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Day 26 I'm joining the Dark Side

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My blog today is a bit serious and long winded, but that's where I am today.

If you haven't heard of Sean Croxton or Underground Wellness, it's time you did. Sean has a website, a YouTube channel, a book... he isn't hard to find and he's worth the effort.

Sean was once a personal trainer with the "burn more calories than you consume" type of program. He saw that this equation wasn't really working in the long run and he began to question everything he had learned about losing fat. When you start to question the old school thoughts and "truths" you put yourself out on a limb....the fringe....the Dark Side.

Looking at my own experience and listening to Sean and his Dark Side minions has me doing a little math today:

When I was younger, I did everything "wrong" nutritionally. I was overweight and I was gaining about 15 - 20 pounds per year. I've done a lot of math about this.

If there are 3,500 calories to the pound, and if I gained 20 pounds per year, I was taking in an excess of 70,000 calories per year, or 192 calories per day.

That means that I would have to have been eating healthfully, as I am now, and adding in just one extra snack.

...but I know that wasn't the case. I grew up in the South in a home in which every simple carb you can name was deep fried. Doughnuts were my favorite breakfast and I often ate fast food twice a day. As a young adult I knew the schedule of the vending machine guy, Carl, and I snacked constantly at my desk. I easily went through a 6 pack a day of Coca-Cola and then moved on to several beers. Evenings were spent in front of the TV with a bag of microwave popcorn and a bag of Doritos. I usually finished all the Doritos.

Doritos are around 140 calories per ounce - a family sized bag is 17 ounces - that's 2,380 calories per bag.

A six pack of 12 ounce cans of coke is around 870 calories.

A Big Mac (my favorite lunch) and fries is a little over 1,000 calories.

I never stopped at just one doughnut, I had 2 or 3 each morning. They knew me by name at the doughnut shop and got worried if I was late. At about 300 calories a doughnut that's at least 600.

Adding that all up, it's around 4,850 calories and I haven't accounted for dinner, snacks, or beer yet.

Let's say I had an average basic metabolic rate of 3,000 - that is that I needed 3,000 calories per day just to breathe and keep my heart beating. There is no way it could have been that high, but I'll use that number to be generously conservative.

If I take the 4,850 plus calories that I was consuming and subtract the 3,000 for my BMR, this means that I was eating AT LEAST an excess of 1,800 calories per day. That's a very conservative number, too, it was probably more like 3,000 plus. Still, let's take that conservative number of 1,800.

At 1,800 excess calories per day I should have gained over 180 pounds per year. I only gained 15 - 20. Where did those other 160 pounds worth of calories go?

Did I burn them off in the gym? Nope. I've spent the majority of my adult life sitting on my butt. I would remember if I had been doing something that was burning off about 1,800 calories per day.

This math just doesn't work. The old calories in - calories out idea doesn't work.


A) one pound does not equal 3,500 calories, or

B) something happened with my metabolism that can't be explained by just saying, "Burn more than you consume."

... or maybe it's both.

My point is this: the idea that losing weight is a simple math problem doesn't work. I no longer believe it. I'm with Sean on the Dark Side. I'm questioning everything. Sure I'm getting healthier and sure I'm losing weight, but the more I use that food tracker and the more I use that exercise tracker, the more I can see that the numbers don't add up.

Now I'm not dissing Spark. I love Spark. I am, in fact, a little zealous about it at this point. However, I'm finding that the nutrition tracker and fitness tracker are not working well for me right now. They are not helping me make sense of what is going on in my body.

I love seeing those fitness minutes accumulate and I love tracking my run/walk mileage, so I may do that without tracking calories burned.

I'm not saying that anyone else should do this. I'm just at a point where I need to do it and believe that I can do it. (I no longer binge, I am not an emotional eater, and I can exercise for the fun of it, not just to burn calories.)

I'm going to try to not weigh in, not measure or track my food, not track my calories burned, and focus purely on my health for the next 30 days of my 90 day plan.

Sean says, very loosely quoted, "We are told to lose fat in order to get healthy, but actually, we have to get healthy in order to lose fat."

Here's the video that started this whole math thing for me:

The 3,500 Calorie Myth
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    It's not a simple equation whatever equation one uses. SP is only a tool, albeit a mighty good one.
    2237 days ago

    Comment edited on: 3/7/2012 12:11:04 PM
  • BONNIE627
    i exercise mainly because it helps me to breathe better. it doesn't do much for me weight wise..your blogs are always so interesting...for some reason I stopped getting the notices about them so subscribed again.. keep up the good work
    2241 days ago
    I think I may be lurking in the shadows of the Dark Side myself: having lost weight quickly when I started Sparking last August, I have been regaining it at an alarming rate since Christmas. I'm still exercising as much, if not a bit more, and tracking my food intake.

    Whilst I admit to being over my calorie goal several times, it's never by very much and yet I have been gaining 2 to 3lb a week for weeks now. It's really scary and I too did the maths and calculated that I couldn't possibly be eating THAT many extra calories - even allowing for miscalculating portion sizes.

    So I'm with you on this one.

    I'm going to keep exercising and refining my intake to make healthier choices and develop more helpful habits, but somehow I've got to get less hung up about the number on the scale as it just can't be the whole story. (So why does my weight determine how I feel for the rest of the day?!)
    2245 days ago
    I am a personal trainer who talks about CICO (calories in vs. calories out) every single day... and yet, I know that this isn't an exact science. The intensity at which we move our bodies has a lot to do with the effectiveness of our exercise, and food tracking has more to do with awareness than weight loss, in my humble opinion. Very intersesting blog... I'm headed over to youtube right now!
    2245 days ago
    Yeah, I pretty much don't subscribe to the whole calorie counting thing. I DO however subscribe to keeping track of what the heck's going in my mouth and how my body is moving. Call it mindfulness, I guess.

    I'm also not much of a scale number person. I can weigh myself 6 times a day on different scales and come up with 6 different numbers (I actually tried this once...but with 4 scales)

    I've also realized that I will NEVER be done with this. There's ALWAYS some aspect of my health that I will need to be hyper-conscious of.


    I'm checking out Mark Sisson. I love dark-side guru's.
    2246 days ago
    Another winner!!!! emoticon
    2246 days ago
    I understand this well . I'm also quitting the weigh scale for a while . The numbers are irking me & I'm not losing weight. I count calories for 2-3 weeks & no weight loss , not even a pound. What a waste of my energy counting darn calories ;-)
    2246 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/27/2012 1:24:14 PM
    Thought provoking indeed! I want to hear more.
    *runs off to YouTube*
    Thanks for the link!!
    2246 days ago
  • 123ELAINE456
    You have a very interesing blog to say the least about it. Will check out the video more. God Bless You and Have a Wonderful Week.
    2247 days ago
    "We are told to lose fat in order to get healthy, but actually, we have to get healthy in order to lose fat."

    That's why I revamped my goal to focus on fitness instead of fatness, and it's worked best of all the weight loss methods I've tried. Not all calories are created equal--that's one of the most important things I learned in nutrition class. Your body doesn't process all calories the same way. Now if only I could step further away from my sugar/carb addictions . . .
    2247 days ago
    See, I don't believe in number crunching and getting hung up on specifics because there are too many variables to account for. I try to stay close to my nutrition ranges but I don't overly sweat the details, and I look at fitness *minutes* (I never even look at the number of calories burned - again, there are too many variables, even if I wore a heart monitor thingie I know that my body screws up electronics so I wouldn't trust it was accurate anyway). For me, tracking is a way to make sure I'm actually paying attention and eating intentionally (otherwise I'd eat mindlessly and consume FAR more than my body needs in a day). And I like seeing the fitness minutes rack up. I figure if I'm moving more and eating intentionally, things will generally go downwards (and I'm 80 lbs down, so it must be working).
    2247 days ago
  • CANNIE50
    Very interesting and thought provoking. I like to track fitness minutes because it makes me happy to see them pile up, but I don't take the "calories burned" numbers too seriously and I don't have a "cash register" mentality about exercise anyway. I have learned over many years that exercise makes me stronger and gives me a better sense of well-being but it does not make me smaller. I do track food but I pay more attention to the nutrients, like fiber and protein, than just focusing on calories. I need to check out that video. Thank you for writing this blog.
    2247 days ago
    If calories in vs. calories out were true, then I would NOT have gained the 1.5 pounds I gained this week. I would have either stayed the same or lost a bit. It's water retention, hormones or any other sort of things that make a difference. Maybe it's because I'm 13 pounds away from my goal weight - maybe not. Who knows. Interesting theory!
    2247 days ago
    I'll definitely be watching this space to see how things develop. I'm still too tied into emotional eating to be able to stop tracking my food -- the tracker helps me sort out emotions vs. hunger. But I totally agree with you on the math thing; I'm also in the banish-the-scale club, and track my mileage, not my cals burned. So I'm definitely intrigued to see how this works for you.
    2247 days ago

    When you hear people talk about how bad saturated fat is and how carrots are too high in sugar (yet they eat diet yogurt) do you not get an overwhelming urge to say WHOA! and then not know how to explain it all without sounding like a conspiracy theorist?

    I love that I'm not alone. I am looking forward to watching Mark Sisson's video now.

    I have only listened to one of Sean's interviews because it was linked from Paul Jaminet's blog.. but I plan on listening to more.. :)
    2247 days ago
    I actually called it "going to the dark side" because Sean's new book - The Dark Side of Fat Loss - has become my new guide (at least for the next 30 days).
    2247 days ago
    I love Sean and his ideas - so much sense when he questions conventional wisdom! You will love the speakers at the Paleo summit which he is hosting this week - just go to the underground wellness website for all the details.
    I don't think you have gone to the 'dark side', I think you are searching for healthy enlightenment - the best thing you can do for your body!
    Mark Sisson refers to our body as a science project where n=1. We are all so different and what works for someone doesn't work for everyone - we just have to find what works for us. It is so great that you are educating yourself and applying what you are learning. There is an old saying which goes something like ' I did the best I could, and when I knew better, I did better'.
    2247 days ago
    I did not watch it yet, but I totally agree that the science has variables that we don't acknowledge or understand! I once followed an eating plan, and although it was hard to stick with, allowed me to lose 29 pounds in 6 weeks. It was healthy but extremely rigid. However, one thing I felt made it work was the absence of allergens...wheat, dairy, corn, nuts, and most soy. I have never forgotten that and have been pondering, as I struggle with a long plateau, if I have a food allergy. I am looking over food intake and might be trying some new strategies! Thank you for your blog, Michael, it has my wheels turnin! Keep us posted on your results!
    2247 days ago
    I have had good luck with tracking food intake, but I don't pay much attention to the calories in vs calories out, because I know the numbers just aren't accurate. The calories in a food assume your body would completely use up all fat, carbs and protein it contains and I know my body just isn't that efficient. It is, however, efficient enough not to burn any more calories than it has to. Still, it gives me a guideline. Weight loss and health aren't one size fits all--you have to find what works for you. Glad you're making progress!
    2247 days ago
    Personally, I think tracking food is still important, but I don't include calories burned from exercising, I just value the time exercising as important (at least 10 minutes of real cardio movement). It has kept me maintaining.

    But, I also believe making better real food choices over unatural processed food/snacks, avoiding fried food/batter helps reducing weight along with exercise and you don't need to track.
    2247 days ago
    Interesting blog I will have to watch the video a little later when I can have the sound on and I won't be interrupted by the rest of the household.

    I agree that the whole calories in vs. calories out thing doesn't make as much sense to me as it did in the beginning. I have been tracking my calories and exercise and maintaining I have noticed that I eat more calories than I "should" but I still maintain or some weeks lose a small amount of weight so something is not right there.
    2247 days ago
    Great blog... I totally agree that it's not as simple as "burn more calories than you consume"... and I've had a lot more success with focussing on health than I ever did focussing on the numbers. I think your plan is sound and that YOU will ROCK it (like you do everything else)!

    About the math though... I think those 1,800 excess calories per day would be accounted for by your BMR... no? (the math of this stuff drives me CRAZY, actually).

    Spark ON, Michael!
    2247 days ago
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