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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why You Get Fat – Cut Calories Lose Fat – You’ve Been Fooled - Part II

Oh No, I better Cut Back on Calories!

Talk to almost anyone who thinks they need to lose fat and one of the first things out of their mouth will have to do with the idea of cutting back on how much they eat.  Read Part I if you missed it.

Well, I hate to say it, but if you are one of those people, you’ve really been fooled.  As logical as it may seem on the surface, cutting calories will not help you lose fat.  If anything, you’ll lose muscle, and long-term you’ll likely get fatter.  I’ve witnessed this many times, even with my clients, whom I’ve repeatedly told not to do this.  

Unfortunately, the media, and many so-called health authorities have ingrained this calorie cutting approach into people’s heads despite the fact that the results are abysmal.  In my professional experience, I’ve found that women more easily get sucked into this calorie cutting, starvation diet approach to fat loss.  The ridiculous pressure on women to be rail thin and live on a piece of lettuce and a toothpick float leads to many serious problems including eating disorders and other dangerous addictions (diet pills, stimulant drugs).  


However, in true American fashion, people have taken things to the other extreme as well.  While eating only 800 calories a day is unhealthy, this doesn’t mean eating whatever you want is any better.  Despite this fact, this is unfortunately the route people often take when they get frustrated with their lack of fat loss.  The evidence of this is everywhere, look around – most people are fat – sadly even most children.  Even many people who appear thin, are skinny fat (i.e. they are thin but have high body fat percentages), which is worse yet.  

Absolutely!
Now before you start saying “yeah but…”, last time I checked everything you put in your mouth is your choice, there has never been a case of food forcing itself down someone’s throat.  You are personally responsible for what you eat and in turn for the resulting effect on your body.  If taking personal responsibility for what you eat and its effect on your body is somehow offensive to you, fine, because you likely need to be offended in this regard.  As I’ve always said, you can pay for high quality, healthy food now or you can pay to be unhealthy and feel terrible later, it’s your choice.  I find it interesting how people who drive expensive cars, spend hundreds of dollars a month on booze, go on multiple vacations each year and have expensive hobbies make it known that they can’t afford organic foods, high quality supplements, functional medicine practitioners or lab tests because they cost too much.  Part of the problem is priorities, but the greater part is seeing the value in these health building investments.  This is compounded by the fact that most people unknowingly, due to mainstream media and medical influence, have been convinced that if their doctor says they are fine, they are fine and that the nightly news and magazines are a reliable source of health and fitness information.  What they don’t realize is this information is highly filtered and influenced by advertisers.  And while medical doctors may have good intentions, they receive little or no training in the area of nutrition and fitness and most (though not all) have about as much qualification to advise you on nutrition and fitness as Britney Spears does to tutor your child in calculus.  Ultimately, however, it comes down to you prioritizing and seeking out solutions with the assistance of qualified experts that can help you develop a sustainable lifestyle-based approach to fitness that you’re satisfied with, not a this-for-that quick fix that only leads to more frustration.

Ok, fine, I’m personally responsible for what I eat, but yet I’m not supposed to cut calories to lose fat?  This is where the conundrum begins.

You've gotten too fat and happy...shame on you.

You’ve been told by the powers that be that overeating and our modern prosperous lifestyle have lead us to the “obesity crisis”…we’ve just gotten too fat and happy they say.  

Overeating and Sedentary Lifestyle ~ according to the CDC in the mid 90s
Improved prosperity ~ according to Marion Nestle of NYU
It’s the toxic environment ~ said Brownell of Yale

Thus, the oversimplified, yet logical solution must be to be more active and cut back on how much you eat, right?  Of course it is, but the truth isn’t always what it seems.  

Consider the following...

Being fat has long been associated with poverty, not prosperity…as far back as the 60’s obese women were 6 times more likely to be poor than rich.  This trend has continued and even the CDC study that revealed the obesity epidemic showed that poor people are more likely to be fat, than rich people.  Here are a number of examples suggesting that it’s not a modern, prosperous, sedentary lifestyle that brings on obesity.

Pima Indians in Arizona – women who were fat were the most active
Pueblo weren’t fat, but were sedentary
Sioux were poor with obesity rates similar to today – 80 years ago
Numerous other examples from the 1950’s-1980’s that you can read about in detail 

On the surface, this goes against the modern, prosperous, sedentary lifestyle theory the so-called authorities would have you believe.  However, just insert the simplistic calories in calories out idea and you have a convenient explanation.  For a variety of reasons (one of which has to do with money), the so-called authorities have, at least superficially, taken this either or stance that says you are overweight either because you eat too much or you move too little.  This belief is perpetuated because it’s always easier to toe the party line than to dig deeper in an attempt to discover the real cause.  This, in spite the fact that even a cursory evaluation of the situation shows obesity isn’t simply about overeating.  


First off, people who are poor typically work in more labor-intensive jobs, hence they are more active and need more calories for energy than the more well off desk jockey’s of the world.  Great, they are more active so they should have a healthy weight.  Not so fast.  They may be more active, but they have a low income, and thus out of necessity look to buy the cheapest food available.  This cheap food is the lowest quality, most processed and unhealthy food available.  Because it’s hard to believe these individuals can afford to overeat, being they are barely able to put food on the table, it must be something other than overeating, perhaps the food quality?  

Did you realize that there was a time when obesity was considered an issue of malnutrition instead of overnutrition?  Though the mainstream has left this idea behind, it doesn’t change the reality that if you are overweight you are actually malnourished.  You may be eating a large amount of food, however the problem is you are not getting adequate nutrients (empty calories).  Remember, just because it goes in your mouth doesn’t mean it’s good for you or that you digested and absorbed it.  Literally, when you are overweight, your body is starving for real food, that’s not processed, and has unadulterated proteins, fats, and carbs along with all of the vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients needed for health.

Malnutrition Today

With the above in mind, you can see how simply cutting calories can have negative effects on your body (hormone and blood sugar imbalances along with a host of other issues).  When your body is already nutrient deficient, the last thing you want to do is cut calories, let alone expect yourself to be more active.  This would put even more stress on your already stressed out body that has inadequate nutrients to deal with the stress to begin with.  

Starting to see why you feel like crap and are moody and tired all the time when you start cutting back on calories and at the same time try to increase your activity?

Eat Less Exercise More - Feel Like Crap

Need more convincing that cutting calories does little or nothing for fat loss?  

Here is a slew of scientific evidence to consider…

The Women’s Health Initiative collection of studies, from the early 90’s sought to answer questions about the effect of low fat diets on various health issues.  50,000 women were enrolled with 20,000 randomly selected and told to eat low-fat diets rich in fruits, veggies and fiber.  These women (the majority of whom were overweight) consumed on average 360 calories a day less than they did prior to being enrolled in the study.  If the overeating theory is true they should have lost weight, but after 8 years they lost an average of only 2 pounds each and their waist circumference increased.  Sound familiar to those of you who’ve cut calories?

The very first review of the effectiveness of undereating as a treatment for obesity was done in 1959, by psychologist Albert Stunkard and a colleague.  He was motivated by his failure to treat obese patients using calorie restriction and the widespread assumption that this treatment was easy and effective.  Their review of the medical literature found only 8 articles all with similar poor weight loss results coming from 800-1000 cal diets.  

A more recent 2007 review, by Tufts, of diet trials conducted since 1980 resulted at best in temporary, modest weight loss.  The largest of these trials involved over 800 people who under-ate by 750 calories per day lost only an average of 9 lbs in the first 6 months with most gaining it back after 1 year.  Pretty dismal results with that kind of restriction…clearly something isn’t working!

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, so-called authorities still recommend calorie cutting, albeit in a rather wishy-washy way.

The 1998 Handbook of Obesity states at one point that diet and reduction of intake are the basis of weight reduction…then just a short while later says results from restricted diets are poor and short-lived…that’s pretty convincing…yeah right!
Cutting Calories Results in an Epic Fail

Then in the 2005 Joslin’s Diabetes Mellitus, Flier, the dean of Harvard Medical School describes reduced calories as the cornerstone of obesity therapy but goes on to detail all the ways these fail, concluding that none of these approaches has proven any merit!  Seriously, and these are the approaches being advocated by professionals throughout the fitness and medical world?

The reality is that no one can maintain these low calorie starvation diets forever as evidenced by George Blackburn and Bruce Bistrian (2 of the most successful individuals treating obesity in an academic setting) of Harvard who used 600 calorie diets of protein and got a large amount of weight loss success.  But after awhile they gave up because they didn’t know what to tell patients to do next because they realized they couldn’t maintain these diets forever without using appetite suppressants.

More recently, in an interview Bistrian said undereating isn’t a treatment or cure for obesity; it’s a way of temporarily reducing the most obvious symptom.  Thus, if undereating isn’t a treatment or cure, this suggests that overeating is not a cause.

Surely this is enough information to get you out of the notion that you need to cut calories to lose fat.  If not, there will be plenty more in upcoming posts.  The next however, has to do with the elusive benefits of exercise and fat loss.  All of this leads to an end of which many of you are probably well aware.  The bottom line is will you be ready to accept the truth and take action?

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