10 reasons not to count calories.

10 reasons not to count calories

In our first monthly publication I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the core of The Harcombe Diet and to gather in one place all the reasons why we should not count calories. For “don’t count calories”, you can also read “don’t eat less”! All will be explained. Hopefully the new PDF summary for Diet & Health Today will make this article all the more valuable and one that you may like to refer back to when calorie counters pick a ‘low blood glucose fuelled’ fight with you!

Reason number 1 – one pound does not equal 3,500 calories

The whole notion of calorie counting is founded on claims that have no evidence base. We assume that one pound equals 3,500 calories and that we will lose one pound if we create a deficit of 3,500 calories but we have absolutely no idea where this formula came from, no evidence for the numbers and no proof for the formula.

The first part of the calorie formula is the assertion that one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. You will struggle to find anyone who can demonstrate the precise calculation behind this, so I’ll offer this as a suggestion:

1) One pound equals 454 grams (decimal places aside, this is a fact);

2) Fat has nine calories per gram (this is the universally accepted conversion, but it is an estimate and significantly rounded down from even the original estimate);

3) Human fat tissue is approximately 87% lipid (this is a widely accepted conversion, but it is also an estimate).

Putting these together, we can come up with the sum that 454 grams of body fat tissue has approximately the calorific energy of 395 grams of pure fat (454 grams x 87%), that is 3,555 calories (395 grams x 9).
3,555 is close enough to 3,500 you may think, until you see the absurdity of how precisely the formula is applied. According to those who believe this formula, this difference of 55 calories (in this case from the calculation being approximate) would make five to six pounds difference a year. The National Obesity Forum web site states “one less (sic) 50 calorie plain biscuit per day could help you lose 5lbs (2.3kg) in a year – and one extra biscuit means you could gain that in a year!” ( http://nationalobesityforum.org.uk/families/before-you-start-mainmenu-110/34-how-weight-loss-works.html) No it won’t. I can’t even get an estimate of the formula to closer than 55 calories ‘out’. Even if the 3,555 were correct (and it isn’t), this would mean we all need a 55 calorie biscuit, no fewer, every day or we will be five pounds lighter in a year anyway. Every person who didn’t have that biscuit every day should have lost 141 pounds over the past 25 years.

With little effort I can find evidence in obesity journals that fat has anywhere between 8.7 and 9.5 calories per gram. The same (1911) obesity journal that says that human fat tissue can be 87% lipid also says that it may be 72% lipid.

Taking the extremes of these, we can establish a range whereby one pound of fat could contain anywhere between 2,843 and 3,752 calories. Given that it is currently held that one pound is 3,500 calories we could (according to this formula) accidentally gain six stone every year at the low end of the calculation and lose almost two stone in the same year if one pound is 3,752 calories. Don’t worry about any of this – because the formula doesn’t hold at any other level either.

Reason number 2 – a calorie is not a calorie

A calorie as a unit of energy is a calorie as a unit of energy, just as an inch as a unit of length is an inch as a unit of length. However, that’s as far as this statement (a tautology to be precise) should be allowed to go. A calorie is not a calorie the minute it enters the human body.

We are indebted to three scientists for the following:
Eric Jequier, who works in the Institute of Physiology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland calculated the number of calories that are used up in making energy available to the body for the three different macro nutrients: carbohydrate, fat and protein. He found that approximately 6-8% of carbohydrate calories consumed are used up in converting that energy into energy; the number is only 2-3% for fat, but that 25-30% of protein calories are used up by the body in breaking down protein into amino acids – the component parts of protein needed by the body.[i]

This means that approximately 6-8% of the calories consumed in the form of carbohydrate are used up in digesting the carbohydrate and turning it into fuel available to be used by the body. In contrast, 25-30% of the calories consumed in the form of protein are used up in digesting the protein and turning it into fuel available to be used by the body. This also makes intuitive sense; carbohydrates are relatively easy for the body to turn into energy (indeed they start being digested, and turned into glucose, with salivary enzymes, as soon as we start chewing). Protein needs to be broken down into amino acids, which is a far more complex process.

Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine, a biochemist and a nuclear physicist respectively, published a paper in 2004 building on Jequier’s work.[ii] They took Jequier’s mid points (7% for carbohydrate, 2.5% for fat and 27.5% for protein) and worked out how many calories would be available to the body if someone consumed 2,000 calories in the proportions 55:30:15 carbohydrate : fat : protein. This is pretty much the proportions that the UK and USA governments advise us to eat – if anything – they would be happy if carbohydrate intake increased to 60% at the expense of fat/protein.

Feinman and Fine demonstrated that 2,000 calories in the 55:30:15 proportions ends up as 1,848 calories available for energy. While writing The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it? I accepted nothing whatsoever – not even a calculation in an academic paper. Hence I recalculated the Feinman and Fine figure and found it to be wrong. Papers include an email address for correspondence, so I tracked down Richard Feinman and queried the number and he said that an error had been spotted after going to print! The correct number is 1,825 – which would only have made their point even more profound (that a calorie is not a calorie the minute it enters the body).

I then repeated the calculation for a 10:30:60 high protein diet, (keeping fat the same and swapping carbs out and protein in), and the calories available to the body drop to 1,641 calories. This is incredible! This means that two people can both eat 2,000 calories a day and the high carbohydrate person is effectively getting nearly 200 calories more than the high protein person. Anyone still wonder why low carb diets have a built in advantage?!

Reason number 3 – the pathways for calories are infinite

Reason number 2 shows that calories are different the minute they enter the body. Reason number 3 is about the fact that it is even more complicated than the work done by Jequier, Feinman and Fine. Their combined work is about what happens when we eat carb vs. fat vs. protein calories – at the point they enter the body. If all calories went on to follow an identical pathway, this might be where the difference ends. However the body is way more complex than this.

Take a simple example of me eating 100 calories of pure carbohydrate. Only sucrose (table sugar) is 100% carbohydrate, so let’s say I eat 100 calories of sugar. This can only provide energy – it cannot help with any of the ‘jobs’ that my body does on a daily basis. I may need the energy straight away. In which case, the Jequier work tells us that approximately 93 calories will be available to me for energy. But what if I don’t need them straight away? The body will have to release insulin to get this sugar out of my blood stream – that takes energy within the body. The sugar is then turned into glycogen and I may need this within the next few hours. If I do – the stored energy comes out of my glycogen reserves, which requires more activity by the body. If I don’t use this sugar within 24 hours (because, let’s say, I’m an idiot calorie counter and I graze on carbs all day long, so I never need to dip into my glycogen stores) then my body turns the glycogen into fat – more activity required by the body. If I then have the sense to cut carbs for a while – my body will need to break down the fat to get the glucose stored as glycerol in body fat – more activity required by the body. The energy at each stage consumed may be tiny – it may be more significant – we have no idea. All we do know is that the claim that you will regularly see in magazines “cut 10 calories a day and you will lose one pound by the end of the year” is the daftest comment you will ever see in print!

Reason number 4 – some calories have a job to do

This one is so important. Discovering this was one of my most memorable light bulb moments. This was not an original discovery – many others have discovered this too, but the point that you realise this for yourself is definitely a penny drop moment!

Many web sites (and the Tanita type weighing scales) have calculators estimating the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calories needed for different people. They work on the basis of knowing height, weight, gender and age. The BMR calories are the fuel needed by the body just to do all the things that the body does – keeping us alive, keeping us warm, cell repair, pumping blood, fighting infection, running the reproductive system etc.
As an example, the BMR for a 160 pound female, 5’4”, aged 40 is estimated to be 1,464 calories. (This is the imperial version of the formula. Our same woman has a metric BMR of 1,456 calories. This is a significant difference if you believe the 3,500 formula!)

There is an equation which has been used since 1919 to work out how much energy above the BMR is needed for different levels of activity. It is called the Harris Benedict Equation.[iii]An inactive person (little or no exercise) is estimated to need their BMR plus 20%; a light activity individual (exercise 1-3 days per week) is estimated to need their BMR plus 37.5%; the individual doing moderate exercise (3-5 days a week) is estimated to need their BMR plus 55% and very heavy exercise (twice a day, intense workouts) is estimated to need BMR plus 90% – even this level of activity does not double daily calorie requirement. If our average woman above exercises 1-3 days per week, her overall calorie requirement is 2,013 – close to the 2,000 calories we often hear are needed by the average woman. This means that 73% of her energy requirement is determined by basal metabolic needs. (Please always remember that whenever we talk about calories we are just talking about the body’s form in which fuel is put in – just like petrol/diesel for a car – we are never implying that we should count these units of energy!)

So, if you are exercising 1-3 days a week, approximately three quarters of your fuel intake needs to be going towards BMR activities. Only protein, fat, vitamins and minerals can help with your BMR list of activities. Carbohydrate is purely for energy. Hence any carbs that you eat are useless as far as the BMR list is concerned. Visualise an operations manager sitting within your body with a check list of things to do every day: pump the heart; liver – 500 jobs; kidneys – manage waste and much more; cells need to be repaired and so on. Every time fat, protein, vitamins and minerals come in – the ops manager can direct those nutrients to things on the “To Do” list. Every time carbs come in – nothing gets crossed off the list.

This is how a calorie counter can eat 1,200 calories of largely carbohydrate (fruit, cereal, muesli bars, sweets, rice cakes, ryvita etc) and not lose weight. I’ll share a slide at the end of this article from a lecture at Cardiff Metropolitan University that I’m working on – showing how the sum of all these errors makes for such a huge difference between processed food/low cal eaters vs. real food/ low carb eaters. Our calories have a job to do – an infinite number in fact!

Reason 5 – counting calories makes you eat the wrong things

When people count calories they are trying to eat fewer calories than their body needs in the naive and mistaken assumption that the body will just use up fat in the way that they would like it to – we’ll come back to this one in the closing paragraph.

During my research, I have also shown that the assumptions that carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram are wrong. The variations for fat (as we saw in reason 1) are likely very wide indeed. One of my favourite pieces of research was done by Barry Groves showing that cocoa butter – yes dark chocolate! – has approximately 5.5, not 9, calories per gram (Check out Barry’s comment on this post: http://barrygroves.blogspot.com/2011/10/something-rotten-in-state-of-denmark.html).

However, thinking that fat has approximately 9 calories per gram drives calorie counters down the path of eating more carbohydrate. They may try to eat more protein, but, as protein is in everything, they essentially have to choose between fat/protein or carb/protein. Some super idiots have worked out that you can take fat out of fat/protein foods (aka egg white omelettes), but hopefully Darwinism will ensure that the lack of nutrition in this approach gets its just rewards!

So, we start a calorie controlled diet and we eat carbs. Remembering back to my calorie counting days, I had no thought about nutrition whatsoever (not having been taught much of any use in school, I didn’t have the mindset that my life depended on fat/protein/vitamins and minerals). I ate 8-10 apples a day (c. 500 calories), drank black coffee in place of food and ate a 100g box of fruit gums every day (c. 350 calories) – that was my treat and I made them last as long as possible – drip feeding glucose all day long. I didn’t lose weight a) because of reason 4 – because I was eating more energy calories than I needed and fewer BMR calories than I needed so I just got ill, not slim, and b) because the body does try to keep us alive so it would spend all day trying to get me to eat. Many days I would give in and end up eating crisps, Quality Street, sweets, bread, cereal – carbs and more carbs. It was probably only the University and work dinners that I had to attend that gave me any nutrients whatsoever.

No calorie counter opts for a steak cooked in butter when they could have 5 apples, 4 rice cakes, a tube of fruit gums and a couple of slices of dry bread instead.

Calorie counters, therefore, are driven down the route of eating more of the very macronutrients that makes us fat – carbs!

Reason 6 – three things happen directly when we count calories

We’re getting into the heart of The Harcombe Diet here. There are three direct things that happen when we try to eat less energy than our body needs:

1) We get hungry;

2) Our bodies store fat and use up lean muscle;

3) Our metabolisms slow down, to conserve the limited energy that we have, and this means we need fewer calories to live on.

Let’s look at each of these, for a quick and simple explanation:

1) The first thing that happens, when we try to eat less, is that we get hungry. As soon as you eat less than your body needs, your body sends out signals to try to get you to eat. Your body doesn’t know that you have read a diet book. It thinks you have landed on a desert island and have been forced into a life threatening starvation situation and it tries to look after you.

You will be very familiar with the signals that your body sends out to try to get you to eat. Physical symptoms include: shaky hands; sweaty palms; feeling light headed; headaches and a rumbly tummy are some of the best examples. Mental/emotional symptoms include: irritability; inability to concentrate; indecisiveness and an unusually high preoccupation with food. It is no coincidence that, as soon as you start a calorie-controlled diet, all you can think about is food. This is your body telling you to eat.

This alone – your body making you hungry – is enough to ruin most diets. You start a new diet with such good intentions, but you are trying to fight your body from the start and your body will always win.

2) The second thing that happens, when you try to eat less than you need, is that your body stores fat and uses up lean muscle. Lean muscle uses up more calories (energy) than fat does. Back to the desert island – your body is in survival mode when you try to eat less, so it needs to ‘dump’ the part of you that needs the most energy. This is the lean muscle – so that needs to go first. Your body hangs on to the fat a) because it uses up less energy and b) because it is going to be a valuable reserve if you are on the ‘desert island’ for a long time.

This is a double whammy for you a) because you want to lose fat, not nice, toned, lean muscle and b) because the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is. So, if you lose lean muscle, you reduce the number of calories that you can eat without putting on weight.

3) The third thing that happens, when you try to eat less than you need, is that your metabolism slows down. Your body does this to conserve the limited energy that is now coming in. This then means, as with (2) above, that you will need fewer calories to live on and you will put on weight if you try to eat the number of calories that used to maintain your weight.

Reason 7 – three things happen indirectly when we count calories

When we start a calorie-controlled diet we do the following:

1) We increase the proportion of carbohydrates in our diet;

2) We reduce the variety of food eaten;

3) We weaken our immune systems.

1) As we have seen with reason 5, if you count calories you will increase the proportion of carbohydrates in your diet. Quite simply, gram for gram, carbs are always lower in calories than fat. If you know this you will avoid fat and choose carbohydrates instead – as the lower calorie option. Even if you don’t know this, you may know the calorie content of certain foods and you may know that you could have half a dozen apples for the calorie equivalent of a salmon fillet. As the carbohydrate options are always lower in calories than fat options, gram for gram, calorie counters tend to increase the proportion of carbohydrates in their diet and reduce the proportion of fat.

If you don’t do your own calorie counting, but you follow a diet from a magazine, or any low fat/calorie controlled book, the diet will automatically do the calorie counting for you. On any low calorie/low fat diet, your basic diet foods will be fruit, crisp breads, salads, cereal bars, maybe cereal like Special K® – all carbohydrates. Steak, oily fish, cheese, milk, olive oil and other fats will barely get a mention in any calorie-controlled diet.

So, counting calories/trying to eat less/following a low fat diet – are all based on the calorie theory in one way or another and they all lead to an increase in the proportion of carbohydrates in your diet.

2) The second thing that we do, when we start a calorie-controlled diet, is to reduce the variety of foods eaten. We tend to go for the regular favourites that give us ‘the biggest bang for the buck’ (the most food for the fewest calories). We probably have a set breakfast – our calorie counted bread, or cereal, every day. We probably have a set lunch also – a shop bought calorie-counted ready meal or calorie counted sandwich or cereal bar. We may vary the evening meal a bit more, but it is still likely to have the same ingredients in it and always more carbs than fats.

3) The third thing that we do when we count calories is weaken our immune systems. This happens in the following ways:

a) Simply because we are not eating as much fuel as our bodies need, we are denying our bodies much needed energy;

b) On top of this we have just seen that we eat more carbohydrates and cut back on fats. Fats are essential for our wellbeing because they form the membrane (thin protection layer) that surrounds every cell in our bodies;

c) We also develop nutritional deficiencies when we don’t eat enough, because we don’t get enough fats, calories and we eat a limited variety of foods.

Reason 8 – three conditions develop when we count calories

Reason 7 – the indirect things that happen when we count calories – lays the foundation for the three conditions at the heart of The Harcombe Diet:

1) Increasing the proportion of carbohydrates in our diet is bad for all three conditions:
– Candida thrives on carbohydrates, while fats have no impact on it at;
– The most common Food Intolerances are to carbohydrates – wheat, sugar and corn. Intolerance to meat, fish or oils is almost unheard of;
– Hypoglycaemia is directly related to carbohydrates because only carbohydrates affect the blood glucose level. Pure fats don’t affect the blood glucose level.

2) Reducing the variety of food eaten is again bad for all three conditions, especially when the limited foods eaten are generally carbohydrates:
– Eating dieters’ staple foods of low calorie cereal, low calorie bread, calorie counted processed meals, fruit and sweet ‘treats’ feeds Candida beautifully;
– The very definition of Food Intolerance is eating the same food too much, too often. So reducing the variety of foods eaten has a clear and direct impact on Food Intolerance;
– With Hypoglycaemia – eating the same carbohydrates regularly continues to have bad effects on our blood glucose levels.

3) Weakening our immune systems, by not eating enough calories and by not eating enough fat, makes our bodies more likely to get all three of the conditions. A weakened immune system leads to:

  • Candida, as it creates the environment for the yeast to multiply;
  • Food Intolerance, as our bodies are more susceptible to adverse reactions to common foods;
  • Hypoglycaemia, as our general health is likely to impact our blood glucose level and stability.

In summary, counting calories will make you eat more carbohydrates (relative to fats). It will reduce the variety of foods that you eat and it will weaken your immune system. These, in turn, all lay your body wide open to Candida, Food Intolerance and Hypoglycaemia. Get these and you will crave foods (carbohydrates mainly) like an addict.

So, start counting calories and settle down to a life of uncontrollable cravings and food obsession. Stop counting calories and start losing weight!

Reason 9 – there is simply no evidence that counting calories works

Chapter seven in Part Two of The Obesity Epidemic reviews the evidence since the first calorie deficit diet study (1917) to see if calorie counting has worked. You’ll be very familiar by now with the 1959 study that quantified the failure rate at 98%:

Having reviewed the literature from the first half of the twentieth century and having done their own study Stunkard and McLaren-Hume (1959) concluded “Most obese persons will not stay in treatment for obesity. Of those who stay in treatment, most will not lose weight, and of those who do lose weight, most will regain it.”[iv] Stunkard and McLaren-Hume’s own statistical study showed that only 12% of obese patients lost 20 pounds, despite having stones to lose, only one person in 100 lost 40 pounds and, two years later, only 2% of patients had maintained a 20 pound weight loss. This is where the often quoted “98% of diets fail” derives from.

Having made some new observations over the Christmas period, I can share that a number of 11 pounds is showing some interesting consistency:

1) When I asked seven UK public health and obesity bodies for evidence of the calorie formula (British Dietetic Association (BDA), Dietitians in Obesity Management (DOM), the National Health Service (NHS), the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Department of Health (DoH), the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)), the only study provided was one undertaken by NICE.[v]

This study involved 12 people who were given a deficit of 600 calories a day for a year. They were an average of 4.6 kilograms down at the end of the year and the losses ranged from 0.6 kilograms to 7.2 kilograms. That’s an average 11 pounds loss after one year and the range of losses was between 0.8 pounds and 17.2 pounds.

If the calorie formula worked, every single one of these 12 people should have lost 600*365/3,500 = 62.57 pounds of fat. Not an ounce (of fat) more or less. AND, there should have been no range of results – everyone should have lost exactly the same (that’s what happens with a mathematical formula). More should have been lost on top in muscle/lean tissue and water – approximately 15% as a guide. This means everyone should have lost 72 pounds exactly – no differences between people. Even the highest weight loss was 45 pounds lower than the fat loss alone should have been.

This is also a study of 12 people. There are 1.5 billion overweight people in the world and we can’t prove a formula using 12 of them.

2) Weight Watchers funded a study done by the government body the Medical Research Council, which was published in July 2010. The Sunday Times found that Weight Watchers paid the MRC “almost £1m” to do the study.[vi] The outcome was, unsurprisingly, a very nice endorsement for Weight Watchers from a supposed-to-be independent government body. The head of the nutrition unit for the MRC, Dr Susan Jebb, also went to the obesity conference in Stockholm, courtesy of Weight Watchers, to present the results.

The results were – 772 people were studied: 395 people were simply given weight loss advice from their doctor (the GP group) and 377 were funded to attend Weight Watchers (419 of the 772 completed their respective programme).[vii] The study was a year in length and the likely deficit was at least 1,000 calories per day (a typical Weight Watchers allowance in 2010 was 18-20 points, which approximated to 900-1,000 calories vs. an average 2,000 calorie requirement for a woman). The article reported that the GP group lost an average of six pounds and the Weight Watchers group lost an average of 11 pounds. There’s that 11 pounds again.

The Weight Watchers group should have lost 104 pounds in fat alone. This study provided irrefutable proof that the calorie theory is wrong, which should have been front page news in itself, but this was not the story of the article. The story was “you’ll lose twice as much weight with Weight Watchers.” The headline should more accurately have been “Weight Watchers works better than just going to the GP, says study funded by Weight Watchers; but you will be lucky to lose one tenth of your lowest expectation.” Not as catchy, but far more honest.

3) Weight Watchers have spent £15m on a 2012 New Year’s Day TV advert campaign. The advance press release generating interest in the advert – covered here in the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2076317/Weight-Watchers-broadcast-3-minute–15m-advert-New-Years-Day.html) – said at the end that “The company launched its ProPoints weight-loss plan last year and in just 12 months its one million members in the UK have lost more than 11million pounds between them.” The maths is easy – one million members losing c. 11 million pounds between them means an average 11 pounds per member – in one year.

4) The Franz chart to which I often refer (http://www.theharcombedietclub.com/forum/showthread.php?1686-The-evidence-for-low-calorie-diets) also shows that all calorie deficit options, other than the liquid very low calorie diet (VLCD), record losses of between 0 and approximately 8 kilograms at 6 months. The average is at approximately 4-5 kilograms (the dark blue line) – 11 pounds again. The light blue line, for VLCDs, simply shows a greater loss at six months and a greater subsequent regain.

This brings us on to the final point about evidence for low calorie diets. First, we cannot find evidence (and seven government/obesity organisations were invited to provide any and all that they had) for more than an average 11 pound weight loss following a substantial (600-1,000) calorie deficit for a year (and how miserable would that year be!) Secondly, there is no evidence that even this small loss can be sustained. The Stunkard & Hume research says that it won’t be. The Franz chart says that it won’t be – all methods of calorie deficit weight loss start regain at around six months. (The reason I refer to this Franz study so often is that it is the most recent – 2007 and it is a meta-analysis – a study of many studies. It includes 80 different studies involving over 26,000 people. Hence it is highly significant in its findings). Check out slide 8 on this link from the MRC Weight Watchers study (http://www.mrc-bsu.cam.ac.uk/BSUsite/CHTMR/AM_forweb.pdf) – virtual plateau in one study at 4-5 months and regain in the other at 6-9 months.

Many people lose 11 pounds in the first week or two on The Harcombe Diet – showing the power of real food/managed carb. Tragically there is no formula when it comes to weight loss and there is no guarantee that weight loss on real food/managed carb will be any more predictable than any other method of weight loss. However, if anything can work real food/managed carb will and if anything will lead to sustained weight loss (i.e. keeping it off), then real food/managed carb will. The worst thing that we can do is to count calories, trigger all the circumstances presented in this article and start resetting our energy (calorie) need lower than it is currently. That’s a recipe for being hungry, miserable, undernourished and prone to weight gain for the rest of our lives.

Reason 10 – what a waste of a life!

The final reason has to be – we have one chance at life on earth – whatever we think happens afterwards, this is the only shot we get at being human. I continue to follow @rednicola on twitter with ‘car crash’ fascination (she gained 13.5 pounds between the 8th December and the end of December by the way!) – can her grave stone say anything other than “I spent time on the cross trainer and counting calories”?!

Surely there are better things to do than counting calories? Surely anything is more fun, more productive, more philanthropic than this? The seven deadly sins aside, make counting calories the absolute last thing on earth you would ever think about doing!

The slide bringing it all together

Those of you who can get to Wales – I’m doing a one hour lecture on the obesity epidemic at Cardiff Metropolitan University on Tuesday 7th February. Free drinks start at 6pm and then I’m on at 6.30pm – all free and on a first come first served basis.

I’m working on a slide for the presentation where I try to represent reasons 2 and 4 particularly. It will likely evolve before the day, but here’s the latest version:


The points to be made are:

1) From the same 2,000 starting calories, Ms Eatbadly Plate can have 1,826 calories available to the body and Ms Mother Nature can end up with 1,641 available to the body (the latter following a 10/30/60 fat/protein/carb ratio). I wouldn’t actually recommend these proportions – this is just to illustrate the difference in protein vs. carb. (My advice would be just eat real food, don’t fear fat and the actual proportions will be what they will be).

2) Ms Mother Nature then just about has the BMR calories she needs – Ms Eatbadly plate has barely half what she needs. Hence Ms Eatbadly could have consumed another 700 fat/protein calories and the body had a use/need for them straight away – a missed opportunity and the fast track to disease.

3) Ms Mother Nature doesn’t have her energy calories consumed, so she’s burning fat on a daily basis. Ms Eatbadly has twice as many energy calories as she needs so she stores fat rather than burns fat!
Ms Mother Nature gets slim and healthy; the people eating the way the government advises get fat and sick.

The final point to note is – don’t ever get tempted to eat less overall even when you see this final slide. Cut carbs by all means, especially if experimenting (like Mat, Lizzi, Jimmy Moore!) or if you find that you are very carb sensitive. If you try to eat less, the body can and does just reduce the things it was going to do otherwise. You eat less, the body turns off the heating system, cuts back on cell repair and fighting infection etc, stops the reproductive system if things get really serious etc. You do more – the body can again rob from BMR calories – things it was going to do that day; the body can also rob from other energy calories. You may not end up going to the gym AND needing 500 energy calories for the day. You may go to the gym and then crash on the sofa and just do less other activity. The body can and does rob from the BMR and energy calories if you try to eat less and/or do more. The human body is way too smart just to give up fat even if it were biochemically able to do so (i.e. having no glucose available for energy).

We’ve now come full circle – even if energy in did equal energy out (and hopefully you’ve got 6,000 words here as to why it doesn’t) – surely less energy in would equal less energy out.

Never eat less – only ever eat better!

[i] Eric Jequier, “Pathways to Obesity”, International Journal of Obesity, (2002).

[ii] Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine, “A calorie is a calorie violates the second law of thermodynamics”, Nutritional Journal, (2004).

[iii] Harris J.A., Benedict F.G., “A biometric study of basal metabolism in man”, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Publication no 279, (1919).

[iv] Stunkard A. and M. McLaren-Hume, “The results of treatment for obesity: a review of the literature and report of a series”, Archives of Internal Medicine, (1959).

[v] NICE document Management of obesity: Full Guidance, December 2006

[vi] http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Health/article359154.ece The Sunday Times 1 August 2010. (The link won’t work unless you subscribe to the Times site

[vii] http://www.mrc-bsu.cam.ac.uk/BSUsite/CHTMR/AM_forweb.pdf