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Thread: The energy-balance equation

  1. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post

    ps. what's your particular interest in this area?
    Just a general interest in health and fitness since my Uni days but, being the nerdy type I am, I have to get into the details!

    Dieters under-report what they eat - they are eating way more than they think and if they counted calories properly we wouldn't have an obesity epidemic (forgive me again - but that smacks of the 'greedy' argument to which I don't subscribe). There is evidence of people eating more (and less) than they think, but it doesn't then follow logically that if people eat less they will achieve sustained weight loss
    No, but it does mean that any research which bases it's conclusions on analyses of self-reported food intakes can't be given anything like the same weight as studies based on controlled, metabolic ward studies which control calorie intake exactly. This is one of the major criticisms of Taubes book. He quotes a lot of studies to support his theories which are based on self-reported calorie intake, while ignoring many other studies which were more tightly controlled which don't support his ideas. I think this is going to be the main point on which our differences in opinions are mostly based.
    Also I don't see that saying people aren't good at knowing their calorie intakes is the same as saying they're greedy. It's very difficult to know, with any degree of accuracy, how many calories you eat in a day without weighing everything to the last gram and knowing the exact calorie information for each food. Who does this? I would say I have a better than average appreciation of calorie contents of foods but even I would be amazed if I weren't at least a few hundred calories out either way if I tried to guess my food intake for yesterday! This is why I have to seriously doubt figures like 1690 cals per day in 1999 which came from a Food Survey. That might be what the average person likes to think they eat, or tries to eat on a 'good' day, but seeing as that is not much more than one large pizza or a Burger King meal, I have to doubt that is what the average person is actually eating. Here are a couple of clips from a good BBC documentary from a couple of years ago. I would recommend watching the whole programme but this is the relevant section:

    Go from 8:10 in this part http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWmnd...eature=related

    up to 6:15 in this part http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMpPl...eature=related

    No-one is saying this woman is greedy, simply that she was unable to appreciate how many calories she was actually eating, like virtually everybody!

  2. #12
    Super Member Mat's Avatar
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    Going only on personal experience here..

    I have tried calorie counting and found myself hungry a lot of the time - Sure, I did lose weight at the beginning, much like the men in the Minnesota experiment reducing my calorie intake to 2000 (±50) calories. After about 2 months I completely stopped losing weight so I thought.. Hmmm. Reduce the calorie intake further and dropped it down to about 1800 (±50) calories.. I lost weight for another 2 weeks at this calorie intake and then it stopped for 2 months on this level of calories. At this time, I really felt like I was depriving myself of food and was always hungry so I thought, to combat the hunger, I would return to 2000 cal per day - This is when I started gaining weight - How can someone, overweight already, gain weight on 2000 cal per day? It doesn't make sense - Unless the calorie theory is totally wrong and my body simply adjusted to needing 1800 ish calories per day.

    Since starting THD - I have got no idea how many calories I consume and, frankly, I don't care! All I know is I am losing weight (39lbs in 7 months) and 4 inches gone from my waist and my wedding ring fits on my middle finger. I never feel hungry (unless I skip a meal) and I have never felt healthier in my adult life!

    Well that's my story and my calorie theory and I know that it is most people's on this diet.
    The worst bigots in the world are those who most loudly proclaim their ‘tolerance’

  3. #13
    Club Host Zoe's Avatar
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    Hi there - the first link I remember the whole programme (still have it recorded) and I watched it several times and blogged on it. The experiment was done on one person (Debbie Chasen? from memory) and she did under-report and I do accept that people do (she also was a calorie counter and ate an extraordinary quantity of fruit and therefore carbs and I sent her a copy of my book!) (I said above - I accept that people can under report - I don't accept that eating less achieves sustained weight loss - from 1917 to 2010, there is only evidence to the contrary). Debbie was not overweight because she ate too much in my view - she was overweight because she was eating carbs every minute of the day and never got into fat burning mode. However, that's just one person. For the entire UK here's where the logic completely breaks down:
    1) The UK National Food Survey has been going since 1940. Obesity was 2.7% in 1972 (men and women in the UK) and c. 25% in 1999. Are you saying that people told the truth in the survey and then started lying in 1974 and lied a bit more in 1975 and then a bit more in 1976 (it's a fairly steady decline - you can read every year for yourself on line and the comments from the MAFF etc doing the survey) and then we ended up 600 cals under reporting in 1999? That doesn't seem sensible to me.

    2) I work out in the book what would have had to have happened to calorie consumption in the UK to account for the weight gain of the average person and they would have had to have eaten 7.7 cals extra per person per day over that period of time. Not a fraction of a calorie more or less. This is also daft. There is no way in the universe that the human can manage calories in or out to that level of accuracy - which brings you to the critical observation - the adjustment is endogenous, not exogenous. It just makes no sense that we could have managed this sensitive calorie balance for c. 100k years and then suddenly 'lost' it overnight. We never needed to have it - the body adjusts internally. The calorie theorists assume that, if you eat 500 cals less and do 200 cals more, you lose 700/3500 = 1/5 of a pound of fat. I think that the body adjusts internally. All those REE/NEAT equations etc? First any idea that any human , let alone all humans, adhere to a formula is really completely absurd. You will not be able to find one instance of all humans adhering to a formula and weight is no different. However - the calorie theorists ignore that other parts of the equation can also adapt. Try to increase NEAT and don't put enough energy in and what's to say REE doesn't go down rather than fat is given up? Biochemically fat can only be released in certain circumstances and the idea that the body is an ATM for cash is the ultimate naive assumption that we have made. Put less in OR critically - put empty cals in rather than calories with a job to do and the body can't do its REE for the day. You've just lost the chance of using up useful calories. It's just so infinitely more complex than calories in or out.

    3) The bottom line to solving this problem is not to be constrained by any previous thinking and to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and say when did the obesity epidemic start? The answer is late 70's/early 1980's and then it got horrifically worse throughout the 1980's and 1990's and shows no sign of abating. (The USA graph literally looks like an aeroplane taking off). Then you ask the question - what changed at that time that could possibly have caused the explosion in obesity? Answer out on October 7th!

    Have you read The Diet Delusion by the way? The writing style, quality of argument, independence of thought and comprehensive referencing is in a different league to the weightology chap (sounds a bit similar to scientology?). Please don't be offended, but I have a reading list to fill a side of A4 and I'm not going to go back to thinking I used to believe but had good reason to reject many years ago. You're right to do your own questioning but if you haven't read Taubes, Barry Groves, Malcolm Kendrick for yourself, you won't be able to form your own views on the new way of thinking. I don't take other people's views on anything - I go to the original journal article/book and decide for myself. The only thing I have learned along the way is assume nothing and question everything. Any premise that you start from, question that before you go any further. You can also try eating nothing but meat/fish/eggs for a couple of weeks and see what happens! Not much fun, maybe, but a useful experiment! Most of us in this club, as Mat shared just above, have been guinea pigs for our own learning all along the way

    Ciao - Zoe
    "Those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of others." Christopher Columbus ("1492")

  4. #14
    Supermember 2010-14 Marie Smith's Avatar
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    Have you documented all your book references yet Zoe?! Really enjoyed reading the above!

    Marie x
    Marie x on my way, size 12's here I come...

  5. #15
    Club Host Zoe's Avatar
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    LOL Marie! If only! Done up to Chapter 7 - the book goes up to chapter 16! There's always this evening! Forgot how addictive this club is having been away writing the book for a couple of months!
    "Those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light in spite of others." Christopher Columbus ("1492")

  6. #16
    Kath
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    Oh Zoe & Andy, my hat goes off to you two! I have managed to read most of this discussion, and understood very little! but I felt very assured that I was on the right lines by following THD. I say 'following' in the loosest of terms, as at the moment I am lost! However, I have realised that one of the reasons I am not doing well is that I don't like cooking! So I get easily bored. But, Monday I return to phase 1 and see if I can get it right this time and even try and develop an enjoyment of cooking! gulp!

  7. #17
    JamesKrieger
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    I was just browsing this thread, and I try to avoid jumping in on forums that discuss my site (simply because I don't want to go around the internet debating everyone), but after reading the following statement, I have to jump in:

    Quote Originally Posted by Zoe View Post
    Have you read The Diet Delusion by the way? The writing style, quality of argument, independence of thought and comprehensive referencing is in a different league to the weightology chap (sounds a bit similar to scientology?).
    Before you compare my site to "Scientology", perhaps you may want to reexamine your own scientific rigor. Just to give you some examples of what I would consider poor scientific and logical reasoning on your part:

    1) The UK National Food Survey has been going since 1940. Obesity was 2.7% in 1972 (men and women in the UK) and c. 25% in 1999. Are you saying that people told the truth in the survey and then started lying in 1974 and lied a bit more in 1975 and then a bit more in 1976 (it's a fairly steady decline - you can read every year for yourself on line and the comments from the MAFF etc doing the survey) and then we ended up 600 cals under reporting in 1999? That doesn't seem sensible to me.
    What you fail to realize here is that obesity correlates with the degree of underreporting, and BMI is a strong predictor of underreporting. This has been demonstrated repeatedly in scientific research...so much that it suprises me that someone "with a reading list to faill a side of A4" wouldn't know this. Yes, as obesity has risen, the degree of underreporting has risen along with it. The fact is, obese people tend to underreport. The more obese people you have, the more underreporting you have.

    2) I work out in the book what would have had to have happened to calorie consumption in the UK to account for the weight gain of the average person and they would have had to have eaten 7.7 cals extra per person per day over that period of time. Not a fraction of a calorie more or less. This is also daft.
    This is also a strawman. What we're concerned with is average caloric intake over time....not the day-to-day variation in caloric intake. People cycle through periods of energy surplus, energy balance, and energy deficits thoughout the day, throughout the week, and throughout the month. What matters is the average imbalance over an extended period of time.

    which brings you to the critical observation - the adjustment is endogenous, not exogenous.
    This is actually a false dichotomy. It is well established that human eating behavior is the product of a mix of both homeostatic regulation (i.e., physiology) and non-homeostatic regulation (i.e., psychology, social cues, hedonic aspects, etc.). There are numerous studies that even simple things like portion or plate size can influence how much we eat (which has nothing to do with physiology). This also has nothing to do with willpower either. These are unconscious psychological factors of which people aren't even aware. It's also established that hedonic aspects of foods (i.e., the reward and pleasure we get from it) can override our natural homestatic mechanisms for regulating energy intake. Again, this has nothing to do with willpower.

    The calorie theorists assume that, if you eat 500 cals less and do 200 cals more, you lose 700/3500 = 1/5 of a pound of fat.
    Another strawman. Yes, maybe your average "caloric theorist" (whatever that is) assumes this, but researchers in the field of weight loss have long known that the relationship is not so perfect. One must also account for the energy requirements of tissue deposition (in terms of weight gain) and the energy cost of the new tissue mass. One must also account for the decreases in energy expenditure that occur with weight loss (due to decreases in RMR, NEAT, as well as the loss of tissue mass itself). There are scientific papers that have constructed models for predicting weight loss and weight gain on a certain energy deficit or surplus, while accounting for all of these factors. Again, for someone with such a large reading list as you proclaim to have, it surprises me that you do not know this.

    All those REE/NEAT equations etc? First any idea that any human , let alone all humans, adhere to a formula is really completely absurd.
    Another strawman on your part. Formulas are nothing more than equations that are used to make predictions. There is no assumption that people "adhere" to these formulas. They only give us estimates (just as body composition testing is also a prediction), estimates that have a certain amount of error on an individual basis.

    However - the calorie theorists ignore that other parts of the equation can also adapt.
    No, they don't. This is another giant strawman that has been put forth by Taubes, Eades, and others. The concept of energetic adaptation to weight loss has been known for a long time, and I even wrote an article about it here and another one here.

    Try to increase NEAT and don't put enough energy in and what's to say REE doesn't go down rather than fat is given up?
    The problem with your thinking here is that there is a limit to how much REE can decrease. The main determinant of REE is internal organs. For internal organs to continue to function correctly, REE must be maintained.

    To illustrate how your thinking here is flawed, take someone in a concentration camp who has no food at all. According to your reasoning, REE could just continue to decrease linearly to nothing to help maintain fat mass. But we know this doesn't happen. Starvation will induce massive weight loss in everyone, whether lean or obese. This weight loss comes from fat mass and lean tissue mass.

    On top of that, you ignore the randomized controlled trials that show that increased physical activity helps people maintain weight loss. Thus, REE obviously doesn't go down so that fat is given up. Not only that, but REE has been measured in some of these trials and it doesn't go down in response to increased activity like you think it does.


    3) The bottom line to solving this problem is not to be constrained by any previous thinking and to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and say when did the obesity epidemic start? The answer is late 70's/early 1980's and then it got horrifically worse throughout the 1980's and 1990's and shows no sign of abating. (The USA graph literally looks like an aeroplane taking off). Then you ask the question - what changed at that time that could possibly have caused the explosion in obesity?
    Many things simultaneously changed during that time. One must always be careful of the cum hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    Please don't be offended, but I have a reading list to fill a side of A4 and I'm not going to go back to thinking I used to believe but had good reason to reject many years ago. You're right to do your own questioning but if you haven't read Taubes, Barry Groves, Malcolm Kendrick for yourself, you won't be able to form your own views on the new way of thinking.
    But your insinuation here is that if people read Taubes, they will automatically be convinced over to this "new way of thinking." Sure, maybe if you don't have a solid knowledge of the scientific literature, you might buy many of Taubes's arguments. But people who have a much better knowledge of physiology and biochemistry than Taubes know better.

    I don't take other people's views on anything - I go to the original journal article/book and decide for myself. The only thing I have learned along the way is assume nothing and question everything.
    If you truly question everything, perhaps you may want to start with questioning Taubes's 4 "facts" on page 392, when 3 out of the 4 "facts" have been demonstrated to be wrong....

    The fact is, Taubes may be elegant with his words, but his scientific rigor is nowhere near as good as many think it is.

  8. #18
    Super Member Mat's Avatar
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    Hi James,

    Welcome to the site - Always good to have some healthy debate:

    For me, one basic question remains unanswered - As a race, we have become more intelligent over time as we seek to better ourselves. How does this equate to us suddenly gaining weight despite us eating 'healthier' and exercising more?

    Gyms - I've been to a few, are filled with obese people.

    (see above my experiment on myself)
    The worst bigots in the world are those who most loudly proclaim their ‘tolerance’

  9. #19
    Forum Guest Dave's Avatar
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    Having read this thread I can to say I understood every word, not necessarily in the right order.
    THD works for me and for many!

  10. #20
    JamesKrieger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mat View Post
    For me, one basic question remains unanswered - As a race, we have become more intelligent over time as we seek to better ourselves. How does this equate to us suddenly gaining weight despite us eating 'healthier'
    Where's the evidence that we're eating healthier as a population?


    and exercising more?
    Where's the evidence that we're exercising more?


    Gyms - I've been to a few, are filled with obese people.
    First, you don't know how often these people go to the gym or how much they stick with it.

    You also don't know what they are or how much they are eating.

    You also don't know what they are doing the other 23 hours of the day (NEAT plays a larger role in weight regulation than physical exercise).

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