Why the Caloric Conundrum Matters

“3,500 calories equal one pound of fat” has been an accepted principle for some time now, but its fans are abandoning the team. We saw how Dr. Zoe Harcombe called for the obesity specialists to get together and admit that the formula does not hold up at all times and in all places.

Shannon Ashley published a piece with a rude title on Medium.com, but the subtitle conveys more purpose. She wants the world to know that “Morbid obesity is bigger than gluttony or laziness,” and makes the argument. First, when experts define weight loss as “the sum of eating less and moving more,” obese people get a really bad message, namely, that they are being blamed for something they can’t change.

But there seems to be more to it. Ashley writes,

I’m positive that if obesity and weight loss were a cut and dry simple science, most everyone would lose the weight and keep it off. And the experts would agree about why we get fat and exactly what we can do about it.

One thing Ashley wants the world to know, is that many morbidly obese people actually do have legitimate medical conditions — in her case, an endocrine disorder called Central Precocious Puberty, and another one called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS, she says, has been scientifically proven to cause the patient’s body to actually burn fewer calories than normal people.

And then, there is lipedema, “a poorly understood condition where your calves and thighs (and eventually, upper arms) collect unusual fat deposits which do not respond to proper diet and exercise.” The author says,

When I learned a couple years ago that I have lipedema, I sank into a deep depression because suddenly, I had no hope of ever having “normal” legs. No matter how much weight I lose, I will still have legs… well, legs like tree trunks. That devastated me for a very long time…

Yes, I have tried Keto, low carb, zero carb, fasting, vegan, intermittent fasting, and LCHF in the past 4+ years, but I never get below 340 pounds.

Calories don’t just provide energy like a battery, they provide vitamins — like food — because they are food, and they are meant to be the source of the essential substance needed by every body system. Choosing to ingest calories paired with harmful substances, or no substances, rather than the chemicals the body needs is suicide. There are even theories about how the typical American diet can physically change the brain in ways that impair its ability to regulate appetite.

For many years, Sean Croxton hosted the popular fitness podcast Underground Wellness. He is a functional diagnostic nutritionist and has a degree in kinesiology. As a health advisor, he dutifully repeated to clients all the received wisdom about calories and energy exchange, but “it obviously wasn’t working.”

Being a person who “really cares whether people get results or not,” Croxton started reading up on the subject, and says,

You know, calories in, calories out, really isn’t how it works. If it really worked that way, I don’t think we would have the obesity epidemic that we have because the solution would be pretty darn simple. Eat less and move more.

He realized that when someone wants to lose weight, there is always more to it. On a deeper level, there are aspects of their lives they want to fix, that the “eat less and move more” recipe simply cannot address. People don’t really want to just lose weight. Many overweight and obese people would be just fine with their size, if their size was the only issue. Croxton says,

You want everything, right? Okay, cool, then we have to go beyond the diet and exercise component and fix some of these dysfunction that’s going on in your body. You need something that’s customized for you, that’s what most people need. Most people are following this cookie cutter deal and you know there are different solutions for different people.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How The F**k Does A Person Get To Be 400 Pounds?,” Medium.com, 02/27/19
Source: “The Dark Side of Fat Loss with Sean Croxton,” Bulletproof Radio, 08/28/11
Image by Steve Jurvetson/CC BY 2.0

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources