Experts, Calories, and Metabolism

I would like to preface everything below by stating that it is my personal style to point out when there is a problem with something. I have been this way my entire life, perhaps to a fault. Some see it as being negative or condescending. Some people think I am the most arrogant prick in the Western Hemisphere. Others love me for it. I see it as observation. When we know there is a problem, we could be very well served to call it out and then seek more effective and efficient ways of solving said problem. The problem must first be acknowledged. With that said…

How exactly does one become anointed as an “expert?”

I ask this because I have seen more so-called “experts” saying some of the dumbest shit I have ever heard and people actually believe the nonsense that comes out of their mouth.

Where nutrition is concerned, filed in the ‘dumbest shit ever folder’ is the “expert” advice that says losing weight is as simple as “calories in versus calories out.”

Let me be extremely clear here…any expert that spouts off this kind of ridiculousness is no expert at all. I stand by that no matter what “expert” is in question.

If you can spare a moment, I would like to share a story with you…

During my 16 years of helping people overcome virtually every health challenge you can image, I have had a ton of people seek my help for “weight loss.” One of the very first things that I do with most of my clients is to ask for a 3-5 day food and exercise log. What I have observed amongst the individuals that are seeking “weight loss” is that they are typically eating somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,400 calories on an average day. Most of said individuals have been eating that way for a very long time…sometimes a decade or more (true story – and I immediately got hungry after typing that). Along with their low calorie intake comes numerous hours at the gym doing some form of what can easily be classified as physical abuse.  So…we have a large population of people that are barely eating enough food to survive while at the same time beating the living crap out of themselves in the gym (as much as 10 hours a week in my experience), and they are getting bigger while they do it.

The thing that people need to understand that many of the “experts” dispensing advice are not telling them is that the human body is not stupid. In fact, for my money, it’s the smartest thing that exists (right up there with Mother Nature herself). If you go on a diet that involves radical caloric restriction – yes, the ever-popular 1,200 calories a day classifies as caloric restriction – the body will respond to that stressor appropriately.  True, you may lose some weight; hell, you may even lose a lot of weight initially, but eventually the metabolic damage you create will catch up with you. If you are in a hypocaloric state (not eating enough calories) for an extended period of time, you do not have a snowball’s chance in hell of having optimal thyroid function. Why that’s important is because it is the thyroid that governs pretty much your entire metabolism. In fact, it does not even take much longer than one damn day for the negative effects of not eating enough real food to begin to manifest. Consider this – within 24 hours, yes just 24 measly hours, of going on a low calorie diet, which is defined as eating less than 1800-2000 calories per day (according to the World Health Organization), you immediately begin to disrupt your brain chemistry. You also are likely to increase fat storing (lipogenic) enzymes in the body.  This is particularly important for females who already have three times the amount of fat storing (lipogenic) enzymes as fat burning (lipolytic) ones.  This does not even take into account what happens to the thymus gland and your immune system (hint – the thymus begins to shrink and immunity starts a downward spiral into the toilet). Any changes in brain chemistry (neurotransmitter balance, etc.) will lead to cravings; another reason people who are on such “diets” tend to binge eat.  Low calorie dieting is especially damaging for anyone with a history of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or alcoholism.  Remember, all of this occurs after a SINGLE DAY.  Why set yourself up for failure by eating this way?  Anyone with a history of chronic low-calorie dieting is most certainly going to have severe issues with their physiology, including but not limited to, altered energy production, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and so on.

When I see someone essentially eating the nutritional equivalent of a cardboard box on a daily basis, the very first priority is to have that individual SLOWLY increase their caloric intake until they are eating like an actual human being. Once we have an acceptable amount of food and calories actually being brought on board, we can then begin the process of fine-tuning meal frequency, macronutrient ratios, and discussing effective weight loss and body composition strategies.  Quick side story…I recall one of my clients in Canada who was in her late 30’s and could not drop an ounce of weight no matter how little she ate or how much she exercised. Turns out she was eating about 900-1,100 calories a day (some days struggled to get that much in) and had been doing so for over 4 years!  Roughly eight months later, she had doubled her caloric intake, decreased the amount of time she was exercising, and lost 13 pounds from where she started (initially gained 12 so actually lost 25 total). On top of that, she had a regular cycle for the first time since she was 16, was sleeping better, and her skin cleared up. That’s not a long period of time to accomplish something she was trying to achieve for over 6 years time. She is certainly not the only story of her kind.

A lot of people do not enjoy this process.  Admittedly, the above client did not enjoy it either.  Why?  Because it often leads to weight gain initially. Most see this as a bad thing, but the truth is that this is the healthiest way to repair the metabolic damage created from months or years of abuse. Sadly, I have had more than a few clients work with other professionals that unfortunately further decrease their caloric intake in an effort to shed the weight. How someone can make such a recommendation is honestly beyond my comprehension.

In the end, I have seen people gain weight eating as little as 800 calories a day while exercising themselves to death – very little calories in and an assload (that’s a technical term) of calories out. I have also seen people get leaner and lose weight eating 3,000 calories per day exercising less than they ever have previously – more calories in and less calories out. The calories in versus calories out game for weight loss and improved body composition is completely full of shit. People or “experts” promoting that as any kind of a solution to anything need a hard lesson in physiology and metabolic efficiency because they clearly know very little about either.


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