Author Topic: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?  (Read 2271 times)

Offline chipset

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Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« on: May 25, 2009, 02:36:53 PM »
An extreme case:

A man eating 1500 calories of chips, whipped cream and icecream.
A man eating 2500 calories of lean meat, vegetables, etc.

Will first man lose weight? Will second man lose weight? Who will lose it faster? All other conditions equal.
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift"
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Offline Chris Salvato

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2009, 02:53:09 PM »
this question is beyond incomplete -- and even with all the necessary information its hard to predict.

To give you an answer SOMEWHERE near what you want:
When it comes to the end of the day - its all about calories in and calories out.  However, quality foods make this much easier to actually abide by.  1500 calories on garbage results in a very low quantity of food.  For that reason (as well as several others) the "man" will not really be satisfied and thus the diet is unsustainable. 

Quality foods generally have more fiber and water contained within them and thus provide a lot of psychological satiety since you perceive the consumption of more calories than you actually consumed.  Also, whole foods are not as readily absorbed so even some of the macronutrients contained within can be, effectively, digestive fiber.  This means you are actually absorbing less material that can be burned (absorbing less calories, to use the terms very loosely) but think you are absorbing more - thus you are more satisfied.

In short, I think this question is kind of silly.  Are you looking for an excuse to live off ice cream, whipped cream and chips?

Offline chipset

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2009, 03:16:10 PM »
I started counting calories recently and found it pretty easy to keep under basal metabolic rate. I've lost a lot of weight just in three weeks. I mostly eat salads and lean meat with wheat bread. Yet I do drink tea with sugar and it amounts to around 100 calories a day. I also eat ice cream several times a week.

The question I guess is: does the mere fact of eating unhealthy foods, even in little quantities, makes you magically gain fat out of nowhere? My fear of that goes out of stuff like Atkins diets and general "NO SWEETS" and "carbohydrates = bad" bans.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2009, 03:18:41 PM by chipset »
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift"
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Offline Charles Moreland

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #3 on: May 25, 2009, 03:31:54 PM »
Some foods will have a larger inflammatory response, sure. But as Chris mentioned, unhealthy foods are rather difficult to moderate and the calories with certain foods (cookies, ice cream, potato chips, breads, etc) can rack up really quick.

Calories In vs Calories Out

You won't "magically" gain fat out of nowhere if you do what you say you do and are also physically active.

Offline Chris Salvato

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2009, 03:34:29 PM »
The question I guess is: does the mere fact of eating unhealthy foods, even in little quantities, makes you magically gain fat out of nowhere? My fear of that goes out of stuff like Atkins diets and general "NO SWEETS" and "carbohydrates = bad" bans.

Like charlie said - there is nothing"magical" about sugary foods that makes you fat.

The issue here is that most americans grossly over consume carbs since it is heavily encouraged by the FDA and our culture.  When you step away and stop going absolutely crazy on carbs then the weight seeminlgy melts off.  Consistently staying below your caloric needs will result in weight loss even if you only eat junk...

Offline edgey

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2009, 06:15:40 PM »
Ok I have a question about this Chris, I've got a brother age 13, ht: 5'7ish, wt:120-125  and he keeps telling me he wants to have a six pack abs , but I can't really help him on that except with the workouts because my entire diet is about gaining and sustaining weight. He eats rather healthily, but the thing is he hardly ever eats. He says that if he burns more calories than he eats then he will get a six pack, but the problem is, he's starting to scare me a little bit like he's keeping his calories down to 1700 and working out alot and I'm wondering if that is healthy for a kid his age to do that?

Offline chipset

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2009, 06:18:36 PM »
Ok I have a question about this Chris, I've got a brother age 13, ht: 5'7ish, wt:120-125  and he keeps telling me he wants to have a six pack abs , but I can't really help him on that except with the workouts because my entire diet is about gaining and sustaining weight. He eats rather healthily, but the thing is he hardly ever eats. He says that if he burns more calories than he eats then he will get a six pack, but the problem is, he's starting to scare me a little bit like he's keeping his calories down to 1700 and working out alot and I'm wondering if that is healthy for a kid his age to do that?

Hmm, I'm eating exactly around 1700 calories now and I'm 6'3''/210 :)
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift"
- The Prefontaine

Offline edgey

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2009, 06:25:11 PM »
Ok I have a question about this Chris, I've got a brother age 13, ht: 5'7ish, wt:120-125  and he keeps telling me he wants to have a six pack abs , but I can't really help him on that except with the workouts because my entire diet is about gaining and sustaining weight. He eats rather healthily, but the thing is he hardly ever eats. He says that if he burns more calories than he eats then he will get a six pack, but the problem is, he's starting to scare me a little bit like he's keeping his calories down to 1700 and working out alot and I'm wondering if that is healthy for a kid his age to do that?

Hmm, I'm eating exactly around 1700 calories now and I'm 6'3''/210 :)

Yah.. but he's 13

Offline Steve Low

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Offline edgey

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2009, 06:34:07 PM »
Thanks Steve all be sure to make him read that

Offline Chris Salvato

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 04:16:42 AM »
Ok I have a question about this Chris, I've got a brother age 13, ht: 5'7ish, wt:120-125  and he keeps telling me he wants to have a six pack abs , but I can't really help him on that except with the workouts because my entire diet is about gaining and sustaining weight. He eats rather healthily, but the thing is he hardly ever eats. He says that if he burns more calories than he eats then he will get a six pack, but the problem is, he's starting to scare me a little bit like he's keeping his calories down to 1700 and working out alot and I'm wondering if that is healthy for a kid his age to do that?

You're brother is underweight and needs to put on weight.  Tell him to eat more, imho.

Offline tombb

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2009, 09:13:53 AM »
I second Chris' comment, you really want to be careful about low calorie diets at 13 (directed to your brother) because you really don't want to risk interfering with puberty and risking stunting your growth or interfering with your development in other important areas.

Also while it's been already mostly covered, I'll also say that there is nothing special about candy etc in terms of calories, although it's much easier to eat in moderation and maintain a balanced diet with healthy food than with junk food, especially if you are not paying much attention to what you eat and just rely on your appetite to control what you eat. If you eat healthy food you can actually mostly rely on that, that's how people that are in shape or skinny usually stay that way (it's a remarkably good feedback system when it works, people's weight can stay the same for even 10 or 20 years at a time which would require you to control your calories exactly and not go over even by a single calorie otherwise). But with junk food it can easily get less dependable.

Still, total calories are a good solid indication of how much you are putting in, so for example if you wanted to lose weight and had to choose between 400 calories of candy or 4000 calories of more 'healthy' food in a 10 hour period, you should still go with the candy basically (that's what portion control is).


One extra detail on top of things like fiber and lower absorption that Chris already mentioned is the extra amount of energy required to digest certain foods. If you drink sugar and water for example it takes almost no energy to absorb all of its calories, while if you eat a complex meal of proteins, fats, complex carbs and fibers it actually takes a lot more energy to digest it and absorb it, so effectively you sort of burn off another 10% or more of those calories just to digest that food.

A lot of other factors also can make a difference, for example proteins, vitamins etc can improve your hormonal balance and both affect appetite as Chris mentioned and also use some of those calories toward muscle growth instead of fat consumption.
Even how you distribute those calories throughout the day matter in terms of either feeling more energy through the day or alternating spikes and valleys and using those calories toward energy storage instead of immediate use or growth.

After everything else is factored in however, and you normalize calories for absorption and thermogenic factors, you can definitely rely on calorie as a good measure in comparing the impact of different foods.
But again that's assuming that you really control completely what goes in, and won't find it difficult to know when to stop, and candy are more likely to make you feel like eating more, not fill you up for as long, etc. It's like most other things in life, ok in moderation or as an occasional treat, but maybe easier for some people to go overboard with.

Offline KC Parsons

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Re: Is weight loss about quantity or quality?
« Reply #12 on: May 30, 2009, 09:03:23 AM »
I second Chris' comment, you really want to be careful about low calorie diets at 13 (directed to your brother) because you really don't want to risk interfering with puberty and risking stunting your growth or interfering with your development in other important areas.

Also while it's been already mostly covered, I'll also say that there is nothing special about candy etc in terms of calories, although it's much easier to eat in moderation and maintain a balanced diet with healthy food than with junk food, especially if you are not paying much attention to what you eat and just rely on your appetite to control what you eat. If you eat healthy food you can actually mostly rely on that, that's how people that are in shape or skinny usually stay that way (it's a remarkably good feedback system when it works, people's weight can stay the same for even 10 or 20 years at a time which would require you to control your calories exactly and not go over even by a single calorie otherwise). But with junk food it can easily get less dependable.

Still, total calories are a good solid indication of how much you are putting in, so for example if you wanted to lose weight and had to choose between 400 calories of candy or 4000 calories of more 'healthy' food in a 10 hour period, you should still go with the candy basically (that's what portion control is).


One extra detail on top of things like fiber and lower absorption that Chris already mentioned is the extra amount of energy required to digest certain foods. If you drink sugar and water for example it takes almost no energy to absorb all of its calories, while if you eat a complex meal of proteins, fats, complex carbs and fibers it actually takes a lot more energy to digest it and absorb it, so effectively you sort of burn off another 10% or more of those calories just to digest that food.

A lot of other factors also can make a difference, for example proteins, vitamins etc can improve your hormonal balance and both affect appetite as Chris mentioned and also use some of those calories toward muscle growth instead of fat consumption.
Even how you distribute those calories throughout the day matter in terms of either feeling more energy through the day or alternating spikes and valleys and using those calories toward energy storage instead of immediate use or growth.

After everything else is factored in however, and you normalize calories for absorption and thermogenic factors, you can definitely rely on calorie as a good measure in comparing the impact of different foods.
But again that's assuming that you really control completely what goes in, and won't find it difficult to know when to stop, and candy are more likely to make you feel like eating more, not fill you up for as long, etc. It's like most other things in life, ok in moderation or as an occasional treat, but maybe easier for some people to go overboard with.
That last sentence is definitely true. Allowing myself the 'occasional treat' can sometimes lead me into eating shitty altogether again. However, I'm sure others would have no problem allowing themselves a little bit and going right back to eating good foods on a normal basis. Everyone's different, of course, but avoiding those things in general are 99% of the time going to be a better strategy.

I also want to mention the idea of food sources in relation to health and performance, not just body composition.

Someone can grossly under-eat at 700 calories a day because he or she only had a cookie or two the entire day, and do this for a little while (of course not too long, the desire for more food would eventually overpower).
Meanwhile, his or her theoretical twin is eating over their caloric baseline, at, let's say, 2400 calories, but everything he or she eats is from an amazing food source, and has a very good, balanced diet.
In terms of body composition, it's possible the twin (example #2) may put on some weight, or have slight undesirable changes in body comp (HIGHLY unlikely, but for this discussion's sake, let's say that happened).
Meanwhile, example #1 is losing weight and looking skinnier.

Aside from the obvious unsustainability of example 1's diet, this type of eating would be terrible in terms of health and performance.
For the first day or two (still talking about example 1), especially if the eating is only at one point in the day, perhaps in the evening time, it's possible that this person would feel pretty energetic with that high of an amount of fasting going on.
But that wouldn't last long. Soon, I could imagine, this person would be tired, irritated, and grumpy in general, with energy levels pretty damn low. As far as health's sake, if we were able to project this eating pattern over a longer period of time (of course completely unrealistic, but for this discussion's sake bear with me), this person would be in terrible health.

Back to example 2, the opposite would happen.
We could assume that in general, he or she would have a good amount of energy, health would be in great order, and athletic performance be at a higher level.







Sorry if all of that was hard to follow/confusing, but the idea I'm trying to get across is it's not all about body composition, either. Health, perceived energy levels, and performance are also all reasons to maintain a high quality diet, as opposed to eating from mediocre sources, but worrying about calories and strictly counting every food you consume.
I hope this came out at least a little bit clear :X
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 09:05:57 AM by QMKC Parsons »