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Can You Really Count Calories? (Part V of “There Is No Such Thing As A Calorie”)

Caution: contains SCIENCE!

(This is a multi-part series. Go back to Part I, Part II, Part III, or Part IV.)

We’ve already proven the following in Part II, Part III, and Part IV:

  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it at a different time of day.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it in a differently processed form.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as a wholly different food.
  • A calorie is not a calorie when you eat it as protein, instead of carbohydrate or fat.
  • Controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math”.
  • And, therefore:

  • Calorie math doesn’t work for weight gain or weight loss.

However, let’s suppose that we’re stubborn and want to count our “calories” anyway. What happens then?

How Accurate Is Our Data? Garbage In, Garbage Out

Computer scientists have an old saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.” (Commonly abbreviated as GIGO.) If a program’s input is inaccurate or misleading, its output will be meaningless—no matter how pretty the set of graphs we can draw from it.

How Accurate Are Calorie Counts In Chain Restaurants?

Given the popular emphasis on counting calories, it shouldn’t be surprising that calorie counts might be, er, fudged a bit. Scripps News Service ran a famous expose in 2008, showing that the few chain restaurants which volunteered the calorie and fat content of their dishes tended to dramatically underestimate both…with some entrees containing more than double their listed calorie count!

Partially as a result of these repeated exposes, and partially because it’s now a legal requirement in some states (and, soon, across the entire USA), calorie counts have indeed become more accurate—on average. However, the variation is still quite wide:

JAMA. 2011 Jul 20;306(3):287-93. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.993.
Accuracy of stated energy contents of restaurant foods.
Urban LE, McCrory MA, Dallal GE, Das SK, Saltzman E, Weber JL, Roberts SB.
(Fulltext available here.)

Let’s skip to the punchline, from Figure 2:

Figure 2 of Urban 2011.

Figure 2 of Urban 2011.

I’ve added red lines to show +10% and -10% estimation errors—a range of 1800-2200 calories for a 2000-calorie diet. Note that over half of the dishes sampled lie outside these lines!

As we can see by the downward slope of the linear regressions, the lower in calories, the more likely an entree is to have more calories than advertised:

“…Among entrees obtained in sit-down restaurants, those with a lower stated energy content (ie, the most appropriate choices for individuals trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain) systematically contained more energy than stated, whereas foods with higher stated energy contents had lower energy contents than stated.” -Ibid.

This paper comes to similar conclusions, showing that restaurant entrees advertised as “reduced-calorie” underestimate their calorie content by an average of 18%:

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jan;110(1):116-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.003.
The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy, commercially prepared foods.
Urban LE, Dallal GE, Robinson LM, Ausman LM, Saltzman E, Roberts SB.
(Fulltext available here.)

The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy restaurant foods and frozen meals purchased from supermarkets was evaluated. “Measured energy values of 29 quick-serve and sit-down restaurant foods averaged 18% more than stated values…”

Returning to Urban 2011, the categories most likely to contain extra calories were salads, soups, and “carbohydrate-rich foods”…again, precisely those entrees that people on a calorie-counting diet are most likely to order.

The carbohydrate-rich foods averaged 24% more calories than claimed. In contrast, the “meat” category was the most underestimated, averaging 9% fewer calories. (See Table 2 of Urban 2011.)

Finally, Figure 3 shows that these errors are consistent over time, which dashes our hopes that errors will “average out”:

Figure 3 of Urban 2011.

Figure 3 of Urban 2011.

“The mean for the original sample was 289 kcal/portion (95% confidence interval, 186 to 392 kcal/portion) and the mean for the repeat sample was 258 kcal/portion (95% confidence interval, 154 to 361 kcal/portion). Both of these were significantly greater than 0 kcal (P <.001 for both) and they were not significantly different from each other (P = .37).” -Urban 2011

Conclusion: Calorie counts in restaurants are typically off by over 10%…and the lower-calorie and carb-heavy choices are more likely to contain more calories than advertised.

How Accurate Are Calorie Counts In Independent Restaurants?

Chain restaurants—particularly fast food—are frequently blamed for making America fat. However:

JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jul 22;173(14):1292-9. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6163.
The energy content of restaurant foods without stated calorie information.
Urban LE, Lichtenstein AH, Gary CE, Fierstein JL, Equi A, Kussmaul C, Dallal GE, Roberts SB.

The mean energy content of individual meals was 1327 (95% CI, 1248-1406) kcal, equivalent to 66% of typical daily energy requirements. We found a significant effect of food category on meal energy (P ≤ .05), and 7.6% of meals provided more than 100% of typical daily energy requirements. Within-meal variability was large (average SD, 271 kcal), and we found no significant effect of restaurant establishment or size. In addition, meal energy content averaged 49% greater than those of popular meals from the largest national chain restaurants (P < .001) and in subset analyses contained 19% more energy than national food database information for directly equivalent items (P < .001).

Apparently McDonalds and Applebees aren’t the ones stuffing us with extra food…and even if we look up the calorie counts afterwards on our spiffy new smartphone calorie app, we’ll still underestimate by about 20%. Quoth a co-author of the above study:

“Small restaurants that don’t report calories appear to be the worst restaurants of all,” said study coauthor Susan Roberts, director of the energy metabolism laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “They make fast food look like health food.”
-Boston Globe, “Small eateries better than fast food? Think again,” May 20, 2013

(We’ll ignore, for the moment, the concept that a Happy Meal is more healthy than an entree of wild salmon with grilled vegetables, herbed butter, and a side of sweet potatoes because it contains fewer calories.)

Conclusion: Independent restaurants serve far greater quantities of food than chain restaurants…and our best estimates will still underreport calorie content by ~20%.

How Accurate Are Calorie Counts For Packaged Foods?

Now let’s look at nutrition labels on packaged foods. According to US law, calories can be underestimated by up to 20% over an average of 12 samples:

“A food with a label declaration of calories, sugars, total fat, saturated fat,trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium shall be deemed to be misbranded under section 403(a) of the act if the nutrient content of the composite is greater than 20 percent in excess of the value for that nutrient declared on the label.”
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Sec. 101.9(g)(5)

Since weight must be >99% of stated weight over 48 samples (USDA Compliance Policy Guide, Sec. 562.300), it seems likely that calorie counts will be slightly overestimated. From Urban 2010, again:

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Jan;110(1):116-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.003.
The accuracy of stated energy contents of reduced-energy, commercially prepared foods.
Urban LE, Dallal GE, Robinson LM, Ausman LM, Saltzman E, Roberts SB.
(Fulltext available here.)

“…Measured energy values of 10 frozen meals purchased from supermarkets averaged 8% more than originally stated.”

The range was from -10% to +31%. If we throw out the highest and lowest value, it still ranges from -5% to +28%. (See Table 1.) Note that these were all reduced-calorie meals: Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice, etc.

Labels on junk food are more accurate:

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan;21(1):164-9. doi: 10.1002/oby.20185.
Food label accuracy of common snack foods.
Jumpertz R, Venti CA, Le DS, Michaels J, Parrington S, Krakoff J, Votruba S.

“We tested label accuracy for energy and macronutrient content of prepackaged energy-dense snack food products. […] When differences in serving size were accounted for, metabolizable calories were 6.8 kcal (0.5, 23.5, P = 0.0003) or 4.3% (0.2, 13.7, P = 0.001) higher than the label statement.”

Apparently TV dinner calorie counts are more accurate than both fast food and sit-down restaurant meals—and junk food labels are the most accurate of all.

Conclusion: The worse a food is for you, the more likely its calorie count is to be accurately labeled.

How Accurate Are Our Estimates Of Portion Size?

Most of us eat the majority of our food at home, so it’s important to ask: how accurate are our estimates of portion size? Apparently the answer is: wildly inaccurate.

Am J Clin Nutr. 1982 Apr;35(4):727-32.
Estimates of food quantity and calories: errors in self-report among obese patients.
Lansky D, Brownell KD.
(Fulltext available here.)

The quantity was overestimated for all foods (mean 63.9%). The errors ranged from 6% (cola) to 260% (potato chips). The percentage error in calorie estimates was also substantial, ranging from an underestimate of 4.5% (cottage cheese) to an overestimate of 118.5% (green beans). The mean error in calorie estimates, calculated by averaging the absolute value of overestimation and underestimation errors, is 53.4%.
[…]
“Averaged across foods, 26% of the quantity estimates were within ±10% of the foods’ actual values; 32% of the estimates were in error by ±11 to 50%; and almost half the quantity estimates, 42%, were in error by more than 50%. Of the calorie estimates, 14% were in error by 10% or less; 46% were in error by ± 11 to 50%; and 40% were in error by ± 50% or more of the foods’ actual values.”
[…]
Inaccurate calorie estimates could have resulted from incorrect quantity estimates, even if judgments regarding calories per unit serving were correct. To test this, the error in number of calories per unit was calculated (Table 1). The subjects ranged from an underestimate of 49.4% (potato chips) to an overestimate of 206.4% (orange juice); mean error, calculated by averaging the absolute value of under- and over-estimates, was 53.8%.

Yes, you read that correctly. When given an unmarked portion of common foods, people overestimate both the quantity and the calorie content by over 50%.

Several studies show that obese people tend to underestimate calories more than lean people. Note, however, that Lansky 1982 demonstrates consistent overestimation of calorie content for individual servings, not underestimation…so the non-obese, if anything, ought to be even less accurate in their estimates.

Result: unless we weigh all our ingredients on a gram scale prior to cooking or eating, our estimates of how much we’ve eaten will be wildly inaccurate. Using that cute little smartphone app to count calories doesn’t help either, because our estimates of quantity are even more inaccurate than our estimates of total calories!

Then, just in case we forget to record all that calorie information right away, as we eat…

The results of study 2 indicate that only 53% of entries in daily food records were specified enough to permit objective estimates of the calories consumed. In study 3, blind raters could not predict weight loss based on subjects’ self-recorded behavior changes. Collectively, these results question the utility of food records for estimating energy intake or predicting weight loss.

Conclusion: our estimates of both how much we eat, and how many calories it contains, are off by over 50%.

(A bonus observation from Lansky 1982: “One-way analyses of variance were used to test calorie and quantity estimates of subjects who viewed foods in large and small containers. Except for one food (cottage cheese), there were no significant differences between estimates made from large and small containers. For cottage cheese, subjects estimated the smaller plate contained fewer calories than the large plate.”)

It Gets Worse: Errors Multiply, and What About Those Free Side Dishes?

Here’s another confounding factor: when eating out, what about the free table bread or tortilla chips? How many pats of butter did we use? And how many calories were in that salsa, anyway?

More importantly, we don’t always clean our plates. Whether we’re eating at a restaurant, eating a prepackaged meal, or eating our own cooking, we have to ask: how much of it did we actually consume? This is important because error terms multiply.

Stated plainly: The inaccuracy of calorie counts is multiplied by the inaccuracy of recalling how much of it we managed to eat, and the inaccuracy of treating all “calories” as equal.

Counting Calories Causes Greater Consumption of Packaged Non-Foods

Counting calories—even inaccurately—is both taxing and discouraging. Trying to recall everything you ate, estimating portion sizes, trying to assign a value in calories or “points” or “blocks”…”Only 53% of entries in daily food records were specified enough to permit objective estimates of the calories consumed.” (Lansky 1982)

Hypothesized result: calorie-counting motivates us to eat less real food and more processed junk. Nutritional shakes, energy bars, TV dinners…

Am J Med. 1997 Mar;102(3):259-64.
Divergent trends in obesity and fat intake patterns: the American paradox.
Heini AF, Weinsier RL.

“In the adult US population the prevalence of overweight rose from 25.4% from 1976 to 1980 to 33.3% from 1988 to 1991, a 31% increase.
[…]
“There was a dramatic rise in the percentage of the US population consuming low-calorie products, from 19% of the population in 1978 to 76% in 1991.

Conclusion: calorie-counting appears to motivate us to eat more processed foods…and get fatter.

Conclusion: Garbage In, Garbage Out…Or, When Your Error Term Is Far Larger Than The Change You’re Measuring

We’ve already established, in Part II, Part III, and Part IV, that foods containing the same amount of “calories” produce dramatically different weight gains and losses—and that controlled weight-loss studies do not produce results consistent with “calorie math” (the widely-quoted “3500-calorie rule”.)

Meanwhile, we must recall that, according to “calorie math” (otherwise known as the “3500 calories per pound of fat” rule), the entire obesity crisis—in which the average American has gained 19 pounds—is due to Americans eating six extra calories per day. (See Part II.)

In this article, we’ve demonstrated the following:

  • The typical calorie count for food eaten away from home is off by over 10%.
  • The lowest-calorie and most “healthy” menu items are most likely to be underreported.
  • The only foods whose calorie count approaches accuracy (< 5%) are packaged snack foods—precisely the foods we should avoid.
  • No matter whether we cook our own food or eat prepared food, our estimates of portion size and calorie content, both immediate and retrospective, are wildly inaccurate. The average error exceeds 50%.
  • Error terms multiply. The inaccuracy of calorie counts is multiplied by the inaccuracy of recalling how much of a food we managed to eat, and the inaccuracy of treating all “calories” as equal.
  • Therefore:

  • Unless we prepare all of our own food and weigh every portion on a gram scale, the errors in estimating our true “calorie” intake exceed the changes calculated by “calorie math” by approximately two orders of magnitude. (That’s 100x, or 10,000%, which equals GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.)
  • Additionally:

  • Calorie-counting appears to motivate us to eat more processed foods…and get fatter.

We’re not done yet! Continue to Part VI, “Calorie Cage Match! Sugar (Sucrose) Vs. Protein And Honey”

Or, you can refresh your memory by going back to Part I, Part II, Part III, or Part IV.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


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29 comments

Permalink: Can You Really Count Calories? (Part V of “There Is No Such Thing As A Calorie”)
  • Alex

    Do you know how accurate the calorie counts are in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference? That’s the database used by nutritiondata.com and the various calorie counting websites.

  • Tom Passin

    In addition, the method of measuring the “calorie” value of foods is questionable. The time-honored way is to burn the food in a calorimeter and determine how much energy is released. But that’s not how food is used by the body. The method only gives the maximum energy available chemically, if you could extract all of it.

    The calorie counts are obtained by adjusting the calorimeter results by tabulated factors for different kinds of foods (e.g., fats). As I understand it, these factors were published over one hundred years ago.

    When all is said and done, it seems that the accuracy of measurement of the calorie value of foodstuffs has got to be very questionable in terms of describing what energy value your body actually gets from the food you eat.

  • Ash Simmonds

    As to the “3500 calories per lb of fat” thing, Zoe Harcombe did a brief overview on how absurd it is to take as gospel.

    But bro – you can’t say McDonald’s are giving us extra unnecessary calories – they are the messiah of the greatest most bountiful source of nutrition. :p

  • Bill Lagakos

    “Where Calories Are Hiding”
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/where-calories-hiding-032500693.html
    This article describes how restaurants are trying to cut calories from their menu items. Out of the whole 1000+ word article, food quality got 1 sentence: “Calories are, of course, just one gauge of the healthfulness of a dish.”
    I guess it’s better than nothing :/

  • Arturo

    You’re a genius J. Stanton. Love every article on this website.

  • Fmgd

    Ash Simmonds, I saw that a few days ago. Following the link we find out that “people who eat out tend to eat less at home that day”. It’s also nice how much praise the burger gets at “as little as $1.76 per 1,000 calories”. I just wonder why they wouldn’t mention shortening can go for about $0,35 per 1,000 calories (according to a quick online search on wallmart). Now that’s a godsend.

  • Beowulf

    All of this would be so much simpler if people just quit viewing their bodies as machines and started seeing them as complex, biological organisms.

    People get so stuck, though. I have an acquaintance right now that no amount of information seems to be able to dissuade from the CICO nonsense. Worst of all, she’s miserably trying to eat bird-sized portions at every meal, is hungry and deprived all the time, and very frustrated that the weight just isn’t coming off. You’d think she’d be open to a different interpretation, but it’s like CICO has to be right for her worldview to continue. Very sad.

  • eddie watts

    great stuff, once i get home i will
    explore the links too!

  • tatertot

    One really bad thing about using calories to decide what and how much to eat is it gives you a false target. I hear people say, ‘I eat 1500 calories a day and can’t lose weight’, This post probably does more to explain that particular problem than the first 4 posts.

    If you set a target of a certain number of calories per day, you are guaranteed to exceed it. A better plan is to eat almost to fullness and if you are still getting fatter, examine your food choices, amounts, and health.

    I hope this series gets lots of attention. Thanks.

  • Dave

    I like to count calories. ;)

    I look at the nutrition label (if it is packaged food) and buy the foods with the highests amount of calories from fats. In some foods, the calories seem to correspond pretty directly with the price of the product. For example, heavy cream is much more expensive and calorically dense than, say, half & half. A happy medium for me is usually light cream.

    Other products seem to ignore this basic rule. ‘Light’ sour cream generally costs the same as full fat sour cream. I like a brand that give me well over 80% fat calories per serving. Their ‘light’ version costs the same. You know it has to be an inferior product, but they can get away with it because of fat phobia.

    Speaking of fat phobia, I can’t even get full fat plain Greek yogurt in my small town grocery stores. Most of the yogurt on the shelves is sugar laden junk food.

  • Alex:

    No, I don't…that would be interesting information indeed.

     

    Tom Passin:

    I've discussed those very subjects in the previous installments of this series.  Note: the adjustments you're referring to are “Atwater factors”, which were discussed in the comments of Part I. 

    And yes, you've grasped the point: once you multiply the intrinsic inaccuracy of “calories” by the known errors in measurement, the error term in the numbers you come up with is much larger than the changes you're attempting to track!

     

    Ash:

    That's interesting…the Harcombe article points out that “3500 calories per pound of body fat” is an approximation subject to great variation.  I wish she hadn't stopped there, though, as she's implying that the rest of “calorie math” is still valid!

    I used to eat bunless McDoubles on the road…now I usually just plan ahead and bring food in a cooler.  Or, if I'm really caught short, I'll stop at a supermarket and make some steak tartare from meat, egg yolks, salt, and pepper.

     

    Bill Lagakos:

    That's actually why I don't support labeling laws: not only do they encourage minimizing the wrong things (e.g. saturated fat, cholesterol), they encourage restaurants to give me less food for my money. 

    I've always thought “diet” TV dinners were a great scam: they turn tiny portions into a selling point.  “Spend the same amount of money and receive less food!

     

    Arturo:

    Thank you for the vote of confidence!  Keep spreading the word.

     

    More soon!

    JS

  • Fmgd:

    If you're talking calories per dollar, it's tough to beat seed oil…at least in America, where corn and soy are so heavily subsidized.

     

    Beowulf:

    CICO and calorie math are very seductive cognitive traps.  All you have to do is eat less and exercise more…it's a simple matter of negative energy balance.  That's PHYSICS — and you can't argue with PHYSICS, because it's the most sciency of sciences.  Right?

    I like Andreas Eenfeldt's analogy.  Constipation is just a problem of negative fecal balance — so all you need to do is eat less and shit more.

     

    eddie:

    Thank you! 

     

    tatertot:

    Exactly.  The composition of the food you're eating controls your body composition — through a combination of nutrient partitioning, and the other hormonal and metabolic effects caused by food ingestion. So the first thing to do is change your diet to eat foods that create the healthiest possible hormonal and metabolic environment for you.  Then, if you still aren't reaching your goal weight, start tricking your satiation reflexes (see Part V of “Why Are We Hungry?”).  Then, if you're still not there, start restricting how much you eat.

     

    Dave:

    I agree.  All other things being equal, I look for the most saturated fat and cholesterol, and the least polyunsaturated fat, for my money.  (Keeping in mind that the healthiest foods are fresh and usually don't come with nutrition labels at all.)

     

    Thanks, everyone, for your support!  CICO and “calorie math” are articles of religious faith to many…it's interesting how all the argumentative folks from Part I vanished once I started demolishing the faith with straightforward, peer-reviewed science.  The only arguing I've seen is from people on message boards and reddits — who obviously haven't read past Part I, or at all.

     

    JS

  • Sofia

    Leaving calories behind when I discovered paleo has been one of the happiest things I’ve ever done. Lo and behold…..I’m NOT fatter. When people close to me continue to insist on CICO it drives me crazy. Question: steak tartare, since you mentioned eating it when caught short, that must mean you’re just using ordinary grocery store ground beef and eggs, correct? Any worries about food poisoning or do you feel its pretty safe?

  • Jen W

    Another thing nutrition labels don't take into account is how the preservation effects the nutritional content of a food.  Frozen broccoli would have more carbs then fresh broccoli as the freezing turns some of the starch to sugar.  Nutritional labels generally don't reflect this (at least not at Trader Joes).

  • Sofia:

    First, I only make tartare with hamburger that comes from “shop trim”, i.e. that has been ground from trimmings cut on site, unless it's a huge emergency. Some supermarkets label their shop trim, but with some you have to ask. If it's not labeled, I assume it's from a big plastic tube, reground to look fresh (which is where most of the “fresh” ground beef in the case comes from).

    Keep in mind that no one in the USA has ever died from eating meat from the meat counter in a grocery store!  The majority of deaths come from contaminated fruits and vegetables (cantaloupe (53), fenugreek sprouts (30), spinach (3), green onions(3)), with one notable instance of dodgy Mexican cheese (~50).  The only deaths due to meat have been from industrially-packaged cold cuts (~40) or Jack in the Box (4), with one single exception: a 5-year-old child in Wales.  (Source.)  And I note that the E.coli outbreak in question was in school lunches, which are very well cooked.

    That being said, I don't recommend it to anyone else, particularly anyone pregnant, very young, very old, or otherwise with a compromised immune system.

    Jen W:

    I believe you're correct: nutrition labels are generally for the food in its raw state.  For instance, bacon supposedly has ~90 calories per slice, 80 of fat…but a substantial amount of the fat is lost as it cooks.

    JS

  • edster

    Boom! You’ve nailed it. Thank you so much for shining a clear bright light on the broken CICO model. While one cannot sensibly deny the laws of thermodynamics, extrapolating them to regulated food labeling is just plain bonkers.

  • edster:

    Exactly.  CICO zealots often use that particular strawman: “You don't believe in BASIC PHYSICS.” 

    Of course I do! 

    The difference is that I understand that the human body is not a heat engine that runs at a fixed rate and at fixed efficiency regardless of fuel source, genetic and epigenetic history, and environmental conditions. 

    Furthermore, I understand that the combination of labeling and estimation errors cannot possibly produce a result accurate enough to produce the results predicted by the naive CICO model.

    JS

  • Yes!

    We are not robots. We are not machines.

    We are an enormously adaptive organism that has weathered the changes in time, space and environments for millions of years. Only today are we meeting each other from across the whole world and finding out just how wonderfully different, yet so much the same as each we really are.

    Wonderful, isn't it?

  • tatertot

    Oh, brother…someone is in serious need of this calorie series…http://freetheanimal.com/2013/08/the-perfect-person-for-the-job.html

    Obama has hired a 27 year old lady to be the ‘calorie czar’ of America. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/nudge_off_VIU0WQzeDw2DwAoy27T5HO/0

    “Undeterred by science, President Obama is taking Bloomberg’s failed policy nationwide, mandating, as a provision of ObamaCare, that calorie counts be posted for every food item sold in chain restaurants with 20 or more locations — along with bakeries, grocery stores, convenience stores and coffee chains. That sounds pretty much like labeling every pear and bagel.

    A spokesman for the industry group the Food Marketing Institute noted that large grocery stores might have to send thousands of food items out to be tested and relabeled. The head of the FDA has described the measure as “extremely thorny,” and said that though it sounds fine in principle, “in practice it really would be very hard.”

    And for what?

    A Carnegie Mellon study published in the American Journal of Public Health found posted calorie counts did little or nothing to change eating habits. Moreover, when informed that women should have no more than 2,000 calories and men no more than 2,400 calories a day, people actually consumed 49 calories more than if they weren’t given this information.”

  • M

    I agree with what you say, and I’ve even lost a couple of pounds once after I overate fat for two days while watching movies all day long, BUT for practical purposes controlling your food intake by approximately counting calories can be useful when your train is already on track and moving forward but you want to be lean, i.e.:

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/from-cancer-back-to-health/

    it works even better combined with weight lifting but it just works if you do it the smart way by cutting sugars/carbs first. then eating less food is much easier.

  • Paul:

    Complexity is wonderful…unless you're trying to prove how smart you are by spouting sciency-sounding oversimplifications!

     

    tatertot:

    If it first you don't succeed, blame your failure on the unwashed masses, who are clearly too stupid to understand why your plan is foolproof!  Then, double down on failure by implementing educational programs…and, if that doesn't work, simply force people to implement your failures.  Do this well enough and your country can become as successful and prosperous as China during Mao's Great Leap Forward.

    As a 27 year old with zero job experience, whose knowledge comes entirely from career academics who have never themselves worked outside academia, she's totally qualified to implement this plan.

     

    M:

    I agree that deliberately reducing food quantity can help, but it's the last thing you do…and I don't recommend counting “calories” to do it.  You'll see what I recommend in future installments.

    JS

  • eddie watts

    ” You’ll see what I recommend in future installments.”

    i am waiting with bated breath.
    seriously.
    (now i wish there was a this-is-not-sarcasm-font)

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