For many years I have said that calories do not always count. Less calorie consumed does not always translate into weight loss.
Zoe Harcombe wrote an interesting blog, “The Calorie Theory – prove it or lose it” on June 8, http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/06/the-calorie-theory-prove-it-or-lose-it/. It addresses an important question.
How did we arrive at the calorie theory that states 3500 calories consumed equals one pound of body weight? This formula is used to help practitioners guide clients on weight loss. Each day there is a 500 or 1000 calorie deficit you can lose a pound or two, 500-1000 calories, seven days a week, results in a 1-2 pound /week weight loss.
Harcombe contacted seven national nutrition and health organizations in England ( British Dietetic Association (BDA), Dietitians in Obesity Management (DOM), the National Health Service (NHS), the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Department of Health (DoH), the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO) and none of them had any explanation, scientific evidence or proof backing the calorie formula and why it is used across the board for everyone.
Despite the criticism Harcombe has received, her point is valid. While I acknowledge there is validity to the calorie theory, it is only a small piece of a much larger pie.
Admittedly, on a one-dimensional piece of paper, the calorie formula may hold some “weight” but people are not pieces of paper. We are three-dimensional, complex efficient living systems and not as simple as a mathematical formula. Point being that there are established factors that interfere with metabolism, fat storage and eating, these factors throw a monkey wrench into the calorie theory over-riding it as a sole consideration for weight loss. Despite this fact, most practitioners use it for all of their clients.
Any short-circuit (for any reason including pregnancy and the natural process of aging) in hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin, thyroid, cortisol, estrogen) can affect appetite, weight or fat storage and this challenges the premise of the calorie theory. Medications, i.e. steroids and antidepressants, that are given to correct one health problem can create other problems and also affect weight. Lack of sleep and stress are also powerful factors that poke holes in the strength of the calorie formula.
So why then, is the calorie theory used as the basis of treatment for everyone? For many, it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The calorie theory will not easily work, if at all.
Yet this formula continues to be used across the board as a weight loss tool that works “if a person complies” with it. Not true, I have worked as a registered dietitian for over 20 years. Non-compliance with following a diet is not the only reason a diet does not work.
Is it possible that the reliability and effectiveness of this mathematical equation was never tested? Have practitioners been hasty in using this formula without considering biological and environmental influences? It kinda makes you wonder, huh!
So this leaves me with even more questions. Is there anyone in the U.S., or worldwide for that matter, who can provide detailed information about the calorie theory? Is it possible that, “calories are tiny little creatures that sew your cloths tighter at night”?