Calories Don't Matter? Say What? Part 2

This article is the conclusion of a two-part look on the flawed logic of calories in - calories out. Read Part 1 here.

I closed Part 1 with the question -- what happens after you go on a starvation diet and start eating normal amounts of food again?

Easy, you gain weight because you have less muscle tissue and your body has slowed down after adapting to burning fewer calories per day due to the lower calorie intake (the reason starvation diets give you zero energy).

This is the whole cause of yo-yo dieting right here. That's the reason for it. Period. It has very little to do with the kind of person you are. You are not a horrible monster if you are fat. You are probably just eating the wrong foods -- and quite possibly aren't eating enough. 

A calorie does not always equal a calorie. 100 calories of wild caught salmon does different things inside your body than 100 calories of a Snickers. That makes sense. So if that makes sense, it should make sense that exercising more and eating less is not the answer.

100 calories of a Snickers bar is 100 calories, but it may have long lasting effects on your insulin levels and other hormones which, in turn, will do other things in your body that are more harmful than the 100 calories of wild caught salmon or steamed broccoli.

That’s why you can have obese people that really do eat very little and are still obese or gaining weight. It’s because of how the food is reacting inside the body. If CICO was sensical, that would never happen. People who trained for Ironmans and marathons would all be lean -- but if you’ve ever been to one of those races and seen the people who are finishing slower than the average time frame, you’ll know that just because you’ve trained for months and done nothing but run all day everyday, doesn’t mean you’re going to be a lean, mean fighting machine.

If CICO really worked, wouldn’t the exercise explosion we’ve seen over the last few decades have coincided with an epidemic of leanness and fitness? But it’s been the opposite. The exercise explosion has gone hand in hand with a WORSENING of the obesity epidemic.

Think about this -- undereating isn’t a cure for obesity, it’s a way to reduce its most obvious symptom for a short time. So if calorie deficits aren’t a cure for diabetes, how can overeating be its cause?

Running a marathon burns about ¾ of one pound of fat. You ready to run the number of marathons it's going to take to get you to your ideal body weight? Count me out. 

Another piece of this line of reasoning that doesn’t make sense to me, goes like this:

The logic of the day says that your metabolism slows down as you age, which means you have to exercise more and eat less as you get older to “keep up” with that pesky slowing metabolic rate. I remember hearing this on the news when I was in high school.

So that means if I’m running 5 miles a day, 5 days a week in my 30s, I’ll have to up that 10 miles a day in my 40s and 15 miles a day in my 50s. All while eating less and less every year in aggregate.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m 50, I’ll want to do something other than run 15 miles a day, 5 days a week on nothing but half a carrot in order to stay lean. So if CICO is true, then we have to conclude that people in their 50s and 60s should be running 12-15 miles a day to stay thin. So maybe the CICO theory isn’t telling the whole story so it’s time to stop acting like it does.

We burn very few calories exercising and can “undo” an hour on the treadmill in a matter of seconds. Sorry to burst this bubble, but running a 5K on Thanksgiving morning does not equal an entire day (and possibly through the weekend) of pumpkin and pecan pie, marshmallowed sweet potatoes, rolls, dressing, and sweet tea. You burn anywhere from 200-500 calories running a 5K depending on your time and pace. That’s about one slice of pecan pie -- or a couple of dinner rolls.

But isn’t it good advice to take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible? Sure.

But you don’t climb the stairs so you can eat a piece of pie. That logic doesn’t make sense because you’d have to climb 20 flights of stairs to burn 60 calories. The movement has physiological benefits that don’t have anything primarily to do with body weight -- body weight is the after thought.

So let’s wrap this up:

  • Calories in Calories out is not a healthy, long term strategy for optimal health.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.
  • The exercise explosion should have coincided with a healthy and lean epidemic.
  • Calorie deficits don’t necessarily mean the body will burn fat to make up the difference.
  • There is no species on the planet that thrives on starvation.
  • When eating real, human foods, the term “All You Can Eat” changes from an unhealthy amount to a normal, healthy amount because you’ll be full on foods that won’t cause internal havoc.

Questions? Comments? Anything not make sense? Leave them on the bottom of this article or email me at

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