How Do We Gain Weight? – Calories Part I

This is the single most important question in obesity. It is impossible to adequately treat any disease without having some understanding of the cause (the aetiology). For instance, if you understand the cause of infections to be bacteria, then you can target bacteria in its treatment. This leads to hand-washing as opposed to, say, leeching. So, how do we gain weight – or more scientifically- what is the aetiology of obesity? That is the question we should be asking.

However, very little time is spent considering this all-important question because we feel that we already know the answer. It is a matter of calories in versus calories out, we say. Eating too much and exercising too little causes obesity, we say. We hold these truths to be so self-evident that we do not even for a minute question their veracity (whether it is true).

We also consider that the reason we eat too much or move too little is because of personal choice. That is, we choose what we put in our mouths and therefore are responsible for what we eat. We could have eaten broccoli instead of that bag of chips. We could have run for an hour instead of watch TV.

Expert Opinion

In other words, obesity is a personal failing – that the cause of obesity lies in the individual. Eating too much (gluttony) or moving too little (sloth) are individual failings – in fact, 2 of the 7 deadly sins. If we ask the ‘experts’, they agree that the key to weight loss is eating less and moving more.

Holy consensus, Batman. With so many ‘experts’ from Michelle Obama to the USDA to virtually all of the medical professionals (including doctors and dieticians) agreeing that ‘Eat Less, Move More’ is the way to go, you might think that it is 100% unquestionably true. But here’s a queer thought… if we all agree that we know the cure for obesity, and we’ve spent billions on educations and programs – why are we getting fatter? In other words, why does this ‘cure’ suck so bad?

Let’s back up. If the cause of obesity is eating too much and exercising too little, we can think about obesity in this way:

Conventional Theory of Obesity

I call this the Caloric Reduction as Primary (CRaP) hypothesis. This means that the primary (but not the only) factor in obesity is calories and reducing calories is the mainstay of treatment. Furthermore, the reason behind eating too much is not hormonal, not hunger, but personal choice. It can also be called the “Calories in, Calories out” model (CICO), and is often depicted as a scale. Calories not used in exercise will be deposited as fat.

It is the imbalance of calories that lead over time to the accumulation of fat. It is often called the ‘First Law of Thermodynamics‘ – energy can neither be created or destroyed in an isolated system. This make things sound very science-y and evokes thought of Einstein but thermodynamics has approximately zero to do with human biology. The human body is not an isolated system. Energy comes in and goes out all the time. It is an open system so therefore thermodynamics does not apply in any manner.

Neither the Second nor Third Law of Thermodynamics applies to human beings or other living creatures either, so why should the First Law apply? The answer is that it does not, and people only use the First Law of Thermodynamics in discussion to make themselves feel smart. They also use it to make it seem that their theory of obesity has scientific credibility.

I mean, I don’t apply Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to my breakfast cereal do I? So why should the First Law of Thermodynamics apply to obesity? It doesn’t. But the mere application of this “Law” gives the Calories In, Calories Out folk a sheen of respectability that is not deserved.

What people are trying to say is that if fat mass is stable, then the calories taken in must be balanced by the calories utilized by the body. How the body uses these calories of energy is presumed to be mostly by exercise. However, this is not true since the body can choose how to expend the energy ingested. Let’s look at an example.

If we consume 2000 calories of energy, those 2000 calories can have very different metabolic fates. Are those calories burned as heat (Resting Energy Expenditure), used in production of new protein/ bone/ lean muscle, used in exercise/ physical exertion, or deposited as fat? We don’t mind if energy is burned as heat, but we DO mind if it is deposited as fat.

Furthermore, the “Calories Out” is not so stable as we seem to think. It can go up to 3000 calories/day in some people and down to 1200 calories/day in others. It can also change depending on what we eat. So we can see that one simple “Calories Out” pile is not really so simple.

According to this view of obesity we can think of fat storage this way:

Fat Storage = Calories in – Calories out

When you think about it in this way, it seems that Fat Storage is determined by Calories. If we assume that “Calories out” is fixed and never changes , then it means that “We are getting fat because we are eating too much”. Now the assumption that ‘Calories Out’ is fixed is false, but let’s simplify for the moment.

But we can re-arrange the equation in this way:

Calories in = Fat Storage + Calories out

If we assume again that “Calories Out” is fixed and never changes (false), then the implication here is that “Calories in” depends on Fat Storage. The means that the amount we eat is determined by whether or not we are in “Fat Storage” mode. This now sets us up to ask the correct question – What is causing us to be in Fat Storage mode? In other words “We are eating too much because we are getting fat”. That begs the proper question “Why are we getting fat?” or “What is the aetiology of obesity?” – the central question of this blog and the root cause of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and most of the so called diseases of civilization.

Both equations are equally true and do not violate the “First Law of Thermodynamics”, but the implication is entirely different. Which of these interpretations is true?

Continue to Calories Part II here

Click here to watch the entire lecture: The Aetiology of Obesity 1/6 – A New Hope


60 Responses

  1. […] Begin here with Calories I […]

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  19. […] Begin here with Calories I […]

  20. […] Start here with Calories Part I – How do We Gain Weight? […]

  21. […] Start here with Calories Part I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  22. […] Start here with Calories Part I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  23. […] Start here with Calories Part I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  24. […] Start here with Calories 1 – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  25. […] it here – starting with post 1.  You may also review our 11 part series entitled “Calories” to review why calories do not actually cause weight gain.  The four part Exercise series […]

  26. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  27. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  28. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  29. […] Start with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  30. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  31. How do i lose weight, at 54, high blood pressure. I was walking in the summer and eating vegetables and protein, and was feeling and looking better, now I am not walking and have put on weight, because too, I have been eating more carbs?

  32. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  33. You’ve got to be kidding me-it’s so trsrapanently clear now!

  34. […] Start here with Calories I – How Do We Gain Weight? […]

  35. […] Start here with Calories I […]

  36. I have done fasting for some years. I dis every other day for two years and switched to 6 hour eating window with 18 hours fast 6 days week and then 42 hour fast.

    I am not aware of specific evidence that eod or 18 hour or 1 day a week is a good, better or best.

    the 6 hour eating and 18 hour fast is no problem and as I eat keto (Two sticks of butter) hunger is not an issue. Blood glucose is well controlled in the 78 to 84 mg/DL range

    I eat 5 to 6 whole egg equivelent for lunch and dinner on days I eat. Testing my Blood sugar is how I came to this protein level for me.

    I aim to eat no more than the 6, 12,12 grams per Dr. Richard K Bernstein. Usually this is from the .6 grams per whole egg and 5 to 8 ounces of green vegetables (White cauliflower included)

    I have not read or heard of anyone not being able to get and maintain weight and health with 30 or leass grams of carbs, (moderated protein), and about 80 percent of calories from healthy animal fats like butter, egg yolks, etcetera.

  37. […] Calories – How Do We Gain Weight? How Caloric Reduction Wrecks your Metabolism A Closer Look at Cortisol, oder, mein Lieblingsartikel: The Tyranny of Breakfast, […]

  38. […] and unknown facts and conclusions, watching Dr Fung’s videos and reading his blog series on calories, hormonal obesity and fasting have turned out to be life changing for […]

  39. […] what happens with this CRaP strategy? A detailed review can be found in the Calories series earlier. Essentially, the body tends to maintain a body set weight (BSW).  The body is […]

  40. […] We had erroneously believed that excessive calories is what leads to obesity. (You can review the Calories series to learn more about why this is wrong). Within this paradigm, reducing ‘calories in’ […]

  41. Your point that the body can adjust it’s consumption is well made, but that doesn’t mean that the 1st Law doesn’t apply. If you ingest a molecule containing energy, you either use the energy, store it, or eliminate it. It doesn’t just wander into hyperspace.

  42. […] פוסט זה מוגש כשרות לאנשים שלא יכולים ו/או קשה להם לקרוא באנגלית. הזכויות על התוכן שייכות לכותב של הפוסט המקורי. את הפוסט המקורי ניתן למצוא בכתובת הזאת. […]

  43. […] Here is his blog which I think the book will cover all these topics in good detail and what he is getting at. […]

  44. Adam Jones

    I’m a mechanical engineer. Saying “…thermodynamics does not apply in any manner.” is absolutely inane. Saying that because the body is an “open system” and “thermodynamics does not apply” is like saying that since a turbofan jet engine is an open system, “thermodynamics does not apply”. That is insane, untrue, and laughable. If you want to say that fat storage and fat burning is a complex physiological process, I am with you. But, saying that the body is immune to thermodynamics is simply untrue.

  45. Adam Jones

    “I mean, I don’t apply Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle to my breakfast cereal do I?”

    If you think this is a proper analogy, then I don’t really know what to say.

  46. […] Of zijn hele reeks artikelen over calorieën. […]

  47. You would think a doctor/nephrologist would at least know how to research before posting something online. I’m sure you had to at least take a basic physics course to get into med school. If you did, you would know that the first law of Thermodynamics does not only explain how isolated systems work, but also closed and open systems. Or, ya know, a simple internet search could tell you. Way to spread misinformation and turn the obesity pandemic into a victim complex. Yes, people are fat because they intake more matter through eating than they release through chemical reactions. This leads to a surplus, which leads to storage. Obviously there can be diseases or other pathologies that can effect these reactions (Hypo/Hyperthyroidism), but it really is that simple when looking at normal adults.
    Maybe you should stick with kidneys

    Dr. Jason Fung: Always so sad to see such self-assured idiocy.

  48. […] once again the futility of following the Caloric Reduction as Primary approach. You could review my 50ish part series on Hormonal Obesity if you want a more in-depth view. So, let’s dive in an explain the findings of both of Dr. […]

  49. […] once again the futility of following the Caloric Reduction as Primary approach. You could review my 50ish part series on Hormonal Obesity if you want a more in-depth […]

  50. […] once again the futility of following the Caloric Reduction as Primary approach. You could review my 50ish part series on Hormonal Obesity if you want a more in-depth […]

  51. […] not only reverse  Diabetes Type 2 but also to lose weight. Dr. Fung has an excellent series on Hormonal Obesity. I strongly recommend that you read this series as it clearly explains how your body works and thus […]

  52. […] Wer sich mehr für die Rolle des Insulins als Fettmacher interessiert, dem empfehle ich das Buch: Obesity Code von Jason Fung. Gibt es bei Amazon aus der UK importiert. Also beeilen bevor die Briten brexen:P. Wer kein Geld ausgeben möchte kann sich auch alles Jason Fungs blog durchlesen-> […]

  53. […] Obesity Code von Jason Fung. Dieses Buch kann ich absolut jedem ans Herz legen, denn es zeigt, was wikrlich dick macht und was dagegen helfen kann. Auf ein simple Art wird das ganze System von Übergewicht neudefiniert, sodass man mit dem neu gewonnen Wissen, seine Ernährung besser planen kann. Auf seiner Blogseite kann man die wichtigsten Konzepte nachlesen. […]

  54. Roger Bird

    The problem with the CRaP theory, aside from the fact that it is wrong is, well, let’s go back to what they say, and perhaps it will be obvious. “Calories in, Calories out”. Notice that there is no human being in that equation. All the human being gets is a comma. Typical geek thinking. “Remove the human being from the equation and everything will be OK.” Aside from the body’s clever reduction in calories out, real people actually get hungry. And being hungry day after day, month after month, can get pretty tiresome. But not as tiresome as morons constantly repeating “Calories in, Calories out.”

  55. I’m just starting to really get to grips with the whole ‘calories’ matter frame of mind. I spent a lot of time counting calories when I was younger, and looking back the only correlation I can see is the more I counted calories the fatter I got! Now I eat when I’m hungry and I eat a low carb high fat diet. I eat more than I ever used to, and I don’t count calories and I’ve lost all my excess fat!

  56. Sonja Stendera

    Calories count, but a LCHF diet reduces energy intake (measured as calories) naturally due to reduced hunger. If the calorie concept do not work, why do you recommend fasting, which is also a natural calorie-reduced diet??

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