Taubes - Chapter 04 - Twenty Calories a Day

- POSTED ON: Jan 01, 2011

Taubes begins with the Theory that 1 lb of fat = 3500 calories.
Based on this, one only needs to overeat an average of 20 calories a day
to gain 2 lbs a year, and get from a lean 25 year old to an obese 50 year old.

20 calories is less than a bite of a hamburger,
3 potato chips, or 3 small bites of an apple.
He says that under this Theory..

"One or two bites or swallows to many (out of the hundred or two
we might take to consume a day’s worth of sustenance) and we’re doomed.

If the difference between eating not too much and eating too much
is less than a hundredth of the total amount of calories we consume,
and that in turn has to be matched with our energy expenditure,
to which we are, for the most part, completely in the dark,
how can anyone possibly eat with such accuracy?

To put it simply, the question we should be asking
is not why some of we get fat,
but how any of us avoids this fate.”

Taubes quotes a leading 1936 US authority on nutrition and metabolism,
who said

"We do not yet know why certain individuals grow fat.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we do not know
why all the individuals in this over-nourished community do not grow fat.
…..there is no stranger phenomena that the maintenance of a constant body weight
under marked variation in bodily activity and food consumption.”

Taubes surmises--perhaps we maintain our energy balance by watching the scale
or how our clothing fits,
but he points out that animals don’t do that.

He asks

“if eating in moderation means we consciously err on the side of too little food,
why don’t we all end up so lean that we appear emaciated.?
The arithmetic of calories-in/calories-out doesn’t differentiate
between losing and gaining weight;
it says only that we must match calories consumed to calories expended.”

Taubes ends the chapter with

"Surely something else is determining whether we gain fair or lose it,
not just the conscious or unconscious balancing act
of matching calories consumed and expended.”

 I’ve discussed my own experience with this in posts above,
Taubes’ brings up interesting points, and I cannot help but agree with them,
although I don’t feel at all certain that I’m going to totally agree with his end result.


Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Feb 19, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
I find his thoughts compelling but not enough to stop recording my food intake. I have problems with being honest and recording what I eat is a very easy and quick way of staying honest. I also have the ability, at present, to eat about 100 carbs without gaining. I like to indulge in a sugary treat while still maintaining. I also am finding my cal/carb range. Lower the carb higher the calorie count. It does not mean I can eat an infinite number of carbs without gaining.

On Feb 19, 2011 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Recording my food intake is absolutely essential for me, and it has become an enjoyable habit.

On Feb 20, 2011 TexArk wrote:
It is simple to keep records of the foods I eat. I do this to keep me honest and to have data for future use. Even though it is simple to enter food calories, carbs, etc. it is not that easy to know exactly how much energy is being expended. I find the technology for measuring calories burned through various exercise to be quite an inexact science. What I do know is that I am not ready to trust my body to intuitively balance the calories in/calories out equation.

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