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calories in, calories out.

It would be great if it were so simple. People find ways to make it work though. I used to subscribe to the belief that in order to be healthy and lose weight my calories consumed had to be less than my energy expended. At one point, I wanted to drop below 130lb. I'm 5'4 on a good day, so this wasn't an unreasonable weight goal. I'd get up early in the morning and do an hour on the elliptical and 30-45 minutes on the treadmill. Either in the same session or later at night,  I'd do some weights. I'd take one real rest day and one "semi" rest day where I'd leave out something. I'd eat small toast for breakfast, a Subway sandwich for lunch, and some rice n' adobo for dinner. I kept my intake well below 1500 calories. Oh, and I eventually had to take heavy meds because double doses of Ambien and Lunesta couldn't help me sleep. When the lack of sleep got to me, I'd pass out...while driving. Nausea was constant. I overloaded on energy drinks because I was always tired but could never sleep. Some part of my body was always in pain. Every change of season brought some type of illness or allergy. After one month, I saw the weight drop. After two months, I was there. At three months, my body quit and I was gaining weight again, and I would continue to fight this battle for awhile. People still said I looked great, so I thought my hard work was paying off and it was all worth it.

But, this routine ended up failing me. There must have been something wrong that I did, right? If the twinkie diet could help a man drop weight and Jared from Subway could eat his way down in size, I must have been in the wrong. I have an assumption though. If you are so far down the path of unhealthy weight (i.e. you're obese), any dietary change can have beneficial impact. You cut calories, you cut carbs, you exercise. You lose weight. Awesome. At some point, that stops working. Have you been at that point? You plateau and don't see the weight loss? Most people I talked to about my weight loss issues assumed that I wasn't eating like I should or didn't exercise enough. They basically called me a liar. I get that though. If a diet works for most people, then I should see results if I truly did what I told them. If you were to talk to me, I'd ask the same question - "are you really being honest with your activity levels and food consumption?"

Here's where things get not so cut and dry as calories in=calories out. Our nervous system runs on electrical impulses. Our bodies are regulated by hormones. These things don't always care about laws of thermodynamics. Although the analogy of the body to a machine is often made, it is not that all things are equal. Your body knows how to identify essential fatty acids and essential amino acids. It also know that there are no essential carbohydrates. It knows when your blood sugar is low or hi. The nervous system can reroute pathways when trauma occurs to one. Your body convert proteins and fat into sugar for your brain to use. It's a smart system. Hormones can even interact with their environment, that how they figure out what they'll do next. Insulin is a hormone. It reacts to the amount of sugar in your blood. Name one thing that effects the amount of sugar in your blood? Carbohydrates. So that's why you see some people getting uppity about the amount of carbohydrates in their diet.

But, but, but...all the people who lose weight monitoring calories...may also be restricting carbohydrates. Gary Taubes does a great job explaining how scientific experiments are not so scientific. One of his blog articles on the matter can be found here. Read it, he does the best job of explaining it. Count the number of people you see succeeding with calorie restriction as a lifestyle with how many people you see fail at it. I'm not just talking a temporary diet to fit into a small pant for a school reunion. I'm talking about a sustainable way of eating and living a happy life. Even if I could sustain what I did before, I would not be a happy camper and my body would have surely ended up in an ER. Not only did calories in=calories out put my body in a horrible place, it took what seemed like FOREVER to recover.

I know I'm not the only one out there who has experienced problems with that type of diet. While I promote the Paleo diet, I understand it is not the only way to restrict carb intake. I would love for everyone I know to try the Paleo diet or the Primal Blueprint, but if is not your cup of tea, just try moderating your carbs. What's the worse that can happen? Your body becomes stable and more regulated? You sleep better? You look leaner without the hours of cardio? You now have time freed up to enjoy life? Boo, that's just horrible! I'm assuming that's what you're saying if you refuse to give up some carbs because you HAVE TO HAVE your croissant, bagel, rice, potatoes, etc. Besides, you would get your card taken away if you gave up . Just FYI, my mom knows I don't eat rice, she stills considers me Filipina. My cousins in the Philippines still talk to me. No one has shunned me for not eating fried chicken. If you have to lead a life where you are a slave to something, please pick something better than calories in=calories out. Please.


Sunny said…
And just FYI, I also spent four years as a pole vaulter at a D-I college. No one really talked to me about my nutrition. My workouts looked nothing like this. But they weren't intended for weight loss either.

In all my years of athletic training education, the push was aligned with mainstream media. Calories in, calories out. No one mentioned the other diets. I also spent time as a Human Nutrition and Food Science major. Same deal. Calories in, calories out.

So if you find yourself in the highly educated or highly experienced groups and think that either things give you in edge in knowing that calories in=calories out works, think again. Admit the fault. Move on. We've all been had at some point.

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