Paleo and Calories?

The recent trend towards calorie counting in Paleo land is baffling. Some people need a reality check. There’s nothing less Paleo than counting calories.

More about the free updates that people get.

More

left
More Salt Is OK According to New Study 33
Do You Want to Watch the Excellent Obesity Documentary FED UP? 41
Carb-Loaded – a New Movie About the Risks of Too Many Carbohydrates! 42
Long-Term Study on the Paleo Diet: The Results 55
Is It Dangerous to Eat Meat Before Age 65? 48
If Natural Foods Came with an Ingredient List 19
Monkeys Can No Longer Have Bananas 30
Fruit is candy 154
Dogs and Cats Getting Fatter and Fatter 67
WSJ: “The Dubious Science Behind the Anti-Fat Crusade” 41
Saturated Fat Completely Safe According to New Big Review of All Science! 34
“I Was Wrong, We Should Be Feasting on Fat” 29
right

122 Comments

Top Comments

  1. Mike
    Dr. Eenfeldt, you are correct that counting calories is not Paleo. But neither are refrigerators, microwaves, supermarkets and the fact that we are rarely more than 10 feet away from instantly available food that requires zero effort to prepare. While a Paleo or LCHF diet does go a long way to restoring natural appetite regulation, for many people like myself it is not enough.

    Counting calories is a useful tool for determining appropriate portion sizes but it is not right for everyone. Some people feel like it is intrusive and neurotic and I completely understand that. On the other hand, I find it liberating because I can load up my plate with an appropriate portion of food. When it's gone, I know I've had a reasonable amount and I don't have to worry whether or not I'm undereating or overeating.

    In fact, until I started tracking my calories, I would constantly cycle between undereating and overeating and could never break below the overweight range. By counting calories I was able to shatter that plateau and finally reached a normal weight. That's something I had never achieved in my adult life. The only times I have ever been hungry during the entire process was right before mealtimes. More often than not, my predetermined portions are larger than what my intuition would suggest.

    For those who argue that counting calories is futile because labels and calorie counts are inaccurate, you're just being willfully obtuse. The simple fact is that a 16 ounce steak has twice as many calories as an 8 ounce steak. Same goes for butter, spinach or whatever you're tracking. The caloric content is just a proxy for determining portion sizes and once you have established a baseline, the relative adjustments are all you need to make it a useful tool.

    Most of the time when I hear a calorie counting critic, they relate some tale of how they tried eating 800-1200 calories per day. Then they report that they were constantly hungry and didn't lose weight. Well, no surprise there. They were doing it wrong. When used rationally and intelligently, calorie counting is a useful tool for normalizing portions and reestablishing appetite regulation. I think doctors who summarily dismiss it are doing themselves and their patients a disservice. For the right person, properly implemented, it can be incredibly helpful.

    Reply: #70
    Read more →
  2. Margaretrc
    I'd rather tune into my inner calorie counter than artificially count, and there are ways to do it. And perhaps there isn't a calorie receptor and it's complicated, but we definitely have this innate calorie control. No other animal counts calories, yet they all maintain healthy weights. Why would we be different? But it only works if you eat the right kinds of foods--foods that we evolved to eat. Too much sugar and starch and it does break down. I understand why some think they need to count and maybe they do, at least at first. But if you moderate your eating with external signals like portion control and calorie counting, you will become dependent on that and may lose touch with the signals your body sends. Better to develop the ability to listen to your body. Eat mindfully, eat plenty of satiating fat, eat slowly, savor your food. Don't reach for seconds right away--give yourself time to figure out if you are really hungry for more. (I think it takes something like 20 minutes for the satiety signal to register.) Calories in and calories out are not independent variables and if you don't eat enough to meet your energy needs, you will be hungry. Who needs that?
    Read more →
1 2 3

All Comments

  1. grinch
    "leptin is the holy grail of obesity research"

    Besides the obvious need to cut down on sugar, that's probably the only thing I agree with Lustig on. He lost credibility to me when he claimed that fat, sugar, and alcohol are the same thing.

  2. FrankG
    @grinch: "The laws of thermodynamics apply to everything. There is no debate. Humans are not exceptions because they are biologically complex. Gary Taubes agrees that the thermodynamics apply. Are you saying GARY TAUBES IS WRONG ON THIS? He is a physicist from Harvard."

    Dr Guyenet also likes to claim "end of debate".. sorry but that is not the way it works... you don't get the final say on this.

    Here is a direct quote form Gary Taubes' latest blog post... a quote that I'm pretty sure you have already read... "Yes, I believe that calories are a useful measure of the energy contained in the foods we consume and a useful measure of the energy our bodies expend. (Just as I believe miles are a useful measure of how far I have to travel to get, say, from Oakland to Los Angeles.) Yes, I believe in the laws of thermodynamics and I believe, as I say in both my books, they always hold true. That’s why we call them laws. But, no, I do not believe that we can learn anything useful about why people get fat or why they get the diseases that associate with getting fat, by focusing on the calories they consume and expend. It’s not about the calories."

    If you read that as "the laws f thermodynamics apply to humans" then I guess you have just answered my question from above "How dense can one person be?"

    Reply: #112
  3. FrankG
    "Besides the obvious need to cut down on sugar..." please explain your rationale for that statement... it seems to contradict everything else you say.

    If it is a case of reducing calories eaten then I get far more (less) bang for my buck by cutting back on fat; which has more than twice the calories per gram of carbohydrates.

  4. grinch
    Frank, I get what you are saying. Its your poor communication skills that led to this wasted conversation. All of the laws of thermodynamics still apply to humans, whether open or closed.
  5. FrankG
    LOL grinch.. I really don't think that you DO get what I am saying... either that or you are being purposely obtuse :-)

    Yes we all live within the currently understood physical world.... oooooH! Do you know what your current BMR is, or how many calories of your previous just was flushed down the toilet, or breathed out? If not, how on earth do you expect to consciously mange your energy balance?

    AND I am still waiting to learn why it is so obvious that we should cut back on sugar?

  6. FrankG
    "The insulin hypothesis claims that obesity is a disorder of fat accumulation, one of fuel partitioning as opposed to one of excess calorie consumption"

    Another weak attempt at a straw man?

    Forget context, forget pre-amble or later discussion.. just focus on the headline as if that is the ALL, then find a counter-example to shoot it down. End of debate :-)

    Really?!? we can gain weight by force-feeding, or lose it by starving... really. whodathunkit?!? And Gary Taubes had no idea that this would be raised as an objection when he wrote GC,BC? Wow... just wow :-)

    ---

    Still waiting to find out why you think sugar is obviously something to reduce? I mean it makes perfect sense to me from its effect on raising insulin but you vehemently oppose that idea, so in terms of calories per gram, fat is the hands down winner! Seems to me that I can readily achieve the objective of cutting back on calories by diluting fat with sugar... surely that makes sense to you? After all, macro-nutrients are all equal in your metabolic ward bible studies right?

  7. grinch
    Too much fructose increases oxidized LDL, increases hepatic insulin resistance, increases CHD risk, and of course consists of empty calories that don't satiate. None of this counters anything I've said. My whole argument is that insulin is not responsible for excess fat growth other than being facilitative of the process.

    So what exactly am I being obtuse about with regards to the first law of thermodynamics? If it does not apply to humans because they are open systems, what are the implications? Does this mean human beings can walk around and do work without requiring any energy to be utilized? Is 500 calories per day sufficient for an overweight person to breathe and walk around or is there some point where such a claim becomes absurd? What exactly are you trying to say? If you want people to accept your message, than be clear of what you are trying to say.

    And finally, please correct my "straw man" regarding the insulin hypothesis being a fat accumulation disorder. At this point I have no idea why this is a straw man.

  8. Interesting
    Here's a novel idea. If it works for you keep doing it. If it doesn't... try something else. What difference does it make whether someone counts calories or not, is paleo or not, eats chocolate or not, ... the only question is... IS IT WORKING
  9. Heh, grinch, earlier I challenged "ocean" to report her results to the top obesity researcher in her country and offer to be a test subject in a study. If she can prove that she can lose weight by eating more calories, and not lose weight by eating less, she would be a rich and famous woman. It is amazing how no one has ever proven this under tested conditions.

    Ocean and Margaret - please read about the Hunger Winter of the Dutch in 1944-1945. They starved. They got skinny and died.

    Don't do that - but learn the truth.

  10. grinch
    Hey diana, there seems to be a recurring pattern here regarding wild claims people make. How many people claim to have psychic powers, yet when offered $1million by James Randi to prove it, not a single person has come even close to proving their abilities.

    Anyways the problem with the LC diet is that my insulin levels were so low that it caused me to shrink from 6' to 5' tall, which ruined my basketball game. Then when I went back to my HC diet, I grew up to 7'. Now I can dunk. This is why HC worked better for me. To each their own.

    Reply: #113
  11. Margaret
    Diana ---- interesting choice.

    Not everyone died during the hunger years. And some got skinnier than others. My mother's people (from whom my siblings and I inherited our stupendously awful body types) weren't affected in the same way. They got thinner, but not emaciated, and they had no more food than the people around them. (My father's line was emaciated; today, we complain because we didn't inherit his "skinny" gene.) My mother's body was well suited to the harsh conditions; my father's devious mind was (he managed to steal food from the occupiers, but that's another story).

    I don't have calorie intake or weight loss charts for my family during the war, so I can't prove a damned thing. All I have are some pictures of both of my parents on liberation day, and their stories. But I put it to you that there are different body types, each of which respond differently to calorie quality and count.

    Everybody is not alike.

    By the way? Just like Ocean, on a calorie intake of about 900 calories a day, with a workout schedule of 5 days a week, I wasn't losing weight. I switched to LCHF, and reduced workouts to 3 days a week and started losing. My caloric intake today is twice what it was on a low calorie diet. My BMR says that I should have a HUGE calorie deficit, and be losing weight very quickly. I'm not. It's half a pound a week.

    I know it just doesn't seem possible. I don't have a well formulated scientific answer as to why.... but neither does anyone else. WE JUST DON'T KNOW YET!

    Reply: #114
  12. Margaret
    I LOVE this Taube's quote... its exactly what I've been trying to say! Thanks, Frank!

    Here is a direct quote form Gary Taubes' latest blog post... a quote that I'm pretty sure you have already read...

    "Yes, I believe that calories are a useful measure of the energy contained in the foods we consume and a useful measure of the energy our bodies expend. (Just as I believe miles are a useful measure of how far I have to travel to get, say, from Oakland to Los Angeles.) Yes, I believe in the laws of thermodynamics and I believe, as I say in both my books, they always hold true. That’s why we call them laws. But, no, I do not believe that we can learn anything useful about why people get fat or why they get the diseases that associate with getting fat, by focusing on the calories they consume and expend. It’s not about the calories."

    Again..... when you are struggling with weight issues, you have to equip yourself with every possible tool to help you. I count EVERYTHING - calories, grams of fat, proteins, carbs.... because I have NO IDEA what will or won't work. I watch the numbers, see what the scale says, and if it's working I repeat. If it isn't working I try something else. I backslide, so then I have to count again to get back on track. Simple.

    I wish I could eat theories and hyperboles.... they're filled with hot air, which as far as I know don't cause weight gain!

  13. That recurring pattern isn't just here. It's everywhere in the Low Carb cult world. You hear these stories on Carbwire, etc. Same old same old. At some point it occurred to me. Challenge them. Your Randi analogy is apt. If they could do this under observed, tested, controlled conditions, they'd be rich as hell. They'd be the subject of high-level testing - so that the rest of us could replicate their amazing wonderful miraculous results!!!!!! Etc. If there were a gene mutation that enabled people to eat more and lose more, any number of entrepreneurs would have found it, and would be working on replicating the effects of that mutation in the gen'l population.

    Whatever. I discovered that eating less (I'm past 50) and moving more works. No magic bullets, just restraint and sweat.

  14. You are Dutch? Yes, not everyone died during the Hunger Winter (not the Hunger Years), because it was pretty localized and didn't go on terribly long. It was one winter. Rationing in Holland during WWII was strict but not starvation level. Greece was much worse, being starved for four whole years. I don't think you understand the genetics of starvation: if your father was skinny and survived starvation, you may have (sorry) inherited a somewhat damaged genome. Read up about it. Google Dutch Hunger Winter epigenetics.

    In any case the big picture here is that caloric deficit produces weight loss. Many people have hedonic responses to food and do not want to give up their reward. Low Carb offers to many people the illusion of weight loss without calorie deficit, and you can binge all you like. Then when the plateau comes, you start fat bombing on macadamia nuts and cream cheese.

    And Diet Doc says that calorie counting is an eating disorder. For shame!

  15. grinch
    " because I have NO IDEA what will or won't work"

    Well you would be in the minority in this forum. People like Frank will say that restricting carbs works for everybody and downplay or even reject the experiences of those in which restricting carbs didn't work.

    And generally speaking, there is always going to be individual variation with regards to calorie needs, but there are limits to how much variation is plausible. It seems pretty unlikely that anyone who isn't extremely thin / anorexic would fail to lose weight on 1000 calories per day or less. Notice that every single person on The Biggest Loser loses massive amounts of weight. There are no outliers who don't lose weight on that show. Another thing to consider (besides the links to studies I posted about inaccurate reporting of calorie intake) is that water weight can mask weight loss for weeks at a time, and water weight is also tied to cortisol levels, which can increase during weight loss diets.

  16. ""Obesity is a growth disorder just like any other growth disorder. Specifically, obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation. Fat accumulation is determined not by the balance of calories consumed and expended but by the effect of specific nutrients on the hormonal regulation of fat metabolism. Obesity is a condition where the body prioritizes the storage of fat rather than the utilization of fat."

    That is one of the most infamously stupid things I have ever read. Fall for that and you'll fall for anything.

  17. ""Yes, I believe that calories are a useful measure of the energy contained in the foods we consume and a useful measure of the energy our bodies expend. (Just as I believe miles are a useful measure of how far I have to travel to get, say, from Oakland to Los Angeles.) Yes, I believe in the laws of thermodynamics and I believe, as I say in both my books, they always hold true. That’s why we call them laws. But, no, I do not believe that we can learn anything useful about why people get fat or why they get the diseases that associate with getting fat, by focusing on the calories they consume and expend. It’s not about the calories."

    This is my candidate for the most ruinously stupid things anyone has ever said about weight control.

    Reply: #118
  18. FrankG
    In that I guess I'll need to defer to the self-appointed expert on ruinously stupid things to say :-)
    Reply: #120
  19. Margaret
    @ grinch - thanks for the link below:

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199212313272701

    I read that some time ago. It was what I had always believed, so when it was critical for me to lose weight prior to surgery I was very, very careful about reporting accurately.

    When my efforts failed to produce results I had a Weight Watchers person go over my stuff; when that didn't help I hired a nutritionist. The nutritionist showed me a new "whole foods" way of eating. I was hopeful, and I weasured and weighted EXACTLY. No appreciable results.

    Throughout, I had a personal trainer. He took a try by developing a "zig zag" diet. I'd loose on the low carb days, and regain on the low calorie days.

    I finally started losing consistently when I adopted the low carb approach every day (which, by the way, I researched myself after spending a lot of money on things that didn't work).

    I can assure you, it isn't a calorie deficit issue, and it isn't a reporting problem. It was something else, but what that "something" is, is still under scientific investigation.

    My point remains.... there is something here that we do not yet understand. Whatever we believe about diet and weight loss needs to be communicated with caution, and with an open mind. There are exceptions to our beliefs on either side, and noone has the truth cornered yet. As with any other treatment approach, we need to start conservatively (in the case of weight loos probably that means creating a caloric defecit using a Mediterranean diet) and progress to more instrusive, less "balanced" approaches until something starts to work.

    One day perhaps we'll understand why it is so difficult, but we certainly aren't there yet.

    Oh, and Diana? Yes I'm Dutch. I've read the epigenetics material, and it doen't apply in my case. Thank goodness. But it certainly is compelling as evidence of the impact of world hunger; thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  20. I can't figure out which one is stupider. The one you are reading. The mind boggles.
  21. Very interesting comments. I would like to think that we can control our energy intake, it is sometimes difficult when food is EVERYWHERE. and it is possible to ever eat Paleo Food. so I do understand the need for some to keep track of their energy consumption
  22. Sabine
    I agree, Andreas. There is also a trend to make paleo living high-carb (especially for those considering themselves athletes), ignoring the reasearch of Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney and others.
    Maybe this is the reason they need to count calories (hint: carbs make you fat).

    I stick to what has proven effective for myself and countless others:

    -high fat/low carb/moderate protein
    -no sweets and sweeteners (also no calorie)
    -low fruit, except avocado, small amounts of peppers etc....
    -few nuts (too many carbs and omega-6 on average)
    -no indusrtrial oils/vegetable fats/food additives
    -no other artificial food additives

    Lots of delicious food: eggs, lamb chops, gravlax, avocado, home made mayo, hollandaise, salmon, trout, cabbage carbonara, roasted duck, lots of butter, coconut kefir, fermented veggies (condiment), pork belly, creamed spinach, ............

    No more pain, no more weight gain, 118lbs at 5'8", no more feeling crappy all the time, NO counting calories.

1 2 3
up

Leave a Reply

Reply to comment #0 by

Pictures of participants through Gravatar