It’s not just “calories in, calories out”

It’s all about calories in and calories out.

No.  It isn’t. 

This is an argument a lot of people use against fatties.  And you will be well-served to have an answer ready.  Here is mine:

If it was just calories in and calories out people who diet would never plateau.  And everyone who diets plateaus.

The body adjusts and has its own ways of dealing with both reduced calories (the body goes into “starvation” mode and the metabolism gets more and more efficient) and exercise (that is why it takes more and more effort to get the pulse rate up). 

Not only that, each body has its own way of dealing with different types of calories – proteins, fats, carbs.  Read a physiology textbook and you will be amazed at how complex the breaking down of food and absorption of nutrition is – which means there are umpteen different ways the process might vary from one body to the next.

Each body is marvelous, complicated, and unique.  So even if the body was subject to a simple “calories in and calories out” formula (which I don’t believe), each body has its own way of dealing with calories in and calories out.  There is no magic formula that applies to everyone.  That’s why there are people who can “eat anything” and never gain a pound; people who struggle to keep their weight up; and people who can go on a fast and not lose almost no weight at all.

So anyone who says to you “it’s just calories in and calories out” is either lying or uninformed, and they hope you won’t know any better.

As I said, in a previous post, I just want to share my thoughts on various arguments and questions that seem to always come up in discussions on fat acceptance.  I think all fat people can benefit from being prepared when faced with these questions and knowing what they want to say.  As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts, comments and any additional information you have, so we can all be better prepared when faced with this, whether it stems from ignorance or prejudice.

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7 thoughts on “It’s not just “calories in, calories out”

  1. Good points. This is why, even when I worked out pretty hard for four hours daily for close to four years, I lost a grand total of 18 pounds in all those years, & why, combined with aging & finishing menopause, since I have cut back to ONLY exercising 45-90 minutes daily, I have regained about 35 pounds. It is also why my ONE thin brother, the only one of us to inherit our thin father’s build & metabolism, can sit across the table from me at a family dinner, eating two or three times as much as I do while he lectures me about my weight, as well as why our thin father could eat at least twice as much as our fat mother while he belittled her for being fat as well. Of course, you let them see you eat ONCE & especially if you let them see you eat chocolate or chips or ice cream & OF COURSE you are fat…why wouldn’t you be, always stuffing your face with all that ‘fattening’ food?…even if they are eating the same stuff & more of it. But, no, it MUST be true that fat people are fat because they never move if they can help it & they stuff their faces with everything that isn’t nailed down. It is so much easier to believe that than to actual THINK or try to learn anything. NOT that it is anyone else’s business what or how much a person eats anyway.

  2. I couldn’t lose a pound the entire two years I breastfed my son. I had to do an “energy analysis” for a nutrition class I was taking about a year after he was born, and if you simply looked at the calories I took in and the calories I expended, I should have been losing weight at a very rapid rate. (I was eating between 1800-2000 calories most days, and according to the calculations, I should have needed 2800 calories just to maintain my weight, given my age, weight, activity level, and the breastfeeding.)

    And yet, I didn’t lose anything. Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense, even if it does defy the logic of most people who say things like “calories in, calories out.” My body was producing a substance used to nourish another human being. It had every evolutionary reason to hold on to as many fat stores as possible, so that, should a famine come, I could still nourish that human being. Some women do rapidly lose weight while breastfeeding, but others don’t, and I can absolutely see why it makes sense for your body to slow down on other calorie-burning processes when you are nursing in order to ensure the survival of offspring in hard times. Again, everybody’s metabolism is different so that doesn’t happen to everyone, but how our bodies handle what we put into them is a really complicated process.

  3. Oh, and just to add to the confusion, when I did stop nursing, I dropped 25 or 30 pounds in a really short period of time (maybe about 2 months). Nothing about my eating or exercise habits changed. That’s the opposite of what “should” have happened: I should have been burning fewer calories, since milk production had ceased. But, it’s not what happened in practice.

    Again, it makes sense to me: my body must have been like, “Okay, she’s done using her body to feed another person, so there’s no need to hold on to as much energy.” But it was definitely something outside of my control.

  4. Well, I agree with you, but I wouldn’t use the argument about dieting not working because if it did, people would never plateau. There’s only so much actual fat your body carries, then there’s a bit of protein to consume, but you’re going to plateau at some point before you attain negative dimensions.

    Food consumption and body weight are related on some level. But it’s not a linear relationship, it’s a feedback loop, with your body adjusting for circumstances in an effort to maintain a well-defined preset weight range.

    • This is true. If you become skeletal, you’d have to plateau. However, as dieters know, usually when you hit the plateau there is still plenty of fat and muscle still with you.

  5. Here’s an analogy. Imagine you’re in a bath with a rubber duckie. The natural tendency is for the rubber ducky to sit on the surface. Now, you can pull it down into the water, deeper and deeper, but the further you go the more force is required to hold it down. Then when you stop, it pops right up again.

    Most things in life can be explained by rubber ducky analogies.

  6. “Energy in, energy out” is completely true, it’s the assumption that these things are mostly under concious control that is wrong. If you conciously decrease energy in, then your brain will unconciously drop energy out to a greater degree.

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