Research & Controversy Archive

A Response To The New York Times Biggest Loser Study


My feed and inbox were inundated with concerns about the “Biggest Loser” article published by The New York Times. On one hand, I think it’s great people are paying attention to the complexities of obesity and weight loss. On the other hand, I think there were a lot of problems and missing variables in the analysis of the study presented in the article. The result created a “gloom and doom” picture for people who are obese. It also puts the focus on resting metabolic rate (RMR) alone which as we see in research is not the only piece to this complex puzzle.

Obesity is Not a Blanket Term

The first thing most people did with this study is associate it with themselves. They worried (rightfully so) what this means for them. “Can I ever lose weight?” “Will I have to starve for the rest of my life?” “I was already scared I can’t do this, what now?”

We speak of obesity much like cancer. The truth is the root of why someone is obese (arguably rated as someone with a BMI >30) is as varied as human beings. There is no one road to excess growth in body fat nor is there one to losing it. Some would say (myself included) it is as simple as caloric surplus and deficit, but it is far more complex.

There is also a difference between obesity developed in childhood versus adulthood. For example, if you’re morbidly obese with family history it’s very different than becoming slightly obese later as an adult.

In short, reading the Biggest Loser study and thinking it directly applies to you or fearing poor results makes as much sense as thinking you’re going to get cancer because someone your age, somewhere, has cancer.


On William Banting’s Diet, Taubes, And Anecdotal Weight Loss


Gary Taubes bestselling book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” starts off with the story of William Banting. Banting’s tale is highlighted in his late 1800’s release titled “Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public. ” It started as a pamphlet and turned in a best-selling book with multiple editions. In the low carb community, Banting has been proclaimed as one of the first low carb gurus. He is cited often in works ranging from Taubes to Atkins.

Taubes writes,

WILLIAM BANTING WAS A FAT MAN. In 1862, at age sixty-six, the five-foot-five Banting, or “Mr. Banting of corpulence notoriety,” as the British Medical Journal would later call him, weighed in at over two hundred pounds…Banting was recently retired from his job as an upscale London undertaker; he had no family history of obesity, nor did he consider himself either lazy, inactive, or given to excessive indulgence at the table. Nonetheless, corpulence had crept up on him in his thirties, as with many of us today, despite his best efforts. He took up daily rowing and gained muscular vigor, a prodigious appetite, and yet more weight. He cut back on calories, which failed to induce weight loss but did leave him exhausted and beset by boils. He tried walking, riding horseback, and manual labor. His weight increased.” – From “Good Calories, Bad Calories

It would seem that Banting had “tried it all.” I want you to pay particular attention to the statement, “He cut back on calories, which failed to induce weight loss” for future reference points. Without fail Banting failed at dieting. He gave every bit he had to give, but the bulge wouldn’t budge. A frustrated Banting met up with a man named William Harvey, an aural surgeon. More

The Deficit – How We Lose Fat


One positive thing that has come out of topics like “metabolic damage” and “starvation mode” is people are learning (even though often misguided) that eating for your energy needs is necessary for optimal metabolic rate.

On the flip side, people are now under the impression that going into a deficit is a bad idea. Boy how fast does that pendulum swing, eh? I am frequently asked questions like…

“I should keep my deficit really small so I don’t crash my metabolism, right?”

“I was told by (enter guru) that I should never be in a deficit to lose fat.”

“I heard deficits make you store fat, not lose it!”

The deficit is becoming the big bad (Whedon reference) especially in those who have had any experience with disordered eating. People in those situations are often times told that “diets are bad” and “deficits are triggers or gateways.” While there can be severe cases where diet monitoring should be under the aid of a professional, it doesn’t exclude the fact that a deficit is our only means to fat loss.

If you learn how to control the deficit and what it means, maybe then you take back the power and shed its mystery.

How Energy Works

I’ve talked at length about energy expenditure and how it works. I will recap here by keeping this aspect more simple.

Every day you need you expend a certain amount of energy through these means.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – Amount of energy for essential body functions

Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF) – Amount of energy to digest food

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – Mostly subconscious activity expenditure (fidgeting, pacing)

Non-Exercise Physical Activity (NEPA) – Mostly conscious activity expenditure (walking, shopping, low grade)

Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) – Formal or structured exercise

Every day you land in one of the following categories: More

WTF Can I Eat?

[youtube id=”w-uOGdgHhFs” mode=”normal” align=”center” maxwidth=”500″]

(The above video is a satire meant for entertainment and to drop my knowledge of the movie Maximum Overdrive. If you don’t have a sense of humor, don’t watch it. There is a F-bomb; it may not be work safe or suitable for children.)

Lately, a lot of writers have come to me to validate (or discredit) a lot of nutritional information. Leading market publications have asked me to examine the claims against everything from fruit protein powder to just downright fruit. This is mostly because I am vocal about nutritional scare tactics and “research” used to ward off certain foods. My perspective is always one of logical and scientific objection, not fear and paranoia. While everyone has a bias on some level, I do try to find the balance and see all sides of things.

Did You Know?

1. I don’t hate the Paleo diet, I just don’t agree with the technical term or religious dogma that surrounds it.

2. I believe in the use of low-carb diets.

3. One of my good friends runs one of the best crossfit gyms in the country. More

BCAA’s: A Look at Dosing and Selection For Various Populations

The subject of protein, amino acids, and BCAA’s is a loaded one. To keep this from becoming a 10 part series, I am going to focus on the use of Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) in supplementation for various populations.

Quick Overview Of What BCAA’s Are

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids that can be oxidized in skeletal muscle. More

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