Calories Don't Matter? Say What?! Part 1

It seems so simple. Calories in Calories out (CICO) makes perfect sense. It’s elementary thermodynamics, right?. You burn more calories than you eat, you lose weight. You eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Totally logical.

But totally and utterly wrong.

In this two part article, I’m going to try and convince you that trying to calculate the amount of calories you burn in a day and then calculating the amount of calories you’re consuming in a day and making sure that you’re creating a daily caloric deficit IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE WAY TO ATTAIN OPTIMAL HEALTH! And if I can’t convince you completely, maybe I’ll jump start you thinking about the fact that maybe there’s a truth out there other than what you’ve always accepted as truth.

Let me repeat that in another weigh (catch the play on words there?) -- creating daily calorie deficits is an effective way to starve yourself, it is not a sustainable lifestyle and should be avoided at all costs in the long term.

Losing weight on CICO can be stated another way -- starvation.

And last time I checked, starvation wasn’t any fun. Being around people who are starving themselves is hard work. They’re irritable, angry, short-tempered, tired, and ravenous. All they do is complain about something or talk about food.

I’m here to try and get you to understand that you can delete the calorie counting app off your phone. You can throw your scale away (both your body weight scale and your food scale). And you never have to suffer through a late night craving again. How?

Eating real, human foods and eliminating the fake foods you’ve probably been eating since you started eating (which is one reason it may be extremely hard to start thinking of the word ‘diet’ as a noun and not a verb.) You don't have to be miserable to be healthy. In fact, if you ARE miserable, you're probably not healthy.

I’ll bet that you have tried the calorie deficit plan. And I’ll bet you saw results. But how sticky have those results been?

I used to think differently, but now I am 100% opposed to any sort of diet or eating style that gets you from point A to point B...then once you get to point B, you have to completely reinvent the wheel and do something totally different in order to stay at point B. That doesn’t make any sense.

When you’re at point A and want to get to point B, just start doing the things right now that you would be doing at point B, and you’ll eventually get there.

It may take longer than a starvation diet, but when you get there, you won’t have to completely change your whole life again, and you’ll be healthier for it.

Here’s something best-selling author Gary Taubes says about starvation diets (aka creating calorie deficits):

“...we can’t be expected to semi-starve ourselves for more than a few months, let alone indefinitely, which is what such diets implicitly require if we are to maintain whatever weight loss we may initially experience.”

Taubes dubs it the “what happens now” problem -- when you come off the “fast”. Or the “OK I got to point B through complete will power and starvation what?” problem.

CICO is a way to lose weight according to popular dogma -- eat less, exercise more. Well CICO is also a way to increase your appetite. That’s paradoxical. It’s saying “do things that will make you more hungry, and then when you’re hungry, suffer through the hunger pains or you’re a bad person and are lazy and undisciplined”....NO!!! That’s not natural.

Eating Simply Human foods and having a diet rather than DIETING is something that should eventually require no will power. If you ever get super hungry or wish you could have delicious foods once you’ve adapted to eating real, human foods, you’re not doing it right.

But Mark, c’mon, you can’t argue thermodynamics. That’s a law of nature -- like gravity. There’s no getting around it, right?

Jonathan Bailor is a smart guy who's written a very cool book called the Calorie Myth. His message in a nutshell is that calories don't matter and that this whole "calories in - calories out" model we've all been following should be crumpled up and thrown into a raging fire.

I learned some pretty interesting stuff from him.

Like the fact that there is actually no law of thermodynamics -- there are four laws and two of them have nothing to do with CICO.

The first law of thermodynamics is the the one that says you can’t create energy, energy just changes forms. This law doesn’t prove that creating a calorie deficit by exercising more and eating less will make you lose fat. All it does is prove that the body must do SOMETHING with a calorie deficit -- not that it will lead to healthy weight loss. The first law of thermodynamics doesn’t prove that the body will burn fat when faced with a calorie deficit. What the body does when faced with a calorie deficit has nothing to do with thermodynamics.

According to Bailor, eating less causes us to burn fewer calories, use less energy and lower basal metabolic rate. When you're starved, burning fat will be a last resort since it has body fat to keep you alive in times of famine. What the body will do is burn the tissue that's using the most calories -- muscle tissue. It can't burn liver tissue, burn off brain matter, or your heart, but it can and does burn off lean muscle tissue -- up to 70% of the non water weight we lose on a starvation diet is coming from lean muscle tissue. So, yeah, you’ll lose weight if you starve, but over the long term, it’s not a healthy plan.

OK -- so what happens when you stop starving yourself and eating normal amounts again?

Find out that and more in Part 2 of Calories Don't Matter? Say What?! coming Monday, December 9th.

Questions or something doesn't make sense? Email me at

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