In the end, Only Calories Count: Wrong

I’ve been seeing this headline a lot lately:

Diets That Reduce Calories Lead to Weight Loss, Regardless of Carbohydrate, Protein or Fat Content

Well yes that’s true. But quite frankly, it misses the point.

A person who is overweight does not have a weight problem. She has a weight symptom. Her problem is hunger.

There is no point trying to manage weight if you do not manage hunger. There is only so long you can fight your body’s desire to reach and maintain its target weight. And by target I don’t mean the one you have for yourself that makes you look good in a bathing suit. It’s the one your body feels is necessary given your diet composition, your level of activity and your genetic propensity for fat and sugar regulation.

Most people don’t know why they are overweight.

They think they know why but they don’t.

The standard answer from patient and doctor alike is “over-eating” which tells you absolutely nothing. I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as over-eating short of the kind that leaves you feeling unwell because you’ve surpassed the volume comfortable for your stomach.

Over-eating, in the most common sense, refers to any food consumption that precedes weight gain. It’s a tautology. All things being equal, if two people follow the exact same diet and one gains weight, he is said to have “over-eaten” while the other “ate in moderation.” It’s like saying the tree was green because it was green.

The goal of any weight-loss diet should not simply be to create a caloric deficit, but to adopt sustainable lifelong eating habits which make it easy to reach and maintain an ideal weight. That is not to suggest it will ever be easy to drop detrimental eating habits which have been acquired over a lifetime and are probably central to one’s eating culture. But the changes must be sustainable physiologically.

Skinny people may admonish fat ones for failing to show self control, but the fact is that a modern diet makes some people constantly hungry. Fighting that kind of psychological torture day-in day-out is not possible. Gross caloric deficits can be sustained for short periods of time but falling off the wagon is inevitable unless hunger is addressed.

So it is true that the macro-nutrient composition of a diet is irrelevant if you are simply trying to achieve a caloric deficit.

However it is completely relevant if you are trying to control hunger in order to achieve a sustained depletion of fat stores.


Maybe you got that backwards

Everyday Movement Keeps You Slim
Scientists studied the daily acitivity levels of both obese and normal weight people and found that those who were obese… wait for it… moved around less! Yes it’s true.

Those who were obese moved 2½ hours less than lean people – which equates to about 350 fewer calories a day. Ambulation movement seemed to be the difference maker – not so much pre-planned power walking, but just constantly taking opportunities to move.

Or maybe: Obesity results in a propensity to conserve energy.


Low Levels Of Physical Activity And High Levels Of Obesity Found In Cancer Survivors
Finding: Despite getting cancer, many obese people don’t do anything to reduce their weight.

A new study reveals that many cancer survivors are inactive and obese, which may negatively affect the control of their disease. The findings, which come from a study of cancer survivors in Canada, show that a cancer diagnosis does not appear to prompt significant behavior change and that interventions to increase physical activity and promote better eating habits among cancer survivors are warranted.

Or maybe: Going through treatment does not mean that the factors which lead to obesity have changed – in fact they may have been exacerbated.

Just Maybe

Bariatric Surgery has Nothing on this Hack

If you thought stomach stapling was too extreme for the treatment of obesity, then this will really yank your chain.

Doctors in Toronto have experimented on a morbidly obese man by implanting electrodes into his brain to stimulate appetite suppression. One has to assume that you are quite desperate to hack your brain for results.

The interesting outcome, however, was that the doctors discovered that the electrical current to the hypothalamus resulted in “turning up the brain volume” such that memory and ability to learn was greatly enhanced. There was no mention of whether the patient’s appetite was affected. Research clearly took a happy turn and they didn’t look back.

New brain anyone?


Obesity ‘may be largely genetic’

Via the Beeb:

Their American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.

It strikes me that a more accurate interpretation is that 77% of obesity can be explained by genetic incompatibility with a modern western diet. Genetics dictates the potential for obesity. Everything else is environmental. Send those people off to the savanna with a sharp stick then get back to me.

It’s not a genetic disease like Tay-Sachs, where the mere presence of the genes equals the disease.
Comment by Mark in What to Eat

If this were not the case, the growing epidemic of obesity would imply that obese people are reproducing more, and are hence “genetically fitter,” than those of normal weight. That may be so but seems unlikely. It also means they are poping out babies like crazy over the past 20 years.

Well if it is true, I would like to report that over the Chinese New Year, I’ve mutated slightly and, due to my genetic make-up, I am larger by 1 pound

What is Overweight?

Have you ever wondered where the BMI guidelines come from? Could they be completely arbitrary just like all the most of the other health advice we’ve been dished out? A new study published in JAMA provides some clues:

A new US study suggests that while the link between weight and causes of death varies considerably, being modestly overweight may actually lower death risk in a number of circumstances by providing the body with essential nutritional reserves during recovery from illness and major operations.

What is interesting here is not only that it shows a BMI of 18-25 may not be a healthy objective, but it calls into question what “overweight” really means. Isn’t the weight that confers the longest longevity the “ideal weight” and that weights under and over that ideal are in fact “underweight” and “overweight”?

Or have we confused sexy with ideal?

Although it is assumed that we are naturally attracted to whatever/whoever is healthiest, this is not necessarily the case. Creatures often find characteristics sexy which confer little health benefit. A peacock’s tail is no doubt a hit with the peahens but it is also a bit of a drag if he needs to make a run for it.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that humans have preferred for a number of traits which, through the generations, have made us into very odd looking apes – naked, big breasts, long head hair… None of which seem to do much in the fitness department other than to signal sexual fitness. So have these preferences hijacked scientific thinking about what is ideal for health?

Obesity ‘epidemic’ turns global


People are getting fatter in all parts of the world, with the possible exception of south and east Asia, a one-day global snapshot shows.

Hmmm… so it’s not just Americans that are fattening up. Well here’s my theory.. Obesity really started to take off about 20 years ago which is right around the time that world UFO sightings dropped dramatically. What if the greys had finished their field research and just started to zap us with their devised “get fat” formula in preparation for the harvest?! You have to admit that the people reporting “alien abduction” did happen to be a bit chunkier than the average citizen.

You heard it here first!

Your Fat Cells May Be Sick

The Journal of Lipid Research, reports on research which indicates that in obese individuals, fat cells are bloated and inflamed because they receive too many nutrients, including lipids. In these cells, various components cannot work properly anymore and, instead, they activate new proteins to cope with the situation.

Researchers show that when a fat cell receives too many nutrients, the ER is overwhelmed and triggers a process called the unfolded protein response (UPR). This process is one of many cellular responses that activate proteins that increase inflammation and can even result in the death of the cell. UPR also causes insulin resistance, a condition in which the production and function of insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas – is impaired and blood sugar is too high.

In English: too many calories heading to your fat cells leads to inflammation and insulin resistance.