Body Composition & Fat Loss Archive

Are We Missing The Caloric Forest For The Trees?

I’ve found myself in a coincidence of circumstance lately regarding the topic of counting calories. Specifically, the angle that counting calories are wrong because the numbers aren’t factual.

To be clear, I appreciate a voice of reason and accuracy in the scientific community. When we quibble over details, it means a lot towards statements like “statistical significance.” I have no problem with attaining better methods, new approaches, or debunking old ones. People studying the research aren’t wrong in finding flaws in the exact caloric count. Doing your job well and reporting on inaccuracies isn’t the issue. Discouraging the average dieter trying to change their life while attacking everything they’ve been doing…well….

The problem is when inaccuracies are overblown for clickbait or selling a different (and always equally as flawed/statistically sketchy) method. Again the pattern emerges (quite frequently in the health industry) that your efforts are useless or even a compulsive disorder but “look at our method over here.” The calorie as we know it is dead—useless. If you take part in ranking those numbers, you’re doing it wrong, or so they say.

Spoiler 1: The average assessment of caloric content is erroneous.

Spoiler 2: Being obsessive about the numbers wasn’t the answer to your body composition problems in the first place.

Spoiler 3: There are 101 ways and plans to make changes in your diet that have nothing to do with knowledge of calories, but it doesn’t make it a meaningless or destructive knowledge to obtain. More

Robert Mapplethorpe Didn’t Wear a Jockstrap?

Original Artwork by Leigh Peele

(You can listen to the audio version of this writing on iTunes or Google Play)

I found myself sitting on curbside bound couches that smelled of urine and bourbon explaining what I do for a living. I still can’t come up with a 10 second tagline to satisfy the question, “What do you do?” I don’t know. I really don’t have a clue what I do. I argue with people on the internet on a regular basis. I earn what entrepreneurs call a “passive income” on the internet. I smell like whiskey too much but I’m really positive about it. There’s hardly a sport I’m not at least mediocre at but I’d rather have my hands covered in blisters from my guitar or charcoal from my sketch pad. However, I have one hell of deadlift. More

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

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