Tag Archives for " CICO "
In the battle to lose weight, many people turn to calories in calories out (CICO) as a way of eating less and moving more. The math can get more complicated than that, but understanding calories can be a good first step in your weight loss journey. On episode 598 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, we discuss everything about calories.
[00:02:13.320] – Coach Allan
Hey, Ras, how are you?
[00:02:15.120] – Coach Rachel
Good, Allan. How are you today?
[00:02:16.950] – Coach Allan
Good. It looks like you're somewhere fun. I am. Well, you're in a hotel room, which is not fun. Well, it can be fun. I guess it can be fun. I don't want to hear anymore.
[00:02:25.990] – Coach Rachel
Yeah. Mike had to make a trip up to the outskirts of Boston. Actually, we're in Westborough right now where he's got a couple of plants that he needs to take a look at. And so we made a vacation out of it. So we just spent the weekend in downtown Boston, walking all over the city and enjoying the sights of Boston. Now we're here in Westborough for a couple of days, and I'm just going to take it easy talking with you today. I've got books to read and places to go walk, so I'll be a happy camper while he's at work.
[00:02:58.420] – Coach Allan
I lived up that way nearly 20 years ago. You start looking back and say, Well, when was I there? Well, I was at that job for 10 years, at that job for two years. And I'm like, Oh, wow. That was a while ago because I've been here now for a while. So I was like, Okay, yeah. From age 39 to 41, I lived up in Groton, which is a small little village town just outside the loop. And so, yeah, occasionally I'd go into Boston and just have some fun. But yeah, Boston is a really fun town, but it was a really weird town back then. But then things were changing. There's progression as they will. I was like, so they had, I think one of the rules they had just started doing was they had started no smoking in bars and restaurants. And so all the bar owners in downtown area of Boston, that big area, they were really concerned that they would lose all their customers. And I was talking to the bartender. He's like, Yeah, we're thinking we're going to lose all our business. And I'm like, Well, where do you think they're going to go to eat?
[00:04:06.770] – Coach Allan
Where do you think they're going to go to drink? They're still going to come out. They're not going to just stay home because you say they can't smoke there. They'll go outside and smoke. They're resilient. They'll deal with the cold and do it. And some might quit. But it was just interesting that that was happening. And I was sitting in that bar because, again, we were taking a weekend there. And I was like, Okay, I'd like a can of beer. The guy's like, I can't serve you a beer right now. I'm like, What do you mean? He says, Well, it's 1155 and I can't serve you a beer until noon. I'm like, Where in the hell am I?
[00:04:41.730] – Coach Rachel
Oh, my goodness. That's funny.
[00:04:44.900] – Coach Allan
Well, you're as up there, I guess, as you were in Michigan. It's probably straight line across.
[00:04:49.980] – Coach Rachel
Pretty much, yeah. It's hot right now. Hot and humid, but I'll take it. I'll take it. It's just nice to be outside.
[00:04:59.460] – Coach Allan
Get you some chowder and plenty of lobster. You're going to make a drive out to the horn, the Cape?
[00:05:08.580] – Coach Rachel
I'm not sure how much time we'll have for that. Mike's got a couple of long days of work ahead of him, and then we'll just explore the areas close by. But yeah, we.
[00:05:17.570] – Coach Allan
Have no plans. It's like a four hour drive over, but it's beautiful over there. But if you had the time, it's worth the trip. But yeah, you got to spend some time if you're going to make it matter.
[00:05:29.240] – Coach Rachel
Right. Yeah, we'll just explore the areas around where we are.
[00:05:32.810] – Coach Allan
Well, cool. All right. You ready to talk about calories?
[00:05:36.300] – Coach Rachel
Today I want to talk about calories. If you've listened to me for any period of time, you know that I'm just not a huge fan of the calories in calories out model for a number of reasons we'll talk about today. But for a lot of people first starting out, counting calories can be a very beneficial activity because teaches you a little bit about how food works. And so today I want to give you the basics of how calories work in our body, how to do calories in, calories out, and then what to do when it stops working. Because for most people, it does stop working at some point, and that's because there are some limitations. But that said, it's a great way to jump start your journey to learn a lot about what you're eating and how much you're eating and what food is all about. So let's dive into it. Now, before we go too deep in this, calories in, calories out is a pretty simple basic thing. It's what I call just basically the pluses and minuses, the addition and subtract formulas for the way that you can lose weight and have enough energy.
That said, there are more complicated levels underneath this that, if they're not addressed, can cause you some problems. So the next level below that or above that, however you want to look at it, which is more complicated, you can think about the difference between addition and subtraction and when you started learning algebra is when we start talking about macronutrients and micronutrients. If we're not feeding our body what it needs, it's basically going to be a problem. So we can actually be overfed and undernourished. And so that happens a lot with the American diet, particularly with the processed foods and things that are going on today. But all that said, there is a more complex math underneath the calories in calories out model. But from a basic perspective, the calories in, calories out model is not wrong. They're both right. They just overlap. And then there's another level that's a little bit more deeper, a little bit more complicated. You can think of it as the calculus or differential equations. It's the complicated stuff that a lot of us won't be able to do a whole lot about, and that's hormones. Your hormones are going to affect how your body operates.
And so for certain individuals, no matter what they do, their hormones are going to be a progress slower, if you will. It's not going to stop you from necessarily losing weight. But you'll may notice that you don't lose weight as quickly as someone else does. So women have estrogen, men have testosterone. That additional testosterone makes it a little easier for men to lose weight. So if you notice that you and your significant other are basically eating the same foods, but they're losing weight and you're not, or you are losing weight and they're not, it's that hormones. It's not necessarily what you're eating or how much you're eating. It's just you're in a better balance from a hormone perspective to lose weight. So just realize that calories in, calories out is an easy to start model. Over time, it'll probably stop working for you. And that's when you want to start thinking about these other things and either set your expectations or make some adjustments to the quality of the food you're eating to make this continue to work for you. So let's get into the basics of calories in, calories out. A calorie is a measure of energy.
Now, when we use the term calorie, we're actually talking about kilo calories. But just to shorten it, we still call it a calorie. But a kilo calorie is basically the amount of energy necessary to warm one liter of water, one degree Celsius. And so we call it a calorie, but basically it is a measure of energy. And so the principles of what we're trying to do is we're trying to figure out exactly how many calories we're consuming and how many calories we are burning. And then the balance of those two or imbalance of those two is going to basically determine whether we're gaining weight or losing weight. So it's a thermodynamics of looking at energy into a system and energy out. Okay? So when we want to know what our energy burn is, most of the energy burn that we're doing when we're talking about it is a calculation. It's an estimate. So you get on one of those treadmills and it tells you for an hour's time running, you burn 400 calories. It's just an estimate. How they calculate that estimate inside that particular machine is particular to that machine. If you've ever gotten on one elliptical and then got on another elliptical and said, Well, I like the other elliptical more because within an hour I burn 700 calories, where this one says I'm burning 500, you're probably not burning 700 calories.
You may not be burning 500, but it's an estimate. And the only way you'd really know how much you were burning would be if you did some scientific tests where you were in a closed environment and they're measuring your carbon dioxide and they're measuring how much energy you're outputting. That's how they would know. But everything else is an estimate. Okay, now, when you start talking about the foods that we're consuming, for the most part, those are estimates too. What they've done for a lot of these different foods is they've burned them in a container and they've determined how much additional energy is put off when these things are set on fire. And that's assumed that our body would do the same thing, use the same amount of energy. So it's an estimate. And one of the other big issues is because these are both estimates, I prefer to look at these as guidelines and not absolute. But so many people get stuck in the math of, Oh, I'm eating 500 calorie deficit every day and I'm not losing weight. Or you go on to some of these applications and they tell you, You had a great day.
You're 1,000 calories under your requirement. If you eat like this for the next six weeks, you'll lose 30 pounds. And the reality is, one, you're not going to do that. Two, you may not have recorded your food right. And three, the estimates that are in there for your burn and for your consumption may be off. Okay, so what we want to try to do when we're looking at the food that we're eating and the energy that we're expending is just get an idea of balance. And so it gives us some basic information to make some decisions about how much we're eating and how much we're moving and what that means in relationship to each other. So let's dive a little bit deeper into each side of this calculation. So on the expenditure side, how many calories are you burning? Okay, one of the key terms that you'll hear is BMR. Okay, and BMR stands for basic metabolic rate. And what that means is how much do you need to just stay alive, meaning you're laying on your back in bed, completely at rest. How many calories do you need to stay alive? And that's keeping your brain alive, your organs alive, basic metabolic function.
And it's different based on age, gender, and your body composition. So you may have heard, if you have more muscle, burns more calories. And so that's where this all comes in. If you have more lean muscle mass, you're younger. And as I mentioned before, you're male, you're going to have a higher BMR than a woman. And it also has to do with your total size. So if you're 6 foot tall, you're going to burn more energy than someone who's 5 foot tall. So all of these things play into all of this burn. And so what you'll do with most of these things is you'll log in and they'll ask how tall you are, how much you weigh, and then they'll calculate a number. For most of us, the number is going to come somewhere between 1250 and 2,000. Again, that's a pretty wide range. But again, there's a wide range of people, so that range can be pretty wide. So if you're eating less than 1200 calories, it's very likely that you're under eating. You're not even giving your body enough to stay alive. And if you're out there doing exercise on top of that, that's even worse.
So that's where we come up with the term TD EE, or total daily energy expenditure. So if we're moving around, which most of us are, depending on our activity level, you add that to your BMR, and that will give you your total burn for the day. So I put into a calculator and I link to this as the Harris Benedict calculator, 40plusfitness. Com calorie will take you to that calculator. I didn't make that calculator. It's a website that just basically has that calculator, this link will just send you to that. But what it does, if you key in, okay, you're a 5 foot woman and you're basically sedentary, your basic metabolic rate is going to be just over 1200. If you're mildly active or you're sedentary, you're still going to burn more calories because you actually stand up every once in a while. You walk around, you got to go to the bathroom, you got to go to work. So you're moving around a little bit, just a little bit, and that's going to burn about 300 more calories. So for a basic woman to basically survive and deal with her daily expenditure, she's probably going to need, even a 5′ foot woman is going to probably need at least 1,500 calories just to stay in balance.
Now, if you're trying to lose a little bit of weight, you can go a little bit under that, but I would never go below your BMR. That's when you're starting to push yourself beyond. So what we want to do is basically say, okay, if I can up my activity, which we'll talk about and we can talk about, once you start actively increasing your activity, if you can just keep your food the same at roughly your TD EE, you're going to lose weight initially. So a good thing for this calculator is to say, what's the minimum amount I should eat? And that should at least be your BMR. I I would recommend you eat to your TD EE and then move more, just a little more. It doesn't have to be anything crazy, but if you can just add half an hour of activity each day, you're probably going to lose some weight there. Okay? So now let's talk about the consumption side. Okay? And again, this is just what we're trying to do is estimate how much energy is put off by the food that you're eating. And the only way you're really going to know that is to sit down and log it.
And the easiest thing I found to log it is an application called My Fitness Pal. They've got all these other foods out there so basically you can just plug this stuff in. There are other tools that other people have told me they like much more, but find your tool and this will help you in the initial. So what you want to do is you're going to look up what you're eating. So here I am eating a chicken breast and I'm going to have to look at how much that is. So what is that going to require? I need to weigh it. If I'm just estimating that this is a serving of chicken breast, it might be a larger breast or smaller breast. So I can't say both are the same number of calories. They're different. They're different sizes. So if you're going to do this and really get a good basis, you're probably going to need a food scale. You're probably going to need to go in and really pay attention to what goes into the foods that you're eating. Restaurants are notoriously off with their calorie counts. One study showed that they can be off by as much as 20 to 25 % understating your calories of a particular meal.
And so it's really easy to over consume and underestimate how much you've eaten. And so it's worth taking some time to sit down and log your food. But you've got to get the weight right. You've got to get how much you're getting, and you got to look at exactly what you're eating because just different additives, different things they put into it can really change the dynamics of how many calories are in a particular dish. It's a little easier, unfortunately, when you eat processed foods because they're putting it on the label. A serving of pasta has this many calories. A serving of hamburger helper mix has this many calories. So it's a little easier to look that stuff up. But that's not the nutrition your body needs. And so eventually, that's going to create a problem at those other math levels we talked about, the nutrition and the hormones. But that said, they make it a little bit easier for you to know. But if anytime you're eating something and you're not sure, like chicken breast, you can just Google, nutrition facts, chicken breast. If you're eating an apple, nutrition facts, and then the apple and the apple and just the size.
Is it small? Is it medium? Is it large? And that'll give you a basic idea. So now, as I mentioned, these are estimates. So your BMR and your TD EE are estimates of how much your body is burning. You're not actually ever going to really truly know that number, but you're getting an estimate. Unless you're going to take the time to weigh and measure all of your food, you're estimating how much of that you're eating. You're estimating serving sizes based on what's there. Even the numbers that are on the labels are estimates. So estimates of estimates, and you can see how this can run a little haphazard. Also, we sometimes miss things like grazing. So you didn't count on the fact that, or didn't think about, you're standing at your colleague's desk and they happen to have small chocolate there, and you popped two or three of those chocolate and you didn't log it. Well, that could have been 100 or more calories and you didn't log it. So you can see if you're not paying attention, it's easy to eat some things that you don't remember eating or you didn't get logged. So it looks on paper like you're at a deficit and maybe you aren't.
With labels, again, we're talking about processed foods here, and these things are engineered to make you want to eat more. So if you're sticking to processed foods as a way of doing this to make it a little easier, just realize they're engineering those foods to keep you hungry, to make you come back and eat more. They want you to eat more. That's how they make more money. So they're engineering their foods, and if they can fudge it on the label, they're going to fudge it on the label. So just be cognizant that processed foods are not really your friends, even if they make things a little easier and more convenient. The other thing that happens is in our bodies, as we exercise, as we do things physically, we become more efficient. I had Dr. Herman Pontzer on Episode 478. You can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/478. And he went out and studied the Hadza tribe, which is in Tansania. It's one of the only remaining hunter gatherer tribes out there. And they had a way of counting the total number of calories expended, utilizing carbon and a process with the urine and water.
And it's complex. But at the same time, they were looking at how many calories these had stuff who were at least nine miles a day traveling to get the foods that they needed. And so you would think, Okay, here's some really lean athletic guys that are moving around a lot. They're not sitting around much at all. And the ladies are digging for tubulars, and their men are climbing trees to get honey, and they're traveling around hunting and gathering. And what they found was that these individuals had gotten so efficient with movement and their bodies that they weren't really burning many more calories than a sedentary office worker sitting at their desk. So it was about 2,500 calories, which is the basic man of the same height and weight, same age, would basically be burning the same number of calories each day just sitting at their desk doing their job. So realize that over time, your body might get more efficient at using the calories as you get more fit. And that's just the way it works. And so as you're thinking about food, there's a whole lot that's not calculated into any of this. And it can just make it really hard that you feel hungry all the time because you're trying to hit a calorie number.
And sometimes the reason is that we're not counting the thermic effect of food. So protein, for example, requires a lot more processing in our body to process, to make it into something we can digest. That digestion is what we call the thermic effect of food. So if you ate 100 calories of chicken, you're not going to get 100 calories of energy out of that chicken. You're going to basically burn some of that to digest that. Whereas it f you had sugar water, it's going to go right into your system and there's not much processing of that at all. So if you're drinking a Coke or a pop, whatever you want to call it, if you're drinking that, that's going right on. There's no thermic effect. It's just calories straight in. Whereas, again, if you're eating something that takes a little bit longer to digest, there's a cost and that cost means you're getting fewer calories from that. So we may undercount calories for some things. The other thing is there are certain foods that are going to make you feel more satiated. They're going to keep you from being hungry or sooner. Fiber and protein are two examples of that where you're just going to feel fuller sooner and longer, and that's going to help you actually eat less.
And then, of course, with a lot of folks that are trying to do the calories in calories out model, they just start eating too little. And what this leads to later is binge eating or private eating and not logging. I don't know how many times I've been looking at a log for someone, and they've got 700 calories logged. And I'm like, You can't go day after day on 700 calories. They're complaining they're not losing weight, but they're obviously not logging everything, or they're eating too little for a few days, and everything's just shutting down. And while you can't really destroy your metabolism, it is what it is. Your body will start to shut down organs and things. It will start shutting things down if it feels like you're in a stressed, starving mode, and it will start shooting cortisol into your system to help hold on to fat while you're losing muscle. So realize you might see some weight loss at that level, but you may very well be losing the wrong weight. You might be losing muscle and not fat. So you're going to want to eat really close to that BMR number, if not to the TD EE, which is what I would personally recommend when you start.
But just make sure you're eating good quality food and that you're doing the right things for your body because this is not just about calories in, calories out. It can work and it does work. So basically just be careful that you don't get yourself into a mindset of that calories in, calories out is the answer because there's a little bit more to it. So I want to summarize a little bit here and just say, okay, as you go through this process, just start with the basics. Get to know what your numbers are as far as your BMR and your TD EE. Get those in your head. Start learning what the calories are in the various foods that you eat each day, making sure, again, you're getting adequate nutrition, log it for a while and log it correctly. Weigh the food, do the right things, get everything in there so that you have a really good idea of the volume of food that you're eating, the amount of energy you're putting in, and then be thinking honestly about how much energy you're putting out each day, and then watch for trends. If things are not moving the way that you want to, we can make some adjustments, but you just got to start with the trend.
I'm eating this way and I'm losing weight. I'm going to keep eating this way. The other thing is pay attention to your satiety levels and the kinds of foods that you're eating. You need nutrition. Food is not just calories, food is not just calories. Food is everything. Our body is made from food. So if we're not getting enough fat, if we're not getting enough minerals and vitamins, and we're getting the macros our body needs, the protein, if we're not getting those things, our body will not function well, and that can be a problem. So make sure, again, you're paying attention to the food you're eating and how you feel eating that food. And then you can just make adjustments. And I would say make micro adjustments, small adjustments. So never this drastic drop another 500 calories off of this thing. Because again, if I'm saying your TDE is 1,500, 500 calories a deficit means you're at one third of what your body needs to function the way it's functioning. So eventually you're going to find yourself fatigued. You're going to have some issues, and that's where that's coming from. You just went too drastic. But if you're eating to your TDEE and then you're moving on top of that, then that's when you're going to start to see the action.
That's when you're going to start to see things move the way you want to. So again, I'm not a huge fan of calories in, calories out as a model for weight loss. I think you just need to eat high quality whole food and your body is probably going to do what it's supposed to do. But if you're interested and you want to give it a go from the start, it's not a bad exercise for a period of time to at least understand what you're eating, how the food is affecting your body weight, and how you feel when you start eating the amount of food that your body really needs.
[00:25:46.960] – Coach Allan
Welcome back, Ras.
[00:25:48.760] – Coach Rachel
Hey, Allan. I think it's really important to talk about the calories in calories out model on occasion. It's like the best reminder to pay close attention to what we're eating, especially when we have a weight loss goal in mind. There's just so many ways that we can do it wrong. So it's nice to have this refresher.
[00:26:07.360] – Coach Allan
Well, I don't think there's any ways to do it wrong. In fact, seriously, if we go off culture, it's because we're just not paying attention. 99 % of it you realize, okay, well, why am I not losing weight? And then you realize, well, damn it, Sally's got a chocolate on her desk and I'm eating five or six of those every day when I go by there and say good morning. And so you're like, okay, I got to stop doing that. But I don't. I keep doing it. So it's usually just when we stop paying attention. Now, a lot of people will get into Keto and then they're like, okay, well, I'm losing all this weight on Keto. And then they stop losing weight and they get to this point, they're like, I don't understand. I know all the foods that are Keto foods. I'm not eating any carbs, but I'm not losing any weight. Well, you're eating too many calories. I'm like, Well, no, calories don't matter if you're… Yes, they actually don't matter. Yeah, it all matters. And so it's not a bad idea to at least know. And then the other side of it is, I think the other concern I always have is people under eating, really under eating, and that causes other issues.
[00:27:14.530] – Coach Allan
So they'll sit there and say, well, okay, if I can be 500 calories down, I could lose a pound a week. If I can be 1,000 calories a day down, then I could lose two pounds a week. If I'm 1,500 calories down, then I could lose three pounds per week. And I've got 30 pounds to lose. I'd love to lose that in 10 weeks. So let's just do the math.
[00:27:34.960] – Coach Rachel
More is better, right?
[00:27:37.810] – Coach Allan
I got to get on that treadmill for an hour every day and only eat 800 calories. And they're starving all the time. And then they stop really counting all the calories because they're like, Well, I'm just going to have a bowl of cereal. And they eat three bowls of cereal or four. There have been times I probably ate a whole box of cereal in a sitting, just not not knowing and thinking about how many calories were in it. And it wasn't that the cereal was the problem. I just had too many servings of it, and I wasn't paying attention to how much it was. I wasn't paying attention to whether I was full or not. I just was really hungry. I poured a whole bowl of cereal in a big bowl, a whole bunch of milk, and just sat down with a spoon watching morning TV on a Sunday. And that's all the calories I probably should have had for the whole day.
[00:28:27.820] – Coach Rachel
Well, that's where I've gone wrong in the past. I have a cereal bowl at home that maybe it looks like I have a half a cup, the serving size of most cereals, but I know full well that I pour way more in my cereal bowl than half a cup. And I just, I eyeball it, but my eyeballs aren't super accurate. My measuring cups are probably a little bit.
[00:28:49.810] – Coach Allan
More accurate. They would be just a little more accurate. You got to pack it in there. I'm going to get the most out of that half cup.
[00:28:58.300] – Coach Rachel
But then, like you mentioned, too, cereals are usually super satisfying, barely great on the palate. And one bowl becomes two bowls, which becomes three bowls. And you're watching the morning news or something. And did I have one bowl of cereal or four bowls of cereal?
[00:29:15.040] – Coach Allan
You'll lose track pretty easily. I just jumped the chase and got a big bowl and just went at it.
[00:29:20.360] – Coach Rachel
[00:29:21.610] – Coach Allan
I was a growing boy and not growing the right way. But I think if you're struggling and you get to a point where you're stuck, this is a tool to just go back and assess, how much am I really eating? It's not that you have to log all the time and track and weigh everything forever, but it's just getting your head reset about what a portion size looks like and how many calories in it. And then making some basic decisions and realizing, oh, I could have that whole salad over there with chicken breast on it and the dressing that I like, and that's 500 calories, or I can have this little bag of chips.
[00:30:03.390] – Coach Rachel
[00:30:04.370] – Coach Allan
I have the bag of chips and I'm hungry again in 20 minutes. Well, that's important. That salad is going to take me 20 minutes to eat. And so it's just this thing of just saying, okay, food is a building block and it's to provide calories for energy. And if you start thinking of it, yes, you should enjoy your food, have food that you enjoy, but know what's in it, know how much it is and start getting your head around what portion sizes are. E at a little slower. That'll make it easier to eat fewer calories because it's easy to eat a lot of calories if you eat really fast. You'll notice the people that are doing the eating contests on TV, they're not going slow. They're eating faster than their body can even pay attention to just so they can get all that stuff down. And so if you slow down, you'll feel satiated sooner. You'll get an idea when you start looking at it's okay, what's a serving of chicken breast look like? What does a serving of bread? Serving of bread is one slice of bread. Most loaves I've looked at, a serving of bread, who's eating one slice of bread?
[00:31:07.270] – Coach Rachel
[00:31:07.710] – Coach Allan
Already having two servings instead of having a sandwich. And you had two sandwiches, so four servings of bread. You get the idea. It's like, I think I'm eating 100 calories of bread. No, you're eating 250 calories of bread. And does that 150 calories mean a whole lot? Well, if it's 150 more than you needed, yeah, over time, that's going to add up. And so that's going to be extra pounds that you're not losing or you're trying to work off doing these exercises. And it's pretty easy. If I set up a thing of M&Ms in the little cup holder of your treadmill and I said, Okay, here's what I want you to do. Look at how many M&Ms are serving and look at how many M&Ms are now in the pack to get an idea. And say, okay, so if every M&M was like two calories, so walk long enough to burn two calories and then eat an M&M.
[00:31:58.950] – Coach Rachel
[00:31:59.340] – Coach Allan
Think you'll see that bag of M&M is going to wear you out. You'll be on that treadmill for an hour to eat a little bag of it because there's so many calories you got to burn the 300 calories for that little bag of M&Ms. And people don't think that. They think they're burning a lot more calories. So it's a guideline. If you find yourself stuck, it's just an opportunity to sit back. But in addition to looking at the calories, think about the types of foods you've been choosing and which ones are really the better foods for you. I'm not going to say there's good foods and bad foods, but there are better choices.
[00:32:29.900] – Coach Rachel
Well, like you had mentioned, our bodies need nutrients, not food. That's an important thing to look at. Way back when I was using my fitness pal, I was actually pretty shocked to learn that my favorite McDonald's meal was about 1,200 calories in just that one sandwich, aburger and fries meal. And that was my whole day's worth of calories, according to my fitness pal. And there's no nutrients in that meal.
[00:32:58.440] – Coach Allan
But there is some protein. There is some protein, they do put some niacin in the bun to fortify it because they've stripped all the nutrition out of it. If you had pickle, if you had a little bit of ketchup, some lettuce, maybe tomato, there's a little bit. There's not what your body needs, but there's some nutrition there. And so it's just this concept of eat better quality food. It'll be more nutritionally dense than calorie dense. The calorie dense foods, occasionally as a treat, you can work those in. If it fits your load and you're okay with a detour, by all means, you don't have to deprive yourself of things, but you shouldn't think you can have cake every day. No. A cake should be something special. Donut should be something special. They should not be a staple. And unfortunately, too many people get wrapped up into the, every evening I'm going to have ice cream. And then they're having… And it's not a serving of ice cream. It's like, how many servings of ice cream did you put in the bowl? Be honest with yourself. Get a good scoop size. Look at it, understand it, and know how many calories are in that thing, and then make the decision.
[00:34:15.560] – Coach Allan
And if you want to have an extra couple of hundred calories of ice cream in the evening, by all means. But the whole court owns a lot of calories. So just realize that calories do count. You don't have to count them to lose weight, but it is a tool to find yourself stuck.
[00:34:31.860] – Coach Rachel
Yeah. And I think logging a meal periodically or your favorite snack or something, just paying attention to the size of the serving you're taking and what macros are in it as well as the calories. It's just an eye-opening exercise to do. So even if you just logged a dinner meal or your favorite after-work snack or something like that, it's just an eye-opening thing to do periodically.
[00:34:57.610] – Coach Allan
I agree. Yeah. All right. Well, Ras, I'll talk to you. Enjoy Boston and I will talk to you next week.
[00:35:04.190] – Coach Rachel
Great. Take care, Allan.
[00:35:05.540] – Coach Allan
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|– Anne Lynch||– Ken McQuade||– Leigh Tanner|
|– Debbie Ralston||– John Dachauer||– Tim Alexander|
|– Eliza Lamb|
It is human nature to like simplicity. It's easy to wrap our heads around and typically quick to get started. But simple can be a disastrous approach to weight loss after 40 because our bodies are anything but simple, especially as we age. On this episode I discuss why you may want to put a little more forethought and research into your weight loss plan if simple hasn't helped you lose weight and keep it off in the recent past.
Today's discussion is going to be about why simple can be a bad long term strategy for weight loss. Let's face it, everybody likes simple rules. We like simple because simple, something we can wrap your mind around. And if it works, if that rule of thumb, if that simple thing is correct, it works. And that's beautiful. You know, the keep it super simple, KISS model, if you will. There's other versions of that, obviously, but I'll just I'll go with that clean one. And for a lot of people, that's actually what we want. We want the simplest solution to solve a problem. So why would I think or say that it's not a good long-term strategy for weight loss?
Well, before I get into that, I want to kind of take you back to 1999 when the movie came out called The Matrix. And this is one of my personal favorite movies I particularly like the first one that of them in the series were really, really good. But in this particular movie, Morpheus offers Neo, who was played by Keanu Reeves, two choices. And so he has his two hands out there. You can take the red pill or you can take the blue pill.
And Neo had to make that choice. But it seems for a lot of people in wanting simple we're doing the same thing with weight loss and the two operate offers are either Calories In Calories Out (CICO) or energy balance or your low carb/keto. And for most of the people that are on one side of the fence or another, they're in this tribe. It's this or that, and they're almost oblivious to the other side of the conversation. And as a result, no one's really having good conversations about what we should be doing for weight loss.
Today, I want to tell you and show you how this, this or that choice is an illusion that's actually part of the problem why so many people suffer and struggle to lose weight.
So the first reason I want to kind of get into is is kind of the most obvious one. Nutrition is not a simple thing. If it were really that simple, we would all just eat Twinkies and take multivitamins and we would be fine and obviously that's not the case because food is information.
What we eat, when we eat, how we eat and how much we eat are all bits and pieces of information that we're giving our body for our body to then do something with. Okay? And the body's this wonderful mechanism that can take us through hard times. It can make us thrive during good times, and the body adapts to everything that we do to it, including our food. So I want you to stop thinking about food as something that you just enjoy eating or something that's providing you with calories or anything like that.
Food is information.
And when you kind of wrap your mind around that, you can understand how food is just like a matrix. And the only way we're going to understand what works for us is to go ahead and peel back the layers of that matrix. And the way I like to visualize this is that there are three layers to this matrix.
Now, the first layer is very, very simple. It's like grade school math. The second layer is a little bit more complicated. So we'll say that's like high school algebra, maybe some geometry mixed in there. And then the final layer is extremely complex. In fact, the math is so difficult that in some cases we as human beings, science and everything have not really solved that puzzle, have not cracked that code. So let's take a moment to talk about these three layers and how they all affect your ability to lose weight.
So the first is the Calories In Calories Out model. This is a very simple model because it assumes what goes in has to come out. And so it's trying to play off of the law of thermodynamics. And in particular, that was Newton's laws, but it was the law of conservation of energy. So the expectation is if you put energy into a system, then the energy will have to come out or be stored, can't be lost anywhere. Now, that all makes sense and it's actually true. But there's just a couple problems with the Calories In Calories Out model being a pure thermodynamics play. And that's because the human body is not a closed system. See, the way they like to measure calories is in a closed system.
So they will literally burn something in a container and there's nothing else in that container but that thing. And that's where they figure out how many calories an item could produce based on burning it. Likewise, when they're looking at human performance, they're measuring the carbon dioxide output of a human being, doing some work. And that's where they're coming up with some estimates on how many calories the individual burned. Now, when you're in a closed system, that's very easy to measure. But unfortunately, we don't live in closed systems. We don't live in closed environments.
So pretty much everything we do related to calories is done on a formula and an estimate. And there are some big, big problems with those estimates, for example. They would assume if there was an Olympic athlete that weighed the same as I do, that we would both burn the same amount of energy, traveling the same distance. And that's just not true. I'm going to be much less efficient at my movement than an Olympic athlete. Therefore, the Olympic athlete is going to burn fewer bits of energy to accomplish the same task.
That's how they become elite performers. They're able to perform better. They're able to use utilize energy more effectively, more efficiently than someone normally would. If I were trying to outswim Michael Phelps, I'm going to flail and my legs and arms are not going to cooperate as well. He's going to glide through the water with almost no effort or at least looks like it's almost no effort. So you can't compare me to Michael Phelps from a calorie burning model.
Yet everything we have out there tells me if you spend an hour running, you're going to burn X number of calories. And again, these are all estimates. So they just don't really know at that point in time how many calories you might be burning. It's an estimate. Same with food. You know, if you're not measuring to the nth degree the volume of each and every ingredient in a recipe and then making sure that you're eating that specifically portion to portion, then you're going to potentially be off.
What does that mean? Well, if you're off just 16 calories on a meal and you're overeating by 16 calories every meal, you could be gaining as much as 10 pounds in a year. And so it's these finite what we think of as perfect formulas that are leading us astray quite often.
The other thing that's not quite right with calories in, calories out is a lot of people start to get hungry and then they get hangry. If you're eating predominantly a higher carb meal, which is what you inevitably end up doing in a Calories In Calories Out, pure model, because they look at fat and they say fat is nine calories per gram and a carb is four calories per gram. So if we substitute fat grams for carbs grams, we're going to reduce our total calorie input. And that is true.
The problem is we get hungry. Carbs burn through our system faster. They need to go somewhere faster. And as the result, it makes it very difficult for someone to stay at a calorie restriction and not have some hunger issues. And we're going to get into that in a little bit more detail when I talk about the next layer, because that hunger and all the stuff that's going on in our body, how fast we're burning energy, all those things is really dictated by the next two layers.
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So the second layer of this is going to be a little bit more complex because it's not just the simple math of which you studied in grade school. There's a little bit more to it. And that's macros. The macronutrients that your body needs to perform. Now, our brain and our body are made up of protein and fat. Now carbs such as just standard sugar or potato or a carrot or an apple or even some lettuce or broccoli are are all made up of carbs and some protein. But our body really only uses the carbs for energy, the protein and the fat is utilized for building materials.
So one of the things about macros that's really, really important to wrap your mind around is that like body temperature, which stays in a very tight range and blood pH which stays in the very tight range, our blood sugar level stays at a very tight range, or at least it's supposed to if we're living optimally. So when you start looking at blood sugar, just a simple little tip here is that a human body has less than a teaspoon of total sugar in our blood system at any given point in time when we eat something that has carbs in it and maybe even a little bit, if we eat something with protein, we're going to get an input of insulin.
The pancreas will put some insulin in there because it's going to say we don't need this much sugar in the blood. It's dangerous for our kidneys, it's dangerous for our brain. Let's regulate this. Let's keep it in this tight little range that we need to keep our blood sugar in to be healthy. If you're fairly active and maybe you did a good workout today, then the insulin can take that and put it in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. So that it can refresh, basically restore the glycogen that was in the muscles and in the liver that we use during a hard workout.
Now, for most of us, though, we didn't do a hard workout necessarily. And we eat that sugar or we eat that carb and the body has only one other option, and that's to store it as fat. So we start accumulating fat because we have more blood sugar than our body needs and it stores it. If we're active, then those energy burn. And as I said, the first model is not wrong. We are burning those calories.
The problem is we get this little surge and we store a little. So little surge, little store, little surge, little store. And most of the people that preach the Calories In Calories Out model will also tell you you should eat six small meals per day so you're never super hungry. So they recognize that you're digesting that food really quickly. You're putting it to use in your body really quickly and you're going to be hungry, really quickly. And so they encourage you to eat more frequently. Well, again, that's a little surge and a little burn. A little surge, little burn.
You're never really giving your body the opportunity to go back to look at fat storage. Now, if you're slightly below your actual calorie usage, then, yes, there's the potential that you could actually use some of that body fat for energy.
But because you're eating all the time, there's not a lot of opportunity for that. And if you let yourself get hungry, you're very likely over eating those small meals or they're bigger meals than they should be. And now you're not in your calorie deficit.
Over time, what happens is we have this fat cells that are good at storing this energy, but even the fat cells themselves get a little overburdened. Ad a way you can kind of visualize this as imagine that every day that you're putting out garbage by your house and the that the trucks, the garbage trucks are coming by and they're picking up garbage. But that garbage, they don't really have anywhere to put it, sort of putting it in the garbage trucks that are driving around with garbage trucks. The garbage trucks get full and then the garbage trucks don't want to pick up any more garbage because they're full. So what are they doing? They're just they're driving around, but they're not picking up the trash. And so the trash collects. Now, blood sugar is that trash.
And so the pancreas says we need more of we need more of these these trucks. And so it starts trying to make more insulin. It tries to get more moving and force the fat cells to take on more, which they can do. They don't like it, but they do it. And that's when we start really having metabolic problems. And because the pancreas is working so hard to create all this excess insulin six times per day, boop, boop, boop, boop, it can get tired and it can fail.
And so we end up with these situations of insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction because we keep feeding ourselves carbs and we're overeating. And a lot of that overeating actually comes from the fact that when we eat the standard American diet, it tends to not be low fat. And it also tends to not be low carb. It tends to be high carb, high fat and low in protein. And that's just a recipe for disaster, because there's too many calories and there's too many carbs, and our body is going to readily want to and need to store that sugar as fat.
Let's take a little bit of a step back now that we're into this, the second realm, because this is something even though it's a little bit complex, it's something that's fairly easy for us to wrap our minds around, because most of us know what protein, fat and carbs really are. They know where they come from. But the problem is most of us are not eating it from the right sources. We're not eating whole food. We're getting our food from a bag, box, can, or jar.
It has additives. It has added sugar. So it'll taste better and it'll have these like little labels all over them. “Healthy.” “Good for your heart.” All this stuff. Lies, lies, lies. They just are, okay? You need real food. That's what your body needs. That's when we talk about information. If you're putting processed foods in your body, it's getting garbled information and it's going to make poor choices for you.
It's going to store it. Now, one of the things, as I mentioned earlier, with the Calories In Calories Out model was that they they kind of turned on fat and they called fat the corporate culprit of why we're fat, why we have heart attacks and everything else is going on in our bodies. I've even seen people say that they believe diabetes is caused by excess fat in the diet. Again, not true, but I hear it. And so there's all this fat phobia and there has been for decades.
And it's not going to go away any time soon for most people. But I want you to think of it in these terms because everybody's afraid if I start eating more fat and more protein than my cholesterol is going to go up. So I hear the cholesterol conversation. Now, I'm not a doctor, so I'm not going to tell you what you should do relative to managing your cholesterol levels. I'm just going to say it in these simple terms.
Just because there are firemen and firewomen at a fire does not mean they are the cause of the fire. And just because there are more firemen and firewomen at a bigger fire doesn't mean, again, that the firemen are firewomen started that fire. There is no cause and effect. That one exists in a location at a given time. They're not causing you know, the firemen are not causing the fire.
If you follow the cholesterol model, that's what you believe, because my cholesterol is high. That's why I have clogged arteries, when the reality of it is it's that excess sugar, it's the insulin. It's all the stuff that's going on there that's creating the environment where cholesterol now has actually cake and do its thing to protect your blood vessels from leaking and then doing its job. Yes, you are now calcifying those in your in your arteries, and that is what's leading to heart disease and stroke.
And so if you can get past your fat phobia, then you're going to be able to make it into this next level.
And the third and final level is hormones. Now, if you're just a Calories In Calories Out model kind of person, then you may not think hormones have anything to do with fat. And it's not true. We know men can lose weight easier than women because we have testosterone. We know that a woman going through menopause begins to store fat differently because of estrogen and testosterone.
So if your hormones change and that's going to change where you store fat, it only makes reasonable sense that hormones do have a place in the fat storage system. And we've already talked about insulin, so we know that one. Now we're talking about the sex hormones, but thyroid, cortisol, glucagon, leptin and ghrelin, which are your hunger and satiety, all these different hormones are basically in a system of messaging that's happening in our body. And the food that goes in is information is then translated into our hormones.
So how do we manage the hormone system so that we're optimizing our opportunity to lose body fat and lose weight? Well, the first thing is, yes, you can go to your doctor and pretty much for thyroid, testosterone and estrogen, they can supplement. They can give you some. And that would definitely help alleviate if you're low. If your low T, if you've gone through menopause and you want to put some estrogen in there, that may make you feel a lot better. And then the same thing with thyroid. If your thyroid is under producing or converting, then your doctor might prescribe some thyroid again just to help you optimize where you need to be with those hormones.
But for most of the hormones that relate to what we're doing, trying to lose weight, there really isn't. A doctor way, there isn't a pill or a shot or something like that or a patch or something stuck under the skin that we can use to fix that problem, we have we have to manage it through lifestyle. And there are four core areas of lifestyle that are really important for managing your hormone system.
We've talked a bit about food, and if you're eating whole food and you're focused on food quality and you're eating a balanced diet, getting all the minerals and vitamins and things that you need.
And by the way, a lot of our hormones are made out of cholesterol. So, again, it's not necessarily a bad thing to have cholesterol. It's not evil. It's not terrible. But I'll let you manage that.
Anyway. Managing your nutrition, it should be the first step for weight loss. And so if you're eating a good balanced meal, you're getting some good proteins with each meal. There's some fat in there and a minimal amount of carbohydrates predominantly so that you can get your fiber and some vitamins and minerals.
Then you're signaling. The information you're putting in your body is that we have access to good food and we we don't need this extra body fat. It's okay to let go of it. And we're not going to be hungry all the time.
And we're not going to be eating six meals a day because we just don't need that food as a result of not needing that food. We are not eating as many calories. See the magic. So start with your nutrition and get that balanced and get that working for you.
The next is sleep. Most of the hormones in the human body, particularly with weight loss, are somewhat influenced by our circadian rhythm. If we're not getting a good night's sleep and we're not going to sleep early enough and we're setting alarms and we're waking up all frazzled, we're basically with that lack of sleep signaling to our body that we're in a stressful situation, something's bad, and we're not giving our body the opportunity to do the things it needs to do to optimize its own hormones. So after nutrition, the next thing I would focus on is improving quality of your sleep.
And then the next one is stress management. Now, when we're stressed, our body releases cortisol and sometimes it doesn't even have to be like seeing a bear or anything like that. Just in the morning, your cortisol levels are going to rise so that it's telling your body it's time to get up and start moving around. So cortisol has a very important purpose. But in our current day, we're all overstressed. We're all over sensitized. We're on the computer at night. We're watching shows, the news, everything that's going on in the world. So we end up in this kind of fight or flight mode almost all the time.
And if we're not managing that cortisol, cortisol has this really interesting relationship with your other hormones, particularly insulin. And it tells the body, don't burn excess energy, cut back on your energy. We're going to use this adrenaline and other stuff to get stuff done. But you focus on conservation because we need to survive. And if you're constantly in that state, you're going to probably be storing fat and it's really hard to lose fat. And you're also likely going to be breaking down muscle because cortisol is catabolic.
OK, next, I want to get into kind of some of the things that happen when we're not managing our stress. And a lot of times it just comes down to fatigue. We're just constantly dealing with information and we're trying to make the right decisions. And decisions are kind of finite. If we start doing too much, there's a fatigue. And as a result, we might make poor choices. We might decide I've had a tough day at work. I'm going to skip my workout. Or even worse, I had a tough day at work, I think I'm going to drink a bottle or two of wine and maybe someone takes up smoking again to manage their stress. So you see that this whole cycle of not managing your stress can lead you down a very dark path. That is, again, in each of those cases, communicating to your body. All is not good and we need to fight and we need to flight. And all those things are happening inside your body as expressed by your hormones. And then your actions.
And so the final one is movement, and this one, I saved it for last, but I don't want you to think that this is the most important thing, because the reality of it is you have to start with nutrition and then focus on your sleep and then focus on your stress. And movement is something that you blend into your life as you go.
It's great to start. Most people will start a weight loss program and they'll say, I'm going to eat very few calories and I'm going to bust my butt to try to lose this weight. The problem is you can't out exercise a bad diet. So, you know, you started out doing really, really well. You got hungry and then you you chewed into the Girl Scout cookies. And I mean, a whole pack of those is gone. And you you didn't do it and now it's time to exercise. You're not going to burn that box of Girl Scout cookies as fast as you hate them, you just can't. So you can't exercise, you can't out sleep, you can't out stress manage a bad diet. You got to get that right first.
So with the movement, this is something we want to talk about, kind of as a pretext to all the other stuff where we're trying to communicate to our hormones that it's okay to lose the weight. It's okay to use that energy for the right reasons. So as you do the exercises, recognize the type of exercise, how frequently you do it, how intensely you do it are communications to your body. So if you're lifting heavy weights, you're communicating to your body that you need more muscle, you need more strength, you need more bone density.
As such, your body actually starts producing a little bit more testosterone to aid in making those things happen. Again, exercise like just about everything else is lifestyle related, is going to be a communication strategy for your body, for you to tell your body that you want it to get stronger, you want it to go ahead and shed some of that body fat, get that growth hormone going. And that just kind of speeds the whole process up.
And then, don't don't feel like you've got to sit down and start this this massive exercise program straight away. Sometimes the simplest is easiest. And I know I started this by saying simple is not the best weight loss strategy, but sometimes with movement, I can tell you simple is actually the best. Go for a walk, go do something you enjoy, ride a bike, go hiking, do some things outside that you enjoy. And then as you get yourself more comfortable with movement as being a part of your every day, then you can start factoring in resistance, training, balance, mobility, all those different things. So you're building the body you want through the communication that came from the exercise that you did.
To sort of kind of roll this all together: Calories In, Calories Out is not wrong. The low-carb approach is not wrong. But the problem with only thinking you have those two choices is that you don't get the whole picture. They're all right at some level. But you've got to look at all of them and you've got to look at it from the perspective of this is all sitting on that complex model of hormones that even to this day, the best scientists in the world struggle to wrap their mind around how to optimize and make all those things work the way they're supposed to work. Because the human body is not simple. It is one of the most complex pieces of equipment you will ever have the ability to operate.
And we're doing it with these hormones. We're doing it with the information we feed our body and the time and day and how much and what macros they are. All of that matters. All of that's a part of it. I don't want to leave you thinking that this is just something that's outside the realm of your capacity to understand, because it's not. Any incremental improvement that you do is going to be good. Your body is going to respond. If you're not eating much whole food right now, most of your food is coming from a bag, box , jar, or can, start to change that. Go to a Farmer's Market this weekend and pick up some vegetables and meat, go to the butcher and find out ways that you can get meat at a cheaper discount, because sometimes they write off, they write down some of their higher priced, grass fed cow beef and some of their pasture chickens because they didn't sell at all. And you might have an opportunity to pick up on some of that at a discount look for a local co-op where they're selling things that are typically much cheaper because they're trying to make whole foods more accessible.
Start a process of looking for ways to improve your nutrition. And that's going to be the key to managing the hormones, looking at your macros, then looking at your calories, and then you've taken all of that math and all those layers and you've put together a formula that works for you. So, no, simple is not always the best alternative for long term weight loss, but once you know your rules, very likely those will be your rules for a long, long time.
And so learning how to eat, learning how to sleep better, learning how to reduce stress and manage stress and learning how to move should all be things that you look at each day to improve your health and fitness.
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
|– Anne Lynch||– John Somsky||– Margaret Bakalian|
|– Deb Scarlett||– Judy Murphy||– Melissa Ball|
|– Debbie Ralston||– Leigh Tanner||– Tim Alexander|
|– John Dachauer|