Welcome all seeking refuge from low carb dogma!

“To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact”
~ Charles Darwin (it's evolutionary baybeee!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Another 1500 Calorie Lesson in Reality

The apparent ineffectiveness of "conventional diets" for weight loss was somewhat lost in the excitement of the recent intermittent LC study.  Well, maybe not lost entirely ... there's always lots of "see, counting calories is useless" to go around.  But it struck me, yet again, that part of the problem with such traditional weight loss diets is that they are simply too high in calories to produce significant losses.  

Harvie's group has done a number of studies (I hope to discuss some when I get time and if I can get the full text of some) in pre-to-post menopausal age women with a focus on breast cancer risk.  Her group's "standard diet" seems to be a 1500 cal/day diet.  In the study presented at the San Antonio conference, the control group followed a 1500 cal/day Mediterranean style diet, and lost a piddly 4 pounds over 4 months.  See?  They don't work!!  Perhaps the reason why they don't work, however, is because that is simply not a weight loss level of calories for most women.  Now, this is a tough pill for many of us to swallow, but swallow it we must or we'll tear our hair out wondering over our metabolic derangements and hormonal dysfunction (or is that metabolic dysfunction and hormonal derangements ... or does it matter? ...).

I did the math previously, but comparing the results for the 1500 cal/day group to that of the 2-day-per-week 650 cal/day group, the numbers work out surprisingly consistent for the 4 month timeframe.  Obviously the assumptions of all losses being fat, and 3500 cal/pound fat are generalizations, but:
Standard Diet:  
4lbs * 3500 cal/lb)÷(4 mo * 30.5 d/mo) ≈ 115 cal/day deficit. 
This means that in energy balance, these women eat 1615 cal/day.  

Restricted 2 days @ 650 cal/day = 965 cal deficit:
2 d/wk * 17 wk * 965 cal/d ÷ 3500 cal/lb = 9.37 lbs
Which just so happens to be about what the intermittent restricted group lost.  Now realize, these women are likely overweight/obese (that wasn't stated for this study, but Harvie's other work has been with overweight/obese women, weight loss and reduction of breast cancer risk).  So even with some variation in intake and such, you have these women essentially weight stable (hopefully!) at a higher-than-desirable weight eating not all that much.   Interestingly enough, however, they appear to be eating about that proverbial 100 cal/day extra.  Had they continued to eat at the 1500 cal/day level, they would likely have lost 12 pounds in a year.  Nothing earth shattering, but many DO get overweight gaining 10 lbs or so in a year.  That the restricted group lost as much as it did, pretty much confirms that these women really weren't "overeating" that much to begin with.

If you want rapid weight loss through traditional calorie counting you need to cut calories drastically.  This intermittent dieting strategy looks promising so long as one doesn't compensate on other days.  Even 1500 cal/day allows for a lot of food, even bad foods, depending on the strategy of types of foods, number of meals, etc.  

I keep going back to the graphic from this post (unfortunately unable to find original source) showing that the average American woman in the 70's was eating around 1500 cal/day.  Whether that's ultimately an accurate value, it does seem to mesh with anecdotal reports and studies such as this one.

In any case, the much maligned Calories In - Calories Out paradigm offers us much actionable information after all.   This intermittent approach offers something a little different.  Not tremendous losses, but more than plodding along on a "moderate" weight loss diet.  I would also think they are less likely to rebound than had they lost the same weight doing 650 cal/day for a few weeks.  Another lesson is that, contrary to what we're often told, 650 cal/day every now and then is not some dangerous or unhealthy practice.  

Perhaps one of the things we women who are overweight need to accept, is that it's not so much slow and steady wins the race, but that it's going to be rather slow.  I also do believe that the apparently more rapid losses with LC are fluid balances, which does not negate their value, but explains the plateauing out once those have reached their limits.  Lastly, caloric restriction (intentional or not) only gets you so far so fast.  This argues heavily towards SOME exercise as part of any weight loss plan unless there's some compelling reason not to (disability, injury, etc.).


Swede said...

Can one eat to satisfaction at 1500 kcals per day?

From a male's perspective, that seems like such a low number to eat at day after day. You have to be really careful with fats (added and natural) to keep calories at that level in order to eat a decent volume of food.

Anonymous said...

Just my perspective: I've been counting calories for the last few weeks, and 1500 is very satisfying - but not producing weight loss (though it might well over four months). Under 1400 seems to be my sweet spot. I don't want to go too low and have a metabolism issue.

1500 is not deprivation, Swede, for this one (female) calorie counter. (Low for a man, though, I'm sure.) A little less is not painful. It's true, on my higher fat days, I don't have the satisfaction of lots of food action, but I'm full enough that it's an OK trade off. Low fat works better for days that are more social, when everyone else is eating and I'd like to also.

Here's my trick, for what it's worth: When I reach my upper limit, I brush my teeth and close up shop. No matter what time it is. This teaches me to be careful!

Anonymous said...

'that seems like such a low number to eat at day after day'

Unless they were in a controlled environment, such as a metabolic ward, I don't think these women ate 1500 calories every day.

Not only is it difficult to hit the mark of 1500 calories, it's the 'day after day' part that is a killer.

Tonus said...

@Swede: "Can one eat to satisfaction at 1500 kcals per day?"

I think that daily energy requirements are one of the biggest factors that get overlooked in formulating a diet or eating plan. And I think it is where a lot of people get stuck, because it's a factor that they may be mentally programmed to ignore.

When I started using Fitday, the site informed me (based on a very simple questionnaire) that my daily energy expenditure amounted to around 3,100 calories. My trial-and-error experimenting pegged the actual number at around 2,350-2,500.

That's a pretty big gap, and if I'd simply assumed that the number given was correct, I'd have immediately wondered what was going on. A typical day at the time saw me eating from 2,300 to 2,700 calories in any given day; I'd have to make a conscious effort to eat 3,100 calories daily, yet I was around 50 lbs overweight!

1,500 may not be enough for one person, and it may be enough for another. Yet, how many diet gurus ever bother to cover daily energy output, aside from dismissing it with "eat lots of fat and your body will regulate itself!"?

Galina L. said...

Just random thought - may be 2000 cal (or less)every other day and 1000 cal every other day could be a more easy to continue combination for most people who count calories? It is more comfortable to practice some deprivation after some relaxation. Just yesterday I eat 2 pieces of cheesecake(and some normal food) during dinner because we were celebrating my 51 birthday. Cheesecake was baked by my son (he just recently started to learn how to cook after spending first year in college on a cafeteria food), and I supervised how that thing was sweetened. I decided to follow-up today with 22 hours fast and hiking. Abstaining of food feels very natural after indulgence.

Beth@WeightMaven said...

@Swede: "Can one eat to satisfaction at 1500 kcals per day?"

I've been closer to the 1200-1300 ballpark each day and my satiety has never been better. What has worked for me is most days to have a small protein breakfast (e.g., 120 cals of turkey) and then divide the remaining cals up between lunch and dinner.

500-600 cals buys a lot of satiety (and nutrients) if you include some protein, some healthy fat, a bit of starch and a good amount of veggies for bulk.

For special occasions I save up the cals for a bit of a splurge. So for Thanksgiving, I skipped breakfast (aka intermittent fast), had about 200 cals worth of protein and fat for lunch, and then indulged (tho didn't binge) for dinner.

Worked well for me ... over the three week period that included Thanksgiving, I lost over 6 lbs.

Galina L. said...

I wouldn't count much on energy output, especially for very fit people, more so if such people are middle-aged ladies . I experimented with periods of higher than normal physical activity (like recently 4 day in a row 2 hours of incentive cardio)from time to time. I specifically eat the same amount of food as before and tried to make sure I moved the rest of the day as mach as it is normal for me. My weight didn't change, clothes fit the same, I just got more hungry. I understand, 4 day is not much, it was done mostly for fan because my husband took vacation days. Nowadays I try not overdo exercises due to some injuries in the past.

Kindke said...

People eat to hunger, not to calorie amounts.

What controls hunger? Hormones. Not calories.

Just ask a Roux-en-Y patient how hungry they feel eating 300 calories per day.

Im not gonna pretend I have all or even any of the answers, but severe calorie restriction produces an enlargement of the orexigenic part of the hypothalamus. Thats NOT good if your trying to get lean.

If you lose weight on a 800 calorie diet that youve been doing for a month, its been shown time and time again, after you finish the diet, you cannot just go back to eating your normal 2000 calorie maintaince weight and feel satisfied. Your appetite WILL be increased.

How long can you resist hunger? The answer is not 'indefinitely'.

bentleyj74 said...

1500 is a crude average.

Yesterday was a fast day for me, I broke my fast pre-gym with a banana and had a salted and buttered sweet potato after. I was full and sated all through the night and early morning. I have to look at my crude calorie counts over the course of say...a week... to get an estimate that is within shouting distance of accurate. I think it's fair to observe that we perceive our food "needs" to be higher than they actually are.

Stephanie said...

My first time commenting, although I've been reading and enjoying for a while.

This post really spoke to me. I'm 56, 5'5", very small boned,and around 102 lbs. I'm fairly active. I've been trying to resist the truth for a while, but the reality is I only need 800 calories a day to maintain my weight. Some people might think i am too thin, but because I have such a small frame I really am not.

I eat lots of protein and quite a lot of fat. It's no doubt different for men and women of a bigger build, but 1500 calories for a lot of women is just too much for weight loss.

I guess my body just doesn't need very many calories any more.

Thomas said...

@Stephanie-that doesn't sound right at all. I think you are off by 400+ calories. Either way, exercise is a good way to bump it up a few hundred calories.

Tonus said...

@GalinaL: by energy expenditure/output, I mean the number of calories we burn in a typical day. Even if you sit around all day and do minimal exercise, you will burn calories for energy.

P2ZR said...

@Thomas, @Stephanie - I'd venture yes and no. Right before college, I was, like Stephanie, about 165cm, 48kg. I definitely ate more than 800kcal/day. I'm also very small-boned, but I grant that I was 18, not 56. However, during the starvation days, I could easily maintain if not even gain on 800kcal/day. I'm sure it wasn't a result of just the loss of lean mass, but also a strong metabolic response--your body can't let you maintain expensively if you're hardly giving it anything. But Stephanie--my mother is your age, quite a bit shorter, and definitely eats more than 800kcal. What is 'a lot of protein and fat'? 100g P + 50g F = 850kcal, and that's even before any carbs.

@Galina - I can't believe you had to 'supervise' the sweetening of your celebratory cheesecake! It's an indulgence; a birthday deserves a sufficiently-sweet cake!

Now that I think about it, even though I can't IF well, I do intermittent CR. My low-reward diet puts me at maybe 1300kcal tops most days, but days with lots of yummy food might put me above 2000....

@Tonus - "how many diet gurus ever bother to cover daily energy output, aside from dismissing it with "eat lots of fat and your body will regulate itself!"?" LOL. So true. How many permutations of 'eat fat, lose fat' litter bookshelves and the blogosphere these days?!

Thomas said...

Imagine a life eating food that is relatively bland, lacks variety and is not always in huge supply. Talk about hunger control! That, I believe, is the common human experience with food throughout most of history up until recently. Add to that a relatively higher energy expenditure.

This is what people have to come to terms with-a metabolism that was not designed for boat loads of eating happiness while being seated most of the day.

@Sarah-a metabolic lock down, of sorts, if you go too low for too long?

Galina L. said...

We are all in my family not eating much sugar from before diet-paleo-LC or whatever a healthy reason surfaced. For example, me and husband drink our tea unsweetened, my son uses one tsp of sugar for his cup of tea, so we normally alter our baking recipes. What I actually did - I asked half of the amount of sugar to be a sugar substitute, which is against what other family members normally do, but it was my birthday. So, the cake consisted of 2 packs of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of heavy cream, 1 cup of sour-cream, 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, some amount of ginger cookies for the bottom, 1/4 cup of sugar, equivalent of 1/4 cup of sugar in the form of a sugar substitute.Reach anough to be consider an indulgence. The original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, but everybody found the level of sweetness to be the right one. It was the second time my son baked something in his life. When he baked the cheese-cake first time for his girlfriend, he was so exited, he called home at 3 a.m.,because he didn't realized it was so late. For the first cake he used 3/4 cup of sugar, because he was afraid to cut too much, also, his girlfriend is used to more sugar.

CarbSane said...

Welcome Stephanie! Thanks for reading and deciding to jump in here :) I imagine that perhaps you are eating a bit too little for your body and your metabolism is in "conserve" mode -- metabolic lock down as Thomas said. It does seem awfully low, even if the amounts most of us think we need or think we should be able to eat are too high. Some resistance exercise to build some real muscle might help give you a little more wiggle room.

@euler: You're probably right, and they probably ate a tad more than the 1500, but that's really not a horribly low amount to adhere to for four months -- especially when you're being "watched" as part of a study. I'm curious to see the accounting for actual intakes.

@Steph & Beth: Thanks for weighing in with your experiences. I think a lot of guys have a hard time fathoming that amount being pretty much realistic for many women.

@Swede: I think 1500 cal is more than plenty to feel satiated provided it's of the right foods. Also, playing with timing helps. If one is a snacker, then you're talking tiny snacks and 400 cal/meal which can be not a whole lot. And yet, if you look at the enticing pic Andreas put up along with this study,, that's only about 300 cal depending on how it's cooked. 1500 cals is 10 eggs cooked in 2T butter, two large potatoes and a ton of veggies. Yes ... added fats are what really need to go or be used more sparingly on such diets.

@Kindke: Well of course nutrients not calories satiate, but I suppose one can reword Swede's question to can you get enough satiating nutrients in 1500 cal/day. The answer is yes. I think for women, most diets are fewer calories and they stick to protein as a percent = not enough protein. Personally I believe fat is not as physiologically satiating as it is psychologically, but others' mileage may vary.

Oh ... Stephanie ... have you ever considered getting your BMR measured? I'd love to have mine done. I certainly think anyone trying to lose weight who is not should consider at least that.

CarbSane said...

@Beth: Sounds like you're navigating the holiday season well. Congrats!

Harry said...

@ Evelyn

Great post. You raise three points that come up time and time again with my clients:

1) In order to get lean, people need to consume WAY less calories than they intuitively think, and they need to keep doing this forever. As you say, this can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is THE number one cognitive take-away from all my experience in this area.

2) Women (and especially small women) are relatively disadvantaged (compared to men, and especially large men); they simply have to consume much less energy than their male counterparts to provoke and maintain weight loss. As you also point out, the rate of weight loss will also be relatively slow, as small women cannot afford to eat well below maintenance calorie levels; to do so would mean eating a tiny amount of calories (in absolute terms). For example, a large man with maintenance calories at 3000/day can easily lop off 1000c/day (7000c weekly deficit; approx 2 lbs weight loss) and still be eating a good amount of food; a small women with maintenance at 1500 cannot do the same without starvation. Another bitter pill!

3) For the reasons above, exercise is a profoundly powerful tool for women (and especially small women). It allows some 'wiggle room' in the diet, so that significant energy deficits can be achieved without restricting food intake to unsustainable levels. The key is to establish a routine that is fun; as with diet, you are going to have to do it forever!

@ Swede

Yes, 1500c/day can be satisfying, provided that some conditions are met (i.e. high fibre/high water content/low fat = reduced reward; or alternatively low carb/high protein = high satiety and low reward). To be sure, 1500c/day on the SAD would not be satisfying for many people in the long-term (notwithstanding the Twinkie Diet experiment!).

@ Kindke

Unfortunately, ANY kind of dieting that results in weight loss will be orexigenic (mainly due to fat mass loss and its effects on leptin). Deliberate calorie restriction fares no better or worse than say, low carb or low fat regimes on that score.

Also, people do not eat solely in response to hunger. Indeed, IME, hunger (the homeostatic kind) is quite a ways down the list of why overweight/obese people eat. Higher up the list are issues like (a) habit (e.g. "it's midday - time for lunch...even though I'm still stuffed from that morning tea get-together at work"); (b) hedonic hunger (e.g. "I'm not really hungry, but geez that pizza smells good"); (c) social cues (e.g. "I'm not really hungry, but the girls are going for a frappe and cake...I'll have to have something too").

I note that in addition to smell, hedonic hunger can be provoked by visual cues, advertising, mental imagery (remembering/fantasising), food availability (e.g. "I remember those left-over cookies are still in the pantry") etc.


CarbSane said...

Happy Birthday Galina! That's so cool your son baked for you :)

The intermittent approaches can be good, but perhaps not so good ... I think it's a mindset. Sarah and I come from ED backgrounds. I was very hesitant to try IF a couple of years ago, because fasting was how I maintained my weight back after my first diet. For a while I didn't eat on Sundays, but then I found myself eating more on Sat b/c I wasn't going to have food on Sun, then Monday was ripe for binging. Then one day fasts turned into two, and longer. So one would have to be careful not to compensate. I wonder what, if any, accounting for the other 5 days there were in this study.

OTOH, if you can swing the intermittent, it may also be better for the body not to settle into too much of a routine. Steady large caloric deficits = dialed down metabolic rate. I wonder how much the body learns after a while ...

P2ZR said...

@Evelyn - Good point; I think I take that back re: 'intermittent CR'. Guess it just works out that most of the time, eating my very simple food puts me at a hair below caloric requirements. But maybe if I actually thought of it in terms of either 'intermittent' *or* 'CR', I'd have some issues with it.

Also, I am sure the body does learn! And Stephanie--in addition to measuring BMR, what about a bone density scan? Eating so little is dangerous in that regard (Mal/'malpaz' has mentioned actually losing height from osteopenia), and it must be a much greater concern past 50.

Galina L. said...

Thank you, Evelin, it was fan to eat that cake.

I understand the secure behavior concept. As a grazer, I avoid snacking, and I used to compensate extra food with exercise - sure way to get injured . Probably, it is underestimated, how insecure we are, people who straggle with unwanted pounds. Besides loosing weight, we all are trying to find some personal security niche.

Swede said...

Evelyn said:

"Personally I believe fat is not as physiologically satiating as it is psychologically..."

I've noticed that as well. Fat is often touted as being satiating because its slows gastric emptying, stimulates CCK, etc...But I've found personally that total calories consumed in a meal (as opposed to macronutrient ratios) are what determine how long hunger stays at bay for me. I can eat 1000 cals of chicken breast and rice after a workout and will be hungry again in the same amount of time as if I ate 1000 cals of a loaded baked potato and steak.

Tonus said...

@Evelyn "Personally I believe fat is not as physiologically satiating as it is psychologically..."

How can anyone believe this in the face of compelling scientific evidence like the "how much butter can you eat at one sitting" test?*

*Which is based on a new research technique known as a hyperbolic ward study.

John said...

Harry, how much have you found lean people (<10%) need to cut out to lose fat? I've never tried to cut calories other than for about 1 month 3 years ago. One probably has to cut more than he thinks for a similar reason you can eat high amounts without gaining fat. There are obviously ways the body deals with caloric changes.

From our conversation a while back, I've still been keeping count of calories and been between 3000 and 5000 (usually toward low 4000s), so I wasn't simply miscounting for a week. Also, I don't even count things like vegetables or small amounts of fruit or nuts or if I put only a little cream in coffee. For example, my breakfast today was a 3.5oz bar of 85% Lindt, one large potato, a quart of whole milk, a 6 egg omelette with cheese, bacon, and butter. That's over 2000 calories to start off the day, and I'll eat either 3 or 4 meals (sometimes I eat only 2 meals--usually depends on my workout schedule and if I'm hungry in the morning).

I've found the easiest way to lower calorie intake and appetite is plain low carb foods: eggs, steak, or yogurt (not cheese though--at least for me, I don't get sick of cheese like I do unseasoned steak of eggs).

CarbSane said...

Hyperbolic Ward studies. LOVE that!!

@Swede: I don't know that equal cals of different foods satiate me the same, some foods are definitely more satiating than others.

I think that chronic low fat dieters initially are in lurve their first time going LC and getting to eat butter, eggs, bacon, etc. So the diet is very satisfying initially. Mind you when most do something like Atkins for the first time, there was no "make sure it's high fat" nonsense. I used to make (and still do) 2 eggs scrambled using a pat of butter in the pan. When I see frying an egg in 1T butter I just cringe. If someone is trying to gain weight, I suppose, but not otherwise. I think in many ways LC'ers know this -- the two food items most commonly fingered in weight loss stalls for low carbers? -- nuts & cheese. Both very high fat. If this were ultimately satiating, even if one ate a bit too much of them, this should reduce appetite for other foods later, right?

Beth@WeightMaven said...

It may be that fat affects satiety differently largely depending on one's blood sugar control. If fat does nothing else besides slowing gastric emptying and thus avoiding larger blood sugar swings, that could be very useful to some. This might also explain why others don't seem to notice a difference.

That said, I am completely in agreement that the idea of eating fat on fat on fat is not a strategy I employ in weight loss mode. My thought is I have plenty of fat I'd prefer my body to use ... so the fat I add to meals is more about getting fat soluble vitamins. Reducing any glycemic impact is a bonus.

Thomas said...


Assuming you are absorbing all of the nutrients you take in (another commenter in a previous thread said that eggs and bacon and meat don't provide nearly the calories that initially contain because they are rendered down-which I found interesting and plausible for some), and that this high fat diet works (allows loss or maintenance) at a highly increased calorie intake (I think yours is in the range of 24 cal/lb body weight), we have to assume that people who claim to eat a higher fat, lower carb diet but are not losing or are gaining weight are misreporting their intake or simply lying about it-they are sneaking carbs in when they shouldn't.

I'm kind or joking here-using the argument that LCer's like to accuse CI/CO proponents of using (and they do)when people report low ingested calories and still don't lose weight (but often take it further by insisting that they are calling people liars).

I'd consider giving your diet a try for fun-a short personal experiment. At 138-140 lbs., I'm at my lowest body weight since Jr. High School (I'm 41). Yes, I can see my abs. At 24 calories per pound, that'd be about 3360 calories per day. I've gained weight on this amount in the past-going from 144 lbs to 155 lbs in about 10 weeks (average about 3000 cal/day), but the intake was higher carbohydrate. Since everyone around me says I look like I'm wasting away, this might be a fun time to give it a try-I'd even take and post before and after picks as well as keep a food log. And, yes, I do work out with weights regularly.

CarbSane said...

@john: If you are eating that much and as lean as you say, there are two explanations: (1) You are an extreme outlier with a very fast innate metabolism, or (2) you have significant malabsorption issues.

Even when my brother was younger and could eat what seemed like enormous amounts of food, he never ate like that. Surely you've noticed you're a bit different from those around you?

CarbSane said...

@Harry I appreciate your continued input on this topic based on client results. It helps to know I'm not nuts! LOL

@Beth: Good idea there. What's interesting is that fats also stimulate GLP-1 (which may be what slows the emptying b/c Byetta which is a GLP-1 mimetic also has this effect). GLP-1 is an insulin sensitizer and secretatogue that you would think would lower BG. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

John said...


Yes, I definitely eat more than others around me. I have buzzed hair (notice my photo) because I have "high" temperature of high 98s. When I was young I tended to get hot, so I didn't like to have normal hair. It decreased when I was about 17, but I still eat a lot. There's no reason to think I have a malabsorption issue.

Also, if you care, I'll post a picture. It's from summer of 2010, and let me say that this is definitely the fattest I've been as I was eating a pound of coconut-oil-fried banana chips along with 8oz of cheese every day for lunch (and I was still eating ice cream back then):


If you need to eat high calories to prevent losing weight, go ahead, but I should mention that I never eat "junk food" (I guess the small amount of added sugar in 85% is "junk," but that's very rare). I eat lots of butter, eggs, sushi, fermented dairy and cream, and I often make beef stock and try "traditional" meals of other cultures. I eat sweet potatoes and fruit sometimes, but fruit is annoyingly expensive, and I only feel like starch sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Um, John, your described meal is about 2000 cals, max. Again, I think there is some overestimating going on on your part.

But it's certainly not unusual for men to 'run hot' and have more inefficient metabolisms (in a sense). Certainly in your personal, specific case, it could be a combination of things.

I would love to see your results eating calorically stable food like cheese and bread or even cheese and potatoes exclusively for a couple weeks. I suspect there would be some differences.

Nigel Kinbrum said...

@Galina: Many Happy Returns! x

@Evelyn: Thanks for including me in your "Friends of the Asylum" list. I kinda ran out of steam (along with other problems) last April.

@John: I'm sure I'm not the only one who would cheerfully scratch your eyes out for being able to maintain such a low BF% on such a high food intake! I'm wondering if you have a 2,4-dinitrophenoloma ;-D

@Beth: As you've made such great progress, how about a new avatar pic? Why so serious?

Cheers, Nige.

Stephanie said...

@ Evelyn and Sarah Barracuda
Thank you for your welcome! I will explore getting my BMI snd bone density checked. I'm registering with a new doctor in January. I live in the UK, and I'll be getting a full medical from him/her.
I already exercise, but will definitely try to include more resistance type stuff. Being middle aged sucks! ;0)

Rob said...


Looking at your pic and reported intake, you're definitely one of the minority of people who are genetically lean. Wish I was!

P2ZR said...

@john - Err, may I ask how many times a day you visit the loo? You've referenced the petite Japanese (female) competitive eater who goes 6 times/day--and not for #1. You've also alluded that perhaps you 'waste' calories through malabsorption.

I'm a naturally small person, and the only period of my life when I ate 1.5-2x the calories someone my size normally eats, I was uncomfortably full (but an all-SAD diet makes you eat compulsively), AND overexercising, AND became wedded to communal bathrooms...AND was still gaining weight overnight. I concede that you can waste energy as heat; overeating makes one quite warm to a point--but beyond that, it's called FEVER.

So, I think @paleo2.0 has asked this previously, but it bears asking again...are neverending trips to a loo a major part of your day--and if so, do you actually like living that way? No snark (or very little)--just incredulity :)

Harry said...

@ John

"Harry, how much have you found lean people (<10%) need to cut out to lose fat?"

As with all things in the world of nutrition, it depends. Gender, exercise levels, nervous disposition (e.g. fidgeting), occupation (e.g. sedentary or active), and other individual variables all arbitrate on how much of a deficit is required.

That is why we make adjustments based on regularly measured outcomes.

"There are obviously ways the body deals with caloric changes."

Yes, there are. But at the end of the day, no one gains body mass by decreasing energy intake, or loses body mass by increasing energy intake (assuming energy expenditure remains constant). So, even though the metabolism compensates somewhat against underfeeding (by down-regulating the metabolism) and overfeeding (by up-regulating the metabolism; hence your hot running temperature), these compensations are not sufficiently powerful to override the effects of calorie intake.

This is why there were no obese people in the concentration camps (chronic underfeeding), and this is why there are no lean sumo wrestlers (chronic overfeeding).

I would also point out that there are no shortage of controlled trials that bear this out (i.e. that metabolic compensations in response to either overfeeding/underfeeding have limited effects; and that if the energy intake is sufficiently high or low, these effects are overridden and weight loss/gain occurs notwithstanding these effects).

"I've found the easiest way to lower calorie intake and appetite is plain low carb foods: eggs, steak, or yogurt (not cheese though--at least for me, I don't get sick of cheese like I do unseasoned steak of eggs)."

This is not atypical. Eating such foods lowers the reward value of meals significantly, and the protein content increases the satiety values.

I find it puzzling, however, that you would want to lower your calorie intake and appetite given your claimed capacity to be able to eat relatively massive quantities of food without fat gain. Is it to save grocery bills, or is it to elicit weight loss (I'm assuming that you acknowledge that you need to reduce energy intake to lose weight, notwithstanding your capacity to consume abnormal quantities of food without gaining weight).

Bottom line is this, John. Assuming you're on the up and up (which is possible, but statistically unlikely given the lack of accountability on the internet), your extraordinary account is not actionable, nor does it generate a hypothesis to explore.

As Evelyn mentions, you could just be a innate metabolic outlier or have malabsorption issues. You also could be on medication that artificially up-regulates metabolism (some of my clients are competitive body-builders that are on 'supplements'; their metabolisms are so fast that you can literally feel the body heat emanating from them) - I think I asked you about this before, but I can't remember your answer (given the legal status of these substances, I would understand if you were not completely forthcoming on the issue) ; or you could be expending a lot of energy through non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT); or you could be over-estimating your calorie intake.

In the end, it doesn't really matter as to the particulars of your condition. The overwhelming evidence is that calorie intake is THE major determinant of body mass flux. This accords with the experience of myself and my clients, with no exceptions.


Beth@WeightMaven said...

Nige, I need to get a little closer to goal first. That avatar pic is all over the (effing) place, so I'm only gonna change it once!

As an aside, my avatar is cropped out of a pic of my entire family playing the card game "garbage" on vacation ... we were getting beaten silly by my young niece ;).

Anonymous said...

I nudge at John because I pretty much eat the same foods, with similar meal portions (in fact, the menu he gave for his morning meal was quite similar to what I ate for my daytime meal, just a slightly smaller omelette on my part, 4 instead of 6 eggs) and I don't gain weight because it's ultimately not nearly as many calories as it looks from its fattiness and heaviness.

I am 5' and currently about 115 lbs, with about 10lbs of stomach fat, and it takes a lot of 2500+ calorie days for me to see my weight go up. And it's hard to have those days eating whole, mostly unprocessed foods. I mean, really hard. But I can't just switch to processed, high-reward foods because my satiety threshold is naturally quite low and even fake food is hard to eat a lot of. So I stick with whole foods to get more nutrition when I can eat.

Obviously men are able to pack it away more so than women, but as a woman who does eat tons of eggs and meat and cheese and other fatty stuff, it's just ridiculously sating and hard to consistently eat large quantities day after day. And men can't pack it away that much more, or more men that ate like Jimmy would look like John.

Galina L. said...

I feel my best on small amounts of simple, monotonous, higher-in-fat food like eggs, butter, lightly cooked meat, veggies with more butter or fermented veggies with olive oil. On such food I feel most energetic and not over-eat. As soon as I change my routine, something gets less perfect. Sorry, if it is a repetition of things I said in some previous post, my point is, it is better for everyone to find a safe routine in order not to calculate whatever is being calculated each time, being it calories, amount of some particular nutrient, - it will take minds from the food.

Sue said...

Nigel said
@John: I'm sure I'm not the only one who would cheerfully scratch your eyes out for being able to maintain such a low BF% on such a high food intake! I'm wondering if you have a 2,4-dinitrophenoloma ;-D

That was interesting - I did a search on it. The cataracts they mentioned had me thinking about a medical diagnosis story on tv yesterday. The young girl had diarrhoea from birth, had a voracious appetite but contined to lose weight and also got cataracts. I forgot the diagnosis but she had some enzyme missing where she couldn't break down cholesterol.

Sue said...

DNP acts like uncoupling proteins.
Post by paleohacks on uncoupling proteins:

Anonymous said...

I need a metabolic ward for a few days. I assume I eat 2200 - 2500 kcal/day, judging by the few meals I'm able to count, but most of my food seems unquantifiable. I'm either lucky (my mom eats tons of crap, stays slim - but I've been obese), delusional (likely), or maybe exercise really does help with weight loss. Contrary to Taubes opinion, exercise makes me lose my appetite, eating is forced if it happens at all, for at least a few hours.

BTW, I hate to be like this, but judging by how much food I used to not admit to eating, I don't really believe most women eat 1500 or less. Doubly labeldd water experiments tend to agree that most people underestimate intake.

John said...


...2 or 2.5...? It's nothing like Gal Sone, but she claims to eat 5000 per day at a much smaller size. She apparently has very high numbers of bifidobacterium--I've been meaning to get her book.

Like I said above, there's no reason to think I have a malabsorption issue like some kind of chronic diarrhea or something.


I feel hot if I eat a big meal but not unusually hot normally. I did only eat about 2000 calories saturday, as I got caught up in a video game* for about 12 hours.

I used Epistane when I was 21 (I'm 24 now) for about 6 weeks and Superdrol when I was 18 for about 4 weeks.

Well sometimes I think I want to achieve very low levels of body fat. I ate pretty low calories (salmon, fruit, butter, spices) for about 6 weeks once and gym friends said they noticed, without me asking, but I think I also lost muscle and got weaker.

Sometimes I wonder about the effects of mental stimulation on metabolic rate. I know there is one study about tetris accelerating glucose uptake in the brain, but I never looked into it much. I do math for a living, and play strategy video games, chess, etc for hours every day, which I suspect makes a difference, especially when I notice other people sitting around watching youtube or mindless TV shows.

John said...


That's fine, but a large portion of my calories comes from dairy (fermented yogurt and cream), though I get kinda sick if I drink more than a quart of milk in one sitting. Those things are pretty "calorically stable." I've been meaning to try and make some traditional cocoa brews. I actually eat little meat for a "low carber," but that's just personal taste.

Anonymous said...

Dairy's not calorically stable compared to bread or cheese. You can not be absorbing all that much and not have, um, the runs. Once again, I too got crazy with the heavy cream (a pint or two a day!) and didn't see any weight increase because liquid fat isn't calorically absorbable the way liquid sugar and protein are. I mean, I am a girl and you're a dude, and a young dude at that, but we do eat mostly the same things from your descriptions (although I never hit up the banana chips because ugh bananas) and I find that the calorie count isn't that high for those things, while you feel it truly is. If you're right and I'm wrong, then I'm also eating 3k+ calories a day and losing weight or barely maintaining it, and I simply don't think that is what is going on.

CarbSane said...

@julie: I too have an opposite response to exercise vis a vis appetite. In my IF days, I would exercise the last hour or two of my fast b/c I would be getting hungry. I often had no appetite and would wait another hour or two to break the fast. Which is not to say that I don't get hungry after a very active day, but it's a real hunger. I think a lot of "hunger" we feel is probably not true hunger.

John said...


Okay, I'm not sure what your point is anymore. If you "believe" I have overestimated by energy expenditure, fine--I guess the train stops there for you. I keep getting suckered into commenting here because, despite removing it from my feed, it still shows up. It's quite clear that nobody wants (or can I should say, since everyone knows it all) to learn anything because I see the same debunkings simply repeated. This site has simply become a great resource for anyone who wants to read 50 times that insulin doesn't lock away fat and that postprandial insulin spikes don't cause hyperinsulinema. Of course any differences in individuals is discarded because, like I've said in the past, they are treated as random "miscalculations," instead of meaningful observations.

P2ZR said...

@john - No, this site is a great resource for information that counters the LC misrepresentations and outright fabrications that are out there. And sometimes, it's actually a more conducive place to discussing the FRH than Stephan's rather inhospitable comments section.

I think Harry, paleo2.0, and I have all made good-faith efforts to understand how you could possibly be consuming that caloric amount pretty much *every day* and maintaining a respectable body comp without Michael Phelpsian exercise. And if it turns out that your self-reporting is 100% accurate--as Harry said--it's simply not actionable. Just like you would not point any timid humanities majors taking Calculus I to some advice from von Neumann on how to study, as what worked for him most likely wouldn't apply to them (or anyone else).

If all Evelyn really talks about is insulin's role (or lack thereof) in adiposity, I wouldn't be visiting nearly so often. In fact, I only read the 'inflammation' installment in Stephan's recent insulin series because honestly, after realizing that insulin isn't the fat accumulation demon, I don't really care anymore. (And it's unfortunate that GT had to oblige Stephan to make this set-the-facts-straight detour.)

Apparently, you have taken a line from L.Ron in characterizing interlocutors who refuse to agree with you as pigheadedly 'refusing to learn'. That is just a surefire way to kill dialogue, if there ever was one. It's one thing if you want to badmouth someone's blog on other blogs--but if you are going to accede to the shamefully vile inclination to comment on a blog you've removed from your feed (i.e., on the blogger's own turf), you could at least do so with a little less contempt.

@Evelyn - Just wanted to thank you for not moderating comments. Not that john's comment didn't deserve to see the light of day, but I could imagine its being denied on other blogs. Moderation makes me edgy (and for good reason; I recently had a comment that I thought was as innocuous as it was silly moderated away). By not moderating, you spare the mildly paranoid like myself from worrying if we were inept enough for our words to be woefully misconstrued, or if we were truly terrible people who said the unforgivable!

CarbSane said...

@Sarah: So long as things remain civil here, the moderation stays off. In defense of some others, however, when someone takes over comments with multiple diatribes, especially ones trashing the blogger, I fully understand it.

To Everyone: If ever paranoia sets in, occasionally Blogger sends posts to Spam -- they never show up. I try to keep an eye on that, but I can't shut it off.

I'm pretty amazed that I don't need to moderate. Hope it stays this way! It's fun :)

@john: What Sarah said! Nobody forces you to read here, "unwanted" feed or not. But also, what exactly is it we are all supposed to be learning from you? DUH man, there are people who can eat the same amount as others and (a) never gain weight, or (b) gain more lean and/or less fat, etc. However what should, say, I learn from your example? Eat 3000 cal/day and pull my hair out over my incessant weight gain? OF COURSE there's WIDE inter-person variability.

What I try to do here is a mix of debunking (that NEEDS to be done, even if you, john, get it, there are many more who will hopefully learn the truth), and finding and bringing new and different stuff to the table that may or may not be of interest or actionable to all. And I attempt to bring my own style to entertain a bit too, rant a bit, etc. If that's not for you, the Asylum door does swing both ways. I'm not locking anyone away here (though I think some could use involuntary stays - grin!).

Wolfstriked said...

I agree with you CS and have been thinking for awhile now that maybe we have gotten way wrong the diet advice of never going below 1200.Past two days I have started the Slow carb diet by Tim ferris.I am having amazing results with it and I know your thinking.....thats silly its two days.But we need to look at a diet as a diet meaning calorie cutting and then we need to find what foods agree with us to allow this reduction with manageable hunger levels.

SCD is like Body For Life in many ways but simpler and with one important thing going for it.You mainly eat a protein serving and a starch serving but it differs in that you stick mainly with beans(BFL uses breads/whatever and I go hypo and get hungry FAST).Beans are low glycemic and really help out with balancing of BS.This for me is enlightening past two days in that I really am not hungry going from 2Kcal of Optimal style eating to 1500cal eaten this new way.You also have to remember that when you go VLC your mainly eating fat and this has nothing to add to your body but more bodyfat.But if you reduce some of the fat and add in carbs you will now have glycogen storage for energy which makes you look better and gives you energy.This means less fat storage and quicker "fat" loss.I notice this every time I go on a carb rich diet,that is that my pants get looser but with the bad side effect of I start feeling unhealthy.

Back to this pants are way loose only two days in,my hunger is fine,my mood is great and very important I look in mirror and look way healthy.I am eating tons of fiber also so if fiber is healthy its a huge benefit of this diet compared to say bodyforlife.

My dinner just now....huge amount of salad and raw brocolli/can of chicken,cup of white beans and drizzled with thousand island dressing.400 something calories at 3pm and I have no hunger at 7:30...:) A slice of cheese(very insulinogenic per the SCD but a small slice should be ok)or a tbsp of almond butter is good before bed add helps me to sleep.

Wolfstriked said...

Sorry forgot my original thought.So alot of these SCD peeps that are very skinny now have reduced their calories from when they started by cutting out beans here and there.They know that if they add back in alot of calories every day they will revert back to being fat but if hunger is controlled then is 1200cal for a man to maintain a bad thing?They look and feel very healthy and the diets also says you need to eat like crazy one day a week of whatever junk you miss during the week. :)

Sanjeev said...

if you're looking for anti-protein arguments the Vegan boards/forums/mailing lists are a good place to start.

They may even be right about 1 or 2 things (probably by accident).

> need to eat like crazy one day a week

I'm very skeptical about this being a good thing. Especially if this huge cheat meal (or cheat day or 2) does not happen after a good workout to deplete glycogen, setting the body up nicely to be able to use a short term excess

I'm personally shying away from planned diet breaks now and experimenting with staying on the straight and narrow for long periods, and if I fall off for a meal or a day every month or 2 or 3 then I can just get back on AND I've spared myself 20 planned diet breaks and any attendant side effects

Sanjeev said...

> any differences in individuals is discarded

Some cars use more gas than others - even 2 cars with engine blocks cast right next to each other on the assembly line.

You don't see engine designers or mechanical engineers or researchers (chemistry, physics, metallurgy, ceramics - any researcher in the auto industry) claiming "because of that something's fundamentally wrong with our current understanding" or that "thermodynamics doesn't matter" for the next engine design, or even the next thousand years of engine designs.

I'm discussing the generic catchphrases here, not claiming you've written these specific words above.

Sanjeev said...

> staying on the straight and narrow for long periods

UNLESS I do something to be in high calorie deficit. In that case I agree with Lyle McDonald, leaner people have to take regular, frequent maintenance-calorie-level breaks.

Sanjeev said...

re: anomaly hunting, from or click

the logic often works like this: “If my pet theory is true then when I look at the data I will find anomalies.” The unstated major premise of this logic is that if their pet theory were not true then they would not find anomalies. This is naive, however. Another component of this line of argument is the broad definition of anomaly.

______________end quote

That's actual anomalies, not alleged / putative anomalies.

Sanjeev said...

copy and paste this:

or click

repeating because blogger ate my link again, after getting it right in preview

Anonymous said...

I think it's obvious that women have less leeway regarding intake than men do. Men don't have to save some fat to sustain pregnancy/lactation (it may be theoretical only for some women, but biology doesn't care about the individual choice on that front), and so they have more flexibility and variation in what levels of intake allow them to maintain a given weight/body composition. I do feel the broader paleosphere kinda disregards the implications of this because it's pretty dude-heavy, but it probably does need to be put out there regularly.

It took a lot of n=1 for me to accept that my ability to pack away the meat at all is a bit outlier-ish for a woman. In fact, I have changed my approach to describing my diet for others seeking advice because what works for me in terms of the specific ratios of protein/fat/carb doesn't offer enough satiety for many women of my acquaintance to result in weight loss or maintenance. I push protein (so many women I know are super-low on protein that any increase is a net win) and really emphasize just how much food 1500 cals can be if you want it to be a bunch of food.

A lot of people want to just eat 2000-3000 cals per day and exercise minimally at most and somehow still lose excess fat. It's good to want things, heh.

Wolfstriked said...

I am non-stop on my feet lifting and running stairs.I eat 1600 to 2000 male at 41yrs old.I lose slowly at 1600 and nicely at 1200.Just boggles me that people wanna eat 3K and lose weight.Thats what a professional bodybuilder who is holding around 100 pounds of pure beef extra diets on.Amazing....

Anonymous said...

Howdy! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where
I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having trouble finding one?
Thanks a lot!

Here is my blog: diets that work fast for women

Post a Comment

Moderation is currently on. Thanks in advance for your patience.