Dieting Part 1 - The confusion and why it's NOT always about CICO

So you have all these influencers pushing different diets, and each one has at least a couple of studies to back up their claims.

You look at those ripped, shredded, buffed dudes or those bikini models looking so amazing, you're thinking, well if they look like that, and they say THIS is the way, this must be it, right? Wrong.

They are not you and you are not them. When they are educating you about their regimen or whatever it is they're trying to sell, they have no right to tell you that their way is the correct way and that you should just forget everything else. You don't have their body. For all you know, they're not even following their own advice either. 

And let's not forget, it's their JOB to look the way they do. They have all the time in the world to train and eat. You don't! You have a 9 to 5 desk job, kids to raise, and maybe even a health condition or 2. Not everyone has the time to eat 6 times a day and train for 3-4 hours daily. 

Nutrition and fitness information these days is pure chaos. There are studies contradicting each other, some of them being just experiments on rats (hint: WE ARE NOT RATS!), others being gender-specific (Women: Are we a joke to you?), or done only on healthy 20 year old athletes. Even if there are aspects of nutrition to be agreed upon and are proven by science, that still doesn't mean it will work for YOUR body.

Then you have these YouTube and Instagram influencers cherry-picking these studies to suit their agenda. And then you have yourself, making up your mind on a specific diet which you search for on the Internet, filled with articles that just sugarcoat it even more (and on the Internet, you will ALWAYS find what you're looking for). 

And it doesn't matter which regimen the influencers are promoting (veganism, keto, intermittent fasting, calorie deficit, etc), on each of these videos there are always people commenting "I've done this and it worked for me".  

So... what then? Do ALL of these diets work? How can that be? Some are completely opposites of each other.

Well, one theory would be that they all lead you into a calorie deficit one way or the other. Intermittent fasting makes you eat less often, therefore less food. Going low carb, low fat, vegan, paleo, carnivore, fruitarian, pescatarian, clean eating, detox, the cookie diet, the grapefruit diet, all involve cutting out food groups, therefore, again you're eating less food. So is all this nonsense just a form of calorie deficit? 

Well, what about other aspects that lead to obesity or poor health? Like insulin resistance, diabetes, constant hunger, addictions, stress-eating, deficiencies, malnutrition and hormonal imbalances? Can all that be cured just by calorie deficit alone? Of course not! And it's really naive to think so.

In fact, even though I've been calorie counting for years, to the point I now know most foods' calories and macros by heart, sometimes I feel like a calorie deficit is a bad way to go. Because here's the thing:

  • People assume that as long as they're counting their stuff, they can just eat anything they want and have no concept nor concern of the long term consequences of a bad diet. Well guess what? Successful weight loss through calorie deficit alone does not necessarily mean you'll be able to maintain that weight for life, nor that you will have a good quality of life, nor that you will able to prevent disease.
  • Our bodies are way too smart for us, and they adapt. You eat less, your body then will eventually require less to survive (meaning your TDEE decreases). Therefore, your calorie deficit becomes maintenance at some point. So what's usually the workaround when you reach the plateau? Cut down more calories. I mean, sure, if you've been eating 6000 calories before, you can afford adjusting your deficit every few months, but if you're already eating at 1200 and you still have weight to lose, cutting more calories may not be the best idea. 
  • Based on the last point above, how little food can you consume for the rest of your life? For how long can you keep eating at 1000 calories just to maintain your desired weight? Because once you get there, you have to maintain that. And as you get older, it gets harder! For many, calorie deficit and / or restrictive dieting eventually leads to yo-yo dieting. It simply gets too hard to maintain: 
    • you're always hungry, 
    • you're missing out on foods you used to enjoy before, 
    • you're malnourished so you're feeling weak and sluggish and irritated 
    • and sometimes you find yourself in a situation where accurate counting is not possible, such as in restaurants, or when you're invited over by a friend or family, or when you're traveling. Maintenance on calorie counting and restrictive diet becomes a nuisance.
  • You obsess over numbers for nothing. Some people measure their food wrong, log their food wrong (how to fix that on a separate article / video), but even if you got it right, all you're getting is a rough estimate. The calories in that fresh apple you're eating, a rough estimate. Those rounded numbers on a packaged food label, a rough estimate. Your exercise calories, your total daily energy expenditure, your optimal weight based on BMI index, the calculation of your maintenance calories, your body fat percentage (no matter how you're getting those numbers), they're ALL a rough estimate. And this goes for macro counting too. If the label on my sardines says I'm getting 23g of protein per can, that doesn't mean that every single can of sardines from that same brand will have exactly 23g of protein.
I still count my calories and macros on occasion, but that's because I like to plan my meals ahead of time, so I just put them on a calorie counting app.

But calorie counting alone does not get me where I want to be. 

When I'm struggling with hormonal imbalances, chronic depression and anxiety, chronic inflammation, food intolerances, IBS, history of food addictions and bingeing, and a long family history of diseases that I would like to prevent, then calorie counting on its own, is NOT gonna cut it. Nor is someone else's idea of a perfect diet. So what is?

Find out on the next article.