This comment that I made on my own post for stewed pork bellies keeps going through my mind:
What if your body during overfeeding in certain circumstances might actually reduce the surface area of your intestines, decreasing absorption of calories. Conversely, what if cutting back on calories increases your ability to extract every last calorie out of food?
This would mean that every calorie-counting diet will end in disaster as you teach your body to grab every calorie it can. It’s a race to the bottom, with calorie restriction to lose weight resulting in having to cut back MORE until you can’t take it, quit your diet and go back to how you used to eat, but being you’ve got yourself a high-efficiency gut now, your weight balloons.
There is only a little research that fuels this speculation of mine, but it would explain a lot about why traditional diets don’t work – wouldn’t it?
To expand on this a bit more, my source is my friend and frequent commenter, Dave Brown. He left the following comment, with sources cited, on the website of the British Medical Journal:
Almost to a man, the world’s top nutrition and obesity authorities believe that weight control necessitates a balance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. We’re told that because fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrate, eating too much fat is a major factor in the obesity epidemic. Another half truth.
Sifting through weight control literature, one encounters occasional evidence that the body does not absorb every calorie that finds its way into the stomach. The digestive system is basically a chambered tube with an entrance and an exit. Just as a wood stove does not transfer all energy released through combustion to the environment being heated, the transfer of digested energy molecules is considerably less than 100 percent efficient. Researchers report overall calorie excretion rates ranging from 20 to 60 percent and fat excretion rates ranging from 2 to 42 percent. The soluble fiber fraction in the food is largely responsible for the percentage of calories that exit with the fecal material.
Another important consideration is the fact that, physiologically, the body constantly remodels itself internally to accommodate the quality, quantity and timing of food intake. For example, the size of the stomach and the surface area of the small intestine tend to increase with food restriction and decrease with increased fat consumption, thus changing the absorption efficiency of the digestive system.
Clearly, there is much to be learned about how the digestive system responds to different mixes of fiber, macronutrients, and micronutrients. Calorie excretion deserves some attention.
The particular point here I find intriguing is:
the size of the stomach and the surface area of the small intestine tend to increase with food restriction and decrease with increased fat consumption, thus changing the absorption efficiency of the digestive system
Wow. If that is true, then my speculation above – that cutting calories can make you fatter – might be correct, and would mean that restricting calories for weight loss might be self-defeating and everything we think we know about losing weight is wrong.
I’m reflecting on this after an AWFUL week of dieting. I have typically eaten high fat during the day, the routine being heavy cream in my coffee, 3 ounces of extremely fatty pork belly in a soup of pure fat which I consume instead of discard, and if I’m still hungry, I might have a bit of mayonnaise, or some cream cheese wrapped in a slice of ham just to make it easier to eat.
At home, however, the diet goes out the window. I’ve had large bowls of pasta, my daughter’s made-from-scratch cake, brioche, a Fillet-O-Fish sandwich, and a number of decidedly NOT low carb fare – and my calorie count is 3,300 calories over what my Loseit! app, a calorie-counting app that buys in to the standard ‘calories in, calories out’ , says would be required for me to lose 0.5 pounds per week – and there is 2 more days in the week to go.
But I’m down to 205.2 from the beginning of the week where I was 212.
I’m not recommending anyone do this – this was not intentional on my part, nor do I necessarily think this is a healthy thing to do. I wanted to avoid the pasta and the cake and all the other stuff that one is not supposed to eat on a low carb diet. I don’t think they are good for my health and would like to avoid them.
Some days were close to 4,000 calories. I’ve also had days where my carb count was over 300 grams.
But I ate it and still lost weight.
So what is going on here?!? Now, to be totally honest, 205 is a set point weight for me. I am probably stuck here if I don’t get a handle on my carb intake – but it seems that I can pretty much eat what I want in the evening and stay here – 60 pounds lower than I was a decade ago – if I am good during the day – and that day consists of 800 to 1,000 calories with 80% of them coming from animal fat and dairy fat.
As my ability to set goals and keep them seems to be pretty piss-poor as of late, this experiment wasn’t intentional – and I have no idea what the next week will hold. If the recent past portends the future, I’ll set goals and screw them up, so whether or not this accidental experiment continues is anybody’s guess.
Interesting, though – isn’t it?