Why calorie counting doesn't work for most, presentation by Jonathan Bailor
I was lucky enough to attend the Expo part of PaleoFX in Austin today. With my wife and daughter. We attended a presentation by the author of The Calorie Myth. Whether or not you agree, I think this is of vast importance for most anyone on weight loss journey to consider. The actual presentation title was '6 reasons Calorie Counting is Crazy'. His title not mine.
I will present as many of the key points as I remember. Calories in hardly matter in weight loss according to him. Yes of course there are real consequences to calories but this point made sense if you heard his whole presentation. The point was if you dont change the quality and type of foods but just eat less your body will still hover around your current weight. And it will go up if you eat more but not as much as a mechanical calorie equation would say. This is why there is a 'set point' for most people if they just eat less of the same foods that made them overweight in the first place.
Americans have increased their caloric intake many times over what we actually weigh even with our rates of obesity. If you just did math like humans were a simple math equation with calories the average American would weigh 1,100 pounds now. But our bodies try to maintain homeostasis as much as they can. Obviously not always possible.
He also mentioned that calorie counting is really hard for most people. They are hungry, there is a huge failure rate. Which comes to why do we hear so many success stories on calorie counting? Because this is what most people have been led to believe is the way to lose weight, eat less, move more. At any one time around 100 million Americans are trying to lose weight with calorie counting. About 4.65 percent, his number, succeed. So that is 4.65 million success stories is a lot. So it can work.
His bottom line is humans naturally did not get diabetes for most of our history, at least type 2. They were rarely overweight and even more rarely obese. They didn't calorie count, they didn't even know what a calorie was.
So his perspective. And I admit mine as well. Is most people will not lose and have long term success without addressing their macronutritent composition. You want something away from modern processed foods, sugar, and not more carbs than your system can handle to where you lose weight more or less automatically by burning your stored fat and your hunger comes down naturally.
I don't think he is for banning grains like I am. I did find an interview though that I am posting. He says he personally does not eat grains because they do not further his nutrition and fitness goals. But he definitely thinks sugar and HFCS is at the heart of many problems. He has come up with a concept of SANE foods and of course inSANE foods. Don't remember what the SANE stands for. I am also not sure about his concept on fats, but he uses the same fats I do: coconut oil, butter for cooking, olive oil and avocado oils for salads.
So if you have too many of the inSANE foods, hard to succeed no matter how much willpower, the 4.65% success rate.
So why post this? This is a place to share. I know plenty of people have succeeded and will continue to succeed on calorie counting. But according to Bailor most don't. Over 95% according to him. And there are other ways. I didn't calorie count one day and I am down 90 pounds (I was 287 when I started 196 today I post in 5 lb increments in my ticker) in 11 months.
My body had 'no choice' but to lose weight when I switched my macro nutrients. I was exercising and my metabolism didn't slow down. Without the sugar and carbs it 'had' to burn my fat. And it was easy to lower my calorie count because the fat was so much more filling without the insulin spikes during the day.
So find out about Mr. Bailor or not. But I think this is important weight loss support information for a lot of people.
And I almost didn't post here because I get 'flamed' so much whenever I post something contrary to the eat everything in moderation lobby. Well if that works for people: awesome, I am very happy for you. But it didn't me. Yes I am only one person but I've had more success than I imagined. And I never calorie counted and I was never hungry. Do I point that out to go 'yeah me'? No. I point it out because my approach allowed me to do it more than anything intrinsic about me. So I am posting for the 'yeah approach'.
I think Mr. Bailor said it best in the first part of the interview I posted. He had become a personal trainer and this was his observation.
"Shortly after I started working with clients, I realized how ineffective traditional approaches to health and fitness were. For example, I’d work with a client for a few weeks and she’d drop a few pounds by following a traditional “eat less, exercise more” approach. But a few weeks later, that client would inevitably report how the pounds came right back. I tried all sorts of different techniques to make eating less and exercising more practical, but the results were the same: clients would lose weight, only to find themselves heavier a few months later. This caused me to re-think what success means in terms of weight loss and health, and I realized success is not defined by short-term weight loss. Instead, it is long-term fat loss and improved health. Also, I didn’t derive much satisfaction from asking clients to feel hungry, tired, deprived, and time-crunched for the rest of their lives."
I was able to find a short summary of his talk here by him:
I don't think you get flamed for posting something contrary to eat everything in moderation. My sense is that people sometimes have problems with what you post because you sometimes post stuff that isn't really supported by serious scientific research, and is very one-sided and cherry picks the data. Also, frankly, sometimes there are so-called "experts" out there who sound good but it is a little gullible to just swallow what they say whole cloth. Lots of time, they have an agenda and only present the evidence that supports the agenda. I think that before people just accept what some "expert" says they ought to go and read some of the peer-reviewed research that is in actual scholarly journals and isn't just plastered on a website or youtube video, etc.
Read this article and go look at the underlying abstract about behavioral changes. The one that made the most difference was calorie counting (and no it isn't because more people calorie count - it is because those who counted calories lost more weight than those who didn't).
Anyway, not everyone has to count calories but everyone has to eat fewer calories than they burn to lose weight. And, really, you can lose weight even if those fewer calories consist of food that isn't good for you (although it is not good to lose weight that way).
I am by no means in the camp of saying everyone can eat everything in moderation. There are foods that I just don't eat and even more foods that I would say I eat them very, very rarely and not moderately at all. I am also not anti-low carb. I ate low carb for awhile and tested whether I was sensitive to gluten. I'm not. I still only eat moderately on carbs usually ending up between 80 and 120 carbs a day, even less if you look at net carbs. I also think there are people far more sensitive to carbs than I am. And, there are people who report doing dramatically better on no grains. And, I have no problem with that. I felt interested enough to go no grain for a few weeks and no gluten for a month (it made no difference in my case).
I also don't think everyone has to calorie count. I think there are lots of ways of losing weight and calorie counting is one way, but not the only way.
However, I think this
I think with modern grains, HFCS, the explosion in added sugar the vast majority of people do indeed have to change their macro nutrients.
I also think it is false that lowering calories is better or work for most and not supported by studies. Here is an article of 23 studies. People did calorie counting or low carb with eating as many calories as they wanted to. In all 23 studies the low carb no calorie limits did as well or better.
As I said for some it works. But the lowering calories/counting calories approach fails way more often than not. Would that person succeed in other approaches? Perhaps. What people find with low carb, or a lot do, their appetites plummet. So it is 'easy'. Lots of people I have found on twitter describe it like that.
But sure if someone finds calorie counting their cup of tea by all means go for it.
And I think I post just as much great research, often by preeminent researchers. But because people don't 'like it' somehow it isn't research. Fascinating.
And if calorie counting eating less is by far the most common approach and America and the world keeps getting heavier, more diabetes, more heart disease, more cancer then to me clearly the evidence is saying it is not a good approach for most.
People try and it often just doesn't work. I know that was me in the past and family and many many friends and coworkers.
He pointed out in the talk food companies love that approach. So they produced 100 calorie packs. In theory eat less. But they found people didn't. They just eat two or three the food is so addicting, a lot of it. So they sold more and the 100 calorie packs had good markups.
Just in the last day or so there have been news items about how consumers are moving away from unsatisfying low-fat calorie-counted prepackaged foods. Not sure that means people are moving towards eating the healthiest foods, but at least some people are trying something else.
Thanks YoYoMa interesting story. Here's hoping.
I'm not Paleo, but PaleoFX was awesome. Lots of positive energy. Good people, good info. Lots of samples. Too many samples.
Some empirical evidence, from a study of one (me):
Whenever I counted calories & created a calorie deficit, I always lost weight. And almost in a linear fashion, especially if I got regular exercise as well. It worked extremely well for ME, and was the most effective way for ME to lose weight, whenever I chose to diet.
I didn't get horribly hungry nor did I concern myself with getting the proper balance of carbs, protein, fats, etc.
The only downside to it, for ME, was that it made me constantly think about food. But any restrictive diet does that to ME. Including (or should I say especially) low-carb diets.
It's all about calories, dummy.
But to be sustainable it's about the macronutrient composition (as you put it) of those calories.
You need to keep calories low but get enough fats and protein with a residual for carbs from those calories. However, althletes might focus on getting enough carbs and residual the rest.
I focus on protein, omega 3 fats and getting some residual carbs from my calories. But I do find carbs useful to fuel exercise. So I eat oats for breakfast. Yum.
I'm too lazy to do research, but I have read articles that low carb is basically restricting calories also. You eliminate many food groups so if you were eating lots of that stuff before, i.e. sweets, breads, pasta, you no longer do so and lose weight.
Also, as far as research, unless an article is peer-reviewed then one needs to take it with a grain of salt. This goes for any topic, not just weight loss. When I was going for my Masters and had to write a thesis, all articles had to be peer-reviewed.
If low-carb works for you, that is great!, it worked for me for about six months, and then I couldn't stand not eating any carbs at all. Losing weight is easy, keeping it off is what is the hard part. If any of us had the secret, we would be billionaires.
I respect that different approaches work for different people and that many really dislike calorie counting.
For me it works great. I lost all my weight calorie counting in 2007 and have been maintaining ever since. It's important to note that not all of us eat everything in moderation.
With all due respect calories in is everything. The end.
Even on very low-carb, my weight loss stalls if I'm not accounting for calories in some way, be it calories, WW points, or (my personal favorite) food exchanges.
I can lose on higher carb, calorie restriction, but I'm hungrier and have to eat fewer calories than on lower carb.
I can't eat very low-carb or I get severe moodswings, blinding headaches, light headedness, vertigo, nausea - eventually to the point I have even passd out from hypoglycemia.
Finding the carb level that allows me to control appetite, lose weight, and avoid severe side effects has been extremely difficult, physically and emotionally.
My problem with all of the various weight loss theorists, is that they almost all argue that all or at least most people need to be on their diet, or one very much like it. The focus is always on a "one size fits all" approach, and I think that's why so much of the research evidence is contradictory and conflicting.
I suspect that stress, sleep quality and quantity, activity and fitness level, health history, fat and muscle compostion, gender, exposure to environmental toxins, genetic factors, immunity strength, water quality, substance use.... all impact on nutritional needs, and there is no "healthy diet" without taking these factors into account.
I think "balancing" a diet is more challenging and requires more effort than most people really want to invest (which may be why one-size approaches are so attractive).
Ι completely disagree. I ate nothing but junk food from the time I was 11 until I turned 24. If I had to stop eating it, I'd never lose weight or maintain the loss. I wasn't losing weight for my health, I just wanted to be thin. So, it took a while before I was interested in improving my diet. I'd lost at least 30 pounds by then. Also, I lost most of my weight while at college. I only ate fast food while at college and I mostly ate well when I was at my parents'. I lost the same amounts. My brother, who was always underweight, also ate nothing but junk food.
You also can't lose weight unless you count calories. You can do that by, well, counting calories or by eliminating entire groups of food (often for no reason at all) but you're still counting calories.
People gain the weight back not because calorie counting is a failure but because they do the same stupid things I did in my first efforts (before I was obese). My mom would drag me to a professional who'd make me eat nothing but things that I absolutely hated or things that tasted like cardboard. I'd stick with it for as long as I could and then I'd give up and gain the weight back. You can't go from eating huge amounts of food and/or absolute junk to eating a balanced diet right away. You have to do it at your own pace, once you figure it out.
Plus, I know people who've gone low carb, atkins and ducan. They were miserable during the diet, they didn't last long and they gained the weight back. Atkins especially, had become a huge fad in my town when I was 15. I don't know a single person who managed to keep the weight off. The latest one was a friend who wouldn't shut up about how banning carbs was the only way and she was happy and healthy and she lost faster than two other friends and I did, etc. Her poor mom unknowingly brought cake on her birthday and she became livid. We almost decided to not eating any to support her but she pitched a huge fit, she p*ssed us off and so we all enjoyed our delicious cake while she was miserable on her own d*mn birthday. She got fed up soon after and now she's eating carbs again. She's also gaining weight but she says she'd rather be fat and happy than deprive herself of carbs for one more day.
If its all about the calories and so simple why do the VAST amount of people doing that approach fail? And everyone here knows thats true. Every report of resolutions every year always states that. Why is America getting sicker and heavier?
And Ian you oversimplified. And dummy isn't nice or called for. Most people, 95% qualifies as most to me, calorie restrictions do not work. But on one level low carb is still about calories. But mostly about regulating your insulin levels and getting your body in fat burning mode. Then everything takes care of itself.
But this is the FUNDAMENTAL difference and it should not be that hard to grasp. For many on low carb they NEVER have to calorie count. Never. Appetite is coming down naturally. It is no struggle, easier, much different then when people lower calories but still eat everything. Especially if diet is low fat. So LCHF are eating fewer calories but it isn't via restriction.
Is calorie restriction possible to also not be hungry? Sure. But most of my lifetime experiences, and family and friends trying to lose weight, and everything I've read on the internet points to most people having a tough go with calorie restriction.
But even Weight Watches seems to have acknowledged this for a few years. I was not aware of that. So hopefully times are a changing.
I still think Weight Watchers is wrong about fruit and fat in the article below, but acknowledging a calorie is not a calorie is good. Now they need to work on their nutrition knowledge, from my perspective.
But whatever works for people is great. If someone read this thread and has struggled with calorie counting. I hoped they found the interview links interesting. And they know there are communities of people approaching weight loss and getting healthy from a different perspective.
I know when he states how a body deals with calories is of fundamental importance that was me. When I changed my macro nutrient content I changed everything. My body burned fat instead of storing food as fat. Absolutely everything changed after that healthwise, weight wise, appetite wise, everything.
This is from the part 1 interview¦
…"Think about trying to remove fat from a hormonally “clogged” body like trying to drain water from a clogged sink. Eating less is like turning down the faucet. Exercising more is like scooping out the overflowing water. Both are temporary ways to deal with the symptoms of the problem. Neither does anything about the root cause. That is why they both fail long term.
The problem is the clog. The solution is clearing the clog. And clearing the clog requires thinking in terms of quality, not quantity.
Fiddling with the quantity of food we eat and the quantity of exercise we get will never clear our hormonal clog. Quality—low-quality food and low-quality exercise—is the cause of the backup. A sink does not get clogged by putting too much water into it. It gets clogged when we put the wrong stuff into it. Our body works the same way…"
And I don't know about anyone else but this was my life word for word prior to May last year.
"…Once most of the calories we eat are being stored in fat cells because insulin cannot get them into other cells, internal starvation has set in. We eat plenty of food but starve on the inside because insulin cannot effectively get that energy into any cells other than our fat cells. With excess insulin shuttling most calories into fat tissue and eliminating our ability to burn body fat, the fat metabolism system has no choice but to slow down, burn muscle tissue, and demand more food. It does what it always does when it senses starvation."
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