Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 8

Cheated today: had chocolate milk for breakfast, and pasta with lunch. Went for a short walk this evening.

My right elbow still hurts. Only when I move it or stress it. I guess I need to work on my form. My plan to do strength training three times this week is out the window. My current plan is to go to the gym tomorrow but only do 1 or 2 reps of each exercise.


I was planning on talking about calories-are-calories today, but there's much better articles out there already. I can summarize what they say, but I think the reader (you) is better off going to the source. If you haven't read Good Calories, Bad Calories, then go do so. Page through Sandy Szwarc's blog (the posts on the Obesity Paradox, especially).

Calories are, of course, calories. A is A. When I say "calories are calories" I'm referring to the argument that usually includes the word "thermodynamics" and the claim that the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories or to burn more calories, and that it doesn't matter where you get your calories -- switching from carbs to fat supposedly won't help anyone lose weight if they maintain the same caloric intake.

We (the "calories aren't calories" people) don't dispute the first half. The claim is that eating different calories changes one's metabolism. Eating carbs makes one lethargic; carbs turn into blood sugar, which spikes insulin, when then stores that blood sugar in adipose tissue. Eating fat doesn't produce insulin, so one maintains a higher metabolic state. I find myself with more energy; I fidget more. My body sees these extra triglycerides in the bloodstream and tells me that it wants to burn them, and so I burn them.

What I'm doing is burning more calories -- but not through conscious effort. The "are" argument assumes that the main way to burn more calories is to exercise more; that's the point that I addressed yesterday. Exercising burns a tiny amount of energy. Really the only way to weight loss in the mainstream ("are") point of view is to restrict calories. But starvation diets just produce starvation. The subjects in Keys' starvation study looked like they were starving; emaciated.

I remember reading a good article about Keys' starvation study and I went looking for it but couldn't find it. :\ So here's a good article on Junkfood Science about "calories in = calories out". That matches what Taubes says in his book: that exercise is fundamentally useless for weight loss. One can gain or lose up to 20 pounds by consistent, constant effort, but any more than that becomes nearly impossible as the body tries to regulate to a set point.

My "set point" used to be 280 pounds. For a while, I got my weight down under 210 pounds. I'm not sure to what extent my changes in set point match changes in my Synthroid dose, since the two periods in my life when I lost the most weight match the two times my dosage was significantly increased. Both also matches times that I changed my diet and exercised more. Did my exercise match a changed metabolism that the Synthroid brought on? To what extent did a changed diet affect my weight?

The experiment that this blog covers is just changing diet. Obviously, I doubt that walking will change my weight much. At 4 hours of walking per week, I'm burning an extra 1200 calories. That'll be 18 pounds by the end of the year, assuming my diet doesn't change any. Eating an extra 170 calories a day will completely negate that walking.

I guess, ultimately, what matters is where I am a year from now. Doesn't matter if I think it will work or not, or how much I discuss it.

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