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13 Weeks Extra: In Which We Do Arithmetic

Is it true that "calories are calories"? My experiment suggests not.

by
Charlie Martin

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November 21, 2012 - 7:00 am
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I’m doing a low carb Gary-Taubes-like diet and adding high intensity training for 13 weeks to see how it works. This 13 Weeks series is my diary of the experiment; you can also follow me day to day at my Facebook page.

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not Sunday, But I noticed something so interesting I decided to do an extra post; I’m still planning to talk about high intensity training this Sunday. I’ve been doing a food diary at LoseIt!, and tracking my weight in a spreadsheet and at Physics Diet. So I’ve got a pretty solid diary of what I’m eating and its nutritional contents. Now, Physics Diet is pretty solidly devoted to the traditional thermodynamic “a calorie is a calorie” model of weight loss. When you enter your weights, it computes some interesting statistics and charts them; it also computes how many calories you have been under (or over) your needs based on the rate of change in your weight. So, without further adieu, here are some charts.

First, a chart from Excel showing my weight and fasting blood sugar, both taken immediately after awakening every day. (Click to enlarge the charts.)

Weight and Glucose including linear best-fit trend lines

Notice that both trend lines are going down quite nicely.

Now, here are my charts from Physics Diet. First, here’s a chart for the whole time since I started watching carbs on 19 October.

Now comes the arithmetic. Nominally, a pound of weight is 3500 kcal; you have to cut out 3500 kcal to lose a pound, and if you eat 3500 kcal too much, you gain a pound. As of today, I weighed 278.6; I’ve lost roughly 23 lbs since 19 October, when I weighed 301.5. That means by the “calories are calories” model, I had to have cut 80,500 kcal over that month and a day, or about 15,000 kcal a week — 2515 kcal a day — under my metabolic needs in order to get an average weight loss of 4.25 pounds per week. Honestly, that seemed unlikely.

But then if we look at the chart for just the time I’ve been really running the experiment, it gets even more interesting.

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