On Sunday nights, you'll find me shoving a bunch of junk food down my esophagus to ignite an insulin induced coma.
All of my (First World) problems fade. My body can't give my brain the blood it needs to feed my anxiety. My blood, instead, is diverted towards my intestines in a feeble attempt to deal with the bolus of food crashing towards my colon.
A nutrition professor at Kansas State University named Mark Haub ate nothing but junk food for ten weeks, but for an entirely different and even more outlandish reason: to lose weight.
And he did.
Haub lost a total of 27 pounds over those 10 weeks.
His specific strategy went something like this: eat assorted Hostess and Little Debbie pre-packaged cream filled somehow stay fresh forever snack cakes every three hours. He mixed in Doritos and other junk food.
Haub was out to prove that weight gain and weight loss wasn't about eating healthy. It wasn't about how many meals you ate, or how frequently you ate. Nor was it about when you ate what.
It was about one thing. And this one thing allowed him to eat junk food and lose weight.
Sounds too good to be true. What is this one thing? SORCERY? CHEAT CODES? WIZARDRY? MANA? And can anyone use it to lose weight?
Let's find out.
You aren't special
There's a car parked in your driveway. This car is energy because all matter is energy. Oh the wonders of physics. This car’s parts can (and will) be broken down and transformed into other sorts of energy by Mother Nature and Father Time.
You're no different. You are a living breathing biological organism, but, realistically, you're just a molecular mess of energy trapped inside of a skin bag. When you die, your skin, bones, and reproductive organs will undergo a magnificent feat of cosmic recycling.
Your eyeball could very well be recycled matter from Plato’s penis. And your penis could very well be recycled cosmic matter from Plato's brain, which would make you one smart dickhead.
You need this, or else you die
It’s one thing to be energy. It’s another thing to need energy. A parked car is energy, but it doesn’t need energy until you turn the key in the ignition. The car needs a certain amount of energy to turn on and stay on.
Humans are no different. But your relationship with energy intake and energy output is probably broken because of McFitness propaganda. A lot of people think that, when they are in the gym exercising, their engine is on. Oppositely, when they aren’t in the gym exercising, their engine is off.
- Exercise, on.
- Non-exercise, off.
BzzzZzzZzzzZ. Gringo buzz. Wrong. Because according to Dr. Peter Attia, if your body stops recycling energy for just one second, you die. That's all. Just one second. Death.
So, right now, you're using and recycling energy. Unless you're dead. You’re obviously not dead. At least, I hope you aren't dead. Because then I’m dead, too. Is this a parallel universe?
You never stop exercising
Your body is always doing things you don’t consciously think about doing. But now I’m asking you to consciously think about the things that your body unconsciously does that you don’t consciously think about doing. (I’m more confused now than when I tried to read Gödel, Escher, Bach.)
- Your heart beating.
- Your brain thinking.
- Your kidneys filtering.
- Your intestines digesting.
These processes aren’t free. Your brain accounts for 20–25% of the energy you use at rest. Digesting food? Another 10–15% of your energy use. These processes not only require energy, but they’re also essential processes. Meaning: without them, you die.
You may not always be macromoving, which is to say: moving to the visible eye. But you are very much micromoving. Take a look at yourself under a microscope. You cells are partying like it’s 1999.
So even if you've been watching TV for so long that the fabric of your couch is now one with your body, you're still “on” and using energy. You're just not “on” to a high level. You're idling in the driveway.
When you enter the world of macromovement, you output more. You're taking joyrides. You're cruising the Autobahn.
I can't think of a clever headline
You always output. And output demands intake. Doesn’t matter if you’re parking in a driveway, or driving on a parkway. Something needs to support your output, otherwise you run out of energy, die, and become food for the raccoon living in the backyard.
And thus, you feast.
For millions of years, humans knew they had to eat. They probably didn’t understand much about the who, what, when, or why. But they were smart enough to listen to their gut.
Or maybe they weren’t. Maybe they thought they were BirdDddDddmMmaAan and they sat in the sun to satisfy their hunger. And then they died. Natural selection at its finest.
Cavemen were able to handle the relationship between intake and output by using wonderful internal feedback mechanisms, like hunger pangs, food cravings, and satiety loops.
But science has pushed us beyond the primitive reality. Food isn’t a magic unknown anymore. Food is a number. Food is calories.
Calories aren't fattening
Many people think calories are “fattening” or “sugar,” or so it would appear based on those hidden camera TV shows.
Guy asks, “Do you count calories?”
Person replies, “Absolutely.”
Guy asks, “What’s a calorie?”
Person replies, “Me like for you to cheese unicorn turtle.”
The same thing happens if you ask someone about gluten. Don't take my word for it. Try it out.
Calories are measurement of energy, much like a degree is a measurement of temperature. They weaseled their way into the food industry when some totally (in)sane person put food inside of a contraption known as a bomb calorimeter.
The calorimeter lit the food on fire (or something), which allowed said (in)sane person to calculate the energy content within foods. The discovery: each of the thee primary macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) always had a certain caloric value.
- Protein = 4 calories per gram.
- Carbohydrate = 4 calories per gram.
- Fat = 9 calories per gram.
(One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. If you’re in the paleo crowd, I’m sure there’s something worth mentioning here about exogenous ketones here, but I’m not going there because I don't know how to go there.)
I should mention the difference between “calories” and “Calories” to prevent trolls from coming of their troll hole and asking for the troll toll so they are able to pay their way into the boy’s soul.
The “calories” you’re familiar with are big c Calories. Technically big c Calories are kilocalories, or 1000 small c calories.
For practical purposes, you can ignore everything written in the last paragraph. And, if you’re not American, you might measure food energy in joules. But I’m going to do the American thing and pretend like the world revolves around me and not talk about joules.
Quick summary before more confusion
I'm going to bring together the ideas mentioned thus far before spewing new ones into your cerebrum.
Your body uses energy (output).
Your output is made up of both macromovement and micromovement. You can also think of output as a combination of deliberate energy use and non-deliberate energy use.
- When you go to the gym and move your body, you're deliberately deciding to use energy.
- When your intestines are tearing down the six bean burrito you just muscled down your esophagus, not so much.
But what if, like, you get up and walk to the bathroom right now? You're, like, moving and stuff and you're choosing to get up, but, like is that deliberate or, like, non-deliberate?
I, like, hate, like, everything.
On the flip side, your body requires energy (intake).
Your intake consists of the food you eat.
Life is a delicate juggle between performing actions and functions needed to sustain life, and also getting the materials needed to perform those actions and functions.
If I had the confidence of Nietzsche, I'd spend paragraph upon paragraph talking about the ouroboros and the fact that, in order to get the energy you need to sustain life, you have to expend energy. What a fooooiiiine paradox. I'd take that paradox and do nasty things to it MmmhhmMhhMmhMmhhm.
Let's talk vacuum cleaners
I own a Shark vacuum cleaner. Thing is a monster. Sucks the cat hair out the carpet fibers like its turning tricks.
This vacuum works via the same process I've been describing. There's energy intake, there's there's energy output. Just like a car. But there's one big difference: the vacuum needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet in order to get the energy it needs.
Imagine if cars were built the same way. Bitches be trippin', yo. No, seriously. Everyone would be tripping over the electrical cords. They'd be everywhere.
Fortunately, cars have a gas tank. They are able take in more energy than they immediately need and store the excess for later use.
Humans are similar. You don't have to eat 24/7. You eat a bunch of food, then go about your day. Your intake is sporadic because you're able to store energy.
Car analogy getting into car wreck
This car analogy has treated us nicely thus far, but, as you'll see, it'll eventually go to shit. I need to add a few remaining details to it, for it to serve the temporary goal at hand. The implications of these details will be more important later rather than sooner.
Your car has its immediate gas tank. Okay. Wonderful. Now pretend there's a bunch of red fuel canisters in the trunk. These red fuel canisters are hot wired into the car's main fuel line, and they abide by following automation rule: once the immediate fuel tank goes empty, begin dispensing fuel into the main line.
On the flip side, for this analogy to do its eventual job, you also have to pretend that gas stations aren't predictable from both a location and yield standpoint.
You don't know when you're going to reach the next gas station, and you don't know how much fuel the gas station will have available.
Given this, when you reach a gas station, you tend to extract as much fuel from the gas station as you possibly can. Makes sense, right? You don't want to run out of fuel. If you never know when you're going to stumble across another gas station, you better extract as much fuel as you can when you can.
So say you have a 10 gallon immediate fuel tank. You have 5 gallons of fuel remaining, but you reach a gas station that has 7 total gallons of fuel. You'd fill up your immediate tank with 5 gallons, and then put the remaining 2 gallons in the red canisters.
How about an example?
Now you have all the details necessary to push forward with an example that'll conclude this car craziness.
You have a 10 gallon gas tank in your car. It's filled with 5 gallons of fuel. You have 200 gallons of backup fuel in the red canisters in your trunk.This is your baseline. your frame of reference.
5/10 – 200/?
From here, we can ask: how many gallons of fuel are in your tank 24 hours from now? Ignore the specifics. Forget about how many trips you took. Forget about how often you fueled up. Look solely at a snapshot.
Imagine the snapshot says, over the past 24 hours, you used a total of 10 gallons of fuel and filled up with 11 total gallons of fuel. So you have now have 6 gallons of fuel in your tank and 200 gallons of fuel in backup.
6/10 – 200/?
Again, ignore the specifics. It's totally possible you drove 10 miles without filling up, meaning you dipped into your red canisters for a brief period of time. But that doesn't matter because, at the end of the day, you replenished what was used… and then some.
So, relative to the starting point, you're in an energy surplus. You have more fuel in the tank than what you started the day with.
If, perchance, the snapshot revealed you had 1 gallon of fuel in your immediate tank and 200 gallons in reserve, you'd be in an energy deficit because you have less fuel than what you started the day with.
The energy balance backbone
Instead of thinking about cars and fuel, think about human and energy. The relationship between intake-output and surplus-deficit remains the same.
If your daily energy intake exceeds your daily energy output, then, at the end of the day, you have a surplus of energy. You have more energy than you started the day with, meaning you're prone to weight gain.
If your daily energy output exceeds your daily energy intake, then, at the end of the day, you have a deficit of energy. You have less energy than you started the day with, meaning you're prone to weight loss.
Using this logic, the keys to weight loss are as follows:
- move around more
- eat less energy
This can be fleshed out further with a specific example. Assume you normally output 2000 calories per day and intake 2000 calories per day. (This is arbitrary, but it works.) At this rate, you break even.
Now consider two different scenarios.
Moving more and weight loss
Say, you move around more. This raises your daily energy output. Instead of burning 2000 calories, you burn 2500 calories. If you keep your food intake the same, you're mismatched.
You need 2500, but you only feed 2000. your body has to compensate for that fuel. Lucky for you, your body has internal energy stores (otherwise, you'd be dead), which it uses to cover the deficit. A byproduct of this: weight loss
Eating less and weight loss
Go back to the original situation. Need 2000. Feed 2000. Now say you eat less. Eating less energy lowers your daily energy intake. Instead of eating 2000 calories, you eat 1500 calories. This means you're -500.
Your body has to compensate for the fuel. Lucky for you, your body has internal energy stores (otherwise, you'd be dead), which it uses to cover the deficit. A byproduct of this: weight loss
Haub's little secret ain't so secret no mo
How was Haub able to eat shit food and lose weight? Simple. He adjusted his energy intake and made it less than his energy output. He ate shit food, but he ate less energy than what his body needed.
Sure, he could have added exercise. He could have moved more. But didn't need to, because he was able to tip the scales in his favor simply with the food factor.
Of course, this makes “energy” and energy balance the king of weight control. Doesn't matter when you eat. Quality of food doesn't matter, either. The only thing that matters is energy balance.
And with an anecdote like this, it no surprise the vast majority of people see fat loss, muscle building, and physique transformation through this Haubian energy balance lens.
But it's shit.
→ Click here to read Part 2: Why counting calories is a game for idiots that are… idiotic. Pretend this sentence is a yo mamma joke, I'm out to offend.