Happy New Year 2010!
MD and I wish all of you a most prosperous and healthful New Year!
We’ve had a great time with family and friends over the holidays, but now it’s time to get back into the swing of things. We ended the year last night with a great dinner for friends. MD went all out on one of her mega dinners, which, of course, included foie gras, her all-time favorite food. (That’s my serving of foie gras pictured on the left. The little jelly-like stuff is a pomegranate pepper jelly that was out of this world and well worth the four or five carbs.) We had a terrific time ringing out the old year and ringing in the new. I, myself, could have done with a few fewer glasses of wine and the champagne we drank to toast in the new year.
MD’s menu for our New Year’s Eve feast:
- Roasted red pepper soup
- Foie gras (cooked sous vide)
- Duck breast (cooked sous vide) with cabernet cherry reduction
- Golden beets
- Fresh herb salad with vinaigrette
- Epoisses (a soft French cheese)
- Poached pears (cooked sous vide) with pomegranate reduction and heavy cream
Various wines for the different courses and champagne at midnight.
I’ve just now barely recovered.
Everyone is busily making resolutions for the new year, and I suspect that in many cases the list includes weight loss. In cruising through the web today while regaining my sobriety, I came across a number of posts offering to help by giving weight loss recommendations. As a weight-loss method, it seems this year that caloric restriction is all the vogue. Most of the articles I read had a sort of smarmy condescending nature to them, as in, hey, guys, it’s really, really simple to lost weight. All you have to do is just cut your calories and you’ll lose. It’s not difficult. Just do it.
One particular article on losing weight that was representative of most was in Wired Wiki How-To. By his tone, it’s pretty obvious that the author of this article figures he’s found the holy grail of weight loss. It’s easy and fast and foolproof.
What does he recommend?
First, you decide how much you want to lose and how long you want to diet. You then multiply the amount (in pounds) you want to lose times 3,500 (the number of calories in a pound of fat). Take this number and divide it by the number of days you plan on dieting, and you’ve got the number of calories you’ve got to cut back by to lose the weight you want to lose.
The article even gives an example to show how it works. Let’s say you need to lose 10 pounds and you’re willing to spend two months dieting to lose the weight. You multiply 10 times 3,500, which gives you 35,000 calories you need to get rid of. Divide this 35,000 by 60, and you find you need to reduce your intake by 583 calories per day, and, Voila!, your ten extra pounds will be gone at the end of the month. What could be easier? Why didn’t I think of that?
The author even presents a version of the energy balance equation to show what he’s talking about. It’s just a system, says he, and all you’ve got to do to be thin is operate the system.
If it were only that easy, no one would be overweight.
Here is the energy balance equation:
Change in weight = Calories in – Calories out
Below is another way of stating the same thing:
Change in weight = Calories from food consumed – Calories from BMR and exercise
It all sounds so easy. If your calories coming in from food are balanced by the calories you get rid of during daily living, then your weight remains constant. If you decrease your intake of calories and keep the calories going out the same, then you’ll decrease your weight.
Problem is, these two terms “calories in” and “calories out” aren’t independent of one another. If you reduce the number of calories coming in, you’ll also reduce the number of calories you burn. Your metabolic rate will drop, you will decrease your activity more, and your weight won’t change as much as you would expect. If you ratchet up your exercise, then you’ll compensate by unconsciously increasing the food you eat by a bit. The fact that these two components of the energy balance equation aren’t independent is what makes losing weight by counting calories so difficult.
In my opinion, it’s much easier to lose excess body fat by following a diet that both restricts calories without your having to think about it and that does it in a way that doesn’t really cause you to drop your metabolic rate. Plus, a good diet followed correctly actually gives you a little boost in that it provides a small metabolic advantage. In other words, you lose a few extra calories (maybe up to 200-300 per day) without having to do anything to lose them other than following the diet.
Take a look at this post on Is a calorie always a calorie? I wrote a couple of years ago to see what I mean.
But beware. This post comes with a caveat. If you are in the least bit psychologically unhinged, you might not want to read the post. It was this very post that pushed Anthony Colpo over the edge. It inspired him to launch a jihad against me and against anyone else who might possibly believe that a slight metabolic advantage exists. He wrote an entire book that he made available free to anyone who wanted it showing how Gary Taubes, Richard Feinman, and MD and I were idiots. Of course, my redneck genes, such as they are, compelled me to answer. For those of you who weren’t readers in those days, the end result of the whole affair was that after receiving a number of pretty severe canings on this blog, our friend Anthony just sort of drifted away, never to be heard from again.
All this aside, read the post and come to your own conclusions as to what the best diet is for simple, quick weight loss and act accordingly should one of your New Year’s resolutions be to lose weight.
Best of luck with all your resolutions. I look forward to continuing our journey together in 2010.