6

votes

Total Caloric Intake and Calorie Restriction

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 01, 2012 at 8:25 PM

It maybe my misunderstanding, but so many people on this board give advice to eat with no regard to their total caloric intake. Much of this advice is based on a book called, 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' by Gary Taubes. The NY times review points out that Taubes ingnores the majority of diabetes research and relevant studies conducted in the 50's and 60's which demonstrate total caloric intake controls body weight regardless of food composition. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/07/books/review/Kolata-t.html)

The Calorie Restriction Society has research showing that eating fewer calories while maintaining nutrition causes increased longevity, reduced cancer, and increased immunity to disease. These findings are supported by the recommendations of 'The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest' by Dan Buettner. This book is a summation of the efforts to extrapolate from the 4 (now 5 recognized) Blue Zones (areas where people live significantly longer) the how and why they live longer. The book draws correlations (which are not scientific). A calorie restricted diet of unprocessed, organic foods was shared by all regions (at or just under 2000 calories per day). There are over 105 citations to books, journals, and research papers on the Wikipedia Caloric Restriction entry.

I believe that Paleo has built in calorie reduction. One way your body 'feels' full is based on the volume of food it consumes. Unprocessed, organic foods are nutrient rich but have low caloric density. This allows you to eat the same if not more food by volume while reducing overall calorie intake.

My point of this post is not to refute Taubes. He certainly presents many good points. Are we doing more harm than good recommending to people to ignore their total caloric intake and not restrict the calories they consume?

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 03, 2012
at 02:15 AM

I am reading that it states the metabolism adapted to the the lower calorie diet by lowering the daily energy requirement within 6 months. 1 Week after living in the biodome for 2 years, the lean mass of the volunteers was the same as when they entered (and of that in the control group) but all were less than 10% body fat. After six months of living outside of the controlled environ and on their normal diets, the volunteers reverted back to their previous physical condition. Demonstrating that a calorie restricted diet maintained lean body mass while lowering body fat %. Cool.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 03, 2012
at 02:11 AM

Essentially it states that metabolism adapted to the lower calorie diet of the volunteers by lowering their daily energy requirement. 1 Week after exiting the biodome, the lean mass of the volunteers was the same as when they entered (and of that in the control group) but all were less than 10% body fat. After six months of living outside of the controlled environ, the volunteers reverted back to their previous physical condition. Demonstrating that a calorie restricted diet lowers the required energy to maintain lean mass while reducing body fat %. Cool.

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on May 02, 2012
at 11:21 PM

@Evelyn, yes her early work is on worms, but she has now moved into studies involving warm blooded people.

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:59 PM

@DesireeBU, I relate to your comments a lot. I also gained weight when I tried to do the "fat=satiety" approach and I also didn't even enjoy my food. I also do better with a mix of protein and carbs and the evil idea of lower fat. Calorie counting is also something very useful for me because my I don't really follow hunger cues or even know what that means. Self-regulation didn't magically happen on paleo for me. I could eat a stick of butter with food and an entire cow and want to mindlessly eat more. Calorie counting helps me eat to live, rather than mindlessly or emotionally.

2c2349bc7af0fedb59a5fe99dac9fae2

(2707)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:26 PM

Good point! Forgot to mention IF.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:21 PM

@interrobung. I do not understand your reference to Pygmalion bias or the Rosenthal effect. Given the study that was conducted that I describe above, how could the researchers expectations effect the results of whether or not the patients maintained body weight on equal calorie but different macro-nutrient composition diets?

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:13 PM

I agree that is a rule of thumb and not strict calorie counting but that is semantics. It is calorie restricting. People living in Blue Zones ate diets under 2000 calories per day and lived very active life styles. There is a lot more to their lifestyle than just overall caloric restriction and I hope you read the book as I found it to be enlightening.

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:58 PM

the "that" in the last sentence referring to my eating a handful of carrots to satisfy my hunger.

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:57 PM

Just trying to understand this....You're saying that if I need to increase body fat, my body will decrease my metabolism and increase my hunger, right? So what if I satisfy that hunger by eating a handful of baby carrots (which I find to be REALLY filling), versus satisfying it with a handful of nuts. Even if they're equally filling, the nuts would (presumably) help with the goal of higher body fat significantly more than the carrots would. Isn't that a result, at least in part, of their carrying a much higher caloric load? And how does that help my body's goal of increased body fat?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:57 PM

The fact that many paleos use fasting demonstrates a concern with calories, even if counting is not used per se.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:51 PM

Chronic calorie restriction - above starvation levels - has been associated with longevity. I believe it's one of the best arguments for the fasting regimes. You might say that fasting is calorie counting for paleos, because it runs so counter to the ad libitum eating philosophy.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:47 PM

Leptin and ghrelin were only discovered in the 1990's. They have no possible bearing on ancestral life. But they are magic amulets in modern diet-nerddom.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:45 PM

You're attacking a straw man. Very few people count calories. Most follow fad diets or diets where the counting has been done for them.

251e61472b3201ef4e0888b20992f074

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:23 PM

I think eating until your 80% full would not qualify as counting calories. In practice, it probably means "don't stuff yourself". Not bad advice to follow.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 06:22 PM

All points that I do not disagree with. Calorie counting done in a vacuum, without any regard to what your body is telling you, is not what I am advocating. Yes, calorie restriction was intentional. In Okinawa a Confusion-inspired saying: “Hara hachi bu,” which means, “Eat until you are 80 percent full." was wisdom given to the demographers by centenarians. Research in IF is unclear if the fasting or calorie restriction is the main cause of health benefits. My issue is people are regularly advising that total caloric intake does not matter. This is factually wrong.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 05:01 PM

That's why paleo/primal can be great- I eat a "moderate everything" version, with moderate amounts of carbs (via starches and fruits), meat, and fat. That works for me. Yes, calorie counting can have it's place but, again, it shouldn't be the huge focus of your life, and can be detrimental when it is. You can force yourself to eat when you are not hungry or starve yourself when you are if you put the numbers before your body. It isn't the antichrist, but it also usually isn't the missing link.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:26 PM

Dr. Luigi Fontana's research began studies with human volunteers in 2002. Dr. Cynthia Kenyon's research was done earlier (1980's). Science always starts with smaller, simpler systems before testing in larger, complex systems. CR studies have been conducted with numerous animal species. Trials using human volunteers are always conducted after previous research has shown that it is safe and worthwhile to undertake.

5d4b57e05d74826020d1eb083ef725e0

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:10 PM

FOR ME I perform and feel best running on what low-carbers would consider dangerously low fat. Forcing increased fat on everyone is the same as forcing whole grains on SAD eaters. Again, N=1 yo. Calorie counting CAN BE a useful tool to see what satiates you for the least amount of energy in. The average SAD eater has absolutely no idea what a serving size is – I’d bet those that don’t buy a food scale are drastically underreporting when they first attempt calorie counting. ALL DIETING can cause eating disorders – calorie counting is not the antichrist.

5d4b57e05d74826020d1eb083ef725e0

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:10 PM

However, it's also a widely low-carb advocate proliferated assumption that EVERYONE finds fat to be the most satiating macro nutrient. I am far more satiated from a balanced meal. Honestly I find fat to be considerably less satiating than a mix of protein + carbs, and I considerably over-ate when I attempted the primal high fat/low carb “eat to satiety” approach.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:29 PM

Man, how weird must it be applying for a membership to the Caloric Restriction Society? To take that next step, you'd really have to love your calorie restriction...just seems odd...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:24 PM

After you have a grasp on your metabolism, are used to eating primal/paleo, have a well-functioning gut, and if you haven't already lost weight as a result of those three things, then you can start thinking about calories. It's on the list, but not at the top.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:23 PM

I think that people posting that they are confused why they haven't lost weight are a) under the false impression that paleo is a diet, and a weight loss one at that and b) probably aren't healthy enough to begin to lose weight. All the regular posters on here who actually follow a version of paleo/primal diet are much better sources for how self regulation can work- I couldn't do it very easily for months, my BF could regulate himself within one week of eating primal. When your metabolism is out of whack it isn't a quick fix, it takes a bit of patience and time.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:47 PM

I could not agree more. Always be skeptical of a non-scientist/researchers using others research and studies to make broad generalizations that the original researchers themselves did not. It is pseudoscience at best.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:43 PM

Jenny, I agree that calorie counting is not a long term solution to maintaining a healthy body weight. Running long term calorie deficits is only setting yourself up for failure. This idea that people self regulate on Paleo is somewhat a failed idea as well. Daily, there is a new post similar to "Been X weeks/months on Paleo, not losing BF%, help!" Possibly a combined approach where people are aware of the calories they are consuming would be more successful. I just don't understand nutritional advice stating calories do not matter.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on May 02, 2012
at 11:52 AM

Kenyon's research is on cold-blooded worms!

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:57 AM

My "agenda" is watching and experiencing calorie counting touted as the big solution to obesity, and seeing it fail on almost every occasion. It's part of the picture, for sure, but it sure isn't everything.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:55 AM

I said that counting calories as a means of caloric restriction, instead of just eating in a way that allows you to feel full and eat the amount of food you need for your body can lead to disordered eating and the ignoring of your satiety, which I don't think is the best way to practice caloric restriction. That is why counting calories is not on the top of my list as the best way to get people healthy. Notice, that is not me saying that caloric restriction, as you call it, is a bad idea or somehow evil.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:49 AM

I was exactly saying that CR is not mutually exclusive with paleo, and they are often one of the same. I'm not sure where that was missed.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on May 02, 2012
at 02:31 AM

WTF??? I can eat 1200 calories in a meal if I tries hard enough.

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on May 02, 2012
at 02:29 AM

Great question Mark, prepare yourself for some serious LC dogma.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 02, 2012
at 02:05 AM

@Mark not at all. It has a role, it's just not the primary, nor the most important determinant. I just reread my post and can't see where I state that research refutes the connection. I do believe that much of the research demonstrating an absolute connection with no difference suffers from Pygmalion bias. Maintenance calories are certainly different from non-maintenance calories, while neuroendocrine food-reward effects at the hypothalamus and endocrine effects in the pancreas/GI tract also vary by nutrient type. These are important confounders.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:29 AM

Having read your post again, I realize that you were stating it is important to break the cultural barriers to overeating. Simply calorie counting will not solve the problem. I agree that moving to a unprocessed, natural foods is the correct path. I thought you were refuting the role of total caloric intake has in body weight.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:20 AM

I really enjoyed the Blue Zone book. It opened my eyes to a lot of things and found it very surprising. Unfortunately the lifestyle in many of these zones is being threatened by an Americanized lifestyle. Sad really.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:19 AM

Nowhere in my OP did I mention calorie counting or talk about fat people. You seem to have an agenda on that front. I don't think you can consider your beliefs to be based in good science by throwing out sound data that does not agree with your premise. My post refers to CR which has shown to have numerous health benefits. CR and Paleo are not mutually exclusive. One of the tenants of CR is maintaining adequate nutrition while reducing calories which is what Paleo essentially does. My question is, in light of this, is telling people to ignore calories irresponsible?

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:08 AM

The investigators hospitalized their subjects and gave them controlled diets in which the carbohydrate content varied from zero to 85 percent, and the fat content varied inversely from 85 percent to zero. Protein was held steady at 15 percent. They asked how many calories of what kind were needed to maintain the subjects’ weight. As it turned out, the composition of the diet made no difference.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:07 AM

You state that research refutes the connection between total calorie intake and body weight. Studies by Jules Hirsch of Rockefeller University and Rudolph Leibel of Columbia, which tested whether calories from different sources have different effects, definitely show that the composition of the diet made no difference to overall body weight. Notice I did not say health. If you know of studies that refute these studies, please post them.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:02 AM

That is some great information. I wonder what relation this has to those that eat for emotional reasons? I am not advocating following the government recommended diet. It has been demonstrated anecdotally and with studies that CR has great health benefits which are touched upon in the OP. You are not refuting that total caloric intake is not important as others on this board have (Good Calories, Bad Calories). You are stating that the strategy of calorie counting is not an effective long term strategy which I agree with. CR and calorie counting are not the same.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 01, 2012
at 11:16 PM

Yeah, I think a lot of people coming into paleo are so used to cutting calories and fat, that the easiest way to transition is to just ignore all the numbers and get used to eating the way we were meant to.

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:53 PM

likewise I find it almost impossible once adapted ketogenically to eat anywhere near a SAD with carbs calorie intake. YPL..that is highly unusual..are you eating anough fat? how much fat a day? have you gained/lost/other feelings? tired/energy?

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:29 PM

+1 for leptin, but don't forget ghrelin (counterpart to leptin), obestatin, and nesfatin-1! (Not that I claim to fully understand the latter two).

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:24 PM

The Blue Zone populations also tend to consume fish regularly (3:6 balnace); they tend to engage in relatively constant intermittent low-level physical activity with periodic exertional activity starting much younger and moving long past other populations; they tend to have excellent sun exposure; and perhaps most importantly, they tend to have incredibly strong social and family cohesion.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 01, 2012
at 09:22 PM

Thank you for the new source. I will look into their arguments. I am fairly new to the nutrition side of the health equation and trying to figure out the good, the bad, and the plain criminal is difficult.

93eea7754e6e94b6085dbabbb48c0bb7

on May 01, 2012
at 09:14 PM

I personally think I need to calorie count! Following Taubes' suggestions I easily pound 2500 cals a day and am still hungry when before with carbs I had managed 1300 and not felt hungry... Could be IF though..

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:59 PM

+1. As a casual calorie-counter now, I did have to track pretty carefully for a while just to get a "mouth feel" approximation for how much (and of what kind) of calories I was consuming. When my calories (particularly but not exclusively carb calories) go up, so does my weight, no matter how well or badly I'm sleeping, no matter how much and what type of exercise I'm doing.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Sam, this is not a question of starvation. The people who live in the Blue Zones exist on a diet of 2000 calories per day their whole lives. They live longer, are more resistant to cancer and diseases, and remain autonomous their entire lives. A couple of stories: a 70 year old woman carrying another woman several miles over natural terrain for medical assistance; a man in his 90's who daily shepherds his flock up and down the mountains in Sardinia. These people are not starving. A cursory review of the sources in the post will make clear CR is not starvation and it is sustainable.

  • 81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

    asked by

    (1320)
  • Views
    7K
  • Last Activity
    1431D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

14 Answers

16
11b7b7ba720a5cd43c74a0ef99a16adb

(3448)

on May 01, 2012
at 09:57 PM

I'm a strong advocate of not counting calories, because your body has a built in mechanism for maintaining a specific fat level: leptin.

The hormone leptin wasn't discovered until 1994--just 18 years ago--so there's plenty of conventional diet wisdom that doesn't take leptin into account. That's why, imho, conventional diet wisdom (including counting calories) doesn't work.

Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. The more fat your body carries, the more leptin in your blood stream. The less fat your body carries, the less leptin in your blood stream.

Your brain has the ability to detect the amount of leptin in your blood stream, and reacts to the amount.

  • High leptin levels result in increased metabolism and reduced hunger.
  • Low leptin levels result in decreased metabolism and increased hunger.

The practical result is your body regulates your body fat based on your leptin level.

There are a number of things that can interfere with this fat regulation system.

1) High triglyceride levels have been shown to prevent leptin from crossing the blood/brain barrier. This fools the brain into thinking there isn't any leptin in the blood stream. The result: the brain thinks you need to add fat, so it decreases your metabolism and increases your appetite (to a screaming intensity).

2) It's one thing for you to eat fewer calories because your brain has reduced your appetite due to high leptin levels. It's another thing to eat fewer calories when your body isn't telling you to do so. When you reduce your calories your body thinks there is a famine, and it goes into survival mode. It doesn't matter if you carry 100 pounds of extra fat, your body is going to try and hold onto as much as possible so it can survive the famine. And, how does it doe that? By reducing your metabolism and increasing your appetite--the exact opposite thing you want when you are trying t lose weight.

3) Overeating will still cause you to gain weight. When your body is trying to lower your fat level, there will be days when it reduces your appetite to very low levels. If you track your calories you won't be able to believe that you can get by on so few calories (even though you are not hungry). The result: you're going to eat something (even if you aren't hungry), because the analytic part of your brain just knows you need to eat more calories.

Problems #2 & #3 are a direct result of counting calories. Sure, you can lose weight by counting calories (a lot of people have), but to me counting calories is part of the "just be disciplined and will it to happen" mindset. You can "twist your body's arm" and force it into shape--for a while. But, in the end, your body is in control and will have its way. It's better in the long run to work with it rather than against it.

As far as #1 goes, any good paleohacker knows that eating lots of carbohydrates results in high triglyceride levels. Which prevents leptin from crossing the blood/brain barrier, which causes your brain to think you don't have any body fat, which results in a lowered metabolism and increased appetite (is it any wonder that the typical overweight person is sluggish and always hungry, even though they are carrying tons of extra fat?)

If you've followed the government's food pyramid and eaten high levels of carbs all your life, your body's letpin/weight-regulation mechanism has probably never worked as intended. This is why paleo allows people to lose weight effortlessly. It creates the circumstances that allows your body to regulate your fat level naturally--the way it is supposed to be regulated.

That's the long term answer to keeping your weight in line, not counting calories, discipline, will power, or trying to bend your body to your will.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:02 AM

That is some great information. I wonder what relation this has to those that eat for emotional reasons? I am not advocating following the government recommended diet. It has been demonstrated anecdotally and with studies that CR has great health benefits which are touched upon in the OP. You are not refuting that total caloric intake is not important as others on this board have (Good Calories, Bad Calories). You are stating that the strategy of calorie counting is not an effective long term strategy which I agree with. CR and calorie counting are not the same.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:47 PM

Leptin and ghrelin were only discovered in the 1990's. They have no possible bearing on ancestral life. But they are magic amulets in modern diet-nerddom.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:29 PM

+1 for leptin, but don't forget ghrelin (counterpart to leptin), obestatin, and nesfatin-1! (Not that I claim to fully understand the latter two).

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:58 PM

the "that" in the last sentence referring to my eating a handful of carrots to satisfy my hunger.

76c885d7d27e6c83542ea493ca866dcd

(2178)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:57 PM

Just trying to understand this....You're saying that if I need to increase body fat, my body will decrease my metabolism and increase my hunger, right? So what if I satisfy that hunger by eating a handful of baby carrots (which I find to be REALLY filling), versus satisfying it with a handful of nuts. Even if they're equally filling, the nuts would (presumably) help with the goal of higher body fat significantly more than the carrots would. Isn't that a result, at least in part, of their carrying a much higher caloric load? And how does that help my body's goal of increased body fat?

8
2c2349bc7af0fedb59a5fe99dac9fae2

(2707)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:49 PM

Not everyone in the Paleo world says calories don't matter. In fact I would say most agree that at some point calories do matter.

Paleo, for most, appears to lower caloric intake. This could be due to food reward, if on low carb the fact your avoid a macronutrient from your diet, more exercise, etc.

I would say, you goal should be to monitor you caloric intake. What you want is a natural way to eat at your maintenance w/o measuring, counting, worrying about every calorie. Hopefully, a clean paleo diet can get your there or at least close enough. Plus add in the lifestyle changes going Paleo (being more active, getting good sleep, managing stress).

0382fa263de4c83328dc34a56e25437f

(4238)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:59 PM

+1. As a casual calorie-counter now, I did have to track pretty carefully for a while just to get a "mouth feel" approximation for how much (and of what kind) of calories I was consuming. When my calories (particularly but not exclusively carb calories) go up, so does my weight, no matter how well or badly I'm sleeping, no matter how much and what type of exercise I'm doing.

2c2349bc7af0fedb59a5fe99dac9fae2

(2707)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:26 PM

Good point! Forgot to mention IF.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:57 PM

The fact that many paleos use fasting demonstrates a concern with calories, even if counting is not used per se.

6
F0a3e3f17d9a740810ac37ff2353a9f3

(3804)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:46 PM

I think the question is whether or not starvation is a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

Conscious calorie restriction is mild, self-imposed starvation.

I think if Paleo/low-carb diets require calorie-restriction in order to be successful, they don't offer any benefit for weight-loss over conventional calorie-restricted diets. In fact, I think you can make a pretty good case that calorie-counting is the very antithesis of the Paleo rationale which, as I understand it, is that given an appropriate food environment our bodies can regulate food intake on their own.

It's also possible that years of an inadequate or harmful diet might render those mechanisms inoperable, and in those cases conscious calorie restriction may be necessary, but only as a last resort.

Regarding life-extension, I for one don't want to spend my life in a chronic state of mild hunger and lowered-metabolism just so I can spend an extra couple of years drooling into my lap.

Also, ad-lib low-carb diets have been around since the early 70's (Atkins), long before Gary Taubes wrote "Good Calories, Bad Calories". Gary Taubes is a journalist, not a scientist, and he didn't create the carb/insulin theory of obesity. He believes that it's true, and he writes about it.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:24 PM

The Blue Zone populations also tend to consume fish regularly (3:6 balnace); they tend to engage in relatively constant intermittent low-level physical activity with periodic exertional activity starting much younger and moving long past other populations; they tend to have excellent sun exposure; and perhaps most importantly, they tend to have incredibly strong social and family cohesion.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 01, 2012
at 08:55 PM

Sam, this is not a question of starvation. The people who live in the Blue Zones exist on a diet of 2000 calories per day their whole lives. They live longer, are more resistant to cancer and diseases, and remain autonomous their entire lives. A couple of stories: a 70 year old woman carrying another woman several miles over natural terrain for medical assistance; a man in his 90's who daily shepherds his flock up and down the mountains in Sardinia. These people are not starving. A cursory review of the sources in the post will make clear CR is not starvation and it is sustainable.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:20 AM

I really enjoyed the Blue Zone book. It opened my eyes to a lot of things and found it very surprising. Unfortunately the lifestyle in many of these zones is being threatened by an Americanized lifestyle. Sad really.

4
8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

on May 01, 2012
at 10:19 PM

The point of telling folks to stop counting calories is to reverse the concept that caloric intake is the determinant of overall health and/or bodyweight. Contemporary biochemistry and neurogastrointestinal physiology is demonstrating very consistently that many things matter far more than number of calories.

Particularly when folks are transitioning from SAD to paleo/primal, what is required is a shift in mindset from counting the number of calories to counting the quality and type of calories consumed, and this is both the motivating factor as well as the primary benefit behind the advice to "quit counting calories." Aside from this simple fact, folks who are eating this way tend to consume fewer calories anyway, for a number of reasons: nutrient density lowers caloric intake because it increases satiety; increased fat and protein intake lowers total caloric intake because it increases satiety; intermittent or periodic fasting (which not everyone does, but the community as a whole tends to encourage) very directly lowers total caloric intake (by roughly 10-15%, taken by week).

As far as diabetes research ... frankly, nearly anything not discovered or reconfirmed within the last 15-20 years is garbage. The medical community barely understood what was going on at a macro-level 50-60 years ago, and certainly didn't have the sophistication or capacity to understand the very complex biochemical interactions that occur with normal metabolism, much less diabetic pathology. And the Calorie Restriction Society has a vested survivalist interest in promoting the idea upon which it is founded, in much the same way that the American College of Cardiology has a vested interest in continuing to promote statin usage despite the ever-growing mountains of evidence that they do more harm than good in most patients.

So while it is certainly the case that number of calories has meaning, it just has far less meaning within a population eating in the ways that we tend to, and furthermore tends to confound the process of moving away from SAD and more toward the paleo/primal lifestyle.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 01, 2012
at 11:16 PM

Yeah, I think a lot of people coming into paleo are so used to cutting calories and fat, that the easiest way to transition is to just ignore all the numbers and get used to eating the way we were meant to.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 02, 2012
at 02:05 AM

@Mark not at all. It has a role, it's just not the primary, nor the most important determinant. I just reread my post and can't see where I state that research refutes the connection. I do believe that much of the research demonstrating an absolute connection with no difference suffers from Pygmalion bias. Maintenance calories are certainly different from non-maintenance calories, while neuroendocrine food-reward effects at the hypothalamus and endocrine effects in the pancreas/GI tract also vary by nutrient type. These are important confounders.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:29 AM

Having read your post again, I realize that you were stating it is important to break the cultural barriers to overeating. Simply calorie counting will not solve the problem. I agree that moving to a unprocessed, natural foods is the correct path. I thought you were refuting the role of total caloric intake has in body weight.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:08 AM

The investigators hospitalized their subjects and gave them controlled diets in which the carbohydrate content varied from zero to 85 percent, and the fat content varied inversely from 85 percent to zero. Protein was held steady at 15 percent. They asked how many calories of what kind were needed to maintain the subjects’ weight. As it turned out, the composition of the diet made no difference.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:07 AM

You state that research refutes the connection between total calorie intake and body weight. Studies by Jules Hirsch of Rockefeller University and Rudolph Leibel of Columbia, which tested whether calories from different sources have different effects, definitely show that the composition of the diet made no difference to overall body weight. Notice I did not say health. If you know of studies that refute these studies, please post them.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:45 PM

You're attacking a straw man. Very few people count calories. Most follow fad diets or diets where the counting has been done for them.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:21 PM

@interrobung. I do not understand your reference to Pygmalion bias or the Rosenthal effect. Given the study that was conducted that I describe above, how could the researchers expectations effect the results of whether or not the patients maintained body weight on equal calorie but different macro-nutrient composition diets?

3
24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on May 02, 2012
at 12:37 PM

I've seen various members of the Calorie Restriction Society in interviews etc. numerous times. No thanks. I'd rather enjoy my life.

As to Taubes, I'll only suggest to everyone reading this that they get their biochemistry and metabolism education from someone who has a good grasp of it themselves, not a science journalist who didn't even read several of his own sources.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:29 PM

Man, how weird must it be applying for a membership to the Caloric Restriction Society? To take that next step, you'd really have to love your calorie restriction...just seems odd...

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:47 PM

I could not agree more. Always be skeptical of a non-scientist/researchers using others research and studies to make broad generalizations that the original researchers themselves did not. It is pseudoscience at best.

2
251e61472b3201ef4e0888b20992f074

on May 02, 2012
at 05:37 PM

I believe intermittant fasting is supposed to provide many of the same benefits as caloric restriction.

Do the Blue Zone populations intentionally restrict calories? Are they eating according to appetite? My biggest take away from Taubes is that calorie counting is ineffective if it doesn't allow for appetite self-regulation and that is why dietary composition is more important than just counting calories.

251e61472b3201ef4e0888b20992f074

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:23 PM

I think eating until your 80% full would not qualify as counting calories. In practice, it probably means "don't stuff yourself". Not bad advice to follow.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 06:22 PM

All points that I do not disagree with. Calorie counting done in a vacuum, without any regard to what your body is telling you, is not what I am advocating. Yes, calorie restriction was intentional. In Okinawa a Confusion-inspired saying: “Hara hachi bu,” which means, “Eat until you are 80 percent full." was wisdom given to the demographers by centenarians. Research in IF is unclear if the fasting or calorie restriction is the main cause of health benefits. My issue is people are regularly advising that total caloric intake does not matter. This is factually wrong.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:13 PM

I agree that is a rule of thumb and not strict calorie counting but that is semantics. It is calorie restricting. People living in Blue Zones ate diets under 2000 calories per day and lived very active life styles. There is a lot more to their lifestyle than just overall caloric restriction and I hope you read the book as I found it to be enlightening.

2
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 01, 2012
at 11:33 PM

When eating a high fat diet, with very calorically dense foods, I eat less calories than I ever have before when I was eating tons of bread and carbs. The question you phrased seems to assume that eating meat and fat will make everyone double their calories or something. I think a lot of people who start off paleo the "proper" way, meaning as an introduction with no "cheating" and with zero processed foods, they will also find that their satiety will improve and will naturally be consuming adequate calories based on their hunger cues (with some exception such as a history of eating disorders). There are also techniques, like leptin reset and IFing that may assist in helping gain back the ability to actually feel full and satisfied after eating.

I don't think we are doing a disservice by telling people to eat when they are hungry and don't worry about calories. Most people have been counting them their whole life and magically gaining and losing weight seemingly independent of their hunger and food intake (for example my BF pre-paleo was eating 3500 calories a day and losing tons of weight, I was eating 1200 and gaining). I think that counting calories as a means of caloric restriction can lead to obsessing over food intake and following the numbers instead of how you feel, which can lead to both ignoring your body and encouraging disordered eating. Eating natural food that we are supposed to eat and knowing when we feel full, is the only way that "caloric restriction" should safely be practiced in the long term.

The correlation studies in the 50's and 60's, I don't think it was a mistake to overlook them. Through research now we know that there is a statistically insignificant difference in most age groups for activity levels between overweight/obese individuals and normal weight individuals, as well as a very slight difference in caloric intake. It's not for wont of trying or will power, and it isn't about individual gluttony or sloth- the whole world didn't wake up and decide to become morally corrupt. I think we can instead thank our food system, and move back towards eating what we are supposed to.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:43 PM

Jenny, I agree that calorie counting is not a long term solution to maintaining a healthy body weight. Running long term calorie deficits is only setting yourself up for failure. This idea that people self regulate on Paleo is somewhat a failed idea as well. Daily, there is a new post similar to "Been X weeks/months on Paleo, not losing BF%, help!" Possibly a combined approach where people are aware of the calories they are consuming would be more successful. I just don't understand nutritional advice stating calories do not matter.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:49 AM

I was exactly saying that CR is not mutually exclusive with paleo, and they are often one of the same. I'm not sure where that was missed.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:55 AM

I said that counting calories as a means of caloric restriction, instead of just eating in a way that allows you to feel full and eat the amount of food you need for your body can lead to disordered eating and the ignoring of your satiety, which I don't think is the best way to practice caloric restriction. That is why counting calories is not on the top of my list as the best way to get people healthy. Notice, that is not me saying that caloric restriction, as you call it, is a bad idea or somehow evil.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 05:01 PM

That's why paleo/primal can be great- I eat a "moderate everything" version, with moderate amounts of carbs (via starches and fruits), meat, and fat. That works for me. Yes, calorie counting can have it's place but, again, it shouldn't be the huge focus of your life, and can be detrimental when it is. You can force yourself to eat when you are not hungry or starve yourself when you are if you put the numbers before your body. It isn't the antichrist, but it also usually isn't the missing link.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 01:19 AM

Nowhere in my OP did I mention calorie counting or talk about fat people. You seem to have an agenda on that front. I don't think you can consider your beliefs to be based in good science by throwing out sound data that does not agree with your premise. My post refers to CR which has shown to have numerous health benefits. CR and Paleo are not mutually exclusive. One of the tenants of CR is maintaining adequate nutrition while reducing calories which is what Paleo essentially does. My question is, in light of this, is telling people to ignore calories irresponsible?

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:57 AM

My "agenda" is watching and experiencing calorie counting touted as the big solution to obesity, and seeing it fail on almost every occasion. It's part of the picture, for sure, but it sure isn't everything.

5d4b57e05d74826020d1eb083ef725e0

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:10 PM

FOR ME I perform and feel best running on what low-carbers would consider dangerously low fat. Forcing increased fat on everyone is the same as forcing whole grains on SAD eaters. Again, N=1 yo. Calorie counting CAN BE a useful tool to see what satiates you for the least amount of energy in. The average SAD eater has absolutely no idea what a serving size is – I’d bet those that don’t buy a food scale are drastically underreporting when they first attempt calorie counting. ALL DIETING can cause eating disorders – calorie counting is not the antichrist.

5d4b57e05d74826020d1eb083ef725e0

(85)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:10 PM

However, it's also a widely low-carb advocate proliferated assumption that EVERYONE finds fat to be the most satiating macro nutrient. I am far more satiated from a balanced meal. Honestly I find fat to be considerably less satiating than a mix of protein + carbs, and I considerably over-ate when I attempted the primal high fat/low carb “eat to satiety” approach.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:24 PM

After you have a grasp on your metabolism, are used to eating primal/paleo, have a well-functioning gut, and if you haven't already lost weight as a result of those three things, then you can start thinking about calories. It's on the list, but not at the top.

78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

(5519)

on May 02, 2012
at 08:59 PM

@DesireeBU, I relate to your comments a lot. I also gained weight when I tried to do the "fat=satiety" approach and I also didn't even enjoy my food. I also do better with a mix of protein and carbs and the evil idea of lower fat. Calorie counting is also something very useful for me because my I don't really follow hunger cues or even know what that means. Self-regulation didn't magically happen on paleo for me. I could eat a stick of butter with food and an entire cow and want to mindlessly eat more. Calorie counting helps me eat to live, rather than mindlessly or emotionally.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on May 02, 2012
at 03:23 PM

I think that people posting that they are confused why they haven't lost weight are a) under the false impression that paleo is a diet, and a weight loss one at that and b) probably aren't healthy enough to begin to lose weight. All the regular posters on here who actually follow a version of paleo/primal diet are much better sources for how self regulation can work- I couldn't do it very easily for months, my BF could regulate himself within one week of eating primal. When your metabolism is out of whack it isn't a quick fix, it takes a bit of patience and time.

2
E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:51 PM

I am a big fan of Taubes and certainly do not refute him. ditto re the hu-man above me.

Low carb diets of which Paleo is a version are by nature much more calorie regulating than a high grain/processed food [SAD] diet. (he just said that too :) it bears repeating.

I was stunned when for fun i did a typical day food entry for what I was eating prior to my low carb no processed food, no white stuff, hi fat diet (which many call Paleo) I was eating way more calories. On this way of eating I find it very hard to even get to what "authorities" would call my RDI.

Not worrying about/counting calories does not always mean you are eating way more..it can also include a much lower calorie intake.

I do not worry about calories nor do I track them. Most diet tracking plans have them because they still think of a "diet" as calorie restriction and that a calorie is a calorie..-which is not quite so simple.

Paleo and other low carb are ways of eating lifestyles under the broader meaning of diet. He has a diet of fish and lentils (way of eating) . NOT he is on a 1300 cal a day diet (restrictive -way of NOT eating.

2
2000f6b5045381f388fbc6161492f640

on May 01, 2012
at 09:08 PM

How one could eat over 2000 calories on a Paleo diet is beyond me! I was calorie counting and doing Paleo for about a week before giving up as I hadn't managed to eat over 1200 calories. I snack all day, eat two main meals every day and always have dessert.

93eea7754e6e94b6085dbabbb48c0bb7

on May 01, 2012
at 09:14 PM

I personally think I need to calorie count! Following Taubes' suggestions I easily pound 2500 cals a day and am still hungry when before with carbs I had managed 1300 and not felt hungry... Could be IF though..

E7e7e1c856d4494d4a1b700b6869df90

(982)

on May 01, 2012
at 10:53 PM

likewise I find it almost impossible once adapted ketogenically to eat anywhere near a SAD with carbs calorie intake. YPL..that is highly unusual..are you eating anough fat? how much fat a day? have you gained/lost/other feelings? tired/energy?

6b8d12fc3e43179f9ae1765a4d1a9dc2

(5914)

on May 02, 2012
at 02:31 AM

WTF??? I can eat 1200 calories in a meal if I tries hard enough.

1
B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on May 02, 2012
at 11:53 PM

The Biosphere 2 experiment is an interesting read

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 03, 2012
at 02:11 AM

Essentially it states that metabolism adapted to the lower calorie diet of the volunteers by lowering their daily energy requirement. 1 Week after exiting the biodome, the lean mass of the volunteers was the same as when they entered (and of that in the control group) but all were less than 10% body fat. After six months of living outside of the controlled environ, the volunteers reverted back to their previous physical condition. Demonstrating that a calorie restricted diet lowers the required energy to maintain lean mass while reducing body fat %. Cool.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 03, 2012
at 02:15 AM

I am reading that it states the metabolism adapted to the the lower calorie diet by lowering the daily energy requirement within 6 months. 1 Week after living in the biodome for 2 years, the lean mass of the volunteers was the same as when they entered (and of that in the control group) but all were less than 10% body fat. After six months of living outside of the controlled environ and on their normal diets, the volunteers reverted back to their previous physical condition. Demonstrating that a calorie restricted diet maintained lean body mass while lowering body fat %. Cool.

1
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on May 02, 2012
at 06:29 PM

I am personally violently against counting calories because it's anal and boring. I'd rather pluck my leg hairs out one at a time. However, I am aware of the general calorie content of foods and I tend to limit the super-high calorie ones (nuts, coconut milk, avocado, heavy cream, dark chocolate) if I feel I'm gaining weight. Seems to work as my weight has stabilized within a five-pound range. (But I don't pay a lot of attention to the scale, either...)

SO to answer the OP, I suppose calories do matter in a certain sense. But I don't think counting is necessary or even a good idea. I think it's better to take the ball-park approach, tune into how I feel, how much I'm moving, how hungry I am, what time of the month it is. And adjust accordingly. Much less obsessive.

1
B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on May 01, 2012
at 09:19 PM

the work of Dr Cynthia Kenyon and Dr Luigi Fontana puts forth some compelling arguments in support of chronic calorie restriction

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 01, 2012
at 09:22 PM

Thank you for the new source. I will look into their arguments. I am fairly new to the nutrition side of the health equation and trying to figure out the good, the bad, and the plain criminal is difficult.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on May 02, 2012
at 11:52 AM

Kenyon's research is on cold-blooded worms!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on May 02, 2012
at 07:51 PM

Chronic calorie restriction - above starvation levels - has been associated with longevity. I believe it's one of the best arguments for the fasting regimes. You might say that fasting is calorie counting for paleos, because it runs so counter to the ad libitum eating philosophy.

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on May 02, 2012
at 11:21 PM

@Evelyn, yes her early work is on worms, but she has now moved into studies involving warm blooded people.

81fca18329e68e227cdfef3857bfef96

(1320)

on May 02, 2012
at 04:26 PM

Dr. Luigi Fontana's research began studies with human volunteers in 2002. Dr. Cynthia Kenyon's research was done earlier (1980's). Science always starts with smaller, simpler systems before testing in larger, complex systems. CR studies have been conducted with numerous animal species. Trials using human volunteers are always conducted after previous research has shown that it is safe and worthwhile to undertake.

0
296d4a2a2a1721e7b2f5e3d0d50041b5

on July 02, 2013
at 03:46 AM

THE ANSWER IS...EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT. YES YOU MAY HAVE TO COUNT CALORIES TIGHT FOR THOSE LAST LBS.

i white guy RAGED on carbs whole life, never got REAL big. now 35 so slowing down some, gained 80lbs. lost 50 easy not giving a fudge paleo style. back in the groove a lil. last 30 have been hanging around lookin REAL fluffy for past three months.

SO

now im 70F 5C 25P 1000cal/day restriction.

totally in ketosis, still ketoadapting.

cut the protein down, i think that was a problem with full keto.

added 16/8 intermittent with coffee/coconut oil/heavy cream (holy energy boost)

added little butter and some cheeses here and there to help up the fat.

balls smell when i ball, so what i have a shower.

endurance sports going great, rep maxes down 15%(WHO CARES?).

working great, losing about 2 lbs a week now.

anyway, careful guys with this EXPERT advice, and better to share positive personal experiences instead of talking this part-time biochem nonsense. ITS FRIGGIN COMPLICATED!

thats my story. im REAL anal now with mynetdiary. WAY sick of the fluff already, right?

there's probably abs under this mess. that will be cool.

0
C631e6c69fdeab669b6987e128cfd6ff

on May 02, 2012
at 08:46 PM

Just intermittent fast. get all the benefits of CR without any of the drawbacks

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!