Monday, August 20, 2012

but you CAN'T count 'em

More and more people are saying, in the low-carb world, that calories still count.  In an abstract way, you can't argue with the logic -- if, over time, your intake of energy is less than what your body burns or excretes, you can't help but lose weight ... and the opposite scenario works, too.

The sooner people are disabused of the idea that they can eat endless quantities of fatty foods (as long as they're low-carb) and still lose weight, the better.  It seems typical that SOME of us get carried away with tricky stuff like heavy cream and nut-based baked goodies....  To reach our goals, a LITTLE self-restraint seems inevitable.

But as Pal Jabek once said, although calories count, don't bother to count them.  I would change that maxim a bit, myself -- energy-balance counts, but there ain't no way on god's earth you can measure it without a great deal of time, money (a metabolic chamber can't be cheap, nor endless blood-tests), and expertise.  Calorie tables, and the amount your treadmill says you're burning, are bullshit -- both being notorious for telling you what you want to hear:  the low end of the truth in the first case, and the upper end in the other.

Biology just doesn't seem to work like math and physics, but has the subtlety and "surprise" of chemistry.  Perhaps the people who cling to CICO are those who want to force the numbers to do what they want done?  A left-brain/right-brain situation?  :-)  I'll leave it to our psychology-savvy friends to illuminate us, there.

The compromises we make for the sake of success don't seem that tricky.  We don't HAVE to eat our coconut-flour pancakes in the form of a chunk of raw coconut beside a couple of plain eggs as some purists would have us do, nor should we have to forgo cream cheese because it's "processed."  But chowing down on the equivalent of a cupful of nuts (easy to do when they're ground up), or drinking a whole glass of cream seems like TOO MUCH of a good thing, to me.


  1. calories count but you CAN'T count 'em <- exactly right :)

    I think alot of people end up talking about calories because it is something more tangible and more measurable.

    No one goes around say "oh I gained weight becuase my adipocyte insulin sensitivity was too high", or "I gained weight because my AgRP was too high" , or "I couldnt lose weight because I had hardly any dopamine d2 receptors"

    The irony is that stuff is far more important than calories but ofcourse we never talk about it because we never "see" it and its virtually impossible to measure it.

  2. and if "we" have trouble sorting out all the things that affect metabolism, people like ... ahem ... some of my friends would just throw up their hands and go out for ice cream. ;-)

  3. What could be more frustrating than calorie counting everyday? How do you count the calories in slices of fatty brisket with various streaks of fat running through it? Keeping my meals down to one or two a day seems to be my only form of calorie control,, not for fasting sake really, just makes me feel better. Maybe calorie counting helps some feel in control, its the opposite for me.

  4. i frequently enter my intake into fitday, knowing full well that the numbers are just "ballpark." gives me a rough idea what proportion of fat and protein i eat.

  5. Calories are a measurement of heat, not the personal ability to convert food to ATP. That makes calories a sloppy measurement with something that look like hysteresis. Some portion of some calories for some people are not bio-available. Kelvin Hall has several papers that demonstrate the hysteresis without naming the property. Atwater through out half his data because some people were not consistent to the others. With this information, what is a calorie to the individual? Sorry to go all mathematical on yous.

  6. lol -- we wouldn't read this stuff if we didn't want to understand it properly....