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Do Calories Count Or Not?

April 3, 2011
NOTE: I originally posted this in a thread over at Marksdailyapple.com.

Calories surely count – but you may lose weight without counting them. 
I won’t simply say that they count for some people, but not for others – that kind of answer is totally meaningless. I’d rather say that whether you’re going to lose weight – or more specifically, fat – depends on many factors. It depends on who you are, how old you are, what your lifestyle is, and what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating, and any other factors that I may not be thinking of right now. When you compare your situation to that of any arbitrary other person, you may very well observe the phenomenon that you have to count calories to lose weight, but the other person doesn’t. One obvious example would be that the other person doesn’t like junk food and leads a very active life, while you’re addicted to junk food and are quite sedentary. Now, I’d like to point out that I read Taubes’ books and I’m very well aware of the fact that those might be consequences rather than actual causes, but regardless, the point is that due to factors other than caloric intake, there might be persons who are prone to overeat unless they’re counting calories, and others who can manage to not overeat without counting calories. And that consideration includes differences in activity levels. For example, a person could eat a lot more than another person and thus seem to be overeating, but compensate it by burning off these calories. Only a week ago I heard Taubes himself talking about Dr. Oz and how he seems to be a person who more readily converts consumed calories into energy (activity) than others.
I think that some of us (including yours truly) need to keep an eye on caloric intake. People who claim that calories generally don’t count may have made the mistake of not accounting for all the variables. Maybe they managed to lose fat without counting calories – but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t restrict their caloric intake, or that there couldn’t have been other contributing factors which may or may not be present in other people.
Personally I’ve become a bit sceptical of the low-carb message in that it makes some promises which don’t hold for all people who follow it, and there are some claims made by its supporters which have been disproved. But I still think that it’s the healthiest choice for most people who have become overweight on a high-carb diet. Sure, this is also just a correlation and something other than the carbs could have been responsible for the weight gain. But when an obese person goes from high-carb to low-carb and then not only loses a lot of fat but also feels much better without being constantly hungry – I think that even without ever bothering about the actual science we can tell that person to keep doing what they’re doing. And if you find that merely switching from high-carb to low-carb doesn’t work and that you also need to count calories – well, maybe you’re simply not as good in eating in moderation than others. I know that it’s definitely one of my weaknesses.
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6 Comments
  1. Hey, it's M@X from PA !! ;-)I am not counting calories! Eating plenty (I mean plenty) of fat (saturated: animal and coconut) and moderate monounsaturated (olive, macadamia and advocados) plus moderate wild animals proteins and moderate veggies. Very low carb, approx 30g/day.It's very quite easy to shred fat. I am literraly melting and I am never hungry.I am following this guide http://paleodietlifestyle.com/paleo-101/ since 3 months.Let me know what you think !M@X

  2. Hi Maxime,I lost a lot of weight (fat) that way, too – almost two years ago, and I kept most of it off. Ultimately I didn't stick with low-carb, but I'm still doing it occasionally for a couple of days. During the last couple of months I've been reading a lot about the food reward theory, mostly on Stephan Guyenet's blog (http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com). I definitely need to do a proper post about it, which I'm now planning to do until next weekend – but here's the gist:Low-Carb does not work by reducing insulin levels – this has been shown conclusively, so the reasoning for low-carb that you hear from "gurus" like Gary Taubes, Mark Sisson, Dr. Eades etc. is flawed. But a low-carb paleo style diet does work for fat loss. It turns out that food reward and leptin regulation might be more promising areas of research when it comes to the efficacy of low-carb.MikeP.S.: I was quite surprised to hear from you here of all places. πŸ˜‰

  3. Thanks for the quick reply !! ;-)WOW, i'd like to read about the facts that low-carb does not regulate insulin, because I feel so much better (no insulin spikes symptoms anymore) after eating and I have a much better flow of energy now that I do low-carbs, high-fats, grains-free, legumes-free and dairy-free.Continue your helpful BLOG and further analysis πŸ˜‰

  4. You can check out this lengthy post:http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/carbohydrate-hypothesis-of-obesity.htmlLow-carb vs. High-carb does affect insulin , but what has not been shown conclusively is that lower insulin leads to fat loss. I think that ultimately low-carb works for different reasons, and the article mentions some of them (and there's more detailed articles on Stephan's blog about the other alternatives).

  5. I understand better now, thanks for the link. Since, my progression and overall health has improved a lot , I will continue on my PALEO strict for now until I plateau (hopefully not until I reach my optimal weight+health). If not I will re-read this post.

  6. This blog is a great source of information for me. Thank you very much for giving me such important information.FOR BEST INFORMATION ABOUT COUNT CALORIES.

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