a small serving can pack a lot of caloric load. It’s easy to chug a 20 oz pop in 10 or 15 minutes without even thinking; and that pop probably isn’t being consumed alone. I’ve known people who could drink through a six-pack of cola in a day; that’s probably 1000 calories just in their choice of beverages.

    • Moral Dolphin says:

      Paul, you are confusing calorific values and food energy values in calories. Look up how many food calories there are in bran wood and lettuce. You’ll be surpised how little they contribute to tour dietary intake.

      Eating ones hat is probably a bad course to take.. but from the hats I have seen, burning many of them would be of great benefit to culture.

    • Bill says:

      We’re not burning it, but I’d find it a tough choice between burning and dissolving in stomach acid.

  18. My new one is the Influenza Diet. Catch a nice, 3-week strain of flu and magically watch as much as 20 pounds of fat slough right off as you hack and wheeze your way to better abs and a thinner self!

    • Reg says:

      Diarrhea is equally great or you could visit India for a year and come back a changed person.

      Hey Allison, don’t forget the metabolic slow down when you put the body on a diet, often such than one can no longer function. I know of a lady who set herself a 300 calorie a day diet, she lost weight too since it’s probably less than she’d burn in a coma.

  19. Vere Nekoninda says:

    As Einstein said, things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. Alison oversimplifies the calorie/weight question to the point of being inaccurate. To take an extreme example, after the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of WWII, it was found that many survivors couldn’t gain weight, no matter how many calories they consumed, even though their digestive systems appeared to be working correctly. Solving that problem required a more complex approach than simple “calories in vs. calories out”. In a more everyday situation, as one researcher puts it, “the body defends its weight”. Overweight children on restricted calories often become short, overweight adults. Overweight adults who decrease calorie intake while maintaining the same activity level often do not lose weight. In addition to other factors, the body may lower its temperature to conserve energy and retain fat.

    Proper exercise has been shown in many studies to have a significance much greater than simply increasing the “calories out” part of the equation. In part, this is because the body tends to defend its fat, as well as its weight. People who are dieting usually want to lose fat, but they often lose a significant amount of protein from muscle and other tissues. The right kinds of aerobic exercise are the the most effective way to nudge the body into increasing its metabolism of stored fats, when combined with a calorie intake deficit.

    “Calories in vs. calories out” is extremely important. But as Brian often stresses, the real story is far more interesting and complex than “sound bite” oversimplifications.

    • Reg says:

      Good one Vere. I’d love to hear a bit more about the solution to the problem of lack of weight gain in the camp survivors. Reminded me of the experiments with human guinea pigs in the camps. The one of immersing them in freezing water to try and work out why so many German pilots dragged from the channel died as they were rescued.

      The answer was simple, lift them in a lying position. Sadly information still used today as a memorial to the victims.

    • Ali says:

      There is this bizarre theme in the comments section that wants desperately to depict this post as my be-all, end-all statement on the entirety of good diet and health, as opposed to a little satire that pokes holes in the pseudoscience claim of various fad diets who all, ultimately, work not because of their particular gimmick but because they all force the new dieter to reduce calories consumed. I mean, I had no clue that Holocaust survivors were all put on the South Beach Diet after their interment!

      • Reg. says:

        I’m sure you mean internment eh Ali? 🙂 Interesting.

        No I don’t think there’s an effort to depict this as the last word. The impression is that many hate the idea of calorie counting and find it very difficult to incorporate a realistic figure of how many calories they need, in order to function on a particular day.

        In my long term Atkins efforts I used to power walk 5km a day on the same flat course, in 65 minutes and do it 3 to 4 days a week. When I stepped up the pace to do it in 55 minutes I got very ill. After initial efforts at ignoring calorie counting with poor results, from then on I became an advocate of the activity and still use it. Except when we’re consuming my famous homemade apple pie with fantastic Aussie whipped cream. Now see what you’ve done! 🙂

        • Ali says:

          Interment, internment … what a difference an N makes!

          Re: difficulty of calorie counting — That’s because (a) it IS hard without the right tools and (b) most people don’t do it right. If you’re expecting 100% precision and accurate counting of every homemade meal, you will fail. Relative counts, approximation, and honestly are all required.

          How many calories are in a slice of that pie? 🙂

          • Reg says:

            Dunno. First cream the butter and sugar, both guessed. uuum cook the sliced apples, no water, with sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of crushed cloves; guessed. Flour back there somewhere.

            Fresh cream in a normal room temp bowl, lots of sugar and whip with hand mixer for 55 seconds. Serve with ice cream if desired. The pastry is so short it can’t be rolled, it is just plastered on the bowl and the cooking does the rest.

            Must be about 400 calories a slice but worth fasting for the rest of the day.

            ## Yeah but on calories burned in exercise I think that’s the one that’s hard to count.

            Like a guy who runs can shuffle or lift his body weight with every pace and bugger his knees and feet at the same time. That’s why I mostly kept hills out of my power walking. Undulations yes but if excess discourages one from being regular about the exercise they’re a negative.

            I was always amazed at how regular my walking velocity was, 65 minutes every day for the same course. My neck measurement went from 16 inches down to 14 while everything else changed from fat to muscle. By the way I went from 110kg to 87kg with the help of an exhausting flu but the recovery needed more than basic calories which reversed the loss. That’s the stage where I gave up after 3 hard years.

    • Bill says:

      So what you’re saying is that ‘weight loss’ is a myth.

  20. stewart says:

    If accepting that the “calories in < calories out = weight loss" equation, the key to making this work would seem to be to devise a sustainable system to eat less / do more. Some variation on intermittent fasting appears to be an effective approach. The 3 meals a day dogma seems to be artificially industrial – as does the 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' claim. Reducing 'hunger' by normalising appetite through re-education of hungry / full sensations seems a rational and practical approach to weight loss.

    • Ali says:

      One common feature of a lot of diet plans out there is some kind of “regular snacking” — I.e. smaller meals between the standard ones. I know for my own weight loss, some kind of calorie shot every two hours or so during the workday really helps me control cravings.

  21. Moral Dolphin says:

    Ive noticed here and obviously on Stephen’s and Josh’s that social hypochondria is alive and kicking since its inception in the seventies. Its all to easy to spot where people admit their profound gullibility in there fora.

    look, what have we had since 1980 in self help books. Pritikin, mars and venus, atkins, and possibly liver cleansing. All of these were basically a waste of paper around a single posit (with liver cleansing being the dullard collector of the previous century).

    Consider what you admit in these fora and how it taints your argument. If you were over 30 and you took on the advise in these books you either have mental issues or are gullible. If you are over 40 and you take on the advise of these books you are probably bereft of any understanding of your own health needs and require a non science (read nonsense) comic to adjust your views with failure being a clear and treasured option. Note the above claims to the favorite diets and the boastful fails.

    If you are over 50 and need these books, you are an intransigent idiot or a hypochondriac.

    For the most of us lucky average omnivore humans, we can live a long time eating what we please. Growing a personal fat farm in association with hypochondria that avoids personal responsibility to health and exercise is deadly.

    Mind you, if you are on a chair reading this between bouts of TV rather than actively considering your health I hope you are under thirty and have the opportunity to learn better.

    bone laziness is not an excuse. Discussing it only paints you religious. Be it woo, conspiracism or gullible.

    Like my new Chair? its hypochondria green plaid..

    I am gluten intolerant.. Really, I had that when I was 20, it was really bad I bet it was worse than yours. No way, I am more gluten intolerant than you ever were. No way you guys.. I an profoundly gluten intolerant, I cant even eat bread wrappers..

    Thats the one good thing about sharing..

    Alison, Stephen and Josh bring out the best running admissions. Brian wins again!

  22. Freke1 says:

    yes it’s all about the calories. Donno how Rabbit Starvation fit into that but You will die if all You get is lots of lean meat. People have died from that. We also need fat and carbohydrates.
    (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_starvation)
    So if You get lost in the outdoor wilderness don’t live off the rabbits. The rabbits told me to tell this.

    Thanks for writing about this. I’m currently investigating what to eat and how to exercise. Personally I find lack of sleep has an bad impact on my weight. Sugar is fx. easily converted to body fat. Fiber makes the food move fast through Your intestines. Occasional fasting is healthy. Most of the things we eat didn’t exist or were very very different when we were hunter/gathers.
    Lots of things to consider if One wants to stay healthy. One way to count calories is to calculate how many of say this cake/pizza/sandwich we can eat a day. I do that:

    10200 kj/day (active male) is equivalent to:

    19 spring rolls
    5-8 l sodas (128kj/197kj/130kj pr 100ml)
    5 l juice (200kj pr 100ml)
    6,5 fastfood dish (fried chicken: 1540kj)
    240 cups green tee (42kj pr ½ teespoon sugar)
    1,9 Tiger cake (5250kj pr cake)
    2,1 bags of chips (4840kj pr bag)
    2,3 bags travellunch beef stroganoff (4395kj pr bag)
    8 ham and cheese toasts
    2,7 Modena bolognese pizza (3735kj pr pizza)

    It’s much easier to remember that way.

    • Reg. says:

      I’ve always used calories and regarded 2100 // 2200 a day as a reasonable maximum for my frame and activity. ~ 8400 kj. That’s about 700 calories a meal so if I rounded down to approximately 500 instead of 700, I figured I could maintain my current metabolic rate rather than have it slow down in response to reduced intake. It doesn’t work of course. The body is far too smart for me. Consideration of BMR is also a handy guide. That’s the number of calories you would need each day if you did nothing, yet maintained your current weight. Yep, in a coma.

      So my rule was NO bread or butter and that a large boiled egg was 100 calories. Boring? You bet. That meant I could think in FIVE x 100 calories per meal. Any combination as long as it wasn’t bread, butter or sugar. You’ve got to weigh everything, there’s no other accurate way. One more thing, the midday meal is the main meal and drink plenty of water. Tiny amounts or condiment can taste like the nectar of the gods.

      Be happy and weigh yourself every morning naked, winter or summer after a pee. Chart it.

      • Freke1 says:

        1 Cal is 4.2 kj so 2150 Cal is 9030 kj. Doesn’t really matter if You use Cal though. Me I’m into SI units. When someone is talking about 1 3/4 inch or 6 stones I’m staring into the abyss. I’d rather not visit the UK or Australia before they start driving in the right side of the road. Which is left.

        • Reg says:

          Thanks Freke 1.

          I round off because I don’t believe anyone can actually work to the accuracy of 50 calories consumed and burned a day. Also why I regard calories as kj/4. It is my habit to convert kg to pounds for the US consumer, just not in this case. Surely they know by now that there are 2.2 lbs to a kg. Why I even spell center incorrectly so’as to minimize confusion for some. 🙂
          It’s not that long since I worked out why a sugar bag contained 22lbs of sugar. Yep, 10kgs; 50 years before Australia converted to metric.

          What do you mean “before they started driving on the right side?” They always drove on the LEFT side, as do the Japanese. Didn’t know that eh? 🙂 I converted from Imperial to Metric without a pause, except I do wish people would discontinue the use of centimeters. It’s either millimeters or metres for me. Yes, metres. 🙂 How do you spell it Freke1?

          I can even talk in stone or guineas if you like, but would rather not thank you. Si units ohhhhhh.

          • Freke1 says:

            right, I meant right. My fault. It’s meters. Pints, gallons, pounds, feet, inches donno why You bother, reminds me of Lee Evans’ comedy show Live In Scotland. A real Brit. Anything between ½ to 40 inches is usually measured in centimeters here. Anyway all the talk about fat years back and it turns out sugar (or maybe wheat?) is the problem. Experts! On what? “The men who made us fat” on Youtube has an interesting history timeline of what is considered healthy food.

          • Reg. says:

            Strewth you’ve just remained me of those special human stomachs that can turn themselves into a brewery and go over the limit when they haven’t even had a drink. What a waste. 🙂

          • Reg says:

            Yes I’ve seen that program, still got it on tvo. A real conspiracy for a change, starting with the plot to boost corn production and using the new Japanese method to make it into corn syrup. That’s where the term “planting fence to fence” came from.

            We don’t bother any more with some of this stuff but as with inculcated religious tripe it’s difficult to forget.

            If we go to a hardware store and ask for timber in centimeters the person who is going to do the cutting can get very cross, and if you look at house and room plans, the measurements are all in millimeters. A room might be described as 4250 millimeters wide. Maybe it’s changed since the 14th of February,1966. I just know we still drive on the LEFT unless I didn’t notice the changeover like some of the Swedes did. Now there’s a story they don’t like to speak about. So many people killed that they seriously contemplated reverting to the original LEFT side.

        • Reg. says:

          Hey Freke1 about those Si units. Did you read this defamatory stuff about my favourite Angstrom.

          “Although intended to correspond to 10−10 meters, for precise spectral analysis the ångström needed to be defined more accurately than the metre which until 1960 was still defined based on the length of a bar of metal held in Paris. In 1907, the International Astronomical Union defined the international ångström by declaring the wavelength of the red line of cadmium in air equal to 6438.46963 international ångströms, and this definition was endorsed by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in 1927. From 1927 to 1960, the ångström remained a secondary unit of length for use in spectroscopy, defined separately from the meter. In 1960, the meter itself was redefined in spectroscopic terms, and then the ångström was redefined as being exactly 0.1 nanometers.” Wiki.

          The key point being that in 1960 the metre itself was redefined.

          ## In passing and referring to driving on the left, it is said that since the majority of the population is right eye dominant, driving on the left offers greatest visual acuity in judging the clearance from passing traffic. Likewise, with ones right hand adjacent to the window it enables the driver to offer the finger with optimum dexterity.

  23. ES says:

    >>>But in my mind, I’m practically screaming, it’s the calories, stupid!

    No it’s not. You’re focusing on a correlation and a symptom, but not the cause.

    Yes, stored fat is calories, and if you’ve gained weight through storing excess fat (or building muscle) it’s clear you’ve consumed more calories than you’ve burned.

    The question is why? Nothing in your post, or your “Skeptoid Diet” even begins to address why Americans, in the early 1980s, suddenly start consuming so many more calories than they burn?

    The alternate theory (proposed by Gary Taubes; Robert Lustig; Atkins; etc.) suggests that it’s the high carb content of the diet (especially sugars and other high GI carbs) that directly and indirectly increases consumption, in a number of ways.

    — Carbs raise blood sugar, which raises insulin, which regulates fat storage. When insulin levels are high, fat storage is high and stored fat cannot be released. So, if you’re eating a high carb diet, the spike in blood glucose and insulin, will deprive you of a percentage of your calories available for metabolism, because they will be stored as fat. To make up for this loss of available energy, you will eat more and probably lower your energy expenditure.

    — Carbs stimulate the appetite. They put bread out at restaurants for that very reason.

    — Fat and protein are more filling and satiating than carbs.

    >>>Will you lose weight on these diets? Yes! But not because you’re avoiding carbs, or eating a lot of fish, or mimicking the cavemen.

    No. You lose weight, because you’re avoiding carbs. By avoiding carbs you are eating a higher proportion of fat and protein.

    >>>I was on the Atkins diet for two years. The *perception* of the diet was “eat as much as you want,” but that was *not* the reality preached in the Atkins publications. Atkins always had portion control as a secondary element.

    This is absolutely false. Neither the original Atkins diet, nor the current version include any portion control. The instruction in the Atkins diet is:

    “When you’re hungry, eat. When you get full stop eating. Make sure you get plenty of fat, keep you’re carbs below 20g per day with very little sugar and refined carbs.”

    I don’t know what diet you were on for two years, but if you were on a diet that had portion control, it wasn’t Atkins, and it wasn’t a low-carb high fat diet.

    >>>The popular extreme example of the calories-in-calories-out premise is, of course, the Twinkie Diet, where a nutrition professor lost 27 lbs. subsisting solely on cakes, chips, and cookies.

    Actually, that’s not the case. He was on a calorie restricted diet that included twinkies, but also included veggies and other good foods.

    >>>I am not on the Twinkie Diet, but I’m also not denying myself some pleasure foods. Here’s a partial list of things I’ve eaten in the last week: chocolate chip cookies (homemade); a Taco Bell burrito and chips; a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte (not skinny); a pasta dinner with garlic bread; and a container of Wendy’s french fries. And yet, in that time, I’ve also lost three pounds, because I have simply burned more calories than I have eaten.

    Three pounds? My weight can go up and down 5 pounds in a single day. Three pounds could be waterweight (meaning you may not have burned more calories than you’ve eaten).

    >>Step 1: Eat fewer calories.
    >>Step 2: Burn more calories.

    It’s interesting, one of the LCHF experts advises that the key to weight loss is to Eat more; exercise less. But, you have to eat smarter and exercise smarter.

    >>>The point of this article wasn’t to argue about the long-term effects of certain macros, though. It was simply to point out that ANY diet that restricts calories to a level below what you burn will, de facto, lead to weight loss.

    So for all those millions and millions of people who are overweigh and obese who have tried to lose weight but have failed, or failed to keep it off, it’s their fault that they simply haven’t been able to keep their calories down. Maybe they have no will power, or maybe we have an epidemic of eating disorders?

    What’s happening is that our bodies are tuned for a macronutrient amount and proportion in our diet that has carbs about 20 percent of calories, fat around 70 percent and protein 10.

    These proportions could change (more carbs in the fall when fruit is in season; more protein when in winter when food is scarce).

    Instead, we’re now consuming 50 to 65% of calories from carbs (overweight and obese often higher) and our bodies metabolic response is increase our apetites and store as much fat as we can (as if we’re always preparing for a long winter).

    Atkins and other LCHF diets (including the Paleo diet) fix this.

    • Alison Edwards says:

      “The question is why? Nothing in your post, or your “Skeptoid Diet” even begins to address why Americans, in the early 1980s, suddenly start consuming so many more calories than they burn?”

      That may be because such discussions were beyond the scope of my post and the Skeptoid Diet is (I thought) obvious satire of gimmick diets, not a seriously proposed meal plan. As such, most of the rest of your comments are misdirected at a strawman that does not represent the content or intent of the article. However, there is one comment i feel the need to rebut …

      “I don’t know what diet you were on for two years, but if you were on a diet that had portion control, it wasn’t Atkins, and it wasn’t a low-carb high fat diet.”

      Atkins never endorsed calorie counting explicitly, but it was clearly one of the underlying elements in all their publications. When I look at an official Atkins sample menu, I don’t see “horkin’ pile of pork rinds with butter” or “an entire deep-fried turkey” anywhere. I see reasonable portions of reasonable foods (and a lot of promotion of Atkins brand diet foods). Take a look at any recipe they offer, any sample meal plan they publish, even their own diet brand foods — they know as well as anyone that calorie control is vital.

      In fact, I would argue that the passage you quoted — four sentences of an entire book — is part of the reason people fail on the Atkins diet. They focus on that message and don’t think about the rest of the plan, and then they eat half a package of bacon for breakfast because “I was hungry for it and it is low-carb.” .

      • es says:

        “The question is why? Nothing in your post, or your “Skeptoid Diet” even begins to address why Americans, in the early 1980s, suddenly start consuming so many more calories than they burn?”

        >>>That may be because such discussions were beyond the scope of my post

        OK, so what you’re saying is “Calories are all that matters, and if you disagree then you are going beyond the scope of my post.”

        I’m arguing that a higher caloric intake is caused by the high carb American diet, and that is the cause of the obesity epidemic. The solution is to cut carbs from the diet and that leads to a reduction in inlusin (which regulates fat storage) and, also, a reduction in caloric intake.

        But, it’s not about the calories, it’s about the carbs. The calories are there, but they don’t drive the process.

        That’s not beyond the scope of your post, that is simply an argument against your position.

        >>>As such, most of the rest of your comments are misdirected at a strawman that does not represent the content or intent of the article.

        Actually, very little of my post was directed against your “Skeptoid Diet.”

        >>Atkins never endorsed calorie counting explicitly, but it was clearly one of the underlying elements in all their publications. When I look at an official Atkins sample menu, I don’t see “horkin’ pile of pork rinds with butter” or “an entire deep-fried turkey” anywhere. I see reasonable portions of reasonable foods (and a lot of promotion of Atkins brand diet foods). Take a look at any recipe they offer, any sample meal plan they publish, even their own diet brand foods — they know as well as anyone that calorie control is vital.

        They repeatedly say don’t count calories; calories don’t matter, but you say that recipes and sample menus represent “portion control?” That is absurd, and stretching to the point of falsity. None of Atkins’ menus provide calorie info and most recipes don’t specify serving size. And they don’t limit the dieters to the sample menus or recipes.

        And they caution against counting calories and discourage going hungry.

        >>>In fact, I would argue that the passage you quoted — four sentences of an entire book — is part of the reason people fail on the Atkins diet. They focus on that message and don’t think about the rest of the plan, and then they eat half a package of bacon for breakfast because “I was hungry for it and it is low-carb.”

        Those three sentences: “When you’re hungry, eat. When you get full stop eating. Make sure you get plenty of fat, keep you’re carbs below 20g per day with very little sugar and refined carbs.”

        (Not a direct quote) are repeated in one form or another numerous times throughout the Atkins book.

        In numerous RCT where Atkins style low-carb diets are compared to other diets, the instruction given the low-carb dieters is keep carbs below a set level, and eat fat ad lib (which means eat as much fat as you want).

        The dieters who do that do reduce their caloric intake. They also have higher resting and total energy expenditure than low fat or calorie restricted dieters; they burn a high proportion of fat to lean tissue than the others; they lose more weight than the others; they improve their cholesterol profile more than the others and the reduce their risks for CVD and other chronic diseases faster and more.

        When people “fail” on Atkins, it’s generally because they lose weight, then go off the diet. And the weight comes back (as it does whenever you go off any weight loss diet). Many dieters (Atkins and others) also “fail” when they reach a plateau or weight loss stall, and get discouraged and go off the diet.

        But, as smaller percentage of dieters on Atkins fail, than any other diet.

        It’s not all about the calories; it’s not the calories, stupid; it’s not calories in/calories out.

        It’s about a complex metabolic process that leads to excess fat storage and manipulating the macronutrient source of the calories to allow the body to efficiently burn stored fat while preserving or building lean tissue, improving risk factors for chronic disease and generally improving one’s health and well-being.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          “OK, so what you’re saying is “Calories are all that matters, and if you disagree then you are going beyond the scope of my post.””

          Um, no. You tried to take me to task for not going into the reasons why people have gotten fatter since the 1980s, and I was just pointing out that the historical trend in obesity was not anywhere near the topic of the post. “The Skeptoid Diet” was poking a stick at fad diets and the people who dogmatically demand that without them, sustained weight loss cannot be achieved.

          Hmm, come to think of it, that may be why you’re so riled up about this …

          “I’m arguing that A HIGHER CALORIC INTAKE is caused by the high carb American diet, and that IS THE CAUSE OF THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC. THE SOLUTION IS to cut carbs from the diet and that leads to a reduction in inlusin (which regulates fat storage) and, also, A REDUCTION IN CALORIC INTAKE.”

          [Emphasis mine.] So basically, you’re saying that Americans have gotten fat because they ate more calories,and that the solution involves a diet that forces them to eat fewer calories? I guess we’re in agreement, then. Glad we got that settled.

          • es says:

            >>>Um, no. You tried to take me to task for not going into the reasons why people have gotten fatter since the 1980s, and I was just pointing out that the historical trend in obesity was not anywhere near the topic of the post.

            How about the cause of obesity. If it’s all about calories, then is the cause of obesity also about calories?

            >>>“The Skeptoid Diet” was poking a stick at fad diets and the people who dogmatically demand that without them, sustained weight loss cannot be achieved.

            I think that’s a straw man argument, then. Because I don’t know anyone who says that sustained weight loss cannot be achieved without a specific diet. The argument is that some diets are far more efficient and people do better on them in general.

            >>>>>“I’m arguing that A HIGHER CALORIC INTAKE is caused by the high carb American diet, and that IS THE CAUSE OF THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC. THE SOLUTION IS to cut carbs from the diet and that leads to a reduction in inlusin (which regulates fat storage) and, also, A REDUCTION IN CALORIC INTAKE.”

            >>>[Emphasis mine.] So basically, you’re saying that Americans have gotten fat because they ate more calories,and that the solution involves a diet that forces them to eat fewer calories?

            Close, but not quite. Americans have gotten fat because they ate too many carbs, especially high GI carbs, and that causes excess fat storage, which leads to increased caloric intake. Excess calories is caused by high carb intake and excess fat storage. Excess fat storage is, in turn, caused by high blood glucose/insulin which is caused by excess carb intake. It’s all about the carbs, not the calories.

            A reduction in carbs leads to low insulin which causes stored fat to be released. That, plus removing the appetite stimulation of the carbs reduces caloric intake. So, again the change in calories is a result of the diet.

            To reduce the complex processes involved in metabolism of fat, carbs and protein to the overly simplistic “it’s all about the calories” is just silly.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          Oh, and one more thing …

          I was reading up on the Atkins Diet and I found this, right on the official website [emphasis mine]:

          __________________________________________

          Slipping up isn’t a reason to feel guilty or discouraged. The most important thing to remember is that a misstep is not failure — it’s an opportunity to recommit to the program, so take some time to analyze why you slipped up.

          Were you hungry? If you’re hungry, eat. Just be sure you are controlling your carbs AND NOT OVEREATING.

          Did you just assume certain foods were low carb? Always use the carb counter or check the packaging to determine the Net Carb count.

          Did you slip up while eating out? Read the “Eating Out” chapter in Atkins Essentials: A Two-Week Program to Jump-Start Your Low Carb Lifestyle for general tips on eating out on Atkins. The Atkins Learning Center also offers a course on staying healthy while dining out, so be sure to check the course listings.

          DID YOU IGNORE PORTION CONTROL? Some people will ignore hunger cues and gorge. Pay attention to what your body’s telling you.

          ____________________________________________

          http://www.atkins.com/Science/Articles—Library/Activity—Exercise/The-Atkins-Nutritional-Approach–Getting-Started,-.aspx

        • Alison Edwards says:

          Oh, and from the official Atkins Diet FAQ:

          _____________________________________________

          Graduated carb introduction limits blood sugar and insulin spikes, which cause hunger and cravings, and result in OVEREATING and weight gain. […]

          The real goal of the Atkins program is to learn eating habits that will enable you to permanently maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. This includes changing old habits SUCH AS OVEREATING that contributed to your original weight problem.

          _____________________________________________

          http://www.atkins.com/Library/FAQ.aspx#FaqID6

  24. es says:

    OK, So you’ve found the words “overeating” and “portion control” on the Atikins website.

    When they refer to “portion control,” they specifically refer to portions of foods containing carbs. (You can eat a small portion of foods like nuts, that have some carbs, but large portions increase your carb intake.) It’s not about calories or keeping calories down.

    I also found that in my paraphrasing the advice: “When you’re hungry, eat. When you get full stop eating. Make sure you get plenty of fat, keep you’re carbs below 20g per day with very little sugar and refined carbs.”

    I left out from both the original Atkins and the current Atkins advice to “not gorge” and “don’t be a glutton.” The gist of that advice is to stop eating when your body tells you you’re full.

    And that is the sum total of their advice limiting calories in Atkins.

    Stop eating when you’re full, don’t gorge and don’t be a glutton.

    That’s a far cry from the kind of calorie counting other diets (including your satire diet, and Craig Good’s exact same diet advice, offered here in earnest http://skeptoid.com/blog/2011/09/27/how-does-a-skeptic-lose-weight/).

    ——Graduated carb introduction limits blood sugar and insulin spikes, which cause hunger and cravings, and result in OVEREATING and weight gain.

    Exactly. Eating CARBS causes hunger and cravings and results in overeating and weight gain. We agree

    ——The real goal of the Atkins program is to learn eating habits that will enable you to permanently maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. This includes changing old habits SUCH AS OVEREATING that contributed to your original weight problem.

    Yes, overeating on a high carb diet is what causes weight problems.

    We agree again.

    • Alison Edwards says:

      Why do I have a feeling that there’s a fair bit of “to-ma-to, to-mah-to” going on in this exchange? [I was going to say “po-ta-to, po-tah-to,” but I know how you feel about carbs.]

      • es says:

        What we agree on is that calories correlate with weight gain. What we disagree on is if excess calories cause excess fat storage and weight gain, or if fat storage is caused by excess carb intake and that carbs themselves stimulate appetite and cause excess calories.

        It’s more like “you say potato and I say pork”

        • Reg says:

          No, calories also correlate with weight loss.

          If sugar and other carbs burn FIRST and the excess is not excreted, then it must be stored. That means the type of calories are important if one is to lose weight. Alternately deny the body easily assimilated carbs and endure the metabolic slow-down.

          Appetite is not stimulated by carbs, the problem is that carbs are burned quickly, leaving the body craving FOOD and hopefully more of the same type of quickly assimilated calories for its continued high. If you then feed it protein or fat instead, absorption slows and the body becomes sluggish.

          Then you turn around and blame the fat or protein when it was the earlier carb that created the absorption shock.

          Of course the brain needs sugar but if sugar is all you feed your body then by the time the body has grabbed its energy needs, there will none left for the brain anyway and you then need to consume MORE.

          • es says:

            “No, calories also correlate with weight loss”

            Yes. There is a correlation, not as strong as you might think.

            >>>If sugar and other carbs burn FIRST and the excess is not excreted, then it must be stored.

            Here’s the thing. Fat storage is regulated by insulin. Not total calories, not available energy, not calories in/calories out. It’s regulated by insulin. When insulin is high, fat storage is high. When insulin is low, fat storage is low and stored fat can be released.

            If carbs are burning first, as you indicate, then that means there is high blood sugar, which means that there is high insulin, which means that there is fat storage. So yes, the excess is not excreted (very little ever is) but the fat is stored.

            But if there is very little or no dietary carbs, blood glucose stays low and insulin stays low, so fat new fat is not added to fat storage and stored fat is released into circulation.

            “That means the type of calories are important if one is to lose weight. Alternately deny the body easily assimilated carbs and endure the metabolic slow-down.”

            What metabolic slowdown? The evidence shows that REE and TEE is higher on LCHF diets than any other weight loss diet.

            “Appetite is not stimulated by carbs, the problem is that carbs are burned quickly, leaving the body craving FOOD and hopefully more of the same type of quickly assimilated calories for its continued high.”

            Sugar and highlighly refined carbs are appetite stimulants. Plus many foods with high carb content are also appetite stimulants or low satiety foods.

            Foods high in fat and protein and low in carbs are generally more satiating.

            ” If you then feed it protein or fat instead, absorption slows and the body becomes sluggish.”

            This only happens during the first few days on a LCHF diet. Once the body has adjusted to burning fat and ketones, that is no longer an issue.

            When your body is primarily burning glucose as fuel, your energy level correlates with your blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is high you have more energy; when blood sugar is low, less.

            But when your body is burning fat, glucose and ketones, your blood sugar remains stable and fat and glucose provide more energy.

            “Of course the brain needs sugar but if sugar is all you feed your body then by the time the body has grabbed its energy needs, there will none left for the brain anyway and you then need to consume MORE.”

            Nope. If you eliminate all or most carbs, and have adequate fat and protein, the body makes all the glucose you need.

          • Reg says:

            So it would appear that the faster one gets into a ketogenic state and remains there, the healthier he or she will be?

            Woe betide the sugar producers then. But at least the sellers of mouthwash and breath enhancers are in for a bonanza.

            Thanks for that es.

          • es says:

            Once the body has fully adapted to fat burning/ketosis, the amount of ketone bodies exhaled (which is what causes the bad breath) drops.

            You’re welcome.

  25. stevenbirmi says:

    Since your post is on a skeptic blog, I feel I need to point out that recent science does not support your thesis. Studies seem to show the calories-in/calories-out idea is not correct despite its intuitive appeal, and that restricting carbohydrates is the most effective way to achieve weight loss. This book reviews numerous studies over many years:

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307474259

    Along the same lines, this video describes research conducted by Christopher Gardner, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. I find it particularly interesting because he’s a 25-year vegetarian who is forced to admit that his research shows that a low-carb diet not only leads to weight loss, but also improves lipid profile, percentage of body fat, waist-hip ratio, fasting insulin and glucose levels, and blood pressure:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eREuZEdMAVo

    • Alison Edwards says:

      You are part of a common thread in these comments that seems to be equating “doesn’t work” and “isn’t the most effective method.” Is there actual science out there that shows an average person with a functioning metabolism can eat fewer calories than they burn and yet GAIN weight? Do low-carb diets allow you to eat calories indiscriminately and still lose weight? No one has yet shown this. Everyone just seems to be upset that I refuse to endorse their preferred method over another for calorie reduction.

      • CarbShark says:

        “Everyone just seems to be upset that I refuse to endorse their preferred method over another for calorie reduction.”

        I don’t think anyone is “upset” and certainly not because you’re not endorsing a specific method.

        I and others simply disagree with your position and we are raising valid and thoughtful arguments.

        It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Even among skeptics!

      • stevenbirmi says:

        Yes, the studies indicate that a person whose genetics and hormones (primarily insulin) tell them to store fat will do so even if they are taking in a starvation-level of calories. Likewise, people whose genetics and hormones tell them not to store fat will not, even if they are taking in more calries than they require.

        We’ve all experienced this as teenagers. No matter how much or how little we ate, our bodies grew taller because hormones told them to. Our hormones do the same thing for girth.

        You asked for specific studies, so here’s one to start with:

        Mayer, J. 1954. “Multiple Causative Factors in Obesity.” In Fat Metabolism, ed. V.A. Najjar, pp. 22-43: Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          A study in a long out of print book from 60 years ago? At least have the grace to provide a link to an abstract. If research that old is worth citing today, it must be phenomenal. Or at least an unbiased summary. You have read this, right? Not just pulled the reference from a Taubes book the way everyone else on the Internet does?

          • Stephen Propatier says:

            Ali the common theme is that changing your lifestyle is easy. Just buy my book, follow my plan, eat my food, follow my diet. As you well know all of these diets produce positive results short term. There is just zero evidence that anymore than a infinitesimal fraction of the population can maintain a restrictive diet long term. There is an over all view by people that if we just find that “one factor” that makes me fat I can cure it, like a disease. Carbs, processed food meats etc. If you stand back from the self reported diary studies, look at the long term well controlled research. You keep coming back to one inescapable conclusion. If you try to eliminate or severely restrict foods you love long term you will fail. Teaching yourself portion control and balancing your diet. Developing a pattern of good choices. Learning to balance exercise and lower calories, a lifestyle change, not a diet. It is not easy it has no book, website, ideology. Diets are short cuts to trick our satiety and lose weight. They always work in the short term if you follow them. Long term they fail. our bodies are adaptable to wide variety of nutrition. When you change it you trick your satiety and metabolism for a little while. Then you body’s feed back system balances out and you stop losing like you did in the beginning. You plateau and the positive stimulus “you look great” stops coming. People are used to the great new way you look. You notice that it is no longer so easy to lose the weight. Even though you closely follow the plan you lose little weight. Then you start backsliding. Eating a few things off the plan because you really miss them. Holiday’s parties, dinner with friends. The gym becomes boring. You really miss pizza. Then you feel like a failure. You stop weighing yourself because you don’t want to see it in black and white. You quit and before you know it you are worse off than you were before.
            Sound familiar?
            If you find a way to eat what you like in a controlled manner and restrict the overeating by closely following calories, also by increasing your activities. You have to use calories in/out not because it is a true measure. Because you need a self check measure you cannot guess and keep yourself in balance. You cannot trust your judgement until you have maintained weight for years. You need to make exercise a part of your lifestyle not a goal weight. Realize that the good for you foods can be more filling. Making choices, keeping variety in your diet. Developing a pattern of dietary awareness and exercise. That works. People can maintain that long term.
            Everything else is rhetoric or pseudoscience, not healthy living.

          • stevenbirmi says:

            I’m going to politely bow out of this discussion. I don’t sense much skeptical curiosity, mostly just ad hominem attacks. But in case you are intellectually curious, here is the abstract from the paper:

            In a recent review, it was shown that genetic, traumatic, and environmental factors intervened in the etiology of obesity. While admittedly obesity will develop only if a positive energy balance is maintained for a sufficient duration, to equate the development of obesity with the maintenance of this positive balance sheds no light on the phenomenon: it simply redefines it by allusion to the First Law of Thermodynamics. In this lecture the complexity of the normal physiological devices governing food intake will be recalled. The “glucostatic mechanism of regulation of food intake” previously proposed has recently received its first independent confirmation. The multiple etiology of obesity will next be illustrated not as in the view quoted above by a systematic survey of published reports, but by examples derived by recent work, some of which is hitherto unpublished. This lecture may therefore be considered to be largely in the nature of a series of discrete preliminary “progress reports” on some of the most characteristic aspects, the logical continuity of the subject being supplied by reference to the previous review.

  26. ES/CarbShark says:

    “Do low-carb diets allow you to eat calories indiscriminately and still lose weight?”

    Yes. You can eat fat ad lib on a LCHF diet, if you keep carbs to a minimum, and lose weight. That’s shown in numerous studies.

    • Ali says:

      Sorry, ES, but I have to call BS on that claim. Show me a study where low carb dieters ate calories above what they burned ad still lost weight. Please, show me the study. Studies that did not track calories don’t count. Show me the data.

      • CarbShark says:

        That’s not what I said. On a low-carb diet you can eat fat ad lib. You can eat as much fat as you want. You can eat fat until you are full. You can eat fat without counting calories. You can eat fat until you are satisfied.

        You don’t know how many calories you’re eating you don’t care how many calories you’re eating, you’re eating calories indiscriminately. On a LCHF diet, the calorie count does not matter. Instead, you’re paying attention to your own body’s hunger and satiety signals.

        When you are hungry you eat. When you are full you stop.

        No one is arguing that you lose weight when you eat more calories than you burn.

        The argument I have with your position is you’re taking a very basic and fundamental law of physics (first law of thermodynamics) ignoring an even more basic and fundamental law of physics (the second law of thermodynamics) and using that as diet advice.

        It turns out that telling people to eat less and exercise more (which is what you’re doing) is the worst possible advice you can give to obese people. Eating less causes hunger and reduces energy expenditure. Increasing activity causes increased hunger.

        No one is arguing against the laws of physics. The argument is that the laws of physics for a multitude of reasons make for bad diet advice.

        • Reg says:

          “you’re paying attention to your own body’s hunger and satiety signals.”

          (Asking) But there is such a thing as delayed or no satiety signalling isn’t there? Or perhaps faulty satiety signalling? I had a heart med knock out my Thyroid control so it’s full on or simply runs out after a few hours.

          I quite often have no idea how thirsty I am until I have to wash down some meds. Or wake at 2 in the morning famished when my memory tells me I should not be feeling like this.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          “No one is arguing that you lose weight when you eat more calories than you burn.”

          Then why in HECK have we been going around in circles for the last week?!?!

          “It turns out that telling people to eat less and exercise more (which is what you’re doing) is the worst possible advice you can give to obese people. ”

          Seems to have worked for me. 60 lbs lost and counting since February …

  27. DragonLady says:

    Brian, dear, I love your diet plan. But you didn’t mention what all the other diet plans didn’t mention also: weight loss does not guarantee health.

    For example, anorexics who are the poster children of individual efforts at weight loss and are almost universally on the verge of death.

    A Balanced Diet with sufficient fiber, vitamins, minerals in amounts suitable to your body type and initial state of health that has fewer overall calories will promote healthy weight loss when combined with suitable exercise, good hygeine, appropriate sleep, and the serious limitation of toxins in what you consume (alcohol, opiates, cholesteral, tobacco, etc.)

    And if you can find a way to instill Common Sense (which is not at all common) your health plan will be perfect.

  28. bookbluffer says:

    “For thousands of years, the Chinese, Mayans, and Finnish and North Koreans …..

  29. Phil says:

    It seems to me that with regard to the eat less calories than you burn hypothesis the most obvious factor is being missed. Applying the hypothesis there can only be one conclusion that explains the rise in obesity, that is occurring on such a large scale

    The inbalance is being caused not so much by excess calorie intake but by a decline in energy levels which makes it harder to burn off the calories. Something is making people less energetic and that is the driving dynamic. This is where the research is needed. Why are people so lacking in energy

    As a person who suffers from long term CFS, which flares up from time to time, I have noticed that reducing food levels can be debilitating both mentally and physically. It seems that the levels required to maintain an acceptable level of mental stability, by which I refer especially to brain fogging and shakiness, lack of confusion etc, exceed the balance required to lower weight. I suspect that even without CFS this may be the key problem for many people

    It is customary to blame this lack of energy on falling into a pattern of sedentary behaviour – but just supposing this is rubbish. If it were, then no diet plan would ever work, including the suggested calorie balance one, which assumes without evidence that the energy production and availabilty processes are stable and uncompromised.

    In the workforce the item that people cover up most is fatigue. For reasons we do not understand, and no-one seems to be researching, we have a major energy lag problem. The people who remain or become slim are the energetic ones – the fat ones aren’t. It’s not the food at all – its the physical and mental energy levels. Something is drastically wrong there.

    Undoubtedly the food supply is partly to blame. If you carefully control your food supply, growing your own vegetables and fruit if possible energy levels can improve. I find berries a fairly easy fruit item to grow in my climate. But the bottom line is instead of looking for a fattening factor we should be looking for a fatigueing factor

    This was an extraordinarily helpful article – I suggest it points the way a little further than you think however. Lack of energy is the key. For a short time look in no other direction, no footnotes, no provisos. Why are we all so damned easily tired?. Is it additives or environmental pollutants – something is assaulting the normal function of our bodies

    Those who exercise in gyms, or in healthy jogging etc do so because they have the energy. A mythos has built up around the science underlying this. What is possibly happening sometimes is a healthy diversion of energy without the actual amount available increasing.

    It is very possible that the cycle can be broken but to do it means attacking the energy problem head on – and not blaming obesity on calorie consumption. We are addressing the wrong problem. Yes it is about balance – absolutely. But we need dieting far less than a solution to the problem of declining energy levels

    • Alison Edwards says:

      ” … there can only be one conclusion that explains the rise in obesity, that is occurring on such a large scale

      The inbalance is being caused not so much by excess calorie intake but by a decline in energy levels which makes it harder to burn off the calories. ”

      That’s sort of begging the question, isn’t it? [Or maybe circular logic. Fallacies are so subtle.] You’re assuming the “only one conclusion” is that we have some measurable reduction in energy that is the cause of weight gain. Has this reduction in energy been recorded, measured, or charted anywhere? Let’s not assume we all agree on the premise here.

      • Phil says:

        I think it is a common observation. I am 67. My father was born in 1911, he had vastly more energy than I ever had, even before CFS cut in. I wonder how many others might note the same

        My question is “have we got the cart before the horse in this whole question” do we have cause and effect reversed. An energy shortage would have exactly the same effect as an excessive calorie intake. But the energy shortage might be far more readily fixed if it is researched and understood.

        Indeed it all does beg the question. Your point that all apparently successful diet plans contain open or concealed calorie intake reduction is well put. I am only suggesting they take the important conclusion that intake and output calorie balance is the key to losing or maintaining weight a step further, and look at the other side of this balance – the question of why excess calories isn’t leading to increased energy levels and why even correct nutrition is out of balance with energy production?

        Put simply whatever we eat, we do not seem to be deriving sufficient energy to burn the calories off. Something has to be wrong. Just maybe, taking one further step, some clusters of CFS and obesity utilise some of the same mechanism – both may be responses to defective energy producton

        Both perhaps are genuine illnesses related in part of their symptomology to metabolic disturbances.

        • Alison Edwards says:

          You’re attributing to some mechanism of “less energy” that which can be more directly explained by changes in the food supply and more sedentary lifestyle habits. People move less; calorie dense foods are more readily available. I’m not seeing where some mysterious energy deficit needs to be invoked.

          • Phil says:

            I can see that you can’t grasp this possibility Alison. But I am trying to get you to shift your focus. Your simplifying the entire diet business to a basic, often disguised technique of reducing calorie intake is laudable. But it emphasises the question of inbalance between calorie intake and energy output to the point where I feel you really have to focus on the other side of the question – why the lack of energy?

            At the moment you have created a simple cause and effect model by only examining one side of the equation – almost as if you are trying to sell gym usage tickets or more running shoes and weird exercise machinery instead of diets. You actually haven’t got as far as you think to unravelling a medical mystery.

            I don’t sedentary does explain lack of energy – I think lack of energy explains the sedentary – Prove me wrong…

          • Alison Edwards says:

            Prove what wrong? Your unsupported assertion? The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Until evidence is provided, the rational position is the null hypothesis.

    • Reg says:

      You make some good points there Phil. Some people grow up unaware that what they are feeling as a normal state of wellness, is in fact below par. The metabolic systems in my family all seem to take a surge at about age 30. In my case I went from 140lbs to 180lbs in a month and stayed there for years. Attempting to exercise it off only made feeling bad, feel worse.

      No doubt too many calories IS the ultimate answer but exhaustion plays havoc with everyone’s metabolism quite differently. That’s why energy drinks have become attractive to so many and sugared drinks were way ahead of the game. Anything that makes one feel better has proven its efficacy, while duping you at the same time and making one crave more of the same.

      • Phil says:

        That is absolutely my observation Reg. Attempting to exercise off excess weight always makes me feel disproportionately dreadful and debilitated. The energy was just not there to fuel the necessary exercise. But whilst I was always that way, school demanded sufficient energy not to gain weight, and as a child I was a poor eater.

        If we presume that ultimately all human energy comes from nutrition – hardly a radical thesis – n energy production is the key to weight not consumption.

        Obviously the inbalance in nutrition is likely to be expressed in weight gain if there is too much nutrition in relation to energy output and weight loss if there is too little – the principle behind exercising to lose weight. it is easy to exercise if you have the energy , impossible if you don’t

        It is dangerous to treat inadequate exercise as a moral or choice matter. For many of us it patently isn’t

  30. Nitpicker77 says:

    Weight loss is serious business. But your point was only to note that several “scientific” or fad plans got their initial effects from reduction in caloric intake. OK, however, what we need to understand when we are concerned with our health is that long-term weight control is rather more complicated.

    Calorie restriction even leads to substantially longer life in most mammals, but humans are notoriously poor at maintaining a calorie restricted diet. In fact, something like 95 percent of those who lose more than 10 percent of their weight by that method, yo-yo back to more weight than they had when they started. This may be due to ghrelin effects, which is my main hypothesis.

    And the effects of one’s gut bacteria can matter. Exchanging gut contents of a fat and a skinny lab mouse without restricting food consumption led to swapping their weight profiles. I presume but do not know that that took a few months.

    And there seems to be evidence that high yield wheat contains new proteins which both make eating it addictive and encourage those eaters to consume an extra several hundred calories per day. It showed up in our diets about the same time as the major obesity epidemic began.

    For maintaining general health, it’s worth noting that all the diseases of civilization have massively increased since the invention of agriculture. The paleo diet addresses those issues by avoiding both grains and legumes.

    The more recent rises in those same diseases have occurred with the introduction of more wood alcohol when we started smoking fish and tobacco, when we began canning things with pectin, and in the last three decades when we began using aspartame. Animal safety studies of aspartame are not convincing since we have a mutated catalase enzyme that makes us ten times more sensitive to methanol. See WhileScienceSleeps.com for details.

  31. paul says:

    Eat good, healthy food, including meat, fats/oils, plus the odd cake, and if you put on a few more pounds, who cares?
    So long as you are not obese, and cut down on crap.
    I’m about 10kg heavier than when I am fully fit, but you know, I like it as I’m not anxious about what I eat.
    Six-pack stomach? Pah.
    Stop looking in the mirror and go out an enjoy life, which includes eating rich, delicious food!

  32. I had a friend who lost considerable weight. When someone asked how, she replied, I put less in my face and moved my ass more. It worked.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I don’t agree. You can see the difference between carb and fat calories here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sam-feltham/weight-loss-advice-5000-calorie-carb-challenge_b_3931307.html

    The fat/carb challenge is over now, everyone can see the results:

    http://live.smashthefat.com/5000-calorie-carb-challenge-day-21/

  34. Hannah Whitney says:

    My eating plan had resulted in a loss of 35 pounds. Eat less, move more. If he grew on a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.

  35. Drew Baye says:

    Great article. Ellington Darden, PhD who was the director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries and did his post-graduate work at UF in nutrition has been running successful fat loss programs since the 1970’s with calorie restriction and an emphasis on foods that are high in volume relative to calories.

    I’ve been training people since the mid 90’s and although I’ve experimented with some fad diets (low-carb, paleo, zone) I always end up going back to simple calorie restriction because it’s what works.

  36. Dr.Garry Lee says:

    Of course calories count BUT are calories from different sources different in their hormonal effects and does this matter? They are and it does like hell, depending on how insulin-resistant you are or otherwise.
    I come from a family all of whom on my father’s side were fat. There was type 2 diabtetes in it when it was rare. I’ve lost weight on a low-fat diet in the past and was totally ravenous all the time, only to regain it. I’m now 40lb down on a low-carb high fat diet for 2 years WITHOUT hunger. So, calories count BUT they have to fit in with your metabolism. Some say that the protein is key, and it is to satiation, but high carbs in metabolically damaged IR person are a slow poison in my opinion. Sugar is something we should eat very sparingly if at all.

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