No doubt you’ve heard this fat loss calorie myth: “calories in, calories out.” It’s wrong.
But you can’t fool the laws of thermodynamics, right?
Well… actually, your body can.
Your body fat plays by a different set of rules than what the calorie myth suggests. Once you learn how to work with these rules, you literally hold the key to trigger fat loss from your body.
Just ask Jillian… the Truth About The Calorie Myth
Here, Jillian shames people for not being able to lose weight by simply cutting calories.
You’ve probably already tried restricting your diet to something like 1200 to 1400 calories and exercising an hour a day (200 to 400 calories ‘burned’) to see little, if any movement on your scale.
For some, the scale weight goes up.
How is it that your body can defy thermodynamics and create fat out of nothing?
Because Calories Don’t Matter
First of all, Jillian’s advice isn’t truthful. What Biggest Losers actually did on the show was quite different than her advice to you above. Contestants described how they starved themselves and worked out until they were sick to their stomachs and their feet raw.
And not surprisingly, most just gained the weight back.
Second, her calorie myth advice is flawed. So much that even two groups whose reputation is based on exercise and a low-calorie diet have to admit that there is something wrong…
It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time than those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis is not reasonably compelling.
–from the ACSM and AHA joint statement for physical activity guidelines.
That’s kind of contradictory, isn’t it?
In case you were wondering, the ACSM is the American College of Sports Medicine. They would like you to move more. The AHA is the American Heart Association, and they would like you to lose weight to reduce your risk of heart disease.
And yet, they said that there is NO COMPELLING DATA to support their recommendations to move more and eat less.
Are you confused? You should be!
The Truth About Obesity and Counting Calories
Where did this all go wrong?
Not so long ago, actually. Before WWII, there was a different theory about fat loss. But when we learned how to measure cholesterol in blood and made the hasty (and flawed) conclusion that cholesterol is the CAUSE of heart disease, the low-fat, low-calorie Ornish-style1 diet eclipsed all prior studies.
Everyone obsessed over the calorie myth. And we all got fatter anyways.
To learn how to unlock the fat from your body, you first need to understand how it got there. And you need to think about obesity differently; it’s not about calories.
Obesity is actually a sign of malnutrition. It’s hard to think of a 300-pound person as suffering from malnutrition, but it’s true. All that food is not moving you around, building muscle, or supporting fat-free mass. It’s getting put directly into fat cells.
As fat cells grow, the rest of the body starves.
Your metabolism slows, and you feel tired and hungry all the time, no matter how much food you eat. Curiously, this is exactly what happens when you put your body in STARVATION mode by restricting calories.
The Problem Is, We’ve Got It Backwards
Here’s a different way to look at it…
Obesity is a disorder of fat accumulation. Overeating and inactivity are compensatory effects; they are not causes.
–Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories
That is a backwards take on obesity, isn’t it?
The calorie myth leads us to believe that overeating is the reason for gaining weight. But this says that the reason you gain weight, and feel tired and hungry is because there is a problem with the way you accumulate fat.
So the question is: what causes fat accumulation? What is making those fat cells grow out of control?
How You REALLY Get Fat
Let’s get down to a microscopic level for just a moment, and take a look at a fat cell.
Free fatty acids in your body are pretty small. So small in fact, that they can pass right through a fat cell’s membrane. In the cell, those tiny fatty acids are combined together to make large triglycerides. The triglycerides are so big that they can no longer pass back through the cell membrane.
The fat is now LOCKED inside the cell.
Fat cells grow in size because more fatty acids come into the cell than go out.
Instead of the calorie myth, we should really be thinking “fatty acids in, fatty acids out.”
Stop Starving Yourself to Get Rid of Fat
The way to get fatty acids out is to control your insulin. It’s high insulin levels that drives ever more fat into your fat cells. Ultimately, it’s insulin that regulates how much fat you gain or lose (not calories).
This was recognized before WWII, before the calorie myth took over. Over the years, the idea that reducing insulin levels will unlock trapped fat from your body has never disappeared, we’ve just ignored it while we cut fat calories:
Release of fatty acids from fat cells requires only the negative stimulus of insulin deficiency.
–Rosalyn, Yallow, Solomon, Berson, 1965
Insulin is not only your key to weight loss — but to appetite control as well.
We’ve also mistakenly attributed the calorie myth to our appetite. We think that whenever we feel hungry, it means some calories went out. So we put more calories in.
You must understand this: overeating is triggered not because you need MORE calories. It’s triggered by consuming too many carbohydrates which stimulates insulin levels.
How Insulin Controls Your Appetite
You might have already experienced the effect of insulin on hunger levels. If you have ever fasted, you know that hunger disappears after a while.
Even though you are still theoretically burning calories as you go about your day, your hunger isn’t cued by the number of calories in or out. The same thing goes for a lower carb diet—hunger cues are blunted.
Hunger itself is related to the hormonal condition you create when you eat refined carbs. If you reduce insulin levels by fasting or eliminating sweets and starchy carbs, hunger virtually disappears.
TIP: You could say that (unless you are in a true starvation situation) you are NOT burning or releasing fat from your cells if you constantly feel hungry. Food cravings are your cue to look for hidden carbohydrates in your foods.
Constant Hunger is Driven by Modern Carbs
This all makes sense if you think about it in terms of evolution. Before agriculture, we hunted and gathered everything we ate. So we lived predominantly on meat and plants. Carbohydrates were pretty minimal, save for some root vegetables and fruits.
And forget about cupcakes or anything sweet! Sugar and refined carbs simply didn’t exist. Furthermore, when we couldn’t find what we needed to eat we ended up fasting for days, even weeks at a time.
Your body was purpose-built for a low-carb diet with some intermittent fasting thrown in.
So the key to fat loss is to work with your body, not against it—and you will unlock fat at the cellular level.
Fat Loss: It’s Physiology, Not Thermodynamics
For fat loss to happen, you need to drop your insulin levels. Once you create an insulin deficiency, triglycerides are broken back down into those tiny free fatty acids. Those fats can then escape the cell membrane so they can be used for energy.
In turn, your fat deposits will start to shrink.
With the calorie myth, Jillian encourages you to use the laws of thermodynamics to count calories and exercise for fat loss. And, if you fail (which you most likely will), it’s all your fault. The flaw in this advice is that it completely ignores the PHYSIOLOGY of fat accumulation.
Our Weight Loss Coaches have better advice for you. It’s the same advice they gave Mary, who lost an astonishing 27 pounds in 3 weeks. You can reach out to them for help with your weight loss goals, too!
If you have questions about this article, we’d be happy to help! Drop a comment below and we’ll follow up with you.
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1The Ornish-diet is a low-fat eating style that was developed in 1977 by Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.
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About the Writer: 100 pounds ago, Jan knew what it is like to be obese, unhappy, and stuck. She has spent the last 17 years as a fitness writer, trainer, yoga teacher, and Weight Loss Coach. Today, she’s proud to be a part of the Personal Trainer Food team so she can continue her goal to help others live their fullest lives possible. Email Jan@PersonalTrainerFood.com if you have any questions!
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