eat less, weigh more…for 118,801 folks, at least


Half of going SANE is about eating more, smarter (the other half is exercising less, smarter).

This seems odd since we’ve all been told the more we eat the more we weigh. However, a quick stroll through the studies shows “more food = more fat” is a myth.

For example, Harvard researchers looked at a massive sample of 67,272 women and divided them into fifths according to the quantity of calories they ate. The general trend was the less ladies ate, the more they weighed.

The researchers then divided the women into fifths according to the quality of calories they ate. The lower the quality of their calories the more they weighed.

The cause of weight gain is too little quality, not too much quantity. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the studies showing yo-yo dieting—the inevitable result of trying to eat less—increasing our risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, immune system failure, eating disorders, impaired cognitive function, chronic fatigue, and depression. The results are in…studies show blindly eating less doesn’t make us thin. It makes us stocky, sick, and sad.

More surprising science.

The Harvard folks then took 51,529 men and divided them into fifths according to the quantity of calories they ate. The more folks ate the less they weighed.

Practical and permanent fat loss isn’t about cutting calories. It’s about intelligently increasing the quantity of high quality calories we eat. In the same Harvard study researchers divided the 51,529 guys into fifths according to the quality of calories they ate. The higher the quality of their calories the less they weighed.

The calorie quantity theory is fiction and fails because cutting calorie quantity fights against our basic biology. Our bodies don’t like starving. Crazy…I know. Studies show the only way to drop fat forever is to work with our bodies rather than to fight them. We do that by eating more–higher quality–calories. We eat more, smarter. And that works because a calorie isn’t a calorie…but more on that later.

Sampling of sources

  1. Blackburn GL, Wilson GT, Kanders BS, Stein LJ, Lavin PT, Adler J, Brownell KD. Weight cycling: the experience of human dieters. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 May;49(5 Suppl):1105-9. PubMed PMID: 2718940.
  2. Blair SN, Shaten J, Brownell K, Collins G, Lissner L. Body weight change, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Ann Intern Med. 1993 Oct 1;119(7 Pt 2):749-57. PubMed PMID: 8363210.
  3. Bray GA. Obesity–a state of reduced sympathetic activity and normal or high adrenal activity (the autonomic and adrenal hypothesis revisited). Int J Obes. 1990;14 Suppl 3:77-91; discussion 91-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 2086518.
  4. Brownell KD, Rodin J. Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling. Arch Intern Med. 1994 Jun 27;154(12):1325-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 8002684.
  5. Green MW, Rogers PJ. Impaired cognitive functioning during spontaneous dieting. Psychol Med. 1995 Sep;25(5):1003-10. PubMed PMID: 8587997.
  6. Greene P, Willett W, et al. Pilot 12-week feeding weight loss comparison: low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets [abstract]. Obes Res. 2003;11:A23.
  7. Hamm P, Shekelle RB, Stamler J. Large fluctuations in body weight during young adulthood and twenty-five-year risk of coronary death in men. Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Feb;129(2):312-8. PubMed PMID: 2912043.
  8. Higgins M, D’Agostino R, Kannel W, Cobb J, Pinsky J. Benefits and adverse effects of weight loss. Observations from the Framingham Study. Ann Intern Med. 1993 Oct 1;119(7 Pt 2):758-63. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med 1993 Nov 15;119(10):1055. PubMed PMID: 8363211.
  9. Hill AJ. Does dieting make you fat? Br J Nutr. 2004 Aug;92 Suppl 1:S15-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 15384316.
  10. Jeffery R. Prevention of Obesity. In: Bray GA, Couchard d, James WP, eds. Handbook of Obesity. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1997: 819-829.
  11. Keen H, Thomas BJ, Jarrett RJ, Fuller JH. Nutrient intake, adiposity, and diabetes. Br Med J. 1979 Mar 10;1(6164):655-8. PubMed PMID: 435710; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1598272.
  12. Levine JA, Eberhardt NL, Jensen MD. Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science. 1999 Jan 8;283(5399):212-4. PubMed PMID: 9880251.
  13. Lissner L, Odell PM, D’Agostino RB, Stokes J 3rd, Kreger BE, Belanger AJ,Brownell KD. Variability of body weight and health outcomes in the Framingham population. N Engl J Med. 1991 Jun 27;324(26):1839-44. PubMed PMID: 2041550.
  14. Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007 Apr;62(3):220-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 17469900.
  15. McCullough ML, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Ascherio A, Variyam JN, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and risk of major chronic disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5):1223-31. PubMed PMID: 11063453.
  16. McCullough ML, Feskanich D, Stampfer MJ, Rosner BA, Hu FB, Hunter DJ, Variyam JN, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and risk of major chronic disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5):1214-22. PubMed PMID: 11063452.
  17. Phinney SD. Weight cycling and cardiovascular risk in obese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Oct;56(4):781-2. PubMed PMID: 1414977.
  18. Rolland-Cachera MF, Bellisle F. No correlation between adiposity and food intake: why are working class children fatter? Am J Clin Nutr. 1986 Dec;44(6):779-87. PubMed PMID: 3788830.
  19. Samaha FF, Iqbal N, Seshadri P, Chicano KL, Daily DA, McGrory J, Williams T, Williams M, Gracely EJ, Stern L. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2074-81. PubMed PMID: 12761364.
  20. Sondike, S., et al. “The Ketogenic Diet Increases Weight Loss But Not Cardiovascular Risk: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Adolescent Health 26: 91, 2000
  21. Volek J, Sharman M, Gómez A, Judelson D, Rubin M, Watson G, Sokmen B, Silvestre R, French D, Kraemer W. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Nov 8;1(1):13. PubMed PMID:15533250; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC538279.
  22. Weigle DS. Human obesity. Exploding the myths. West J Med. 1990 Oct;153(4):421-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 2244378; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1002573.
  23. Wooley SC, Wooley OW, Dyrenforth S. The case against radical interventions. Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Feb;33(2 Suppl):465-71. PubMed PMID: 7355820.