Friday, 28 August 2009

Less calories in = less calories out!

When constantly caught up in torrents of emotion like shame and regret it's easy to lose sight of even the most obvious things. I was thinking to myself the other day, what exactly does calories in, calories out mean?


The number of calories you take in must match the amount you expend.

Now I realise a I was just hearing, 'you're not doing that'. I wasn't able to follow it as a line of rationale, rather hearing it was another opportunity to engage with my sense of shame.

As that noise has quietened, I've felt a bit perplexed. I suddenly find myself asking, what's the logic of this or that "advice"?

I see now that if you reduce calories in you reduce calories out, as a consequence. And vice versa; if you increase calories in, you increase calories expended. I sensed there was something incomplete for a but I just couldn't identify what it was.

Gary Taubes explained that cals in/out as it stands behaves as if those two factors are independent of one another. When in fact they adjust to each other or are dependent variables. As someone who actually has some grasp of physics, he's managed to elucidate this self defeating balance.

What you experience with weight loss dieting is in a sense, inefficiency, perhaps that's true with weight gain too. When you reduce the amount you eat, and/or increase the amount you expend through activity, your body responds by slowing down the rate at which it uses energy, presumably so we don't run out.

Though it had been assumed it would dig into abundant fat stores instead. It seems reluctant.

The amount of weight you lose, if you do at all, is it's inefficiency at preserving energy, that increases depending on how much you've lowered your intake. Ditto the other way around. If you increase the amount you eat, your body increases the rate at which it uses energy to compensate, the amount of weight you put on is it's inefficiency at increasing that spend.

Especially when we are not talking about starvation, but semi-starvation and that's probably been underestimated, as long as there is some constant energy going in, there is enough to give the body a fighting chance to thwart weight loss or gain efforts. Depending on the tendency of your body to gain or lose in the first place.

That knotty assumption of why weight gain seem easier than weight loss seems even more doubtful. The asymmetry seems disingenuous, born of our incredible emphasis on inducing reluctant loss. Every force has one that counters it, I don't know if there are any exceptions, but that's pretty universal.

It seems the body is extremely efficient, probably at both gain and loss. If you take people trying to gain weight, it seems to require a lot of effort, compared to those who gain it spontaneously. The same with dieters, their weight loss is not the same as the down part of the everyday cycle of gain and loss, or spontaneous loss (which does happen).

Or like the naturally slender who are expending energy to remain that size. Unless and until something underlying changes....

Because weight loss has become so acutely desired and dieting generates this hate fuelled culture, there's so much riding on it in general as well as personal terms.

A lot of "gainers" seem to be either ex-dieters or people who are spontaneously fat, they flip flop between the two, as if a period of one leads to a period of the other for them. They don't seem to protest that much about having to lose weight after a period of gain, they seem to be quite prepared for it.

Some just seem to find changing themselves thrilling, like they are changing themselves and in  control.

Dieting down, does seem harder on your body, but it depends, forcing yourself to eat more would be quite unpleasant too. But because few seem to, the comparison isn't common. 

Going through these assumptions and pieces of received wisdom can be very hard. It goes to show again that fat hatred and all the emotiveness bound up in dieting and weight loss, stops thought, as a side effect.

Imagine how much we could have known by now if we hadn't bothered.

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