Weight Loss Rule #1: Use Less Energy Than You Expend

by Konstantin Monastyrsky April 26, 2013

Rule-1-Use-Less-Energy-Than-You-ExpendAbove all, a no-fail weight loss diet must contain less energy than your body expends throughout the day, otherwise you aren’t going to lose fat or may even gain more. Any time you encounter a weight loss plateau or rebound, this is an indication that you are consuming more calories than your body is expending on energy and structural metabolism.

After experiencing several consecutive weight loss failures, you may easily start believing that “diets don’t work, period!” With these failures in mind, ask yourself the following hypothetical question: “What if I suddenly end up on a desert island with nothing but water? Won’t I keep losing weight until rescued?

Any reasonable adult will respond to this question without giving it a second thought: “Come on, Konstantin, don’t insult my intelligence! Of course I will.” –Sorry, didn’t mean to! Just wanted to make the point that the last time you failed to lose weight, the problem wasn’t with you per se, but with your diet, something that you can certainly fix if you’ll decide to try it again.

Let’s now take a look at the same subject purely from a physiological – energy in/energy out – perspective:

– Do you agree that for as long as your diet contains more energy than your body expends, you will gain weight?  It’s a no-brainer, right?

– Do you agree that for as long as your diet contains the same amount of energy as your body expends, your weight will remain the same? Of course – that’s a point everyone will agree on.

– Do you agree that for as long as your diet contains less energy than your body  expends, you will lose weight? If, as I hope, you agree, then you and I can also agree with the following axiom:

To keep losing weight, I must consume less energy than my body expends for as long as it takes. If I keep breaking this rule, my weight will remain the same, or I’ll gain even more.

In other words, weight management by the numbers boils down to the following equation:

Daily weight fluctuation = Energy Intake — Energy expenditure

Let’s apply this simple formula to several real life scenarios. Before we do, I would like to remind you again that caloric calculations in this article are merely hypothetical examples; that the caloric values of foods and energy output are not absolute, meaning that even adult twins may respond differently to the exact same diet. With these important waivers duly noted, let’s do the math:

  • Weight gain scenario. If you consume 2,500 calories daily, but expend only 2,410, you will consume 90 more calories than you expend (2,500 — 2,410 = 90). In this case you will gain 10 grams of fat per day (90 / 9 = 10). Over the course of the year, you may gain 3.6 kg of fat, or 7.9 lbs. (10 g x 365 days = 3,650 g) total. 
  • Normal weight scenario.  If you consume 2,500 calories daily and expend the same 2,500 calories, you will neither lose nor gain any weight because 2,500 — 2,500 = 0. 
  • Weight loss scenario. If you expend 2,680 calories daily while consuming only 2,500, you will expend 180 calories more than you consume (2,680 — 2,500 = 180). In this case you will lose 20 grams of fat per day (180 / 9 = 20). Over the course of the year you may lose a respectable 7.3 kg of fat, or 16 lbs. (365 * 20 = 7,300 g) total. 
  • Faster weight loss with less food scenario:  If you expend 2,680 calories daily while consuming only 2,410, you will expend 270 more calories than you consume (2,680 — 2,410 = 270). In this case you will lose 30 grams of fat per day (270 / 9 = 30). Over the course of the year you will lose 10.9 kg of fat, or 24 lbs. (365 * 30 = 10,900 g) total. 
  • Faster weight loss with more exercise scenario:  If you expend 2,770 calories daily while consuming only 2,500, you will expend 270 more calories than you ingest (2,770 — 2,500 = 270). In this case you will be losing 30 grams of fat per day (270 / 9 = 30). Over the course of the year you may lose 10.9 kg of fat, or 24 lbs. (365 * 30 = 10,900 g) total. 
  • Even faster weight loss with less food and more exercise scenario:  If you expend 2,770 calories daily while consuming only 2410, you will expend 360 more calories than you consume (2,770 — 2,410 = 360). In this case you may lose 40 grams of fat per day (360 / 9 = 40). Over the course of the year you may lose 14.6 kg of fat, or 32 lbs. (365 * 40 = 14,600 g) total.

By breaking down the numbers this way, I’ve made it so simple and self-evident, that some people may now say: “Konstantin, don’t insult our intelligence! Who doesn’t know that?

Well, apparently, a myriad of people don’t, starting with the world’s famous weight loss gurus and their numerous editors, advisers  and promoters. Just consider these two of the most egregious examples:

Atkins_Cover_1st_edBetween 1972 and 2003, over 40 million people purchased and read “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.” Its weight loss strategy was spelled out right on the cover in no uncertain terms, so these buyers knew exactly what they are getting themselves into and what to expect:

The High Calorie Way To Stay Thin Forever

And it wasn’t just a marketing gimmick to sell a book. Right under the cover, Dr. Atkins continues to promote his unusual concept with even more zest:

“You eat as much as you want, as often as you want. You eat luxuriously–heavy cream, butter, mayonnaise, cheeses, meats, fish (and crisp green salads too).” p. 10.

Well, as the saying goes, what goes around comes around – by the time Dr. Atkins passed away in 2003, the number of overweight Americans had increased to 65% from a mere 14% back in 1972, a staggering 464% jump in just one generation.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Dr. Dean Ornish, an unabashed promoter of a high-carbs lifestyle that is playing right into the kill-the-fat / salt-is-bad / red-meat-is-poison dogma espoused by the likes of the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Dietetic Association:

Ornish-Eaat-Less-CoverA completely different diet, but exact same wacky promise:

“Eat More, Weigh Less: Dr. Dean Ornish’s Life Choice Program for Losing Weight Safely While Eating Abundantly.”

How do you accomplish a gospel of eating more and weighing less according to Dr. Ornish? Simple:

If you really want to be able to eat as much as you want until you are full and still lose weight, then you need to reduce fat down to around 10% of calories. In practical terms, this means excluding all meats, including fish and chicken, and all oils.” p. 34

Goodness gracious – a vegan weight loss diet with no essential animal fats and no primary proteins, a health ruin in the making, literally!

Nonetheless, enough people have paid their own money to turn his book into “THE #1 New York Times BESTSELLER,” and not one of them ever squeaked: “Dr. Ornish, don’t insult our intelligence.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Dr. Ornish was counseling Steve Jobs of Apple fame prior to his untimely death at 56. Nowadays, he is playing a similar role for former President Clinton and his family.

With diet doctors like this, who needs enemies?

Forget about the Clintons, what about me?

Yep, I know! You want me to tell you how many calories you can eat, so you’ll start losing weight right away: “Give me the N-U-M-B-E-R, doc!” Right?

Sorry, plus/minus a few hundred calories, I don’t know the exact number even for myself. You just can’t determine one with any degree of precision because the human body isn’t exactly an internal combustion engine that runs 24/7 in the exact same conditions, on exact same high-quality fuel, and with the exact same workload.

I already addressed this uncertainty about calories in the “How Long Will It Take Me to Lose the Weight” and “Why One Calorie For Her Is Half a Calorie For Him” posts. Please review them again to understand why you need to concentrate on the daily fat loss, rather than on the number of calories. By itself, this number is meaningless. Here is a brief excerpt:

Daily fat loss. To establish this number as accurately as possible, you’ll need to stay on a fat reduction diet (after completing your phantom weight loss, of course) for at least 15 to 20 days, or even longer. There are several reasons behind this requirement: (a) the low resolution of consumer weight scales; (b) day-to-day natural weight loss fluctuations; (c) the propensity of weight loss to slow down somewhat as your body adjusts to reduced calorie intake; and (d) inevitable lapses in your daily caloric intake. To properly estimate your daily fat loss, wait until your weight goes down at least 2 kg, and divide this number (i.e. 2 kg) by the number of days it took you to get there. If you do not observe any measurable weight reduction throughout this period, it means that your diet is too generous for your particular rate of metabolism, and you’ll need to reduce your caloric intake even more. Or you may need to increase your level of physical activity. Even better, do both (i.e., eat less and exercise more) until you observe sustainable weight loss. For as long as you consume less nutrients than your body expends for energy and structural metabolism, fat loss is just as assured as sunrise and sundown – no ifs, ends, or buts about it. [link]”

Unfortunately, most people tend to overestimate the amount of energy (from foods) they require by a wide margin. A close friend of mine, for example, was running several marathons each year for the last 40 or so years. To stay in running shape, he had run 10 miles daily for just as long. Yet until very recently he was about 50 to 60 lbs. overweight.

Then, one day, his knees started to hurt, and he reluctantly agreed with what I had been telling him all along “Michael, to lose weight, you must consume less energy than you are expending throughout the day.” He significantly reduced his food intake. After a while his weight went down to the norm. He still runs the same number of miles as before, but with 50 lbs. less fat to carry along, his knees no longer hurt. That he lost weight didn’t surprise him, but that he can eat half as much, and still run just as far, and feel even better — that did!

And the bottom line is: if in doubt, eat less!

According to The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the energy requirements for average-height sedentary adults* are quite modest:

Dietary-Guidelines-for-Americans--Chapter2-7-p-14

As you can see from the above table, the lower range of the calorie intake – 2,000 and 1,600 calories respectively – is for men and women over 51+ years of age. The higher range – 2,600 and 2,000 – is for men and women between the ages of 19 and 30.

These numbers apply to persons of average height – 5’10” (178 cm) for men and 5’4” (163 cm) for women. If your height is below that average, you will expend even less calories. And the “sedentary” doesn’t mean you are a couch potato, but simply “… a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.*”

Based on these figures, a 30 year old 5’4” tall woman who doesn’t walk at least “1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour”  will gain weight at the rate of 1 gram for each 9 extra calories over 2,000 calories.

Thus, just 90 extra calories per day – less than is found in a small-size apple (125 calories) – may increase her weight by 3.6 kg (8 lbs.) per year (10 g x 365). As she gets older, she may gain even more.

Inversely, to keep losing weight consistently and meaningfully, you’ll need to consume at least 200 less calories less than your average daily need, which means 1,400 to 1,800 calories for women and 1,800 to 2,400 for men with no health-related obstacles, such as thyroid or adrenal disorders, chronic anemia, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and numerous others. With this minimal reduction in calories you may start losing up to 20 grams of fat per day.

That is where “physical activity” comes handy – a daily treadmill walk at 3.5 miles per hour pace may help you expend between 150 and 200 calories in just 30 to 40 minutes.  Because of its steady tempo, the treadmill is about twice as effective as regular walking, so adjust your figures accordingly when walking outside.

Thus, between eating 200 calories less and expending another 200 calories simply by walking, you may lose up to 40 grams of fat per day, or a respectable 1.2 kg (2.6 lbs) per month. If you aren’t in any rush, you can eat a bit more, and still keep losing weight for as long as you continue your daily walking routine.

As you can see, as long as you follow the first rule of weight loss – a no-fail weight loss diet must contain less energy than you expend – sustained weight loss isn’t rocket science.

Zero calories is starvation, anything above zero is a diet

I distinctly recall an angry ruckus following my earlier post “How Long Will It Take to Lose the Weight?” Inside, I used a purely hypothetical 1,400 calorie diet to illustrate the calculation of weight loss duration. One reader commented immediately:

“I’m confused. Is this a joke? 1,400 calorie diet? Isn’t this a WAPF site? I thought nourishment was #1 concern… 1,400 calories is starvation…”

As you can see, even according to the arch-conservative Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), I wasn’t joking. Eating less is what it takes to lose weight, and it takes a lot of time to boot. Neither I nor the CNPP made up this rule, Mother Nature did.

Finally, I urge you not to confuse the WAPF dietary recommendations for healthy, active, and normal-weight people with a reduced calorie diet for people who are interested in weight loss. While the core principles are identical – traditional diet, real foods, healthy fats, and a moderate amount of unprocessed carbohydrates – the caloric intake isn’t. As the rule says, a no-fail weight loss diet must contain less energy than you expend.

Believing otherwise is definitely a joke.

 


* U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Chapter 2, p. 14. Washington, DC: U.S. Government. Printing Office, December 2010. [PDF link]

Next post >>

Previous posts from  the “Why Diets Fail” series:

1. The Real Reason Diets Fail and What You Can Do About It

2. How Long Will It Take Me to Lose the Weight?

3. Why One Calorie For Her Is Half a Calorie For Him

4. The Top Four Misconceptions Behind Weight Loss Failure

5. Energy Metabolism: The Good, The Bad, and In-Between

6. The 12 Rules of Safe and Effective Weight Loss

Please subscribe to FREE UPDATES at the top of the page, so you won’t miss the next post.

About the Author

konstantinKonstantin Monastyrsky graduated from medical university in 1977 with a degree in pharmacy. He is an expert in forensic nutrition, a new field of science that investigates the connection between supposedly healthy foods and nutrition-related disorders, such as diabetes and obesity.

In 1978 Konstantin’s family emigrated from the former Soviet Union to the United States, where he decided to pursue a career in the high-technology field, taught himself advanced programming languages, and his eventual work has had a major influence on the development of the modern user interface that has become ubiquitous with the introduction of iPhone- and iPad-like devices.

In 1996, Konstantin began to suffer from type 2 diabetes and a host of related ailments, including the debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome. Unable to use the keyboard, he turned his attention back to his roots in medicine and nutrition to find solutions for his rapidly deteriorating health.

Since then, he has written four books about health and nutrition, including the acclaimed Fiber Menace, and is a past speaker at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Wise Traditions Conference.  He is the principal writer of GutSens.org – the web’s leading resource for people affected by colorectal disorders, such as constipation, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancers.

For your health and safety, please read these important Weight Loss Common Sense Warnings and Disclaimers before commencing a reduced calorie diet.

Photography credits:

Cover illustration: © 2013 iStockPhoto LLP;

 

Comments (43)

  1. I am about 10 pounds heavier then I would like to be. (130 pounds, 5’4″ I’d like to be 115-120 pounds) I am an 18 year old moderately active female. I eat until I’m full. Not overly full, just pleasantly so. I eat a very nutritious traditional diet. The reason why I gained weight was from eating too much of the good food. I have tried reducing my food intake but I get weak when I eat less. ( I don’t count calories but I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone below 1200 calories a day) I know it’s my calories because when I eat I feel energetic right away again.
    How can I eat less and not feel weak? Thanks for your help!

    • S.,

      On the surface, you question is simple and straightforward, but, alas, there is no simple (or universal) answer(s). Please continue reading my posts until you’ll find one or more applicable explanations. Meanwhile, considering your age, hit the gym, try to sleep more, and decrease your food intake by 5-10% to keep (at the very least) your current weight stable.

      • Kat1,

        All fats in excess of body needs — healthy or not — will cause weight gain. Fats by themselves do not make you slim, or gain you energy. This is a long established body of science, anything else is a wishful thinking, particularly for people concerned with weight loss.

        I recall you mentioning in one of your posts that you are 71. People in your age group may not gain weight as fast or at all because of enzymatic deficiency and inadequate liver function. In general, past 65-70, most people start to lose weight. If this loss isn’t a precipitous, it is neither good nor bad, but natural…

        • Mahalo, dear Konstantin, but your first statement, is not what has been experienced by not only myself but my friends of all ages as well. Specific proven studies are mentioned both at website above as well as verbally on youtube video: “Enjoy eating saturated fats, they are good for you” Donald Miller, cardiac surgeon and in Gary Taubes books. I am in excellent health without deficiencies you mention; however, I continue to be challenged to maintain my ideal weight because I too like to eat, albeit healthy food as S described above. However, it seems that when I start indulging in even the so-called healthy carbs, such as grains or fruits, I immediately start to gain excess weight (even at my age). And, I have given up with ever putting myself through a low-cal diet again because I always felt weak dragging myself around; however, that is no longer a problem with me. That change happened a few years back when–within weeks of beginning to treat myself to the daily chocolate–which I make myself made of coconut oil, 100% pure cocoa, etc my energy improved greatly. All the benefits from our cooking with coconut oil, oil pulling, and daily doses that we have all experienced and shared are too numerous to mention. I believe this daily treat also enables me to now just stay in ketosis…

          Btw, I am a 76-year-old woman under 5 feet, so have three of your prior markers for added weight problems (as another blogger described it, hence “screwed.”) The actual reason why older people as you mention start to lose weight is because of various, and probably painful, health conditions and resultant loss of appetite along with memory problems, which fatty acids in coconut oil also been proven to be needed and beneficial. However, I am now in excellent health, free of pain or need for meds and without any of the deficiencies you described. And, I enjoy happily walking over five miles daily instead of driving to all my destinations. I am not getting older, but healthier, and I certainly do not agree with what you say is normal as one ages.

  2. Konstantin, thank you for these posts, I am really enjoying them! What a lot of information, I do have a bachelor of Nursing and science degree, and I find it a challenge to understand…..I read it slowly and then reread, and then interpret to my mother! Hahaha, Mind you having children has slowed my brain somewhat! Finally my question, I have read and seen some documentary’s on fasting and how it reduces disease risk factors, they have done some research on alternate day fasting or just reducing your calories/kj significantly and then eating a normal caloric day, what are your view on this?

    • Elisabeth,

      You are very welcome. I do realize that my writing is dense with information, and that it requires a certain effort to absorb it. Alas, that’s what one needs to do to acquire the habits of health, so they become automatic (reflexive). Giving out a simple menu or sharing my “pearls of wisdom” without explaining “why and why not” isn’t going to “stick” long term or accomplish you much on its own.

      In regard to intermittent fasting: it may be Ok for vegans, pretty bad for omnivores, and outright disastrous for carnivores because the stomach is conditioned to secret gastric acid and enzymes on the clock regardless of what’s on your plate. And you really don’t want to have all that acid there with “nothing to do,” but to irritate the stomach’s mucosal membrane and may cause gastritis or ulcers. And the older you get, the risk goes up because the mucosal membrane thins out as we age.

      My solution — why skip one day of eating each week (reduce total weekly food intake by 14%), when you can simply decrease your overall food intake throughout the same week by the same 14%?

  3. I agree 100 percent! There is no secret to lose weight, it simple math! And yes, it is possible to eat healthy on 1400 calories. I am only 5 feet tall so I have to keep my caloric intake between 1200-1400 calories. I just eat a lot of veggies, fruits and fish. All low calorie in comparison to what most people eat on a daily basis. I also allow myself a cheat meal once a week. It kickstarts your metabolism and keeps me from eating unhealthy the rest of the week.

  4. Yes, I agree you need a cheat day once a week. I did this a few years ago when I was trying to lose about 10 pounds. I would eat a reduce calorie diet throughout the week – about 1400 calories but one day a week I would eat whatever I liked and it really worked for me. I lost the weight in about 3 months which may seem slow to some but it really worked and stayed off. I also exercised as well so that likely helped. I really think a cheat day once in a while whether it be once a week or every 2 weeks can really help in sticking to a reduced calorie diet.

  5. Konstantin,

    Thanks for this series, I’m enjoying it very much. If you help me lose my 30 going on 40 extra pounds, I’ll be forever grateful to you.
    As a good WAF follower, I make almost everything from scratch, so do you have any recommendations on how I can calculate the calorie count in food that I prepare. Also, I am a big kombucha drinker (as a family of 4, we drink about 6 gallons/10 days). Recently, I started to wonder if my kombucha consumption might be too much. Most of the sugar is transform (and my kombucha is very vinegary tasting compare to the store) but, what about the by-product of the fermentation (alcohol). Let me know your thoughts on that. Thank you very much!

    • Marie,

      Thank you for reading. I hope this information will help you to attain your goals.

      In regard to kombucha: 6 gallons x 10 days x 4 = 24 liters, or 2.4 liters per day for your family of 4, about 600 ml for each person, about three glasses. If it is made from tea, it contains a good deal of caffeine. So that’s not a good idea for your sleep and weight. And if on top of these 3 glasses you are also consuming more fluids — that may lead to fluids overload. My preference for fluids is good quality artesian water, such as Fiji.

      • Thanks for you answer but I would suggest you to review Sarah’s videos on kombucha making. In kombucha the sugar and the caffeine is transformed by the fermentation process so the end product contain almost no caffeine and no sugar (1g/8oz.) and minimal amount of alcohol (2-3%). So, I guess I just answer my own question :) That 3 glass of kombucha/day is not so bad plus 3-4 glass of Berkey water. Kombucha has so many amazing benefits (from the Real Food Forager’s website):

        Kombucha Has Many Valuable Organic Acids

        There are also many important organic acids present in kombucha. Here are some of them.

        Lactic acid is essential for healthy digestion and is produced by the beneficial bacteria in the culture.
        Acetic acid is an antiseptic and inhibitor of pathogenic bacteria.
        Glucuronic acid is a powerful detoxifier. It helps neutralize the toxic effects of plastics, herbicides, pesticides and resins. When toxins enter the liver, they bind to glucuronic acid and get flushed out through the kidneys. Additionally, glucosamines are derived from glucuronic acid and are important to our joints and other collagen and cartilage dependent tissues as well as the fluids which lubricate the joints. These elements are also present in our skin and mucous membranes.
        Malic acid also helps in detoxification of the liver.
        Butyric acid (produced by the yeast) protects mucous membranes and is important in the large intestine.
        Gluconic acid is produced by the bacteria and strengthens the walls of the gut. This helps heal intestinal permeability caused by candida yeasts.
        Nucleic acids, like RNA and DNA, transmit information to the cells on how to perform correctly and regenerate.
        Amino acids produce important enzymes, such as those involved with glutathione, a powerful antioxidant which provides protection from alcohol, pollution and other toxins.

        I think I’ll keep on drinking and I hope you discover kombucha as well ;)

          • I agree too, caffeine is not good for your weight since it stimulate the liver into producing insulin exactly like sugar does. I do not take any caffeine and I am actually very sensitive to caffeine. But as I said before: “there is no caffeine in kombucha”.

        • Even though most of the sugar and caffeine is taken away in the fermentation process, kombucha is a high carb drink. One glass of plain kombucha, while having only 4 g of sugar, has 14 g of carbs! It is really healthy (and delicious!), but 50 extra carbs in beverages a day is a ton. I would try to cut back to one glass a day while trying to lose weight. I’m sure you will still have the health benefits of kombucha from drinking one glass a day, as opposed to three.

          • I am curious where you got the nutrition information on kombucha? On My Fitness Pal it has many different kinds of kombucha listed and they are all about 2g carbs per 7 oz. What brand has 14 grams? That would be very sweet tasting, and I can assure you that my homemade kombucha isn’t.

  6. Great point Marie, I make my own Keffir and was wondering if it too was adding extra calories to my diet.
    Thank you for your thoughts

    • Andree,

      I don’t think you should be concerned about your kefir consumption. Today, I’ve decided to count all my calories intake (something I’ve never done before). With the help of a calorie counting website, I was able to find the calorie value for all the ingredients in my recipes. Even though, it might not be perfect it gave me a good idea of how many calories I ate today. If I keep doing it for a few days or weeks, I think I will be able to gauge my meals by eye eventually.

  7. Tonya Scarborough via Facebook April 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    I really appreciate how the articles are going in depth. I’m enjoying this series.

  8. Could you please comment on my son. He gets the EXACT same portion size as his younger brother and they both usually clean their plate. They get the same amount of exercise. My older son is overweight and my younger son is super thin (just like his dad). How does calories in, calories out work there?

    • Lindsay,

      The genetic diversity between siblings may be quite dramatic. Also, many factors during pregnancy, nursing, and initial development ay impact future weight. Temperament plays a substantial role in weight loss/gain in kids because the brain is the most prolific consumer of glucose. Your older may also have borderline thyroid deficiency or anemia — both condition may contribute to weight gain. There may be some other issues that are best to screen with a pediatric weight loss expert.

  9. Susan Waite Blanchfield via Facebook April 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I agree with Dr. Atkins. His books were as much about health as they were weight loss. And you lose fat, not muscle like on a low cal. diet.

    • Susan, ditto! That is why Dr. Atkins sold over 40 millions books! And, the reason why diabesity is so prevalent now is actually because of the low-fat/statin scams and demonizing such healthy fats such as coconut oil.

      • NOTE RELATING TO THE ABOVE SCAMS: “The evidence initially cited in support of the hypothesis came from Russian Pathologist Nikolaj Anitschkow (1885-1964) established the cholesterol-fed rabbit almost exclusively from animal research–especially in rabbits” (Gary Taubes of “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” UK version “The Diet Delusion,” and airplane-version “Why We Get Fat.” Also, “The condition produced in the animal was referred to, often contemptuously, as the cholesterol disease of rabbits” Harvard Clinician Timothy Leary in 1935.

  10. Once again I am commenting just so I can read all the followup comments via e-mail. This is a fascinating topic!

  11. I cut back on food and started exercising…viola! Lost 50 pounds.

    My wife had a hysterectomy, started taking some prescription hormones…viola! Gained 50 pounds while exercising and dieting.

    How cool is that!

  12. Konstantin: I agree with you, and the studies that show, that weight loss only happens if calories in < energy expended. However addressing the issue of weight loss only from that perspective fails to address the issue of hunger and self-control. Satiety is the feeling of fullness; it is influenced by more than simply the fullness of the stomach or eating the right number of calories needed. Nutrient density and blood sugar levels can have as much or more of an influence on satiety as calories or fullness. Diets that say "eat as much as you want" are looking at it from the perspective that if you eat their recommended diet (for example low carb or nutrient-dense), you won't crave more food, and by inference you'll be eating fewer calories. The challenge in weight loss for people attempting to reduce calories is controlling the appetite and curbing the impulses. Sure, it's easy to say "eat 250 fewer calories a day", it's much harder to do, and these alternative diets can work.

    On the question of fasting, there is an interesting diet called Fast-5 http://www.fast-5.com/ (no affiliation), where you fast for 19 hours of the day, and eat during a five-hour period. This gives your body a chance to recover, and you become accustomed to eating during the same five-hour period every day. It is very effective for weight loss. Again, it says "eat as much as you want," but I've found, I don't want to eat as much during that five-hour period as I would during the day. There's an adjustment period to lead up to not eating before 5pm, but it can be done.

    Here in North America, we've become obsessed with having snacks, eating regularly thorughout the day, making sure our blood sugar level never dips too low. Having a little discipline to wait until the next meal takes a lot of fortitude, but it can be done.

    There are no easy answers, but it's a matter of finding an approach that works for you. Eating fewer calories looks easy on paper, much harder in real life.

    • Theresa,

      When it comes to actual weight loss reduction diet, my recommendations are pretty similar — two meals per day with about 5-6 hours interval. That said, these recommendations may not apply to all people because of their occupation, health, medication, and some other factors. I’ll discuss all this in later posts, including satiety, appetite, and hunger management. It will all come.

  13. Thanks, Konstantin, I too am enjoying your series on this great blog, and I appreciate your frankness and depth of knowledge. As one of the commentators posted earlier, dieting is often easier said than done. It may be a simple math equation, but each of our individual body chemistry profiles are anything but simple. This makes finding the right food choices that help to balance ones’ body, while losing weight, difficult (to say the least) if we are battling emotional issues, blood sugar issues, satiation issues… the list can go on. And I think you have mentioned this yourself when it comes to factoring your daily caloric need.

    For me, I am on a mission to regain my health after a very emotional childhood. A lot has been accomplished, I am proud to say. But, I am still in the process of regaining a healthy weight as I battle fatigue, light headedness, some depression and what not. Really, all the regular stuff expected from emotional trauma.

    Thanks to this blog and other great resources on the net, I have been learning more and more about the CHEMISTRY of key nutrient-dense foods and the changes I have made have helped. Do you have recommendations on specific foods to help people going through situations like this? My body often seems happiest when I over eat. My energy and thinking is clear, but I put on weight. If I under eat, I lose, but then suffer energy swings, require much more rest and often don’t have the energy to workout. Either way, I seem to not be able to win. At this point in time, my strategy is to eat until my body is happy and to be strict with working out 5-6 days a week. This is where my body seems to be happiest to meet my daily energy needs and to meet my weight loss goals simultaneously, though, it is a challenge. At this point in time, I need to lose 15 lbs and am 5’8″.

    Another key point for me has been to avoid the VERY, VERY TOXIC FOOD of our generation with GMO’s and MSG… But avoiding these foods does take a lot of effort, as they seem to be lurking in EVERY corner. As a result, I am trying to make all of my own food. Anyway, for me, my conclusion is, is that my individual chemistry is still off. Any ideas of foods that may help facilitate weight loss?
    Teah\’s last post: Life, What Art Thou?

    • Teah,

      Thank you for your comments. As I noted in prior replies, weight gain/loss is intimately connected to the body’s thermogenesis (the rate of metabolism). In turn, thermogenesis is connected to genetics, environment, age, gender, occupation, climate, health, and nutritional status. There are no “secret” wholesome foods that can increase thermogenesis on their own the way caffeine or tobacco can. To attain this goal, you need a strategy, and it will become clear by the time I’ll complete this book.

  14. Andrea Barr via Facebook April 28, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Guess what? If I eat less or do cardio, my body temp plummets and I GAIN weight. It’s all about metabolism and has very little to do with calorie consumption.

  15. I will agree in so far as the amount of calories plays a roll. However, it is not the only thing that needs to be considered. And to leave it at that (not that you necessarily are, you may be going to get to metabolism and energy production in a later post) can be very discouraging for people who watch their calories, eat fewer and fewer, and don’t lose weight.

    I was sick for over a year as I tried to save my gall bladder. I could not combine foods or eat much at a time or I’d have an attack – this included vomiting up the food. I lost 3 pounds early on, and then nothing, even though this continued for over a year. My calories for most of that time were extremely low.

    Over a year later my gall bladder was removed, and I could eat again. As advised, I started off with 3 small meals. After the first day, I was up one pound. And the next, and the next. I put on a pound a day for the first 21 days, and I was not eating that much food. I can not stress that enough. I was scared. And rightly so. I put on 90 pounds.

    I have since read everything I can find on fat storage, energy production, and how sugar affects our mitochondria. The question that I haven’t seen answered is: Once we are in fat storage mode (a part of which is the resulting loss of energy production in the cells), HOW do we get back to an energy production mode?

    • Rhea, the problems you are described are related to acute undernutrition (prior term — malnutrition). It leads to profound reduction in energy and structural metabolism on one end, fluid retention on the other. How do you get back to “energy production mode?” By eliminating undernutrition. This is a pretty involved subject that I will be addressing in future posts.

  16. how do i know how much calories organ meats have like liver? how do we know how much calories anything has?

  17. Konstantin,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put all this information in writing for us to digest (haha, pun not intended).

    I am enjoying the content and I find your writing style easy to follow.

    I was wondering if you are going to address the implications of including caffeine in one’s diet? I know you have alluded to it, but it would be great if you could go into a bit more detail.

    Thanks again!

  18. I have never eaten more calories in my life, often 3000 a day and continue to lose weight and put on muscle. How? The right foods, mainly fruit and veggies. LOTS of them. OUR BODIES ARE NOT FREAKIN CALCULATORS!!!!! It is NOT about counting, and numbers. So if I eat 2000cals a day of fruit and 2000 of KFC I will put on the same amount of weight? NO.

  19. Hmm, agree and disagree. The math and calories is right…but I have done this. ANd have not lost weight due to ‘things’ being haywire in my body, so that being said that if this basic idea doesn’t work for someone or it is taxing their energy, body and mind…get help :) in a good way. See a holistic Dr too test your reactions to foods, hormone levels, toxin counts and take a look at stress levels, sleep and any area of malnutrition. I used to work out 2-4 hrs a day and eat lean meats and veggies (before WAPF y’all!) I would gain weight and thought I was crazy or even maybe sleep-eating, hahaha. My thyroid was not in order, effecting my adrenals and digestion, etc… So we learn a lot through Sarah and know we need all those nourishing foods to keep our bodies healthily, if everything is in perfect order then yes this will work. If you do all this and your still healing your body this will not work and you will be endlessly frustrated. Personal experience and opinion, and adrenal fatigue s no fun! Sugar and grains is very important for fat-weight loss, even fruit. There is a lot of science to why certain food metabolize differently even with the same calorie content. Fungal, yeasts and bacterias in each persons gut has a lot to do with it too. I wish it was just as easy as eating less and being more active, if that were true I think more people would be 100-150 pounds.

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