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  #1   ^
Old Sat, Feb-29-20, 07:48
Calianna's Avatar
Calianna Calianna is offline
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Plan: Atkins-ish (hypoglycemia)
Stats: 000/000/000 Female 63
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Progress: 50%
Default Counting Calories is Basically Pointless, So Why Do We Still Do It?

This showed up a few weeks ago on Huff Post - kept meaning to bring it over here, but life kept getting in the way every time I thought of it:

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/coun...5b6da971d1579dd

The author seems to have a lot of insight into why calories in/calories out isn't nearly as important as the composition of those calories in determining how it affects your weight, but it also goes into the toll constant calorie counting takes on a person mentally.

This is the paragraph that really floored me though:

Quote:
Figuring out how many calories are in the foods we eat isn’t an exact science, either. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows calories on nutrition labels to have a large margin of error — up to 20%. So that means that a 500-calorie muffin you ate for breakfast could really have been anywhere between 400 and 600 calories. When it comes to cooking meals at home, you’d need to measure every tablespoon and weigh every ounce of your ingredients to obtain a somewhat accurate calorie count — and that’s just not worth the effort for many people.


In another thread, I posted the ever so slight calorie differences in very similar sized servings of several very common foods which could account for hundreds of calories more than your carefully measured portions supposedly provide - but this... !!! The fact that even the FDA even allows nutrition labels to be off by up to 20%... You could carefully, and obsessively weigh/measure, and count the nutrition label declared calorie count for every single item you eat, every single day of your life, and still be over your calorie allowance by several hundred calories every single day. Just one more reason why calorie counting simply doesn't work.
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  #2   ^
Old Sat, Feb-29-20, 16:54
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Plan: Dr. Bernstein
Stats: 188/150/135 Female 5 ft 4 inches
BF:
Progress: 72%
Location: NE WA
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It's also impossible to figure calories out for each person as we're all different.

I think it's the same for carbs. Between inaccurate carb counts and different individual reactions, we just have to experiment on ourselves to see what works best. To keep my blood sugar on an even keel I need very low carb (20g or less), moderate protein (60-70g) plus metformin. Then I read the happy news of other diabetics who go moderately low carb (100-150g) & are able to lose their insulin & oral meds. And lose weight. It is SO frustrating!
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  #3   ^
Old Sat, Feb-29-20, 17:35
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Meme#1 Meme#1 is offline
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Plan: Atkins DANDR
Stats: 210/194/160 Female 5'4"
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Progress: 32%
Location: Texas
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I have to keep my carbs low also Bonnie or else I gain. Luckily I keep my BS low too without meds.
Now DH is another story, he knows what to do because of me but carbs call his name. Not a lot and nothing like SAD but here and there, a serving of rice (not at home) a few crackers with chii (again not in our house) a piece of corn bread, tacos from Taco Cabana. So he had to double his Metformin to 2 per day. Are yours 500mg? I hope that's not a high dose or he's going to end up on insulin..

Last edited by Meme#1 : Sat, Feb-29-20 at 18:09.
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  #4   ^
Old Sat, Feb-29-20, 19:58
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Ms Arielle Ms Arielle is offline
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Plan: atkins
Stats: 255/230/200 Female 5'8"
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Location: Massachusetts
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there is no ecuse for exact counts..its just lazy.

As for human calories, we know the metabolic use of calories by a dairy cow when she is making milk, when she is dry, when she is two years old and when she is ten years old.

Too bad the metabolic info on humans yas too little commercial value, hence fewer studies.
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  #5   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 06:16
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WereBear WereBear is offline
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Plan: Epi-Paleo/IF
Stats: 220/123/150 Female 67
BF:
Progress: 139%
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I don't know if they would ever get the calories of food very exact; it's burning a particular food at a particular time, but we are living beings who shifts our composition as needed.
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  #6   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 07:10
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Whirrlly Whirrlly is offline
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Plan: Zero Carb!
Stats: 234/182/170 Female 68
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https://youtu.be/pMzLXGKNaVg

Dr Ken Berry, counting kcals are stupid



but why we do it cause we all know we can easily starve ourselves down a scale. very low kcals like 600/700 per day means we can starve and lose weight and be 'unhealthy' thin easily so we feel there is 'some control' LOL bad control but there is some I see it that way.
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  #7   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 07:27
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BawdyWench BawdyWench is offline
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Plan: High-Protein Keto
Stats: 212/197/170 Female 5'6"
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Location: Rural Maine
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Whenever I count calories or macros, which is not often, it's because I suspect I'm not getting enough. Lately, I'll look at a piece of meat, for example, and am sure in my head it's 6 ounces. I weigh it, and it's only 3 ounces. I tend to overestimate, not underestimate.
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  #8   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 08:27
Bonnie OFS Bonnie OFS is offline
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Posts: 2,560
 
Plan: Dr. Bernstein
Stats: 188/150/135 Female 5 ft 4 inches
BF:
Progress: 72%
Location: NE WA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meme#1
I have to keep my carbs low also Bonnie or else I gain. Luckily I keep my BS low too without meds.
Now DH is another story, he knows what to do because of me but carbs call his name. Not a lot and nothing like SAD but here and there, a serving of rice (not at home) a few crackers with chii (again not in our house) a piece of corn bread, tacos from Taco Cabana. So he had to double his Metformin to 2 per day. Are yours 500mg? I hope that's not a high dose or he's going to end up on insulin..


I hope that's a low dose because that's what I take! I do NOT want to end up on insulin. A friend of mine is & is not doing well, but she's of the mindset that she can eat whatever she wants & cover with insulin. That way of eating & medicating has landed her in ER multiple times, but she doesn't seem to care.
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  #9   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 09:51
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teaser teaser is offline
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Plan: mostly milkfat
Stats: 190/152.4/154 Male 67inches
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Location: Ontario
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Calianna
The fact that even the FDA even allows nutrition labels to be off by up to 20%... You could carefully, and obsessively weigh/measure, and count the nutrition label declared calorie count for every single item you eat, every single day of your life, and still be over your calorie allowance by several hundred calories every single day. Just one more reason why calorie counting simply doesn't work.


I don't think counting calories is useless. But it's not as easy or simple as put out. Bodybuilders seem to be on to this--insistence on CICO being "it" there comes with all sorts of warnings about difficulties like inaccuracies on labels, the tendency for NEAT (I think that's non-exercise activity thermogenesis) to go down when intentional exercise goes up, etc. I don't think you can with exquisite accuracy control calories in versus calories out.

What I often see--first, determine maintenance calories by trial and error. If you're like most people, a creature of habit--you'll probably be eating a limited number of foods that you favour. Say you're eating 2500 calories--that might actually be 2300, or it might be 2700. Cut by 20 percent of calories, while eating more or less the same foods--you might be cutting 460 calories, you might be cutting 540. But as long as it's pretty much scaling down what you'd been eating in maintenance--it's probably going to put you in a deficit. Or what would be a deficit, if you don't compensate in activity or something.

Calorie restriction has never failed for me with weight loss--when I manage to restrict, I lose weight. I make no claims for anybody but me from this. Where it fails for me--when this is my main strategy, later on I end up bingeing. This actually happens not while I'm actively losing weight, but when I get to goal and am thinking about maintenance. I think this actually fits into the insulin hypothesis. If I'm eating 1800 to lose weight, but need to eat 2400 for maintenance--I've just added 600 calories of insulin secretion stimulating food to my diet. Going to more ketogenic food--more fat, even lower carbs, restrained protein--allows me to eat at maintenance without binges. Basically, switching to the least insulinogenic maintenance diet available.
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  #10   ^
Old Sun, Mar-01-20, 11:51
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bkloots bkloots is offline
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Plan: Atkins/LCHF/Keto
Stats: 195/158/150 Female 63in
BF:
Progress: 82%
Location: Kansas City, MO
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Anyone who has been “watching their weight” for five decades has tried everything. Counting calories—or anything else—as a form of acknowledgment and responsibility works pretty well. Keeping a food diary is good, too, no matter what you write in it.

Navigating a relentless succession of dietary trends and weight loss schemes is also a lifelong adventure.

Finally, reconciling oneself to the fact that healthy people—including you—come in all shapes and sizes is perhaps the final hurdle.

Low carb lets me eat without overthinking it. That’s the best sustainable thing I’ve ever found.

Last edited by bkloots : Sun, Mar-01-20 at 12:07.
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  #11   ^
Old Sat, Mar-07-20, 07:52
Calianna's Avatar
Calianna Calianna is offline
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Posts: 1,508
 
Plan: Atkins-ish (hypoglycemia)
Stats: 000/000/000 Female 63
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Progress: 50%
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The inaccuracy of calorie counts would explain why calorie counting diets tend to be so strict. I remember being told by a doctor way back in the early 90's that in order to lose weight, I needed to cut my calories to 1200/day. I was massively overweight at the time, and according to the weight/calorie needs chart which was displayed right on the doctor's wall, the calorie needs for someone who weighed about 20 lbs less than I did at the time only needed about 200 calories less than someone my weight at that time needed to maintain, but the doctor wouldn't even consider such a small decrease in calorie intake - it seems that the inaccuracy of calorie counts certainly explains that sort of attitude, because with the 20% +/- variance in calories, if you don't cut your intake drastically, it very likely won't be enough of of a difference to actually lose weight.



And you're right Whirrlly, we can starve the weight off at a very low calorie level. It's just not sustainable, because even at the 1200 calories I was told at the time that I should not exceed, you won't be getting enough nutrients, so any way you look at it such a diet is doomed to fail - you're starving yourself, not only calorie-wise, you're also starving yourself nutritionally, and it's all going to catch up with you eventually, resulting in the need for more food, as well as more nutrients, with the inevitable regain.
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  #12   ^
Old Tue, Mar-17-20, 11:25
bkloots's Avatar
bkloots bkloots is offline
Posts: 9,835
 
Plan: Atkins/LCHF/Keto
Stats: 195/158/150 Female 63in
BF:
Progress: 82%
Location: Kansas City, MO
Default

Entertaining myself in self-isolation by catching up on various threads of interest. More on calories:

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes includes a chapter on Hunger. There you'll find an account of Ancel Keys's infamous Minnesota experiment in 1944 involving conscientious objectors. The idea was to replicate starvation conditions likely to occur in Europe.

The "starvation" regime: 1,570 calories per day, split between two meals. Mostly starches, cereals, minimal vegetables and meat. These healthy young men lost weight all right. Furthermore, all the subjects went nuts (not the clinical term!) When the experiment ended, the remaining subjects after rehabilitation weighed 5 per cent more than at the start; they had 50 per cent more body fat. So much for starvation as a long-term solution.

By the time we came along, Calianna, the weight-loss advisors were limiting us to 1200 calories. Evidence?? None.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll reread Taubes's entire tome.
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  #13   ^
Old Tue, Mar-17-20, 12:34
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Merpig Merpig is offline
Posts: 7,565
 
Plan: EF/Fung IDM/keto
Stats: 375/225.4/175 Female 66.5 inches
BF:
Progress: 75%
Location: NE Florida
Default

Love Taube's book! Indeed a good time to catch up on reading. I hate the whole 1200-calorie concept, or "just cut out 200 calories a day". Who can do that? Who even knows their calorie count to that precise a level? Certainly normal weight people can't know to that level of precision.

As an example. I've been stalled for 11 years now, in the 270 range. It seems like my body sees that as a "set point" and doesn't want to budge not matter what I try.

As an interesting N=1 I had two major traumas in 2018. I had a major fire rendering my house uninhabitable, and later that SAME DAY my son died very suddenly

Double whammy. I was lucky to have a friend who had a small mother-in-law apartment attached to her house which she rented to me and allowed me to have all my pets - a definite blessing. But there was no scale there. And in the meantime well-meaning friends kept bringing me food, but it was stuff like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, etc. I was completely derailed and didn't even care.

So for nearly a year I had no scale and just ate anything and everything. Ate when I was hungry but no concern about keeping it low carb or grain free or sugar-free or any of that stuff. I mean I ate the way people who are on the SAD diet eat, even the ones who are thin.

Eventually my house was repaired and I was able to move back home, and got a new scale. And TADA. I've always been a daily weigher and my weight the day before my fire had been 273. So finally after a year of just eating anything I wanted without counting a thing I stepped on the scale and my weight was *273*.

Crazy, but that's the way it seems to be for most folks who are not nutritionally broken. That would be great except that it's over 100 pounds more than I would like to weigh.

Currently I'm mostly carnivore and keep my carbs super low, so I am tracking my food input here on MYPLAN. I weigh all my food before I eat it so what I enter in MYPLAN is accurate. I don't specifically care about the calories but that is one of the data points they give you, but I don't worry about the number or try to limit it. I just keep carbs low and eat to appetite. I do note the calorie count as a point of interest. My intake has varied in the 1300-2300 range with most days in the 1700-1900 range. Theoretically that means, at my weight, I should lose weight like crazy but of course I'm not. And I don't take that number as gospel anyway and figure there is easily a 300-400 +/- spread every day.
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  #14   ^
Old Tue, Mar-17-20, 12:38
Calianna's Avatar
Calianna Calianna is offline
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Posts: 1,508
 
Plan: Atkins-ish (hypoglycemia)
Stats: 000/000/000 Female 63
BF:
Progress: 50%
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by bkloots
Entertaining myself in self-isolation by catching up on various threads of interest. More on calories:

In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes includes a chapter on Hunger. There you'll find an account of Ancel Keys's infamous Minnesota experiment in 1944 involving conscientious objectors. The idea was to replicate starvation conditions likely to occur in Europe.

The "starvation" regime: 1,570 calories per day, split between two meals. Mostly starches, cereals, minimal vegetables and meat. These healthy young men lost weight all right. Furthermore, all the subjects went nuts (not the clinical term!) When the experiment ended, the remaining subjects after rehabilitation weighed 5 per cent more than at the start; they had 50 per cent more body fat. So much for starvation as a long-term solution.

By the time we came along, Calianna, the weight-loss advisors were limiting us to 1200 calories. Evidence?? None.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll reread Taubes's entire tome.



I remember reading about the diet of the week/month in the magazines mom would buy at the grocery store during the '60s, and I never saw one that allowed 1200 calories - they were always 1000 calories, which is of course even worse. Naturally, they were accompanied by claims of how much you could lose in a week by following their latest diet. The claims weren't as outlandish as the ones you find on the cover of Women's World these days (Lose 20 pounds every week on new Better Than Surgery Diet!), but from the first week results (which is generally the biggest weight loss week, but was in reality probably all the longer they tested or could stick to such a strict diet), the article with the diet would extrapolate expected results in a month or more.



She always claimed she bought those magazines because of the short stories in them, but I suspect she was also taken in by a few of those diets, because when going through her old recipe file a couple years ago, I found many recipes where she'd calculated and written the calorie count on them. They were of course very low fat, all starches and sugars.
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  #15   ^
Old Wed, Mar-18-20, 05:34
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Benay Benay is offline
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Plan: Protein Power/Atkins
Stats: 250/181/165 Female 5 feet 6 inches
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I think I signed up for Weight Watchers three times. With no success and hungry all the time. Their plan was definitely a maximum of 1200 cals/day and lo-fat.

No more
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