Can Restricting Calories Cause Us To Gain Weight?

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?

Recipe: Fat Fast Scrambled Eggs

Something I whipped up with leftover eggs from Easter. We ‘blow out’ the insides so the kids would be able to keep the eggs and I had 6 leftover eggs. I also had some aging sour cream and a bit of cream cheese…sounded like a good fatty combo to me.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

If making scrambled eggs is beyond you, put in a large skillet, melt the butter, pour in the remaining ingredients and keep pushing the mixture around until the cream cheese melts and the mixture loses its liquidity and become a fluffly, creamy solid.

I thought it tasted awesome, though my wife was initially put off by the ‘sour’ of the sour cream. I liked the tang, though.

It made 4 servings, each roughly 1 cup. The nutrition profile per serving is awesome for a fat fast:

Calories: 326
Fat: 27 grams (79%)
Carbs: 3.6
Protein: 12.5g

 

 

Fat Fast Asian Stewed Pork Belly Recipe

Not my picture, and I didn't use eggs - but now I'd like to try.
Not my picture, not my recipe, but mine looks a lot like this – but without the eggs. Click the pic to see this person’s recipe at Happy Home Baker.

I have been playing around with the notion of a ‘fat fast’ where you attempt to get your percentage of fat really high. Of course, I never follow directions, so I have been aiming for 80% fat and have so far eaten 10,000 extra calories this week according to my LoseIt! app – but I’ve lost almost 5 pounds.

Freaky – huh? Continue reading “Fat Fast Asian Stewed Pork Belly Recipe”

Want to Stop Eating Food? Here’s Someone Working on That

soylent

I was very interested to read about Soylent – an experiment by an individual in replacing eating with a simple drink consisting of all the necessary macronutrients and micronutrients sourced as individual chemicals.

This is all the fellow lived on for a month and he’s taking this ‘on the road’ so to speak as he is offering this concoction with other people to learn more about it through other people’s experience with it.

I applaud his N=1 research in this, as he is trying to solve what is to him, dual issues: optimal feeding as well as getting back all that time and money spent prepping food. He takes the approach that eating is somewhat outdated and might be done only for ‘sport’ in that it remains an option for social events rather than something he must do every day – sort of like people use to hunt and fish to sustain themselves but now mostly do it for the pleasure of the act itself. Continue reading “Want to Stop Eating Food? Here’s Someone Working on That”

Should We Have Laws Against Large Sodas Served in Restaurants?

If you have any interest at all in petty local politics, a well-meaning gentleman by the name of Michael Bloomberg, who happens to be mayor of New York City, would like to ban ‘super-sized’ sodas from being sold in city restaurants because they are bad for you.

I’m OK with the ‘bad for you’ part. A legal ban on a large soda? Not so much. Continue reading “Should We Have Laws Against Large Sodas Served in Restaurants?”

Recipe: Low Carb Kale Chili (That Looks Like a Bowl of Lawn Clippings)

Another weekend and another installment of ‘Let’s Make Something Out of What Didn’t Get Used From Last Week’s Shopping Trip‘.

The star of this particular fridge-cleaning was 3 bunches of kale bought in expectation of a use of the juicer to dispense with some aged fruit. The kale was supposed to be used in conjunction with the aged fruit, but the juicing never occurred  the fruit just became more aged, and the kale began moving into its dotage.

That’s a lot of kale – and I just made my wonderful kale and sausage soup which I ate with a lot of Greek yogurt and enjoyed every mouthful. I wasn’t in the mood for more right at this point, and I had a pound of grass-fed beef to use up. So I rifled through the refrigerator and pantry and decided to make a chili of sorts, using Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning mix to spice it up, which I find works well to, um, enhance the strong flavor of kale.

Of course, that strong bitter flavor of kale is what makes it good for you. The world is twisted that way. Continue reading “Recipe: Low Carb Kale Chili (That Looks Like a Bowl of Lawn Clippings)”

A Mayonnaise Replacement with Greek Yogurt

I am a slave to mayonnaise. I love the stuff. I love it so much that I can eat it by the spoonful. The problem is the types of fats typically used in mayonnaise. I typically avoid seed oils like the plague because they are chock full of omega-6 oils, which are necessary to health, but the amounts in seed oil are way beyond what we need and have the potential to be harmful – this, at least, is what I believe.

As omega-6 fats are found in scads of other foods – avocados, meat, eggs, and scores of other stuff – there’s little concern of not getting enough. It’s the ‘too much’ that could prove worrisome.

Now, for those of us with culinary skills, you can make your own authentic mayonnaise from olive oil – but I’m not talented enough – or persistent enough – or maybe just too darn lazy.

So I have been on a quest to come up with a ‘replacement’ – rather than a substitute. While it might seem like just semantics, calling something a ‘substitute’ sets you up for disappointment as a substitute will always prove lacking. Continue reading “A Mayonnaise Replacement with Greek Yogurt”

Review: Nutiva Coconut Manna

manna

[NOTE: This ain’t a paid review – and I wasn’t bribed with Rolex watches or free trips to Bermuda to write this. The manufacturer doesn’t know who I am – and probably wants to keep it that way.]

My wife bought this during one of her frequent ‘Random Acts of Purchasing’. I don’t think she knew why she bought it though if I asked her I am sure she’d confabulate an reason that sounded plausible. Nor have we been able to determine where she bought it as she doesn’t remember and we haven’t been able to find it again. I think much of her buying stuff occurs in a somnambulistic haze, but that’s just a typical ‘jerk husband’ thing to say.

The problem with coconut manna (link here), which is just ground up coconut, is the same problem with coconut oil: the stuff is an unusable block of fat at room temperature. Oils from tropical plants are different from plants in climates that have winters because they never have to worry about the temperature going low enough that the fat would solidify and kill the plant. This, apparently, is why tropical oils tend to be high in saturated fat – which likes being solid at room temperature.

Continue reading “Review: Nutiva Coconut Manna”

Greek Toast with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

68128-california-olive-oil

I have discovered probably the most flavorful olive oil I have ever tasted – Trader Joe’s California Estate Unfiltered Olive Oil. If you have a Trader Joe’s in your vicinity – go buy a bottle and see what I mean – this is totally unlike any olive oil I have ever tasted. [Please note: they didn’t pay me to write this and I paid for it myself.]

This link will bring you to their ‘food porn’ description of the stuff. Regardless of whether visions of unspoiled landscapes in California filled with luscious olives drip-irrigated to reduce water consumption has any relevance to the flavor, it is every bit as good as their uniquely written marketing prose makes it out to be.

Continue reading “Greek Toast with Extra Virgin Olive Oil”

Scenes From a Low Carb Life: Counting Calories at the Chinese Buffet

A random Chinese buffet - they all look the same...
A random Chinese buffet – they all look the same…

Friday, February 01, 2013 – 199.8

On January 01 I was 209.4. In 1 month I lost 9+ pounds and just came in a hair’s breadth under 200. That’s the short story. All the in-between stuff reminds me of a Will Rogers quote: ‘People who like sausage or respect the law should not watch either being made.’ The month was not a steady progression downward as much as a roller-coaster.

Upon reflection, perhaps January is the worst possible month for doing anything except persevering through – at least for me. Snow holds no magic except that power to make my car slide uncontrollably into oncoming traffic or get stuck on the side of the road. Skiing – a sport that necessitates falling in the snow, I find as alluring as wrestling in a hog pen.

Perhaps I should avoid my inclination to overthink things, take my winnings for January, and be happy with what I got. Onto February – a month designed to be especially short because you’re just too fed up with winter to endure a long month.

I noticed myself in the mirror as I got ready for work and I just looked so fat. Compared to what? I asked myself. I am within 5 pounds of the lowest weight I’m been in 5 years and the reflection in the mirror seems distorted and bloated. Strange how this works: one day I might feel fine about my weight and the next day, the same weight, I feel like a sumo wrestler who’s let himself go.

Continue reading “Scenes From a Low Carb Life: Counting Calories at the Chinese Buffet”