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Calories In vs. Calories Out

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Old 8th March 2012, 5:20 PM   #1
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Calories In vs. Calories Out

Here's Matt Perryman's latest post on his website:

A Calorie Isn’t a Calorie(?)

I found it a fascinating, albeit long, read. I've seen the "calories in vs. calories out" debate spring up several different times even here on LS, and I thought that this article examines the relationship between energy balance, nutritional content, and obesity quite well.
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Old 8th March 2012, 8:43 PM   #2
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Pretty good article, thanks for the link.

I agree with much of what was said. Through my own experiences with my weight, observing the habits of other people, and having a pretty heavy interest in reading anything about health and weight loss the past few years, you couldn't convince me to believe the "calorie is a calorie" argument anymore. And this article kind of goes into semantics about "of course a calorie is a calorie, and nothing else", it reminds me of the people who argue "a pound of muscle does not weigh more than a pound of fat, a pound is a pound". People just argue about the way things are commonly phrased. Of course a calorie is always a calorie, but it's just easier to say that than "a calorie is a calorie but it depends on if it's protein, fat, or carbohydrate, and your lifestyle, and your genetics". Anyways.

There are obvious differences between people. I have a friend who drinks cans of Pepsi one after another all day long and he looks like a stick and weighs 150. If I drank soda all day, I'd be heavier than the 200+ that I already am.

I'm glad that more research is being done into brain activity and treating this like an actual addiction. For many years there were doctors who would argue "there is no such thing as food addiction". Much like just recently I was watching an afternoon talk show and a therapist on the stage argued that sex addiction is a myth. I can understand their point, there is no addictive substance like nicotine or hard drugs in your food, and sex can't be seen as "addictive" in the traditional sense either. But it's not that hard to understand, and I'm a bit dumbfounded at the health professionals that can't understand how this works, these activities trigger the addictive chemicals that are already within our body. No there isn't an addictive chemical in your pizza, what's addictive is the dopamine and whatever else gets released in your brain. Sex doesn't get you addicted, it's the sensation you get from your own brain chemicals. So these things certainly are real addictions, but it's not an external chemical being ingested or injected into your system, it's already inside of us.

I certainly hope nobody would truly stand up for "a calorie is a calorie" in the most rigid sense of the idea anymore. If you think 2000 calories of cake will get you the same body as 2000 calories of chicken, I think you're wrong.

And I do think eat less = lose weight is flawed too. There is much more to it than a calorie deficit. As cynical as I can be about the human race, I really don't think so many of us would be obese if it really came down to just aiming for a certainly calorie target every day. Yes there are those who would lie or underestimate how many calories they eat and then complain that it doesn't work, but I'm sure not everyone is either a liar or lacking in willpower. I think many people do maintain strict diets and still can't get the results they want.

Well I'm just rambling now because I spend so much time thinking about these issues myself.
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Old 9th March 2012, 11:33 AM   #3
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Thanks for your thoughtful and well articulated post, Exit.

Regarding the potential addictive nature of our activities, including the food we eat, I think this might be a key component in understanding why some people seem to have such a hard time adhering to a healthier lifestyle. To me, it highlights the importance of establishing active lifestyles and proper nutritional habits for our children from day one. Whenever I'm at the grocery store, I am often shocked to see what many parents are feeding to their kids. It seems like kids are often given a perpetual supply of juice and animal crackers, which are not only nutritionally devoid, but have the wonderful side effect of giving them a running head start towards insulin resistance. No wonder diabetes is proliferating.

I hope that nutritionists and scientists continue to look into "food addiction" research more. It's very easy to say that we as a society are simply stupid, lazy, and lack the willpower to accomplish the relatively (at least on a fundamental level) simple task of moving more and eating less. I've said something to that effect multiple times in my own posts, and I've admittedly been very skeptical of the possibility of food addiction. However, knowing that it's possible that some people might be more predisposed to obesity due to their own physiological/psychological responses makes me think that perhaps there is more to solving the obesity problem than we think.

A complicated and controversial issue for sure.
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