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Why does overfeeding work? (an alternate theory)

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    David, i appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I think there is something to feeling better with over-eating as insulin can push tryptophan into the brain which becomes serotinin.

    You also said: “When I finished my overfeeding period (at which point I was eating 5-6k calories a day), I had almost no energy for exercise, and my appetite was bigger than ever. Unfortunately, all those calories deprived me of physical energy, rather than providing it.” My question is how much sleep were you getting? Were you getting 10-12 hours of good sleep a day with a afternoon nap? I ask because many people begin over-feeding and the first thing that happens is they get tired, yet they fight through the urge and hope their normal sleep is enough to heal. Food is a precursor to sleep (even though conventional wisdom says the opposite) as they are both needed to heal the body. Also, as my bias is shifting towards sleep (not exercise) being the primary time for fat burning, I’ve begun to see the lethagy as something you should welcome (if you can sleep) and that some of the weight gain is from not being to sleep adequately after big meals. Sleep is not “rest” ; its a very active period of rebuilding. Ideally, we could overfeed and be on bed rest sleeping almost around the clock, but that is not practical for most of us so we eat 5,000 calories but use caffeine or will power to keep the adrenals pumping, stay awake, and then wonder why we are not healing. I know i’m guilty of this.
    I realize that everyone has a different health history and response to overfeeding so i am not implying this is THE only solution, I’m just saying that being tired should be viewed as a benefit to overeating. I used to get mad when i would go on vacation and after a few days of rest and eating i would get tired and just want to sleep all the time. “SLEEP!! i’m on vacation. I need to be out exploring and enjoying things.” One day i realized i simply wasn’t listening to my body.


    Hi David,

    I was sleeping, at most, 8-9 hours a night, which is actually quite a lot for me, and I wasn’t napping at all. Any more than that would have been impossible–not because I was avoiding sleep, but because my body just won’t stay asleep that long.

    In some cases, I can see the desire for sleep as a sign of healing, but I don’t think that this was the case for me. I also get tired and sleep longer when I lower my carb intake, and I don’t feel like that is health-promoting either. My feeling was that the fatigue I was experiencing was unhealthy and destructive, especially as it was accompanied by other negative symptoms such as shortness of breath and elevated blood pressure.

    Could these symptoms have reversed if I kept at it longer? Possibly, but it didn’t seem that way to me, and I needed to live my life, not just lie around eating. I’m doing much better now with a moderate food intake and a regular exercise program. Overfeeding gave me some happy feelings, but it wasn’t what I needed to recover my health.


    Thanks for the reply. I had posted an article on anabolic resistance in the articles section of this forum and it seemed to stress that too much overfeeding did cause some issues. I’ve simply tried to go back to a state where i am never hungry, but never force feeding either. Reading Food Ninja made me think of being a kid. My dad used to tell the story of me eating as i kid. I would eat until full and then just stop. Once he said i was eating ice cream, i was in the middle of a bowl and i brought the spoonful of ice cream to my mouth, looked at it, and put it down, pushing the bowl away. I’ve tried to regain that type of intuitive eating. I just eat what i want but i don’t overfeed. The recovery intake of 4,000 cal mentioned by Ancel Keys was after guys had been starved. You were taking in 5-6,000. That’s an impressive amount, but i can see where it might have been too much. Were you “forcing” yourself to eat that much or was it your normal appetite?

    I know you replied the link was broken on the anabolic resistance article so hopefully this one works.


    I think there’s a lot of merit in learning to read our bodies to determine our nutritional needs. It’s amazing that you had that degree of intuition as a child. That was not me at all. I remember taking pride in gluttony on occasion and making myself sick from overeating, though I also skipped a lot of meals (from lack of interest in food) and managed to stay skinny, although the rest of my family was overweight.

    Now I have a much better sense of what my body needs. When I overeat on meat, I know to balance it out by drinking a couple sodas. When I have too much sugary stuff and feel a little shaky, a burger can even me out. I definitely don’t believe in self-denial, but simply moderation and common sense.

    When I was eating 5-6k a day, I was actually hungrier than I am now–I was ravenous. The more I ate, the more I needed to eat. Possibly that’s because of a low protein take relative to total calories (about 10%), or maybe I was just screwing up my hormones by binging. In any case, I feel a lot more satisfied now while eating 3k a day and exercising. I was down to 2k for a while, but I’ve increased it because I was starting to plateau on strength gains.

    I’ve also been replacing more of my starches with sugar, and it seems, contrary to popular opinion, that the sugar is more satisfying and leaves me with fewer cravings. And eating a sugary diet definitely fits the intuitive eating paradigm, since my preferred diet (simply by taste) would probably be 50% soda!

    Now that I’m thinking about intuitive eating, I remember when I was in high school I worked at a family pizza restaurant. I got free meals and drinks there, which was pretty awesome as a teenager. But the interesting thing was that I hit the chicken wings, fatty salads, and meaty sandwiches (much to the owners’ chagrin) rather than the cheaper pizza. And I drank coke constantly through the shift. I don’t know if I was eating healthy, but I definitely gravitated towards the sugar and fatty stuff by preference, and less to the starches. I did eat plenty of pizza and breadsticks too, but I preferred the soda and fatty meat and cheese.


    I find it interesting you preferred fat and sugar. Being a former Paleo, i ate plenty of fat but i was very light on sugar even though i craved it. Matt helped me consider that if the body is craving something, there is a reason, but i could never get my head around the idea that sugar was healthy. I still clinged to the idea that frutose and Omega-6 overconsumption were the main problems in SAD, but my recent study of all the people eating honey to sleep better and the Hibernation Diet (thanks again Dutchie) have led me to believe that fructose plays a vital role in health (which i written about on other posts).

    I’m still debating the health benefits of table sugar and HFCS vs fruit and honey (there are small differences in the how those sugars such a sucrose bond the glucose and fructose together whereas in fruit and honey, the fructose and glucose are not bonded) , but i agree with you that eating sugar is important. A spoonful of honey does a good job of killing my sweet tooth. Seeing that you crave sweet and fat, have you tried Matt’s recipe for “half-asses” (molasses and half and half) or honey and whole milk, or honey on cheese? Just wondering if you have looked at other fat/sugar combos without drinking soda (not that i’m saying soda is bad) or if they don’t satisfy you?

    I do find it interesting that humans have limited interest in pure starch. A plain baked potato is boring, but cut it and fry it in butter and then dip in ketchup and its amazing. Essentially, you had to add fat, salt, and sugar. And i dare anyone to eat plain oatmeal.


    I also tried high-fat diets that were low-sugar, because it’s very hard to escape the anti-sugar noise in our culture, even though the research seems inconclusive. In the world of nutrition (mainstream and otherwise), our puritan sense of morality is surprisingly tenacious. Anything that tastes so good, that is so seductive and desirable, and that is enjoyed so abundantly by poor people, MUST be immoral and unhealthy.

    Yet even the anti-sugar people will find a way to sneak in the sugar, because sugar is awesome. I’ve seen a meme on facebook for a “sugar-free” cookie that includes raisins, bananas, and dates. People engage in all kinds of magical thinking about fruit, as if it’s anything but sugar with a “bit” of fiber and vitamins. The juicing movement is even more hysterical. They drinks tons of sugar water in the form of fresh juice, but condemn coca cola as a kind of poison. Their sugar water really is good for their health and energy levels, and in some cases helps reverse disease, but they dress up their sugar with nice stories (and pay ten times more) so they can still feel like they’re “better” than those miserable soda addicts.

    You’re right that sucrose and HFCS aren’t exactly the same, but the difference seems trivial to me. If anything, the unbound glucose and fructose in HFCS make it more similar to honey and fruit juices, so the health food movement should prefer it. I’ve heard some truly ridiculous claims made about HFCS, the worst of which is that it contains 5x the calories of sucrose (in a secret form of occult, indigestible starch). This claim can be immediately dismissed by even the slightest modicum of critical thinking, and anyone could test its veracity using nothing but a saucepan and a kitchen burner. I feel like most discussions of HFCS often devolve to these kind of irrational explanations, when the real objection to HFCS is emotional. However, if you’re aware of more substantive arguments against HFCS, I would be happy to discuss them.

    I used to try to eat oatmeal plain (or just with a little sugar and butter), and it would always make me feel bloated and sick. But just like you said, add tons of fat, sugar, and salt, and suddenly you have some delicious cookies.


    @David199 You’re welcome….glad that during my anxious episodes and browsing through info can be of service to anyone.:)
    Are you experiencing benefits from the honey?

    Funny….now when I think about it as a very young child I gravitated more towards sugars&fats too and was less interested in starch. I mean,I grew up with daily fresh warm croissants from my dad,we owned a bakery….I loved the ham&cheese croissants. But in general I loved milk and chocolate milk,liverwurst,when I stayed at my aunt’s Sunday breakfast was meatballs in coffeesauce,I loved everything with melted cheese and we have these pastries called ‘Tompoes” which is basically 2 wafers with a thick layer of whipped cream and vanilla pudding inbetween…I loved those,but always took the top wafer off and ate the layers of cream&pudding and left the wafers….they didnt interest me….and ofcourse icecream!

    Come to think of it….I had somewhat of a Peatish preferrence.


    Dutchie, i have bigger sleep issues and honey did not fix them as the Hibernation Diet stated it would. Still, i’m having a little honey and milk before bed each night and i do think it improves sleep, although not to the extent i would like. (and i can’t thank you enough for telling me about the Hibernation Diet as it is making me re-think “fueling” for sleep)

    I have ordered the Hibernation Diet book but its out of print and taking a long time to arrive. I did read The Honey Revolution, a more recent book by the same author (McInnes), which focuses on the benefits of sugar, but specifically touts honey. I also saw he just released (earlier this year) a book called the Honey Diet, whcih i’m sure i will also read soon. Besides this guy’s honey fetish, he reports some good data on the importance of sugar; however, he is still against refined sugar mostly because of studies that show it causes problems (elevated blood glucose, elevated triglycerides) that honey and fruit do not. He states that 1) people don’t ingest honey or fruit in the same quantities as HFCS and sucrose and this overconsumption overloads the liver with fructose and 2) at similar doses, honey does not stimulate blood sugar levels like HFCS and sucrose. He ends by saying “There is something in honey that allows the liver to metabolize fructose in the way nature intended that is not found in other refined or artificial sweeteners. We do not have all the answers at this point.” I don’t know if he made that argument convincingly to me yet, but i like honey and fruit, so i’ve been eating more of it such as honey on swiss cheese, honey in milk, honey in cornbread, homemade granola with honey and coconut oil instead of canola oil, etc . . . I do think sugar cravings exist for a reason, but i still have a bias towards “whole” foods and try to get the bulk of my sugar from honey and fruit. I will also admit that i still find Matt’s recommendations in 180 Diabeties to eat/overeat on “whole” foods to help carb metabolism to be interesting. At the time, Matt believed whole foods had nutrients that assisted metabolism. This is very much the argument that McInnes makes about honey. Matt has altered his opinions about refined foods but something about his old work still rings true.

    Since this post was originally about over-feeding, my question is whether over-feeding sugar is good, or if we need a little to help the liver, but too much fructose overloads the liver. I personally think sleep is the primary driver in raising metabolism, but i’m starting to believe that food and sleep have an even closer relationship than i had previosuly thought.


    Correction: the Honey Diet book comes out early next year.


    @David199 I’m sorry the honey isnt a fix-all for you but glad you’re seeing some positive results with it.:)
    Are you having problems with getting to sleep or staying asleep/waking up? I seem to wake up usually to pee when I had starch which usually means imbalanced blood sugar during the day….even though I myself migth not experience it. (I say ‘migth’ because I’d probably been living so long with certain stuff that it’s actually normal to me….and I get quite scared/anxious when I don’t experience certain negative things…how backwards is that?!)

    I agree with you&the author that there is no place in a regular diet for HFCS and white sugar. However I personally don’t think Maple Syrup,raw cane sugar,palm sugar,molasses etc. is bas as well. Especially molasses is a very mineral-rich source.

    As for the sugar/fructose quantity being a burden on the liver I’m not out of that yet especially when combined with (Sat.)Fats other than some coconut oil….as I experience some dubious things sometimes which can be caused by a lot of things. However I also seem to notice when I’m completely off-starch I sleep through the nigth,usually no constant waking to pee and a more sound sleep in general.


    Hey Dutchie, thanks for the reply. I can fall asleep with no problem in minutes, but I wake each night around 5am to go to the bathroom. I’m still relaxed but i can never really go back to sleep. I tried some sugar and salt under my tongue when i wake up but that didn’t seem to help. I have considered going to the fridge to have a snack but have not tried it yet. I used to wake up around 4am but the honey seems to have given me an extra hour.

    The author never addresses molasses, etc and i agree they offer benefits. Fruit and honey are the only natural foods that are sugar so i put them at the top of the sugar hierarchy, but i don’t disregard the benefits of more refined sugars.

    I find it interesting that you sleep better when you don’t have starches. Can you provide more information on that? I was Paleo (low carb to VLC) for years. I actually bought Robb Wolf’s book because he asked “Do you wake every morning at 4am to pee?” And Matt asked the same thing in Paleo Myths. hahaha. I did a consultation with Matt and he thought i needed more starch to help my sleep to help get my temperatures up. Now i’m trying sugar (honey). We’ll see. Sometimes i wonder if before bed i should have some low glycemic carb like oatmeal with a little honey and some fat and maybe some MCT oil to try and provide the longest lasting energy supply i can while i sleep.

    When i was growing up my mother was very strict about me getting enough sleep. Even into high school i had to be in bed around 9-9:30pm for a 7am wake up. I got at least 9-10 hours every night including the weekends until i was 16. I think that was a reason i was so healthy when younger. if you eat and sleep well, your health takes care of itself.

    I went to a sleep doctor and they asked me to try sleep restriction therapy. I was about 2 weeks in when i got so exhausted i got sick.


    David: I’m not trying to just be like “you’re wrong about everything!” here, and I certainly wouldn’t dispute that you’ve found something that’s working well for you personally (and could work well for others), but there are a few ideas that look quite wrong to me in your initial post:

    First, I don’t know why you expect to see similar improvements when taking thyroid hormone or stimulants as when overfeeding. For your metabolic processes to function correctly, dozens of hormones need to be on the same page.
    Stimulants just flood the body with catecholamines, inducing what essentially amounts to a prolonged fight-or-flight response during which the body is placed on high alert. This causes a temporary increase in certain metabolic processes, but that particular hormonal event in your body isn’t favorable to your BMR in the big picture sense.
    Thyroid medication is generally one specific hormone. It’s an important one in determining BMR, but if your body is already making enough of it, then taking it is pointless at best; dangerous and harmful at worst. Either way, it isn’t going to do anything for your BMR, which could still be low as it is not solely determined by the amount of T4 present in your body.
    In fact I find it odd that you expect these wildly different drugs to produce the same effect in your body. Perhaps you know something that I do not.

    Insufficient caloric intake is medically known to slow down the BMR as the body goes into starvation mode. What constitutes “insufficient calorie intake” is somewhat up for debate as it depends on the individual and about a million biochemical factors, but the most conventional of conventional scientists/doctors will tell you that this is the case at some point of calorie deprivation. It should be fairly obvious that this point exists.
    From there, we get the “overfeeding raises BMR” idea. If eating too little prompts the body to lower BMR, eating too much will prompt the body to raise it again, back up to the point where all bodily systems are functioning optimally. It’s like being a millionaire versus living paycheck to paycheck, at the cellular level.

    Also, larger people don’t have higher BMRs adjusting for size. (If they did, tall people would all be way the hell healthier than short people.) It’s proportional. This is like how if your income is just enough to support you comfortably but then you go and have five kids, you aren’t going to be able to afford the same lifestyle with that income. You will need to increase your income in order to maintain it. That increase in income does not translate to you actually having more money in your pocket.

    You’re right about foods and neurochemical response. That’s a thing. But honestly from what I understand, the neurochemical response varies based on how much your body feels it wants the food. Have you ever tried to eat dessert when you were absolutely stuffed and just gotten no satisfaction out of it whatsoever?
    It’s worth noting that food causes the pleasant neurochemical effects that you describe because it’s supposed to. It’s not a “drug effect” in some sort of weird unnatural way. And normal eating does this; overeating will not do this unless you’ve got some sort of energy imbalance, in which case it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system hardcore because your body needs to get shit done on that front that it hasn’t been able to previously.

    You’re also right about exercise triggering a feely-goody neurochemical response though, but to my knowledge it’s kind of the opposite in that it revs you up rather than relaxes you. Both are obviously good and necessary for health, but they’re not really the same.

    Others have somewhat covered this point already, but: I don’t believe Matt is advocating overfeeding on a long term basis. It’s supposed to be a very temporary solution to kick-start your metabolism following deprivation. He’s just advocating meeting your body’s energy requirements with adequate amounts of food, which if done all along will prevent any need to tinker with metabolic rate at all.
    I don’t think the metabolism can be raised anymore past a certain point. The cells can only churn out ATP so fast and there are a finite number of biochemical processes for it to go toward. (The inverse is also true: there are a number of vital functions, all requiring energy, that must be carried out if you are to stay alive.) Overfeeding in that sense is taking in more calories than your body can actually use in any way, and if the metabolic rate is already optimal, there’s just no need whatsoever to do this. It will also probably become a pretty unappealing prospect in this situation.

    Overall, I guess I disagree with your hypothesis primarily on the grounds that overfeeding and exercise have opposite chemical effects in the body. But if you wanted to say that sometimes eating more is absolutely not the solution to a person’s problem and that sometimes exercising more absolutely is the solution, I would have to completely agree.
    Would love to hear your thoughts.


    Oh, and: as to the common belief that being overweight CAUSES the usual suspect health problems… it is my understanding that it has been seen over and over that being overweight is CORRELATED with these health problems. I have never once seen any instance in the scientific literature of it actually being shown to have a definite causative effect. If you know something I don’t, I’d love to be enlightened further.


    Hi Heather,

    Thank you for the thorough and thoughtful comment. I appreciate your interest in the discussion and didn’t feel that you were just trying to prove me wrong. I find respectful disagreement stimulating.

    First of all, we probably all agree that nutrition is a complicated topic, with health outcomes determined by many competing variables, and I don’t think anyone has a perfect answer. That’s part of why I think personal experimentation is so important. In the end, every individual has to decide for him or herself what will lead to good health.

    You point out that there is no proof that being overweight leads to health problems, only correlation. That may be the case (or not–I don’t know for sure), but there is a lot of evidence of this correlation, and it exists for multiple diseases and disorders. I will speak from experience: When my BMI exceeded 30 for the first time, I noticed increasing blood pressure and shortness of breath when performing normal day-to-day tasks. Now that my BMI is falling, my blood pressure is returning to normal and my breathing is improving. Personally, I think it is risky to discard the medical consensus that obesity is unhealthy, but again, it is an individual decision.

    I felt a certain one-sidedness in your response. You are critical of my position because I can’t prove my point without a shadow of doubt, but Matt’s overfeeding theory is itself conjectural. I respect that it is one way to read the evidence, but it is far from proven.

    My point in mentioning thyroid and stimulant drugs was to provide support for my position that I did not have an abnormally low metabolism. Metabolism may be more complicated than this, but then how do you propose to measure it? Temperature is also a simplification, and temperature can be manipulated without improving health. To really measure BMR, you’d have to go to a hospital and pay for an expensive test. I remember watching a documentary about weight (The Weight of the Nation, I believe), and a woman had her BMR tested, insisting that it was low because she was eating so much less food than her thin friends. It turned out it wasn’t low at all, but that she was simply eating more than she thought. Obese people tend to underestimate how much they eat, just as people with anorexia tend to overestimate. I think we are probably even more inaccurate when we try to estimate any abnormality in our own BMR.

    It’s true that starvation or extreme dieting will lower BMR, but I don’t believe this explains our nation’s obesity epidemic. Americans eat more than we used to, and we are bigger than we used to be. We also engage in a lot less physical activity. I don’t think the obesity epidemic is a mystery, and other countries are catching up with us–and in fact Mexico just took the #1 spot recently.

    I understand your point about a tall person with a proportionately higher BMR, but my point was that, simply by gaining weight, we automatically increase our BMR. This isn’t a controversial point. If I put on 50 pounds, my body will produce more heat in order to fuel my extra mass. Muscle requires more energy, but fat requires energy too. Obese people tend to have higher BMRs than thin people, which is why they have the potential to lose weight more quickly. However, a high BMR isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    At this point, the benefits of exercise seem obvious to me, and I think I’ve made my point elsewhere in the thread, so I won’t go into all the benefits again. However, I disagree when you say that exercise doesn’t induce relaxation. I find the chemical response after a jog to be very relaxing as long as I don’t overdo it. As an example, over the last couple of days I had to give a couple of long presentations, and in the past I would get nervous beforehand. However, my morning work-out left me feeling calm and confident, and I had no nerves at all. I am only speaking from personal experience, but that’s because that’s the only area I can claim expertise.

    My theory in this thread was speculative, and I’m open to the possibility that I might be wrong. However, what I do know is that my health declined due to overfeeding, but I still felt good mentally. I am looking for a resolution to that paradox. I have other theories, but maybe I’ll present that as another thread at another time.


    David, thanks for the reply. I also appreciate respectful disagreement and I’m glad you feel the same. It’s always a little tenuous for me posting a critical viewpoint in a discussion on the internet cause of how easy it is to misconstrue when you don’t have body language and tonal cues. Anywho.

    Absolutely agree that nutrition is complicated. In many ways I believe that we’re both right. I also really appreciate the fact that you exist on these forums because your views provide a nice contrast with a lot of the ideas here and I imagine that directly leads to better, more complete information for everyone.

    I am critical of both your position and Matt’s. However, for me personally, many if not most of the things Matt says apply right now. I have been dieting nonstop pretty much since I hit puberty and have experienced almost all the symptoms he describes; when I started eating more food they got better. I used to always have to explain to the doctor that 98.6 was a fever for me because my normal body temperature was 97.0, and it only got higher when I was really sick. Now my temps have risen a full degree and sometimes more, depending on the whims of my ovaries. My blood pressure has risen, but it used to be too low (I’ve blacked out from standing up too fast) and now it’s low-normal, so I would call that an improvement. It all fits. You, on the other hand, obviously experienced negative effects from increasing your food intake and are experiencing positive effects from exercising more (right now, even moderately exercising makes me feel like I have the flu, but there are a bunch of reasons why that’s the case and I fully expect for it to change eventually). We’re naturally going to come at this from different angles because of our differing experiences. I think these opposing perspectives enable us to be especially critical of what the other is saying.

    I spend a lot of time looking at the science on this, but I’m hesitant to attribute a giant bunch of expertise on myself. However in my somewhat informed opinion, it’s absurd to make a blanket statement about obesity being unhealthy for a couple of reasons. First off, BMI, around which all the correlative data is based, is a ridiculous and unreliable metric to use for assessing health. It’s just a ratio of weight to height. Your weight is comprised of fluids, organs, muscles, and bones as well as fat. The former four are about 70-90% of and individual’s weight. There is plenty of genetic variance among individuals when it comes to all of these, particularly bone structure and muscle mass. And both, especially muscle mass, are additionally affected by quality and quantity of exercise. Bone and muscle tissues are both much denser than fat and a genetic predisposition for having more of either or both is going to make that person much naturally heavier than another person with naturally less bone/muscle.
    Also, from a statistical perspective, the “ideal weight range” is only going to be achievable by the median 50% of people. The remaining half will be distributed on either side of this range, forming a bell curve. Some of them may just be in the wrong category, but many of them will be exceptions to the rule for various reasons.
    It is often suggested that, since fat is what we hate and what people have too much of, we should swap BMI for body fat percentage. That would have a number of advantages but herein lies the danger of conflating correlation with causation: if obesity is not a causative factor in the health problems to which it correlates, there are going to exist a sizable percentage of fat people who are also perfectly healthy. If those people are then advised that they must lose weight in the interest of their health, it is almost certainly going to result unfavorably for them. When you and your metabolism are both healthy, tinkering with it is the last thing it’s a good idea to do. And believe it or not, for all of the terribly unhealthy obese people, there are plenty of perfectly healthy ones.

    I do agree with you that the correlation should not be ignored. But, as any decent scientist ought to know, correlation does not equal causation. It’s something of a mantra because it is so important to keep in mind when performing and interpreting research. I do not agree with you that the riddle of obesity is solved, and I do not think many scientists do either, although I know the opinion that it is simple is rampant in our society. (I will also point out that there is not to my knowledge any reason aside from conjecture to believe that Americans eat any more now than they always have. And I’m not sure that idea is actually testable because a scientific record of average calorie consumption from ~100 years ago would be necessary to compare to similar records from today, and I’m not sure such a record exists.)
    It’s pretty obvious at this point that the usual suspect health problems are associated with having excess body fat, but the mystery that is as yet unsolved is HOW. There is no scientific evidence that I am aware of to show that excess body fat has a causative effect, and until that can be verified it is irresponsible to suppose that it does. It is my suspicion that the etiology of this cluster of diseases, including excess body fat, is not simple and linear, nor does it manifest the same way in all people. It’s a complex and difficult issue to study.
    I have not seen the documentary you mention, although I will definitely be looking it up, but I do know that everyone (except anorectics who are a psychologically distinct minority) underestimates their caloric intake. When study participants are asked to self-report their intake, they consistently claim to eat 500-1000 fewer calories per day than scientists who closely monitor and record their intake find them to actually be consuming.
    You’re probably right that there is a subsection of the obese population that got that way by eating too much food and can un-get that way by eating less food. However, there are usually a lot of complex biochemical mechanisms that were involved in them overeating and need to be addressed to effectively reduce their intake without damaging metabolism, and the interplay of these mechanisms is not actually well-understood. This does not mean that some people cannot cut their calories without adversely affecting their metabolism, but it does mean we haven’t much way of knowing if it will.

    You say you don’t think deprivation diets and their negative effect on metabolism explains the obesity epidemic. I would agree with that statement in a broad context–it certainly does not, any more than does the equally simplistic supposition that the epidemic can be explained entirely by a hypothetical nationwide increase in caloric intake. However, I do believe that the metabolic impact of irresponsible dieting is a factor that has a strong influence in certain populations. There are almost certainly many causative factors that all work together to explain the obesity epidemic: yo-yo dieting is but one, and widespread changes in food intake is very likely another. I also think that your observation about decreasing physical activity levels is spot on and is probably a more major factor than either of the above two. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    I’m confused on your point about larger people and BMR, but it appears to me like we’re describing two different things as if they’re the same. Assuming my metabolic rate is suboptimal to begin with, if I stay the same size and it goes up, the net result is an improvement in my overall health. My cells are able to produce more ATP and my body no longer has to prioritize on its processes as a result, because it can run all of them at full steam. If, however, I gain weight and my metabolic rate increases only in proportion to that weight gain, as in, exactly enough to fuel the extra body mass I’ve accumulated and no more, then effectively it hasn’t changed at all, although on paper my caloric expenditure will be higher. These two things can both be described as “an increase in BMR,” but they’re really two separate phenomena. Does that make sense?
    As for measuring temperature to determine if BMR is or is not suboptimal, I am under the impression that the way to make it a suitably reliable metric is to consistently measure it in the morning just upon awakening so as to control for most of the other factors that can cause it to otherwise fluctuate. Over a short period of time, that measurement can reliably tell you if your body is conserving energy or not. Could you elaborate on why, under these specific conditions, you believe temperature to be unsuitable as a metric?

    I would never dispute the benefits of exercise with you. I think the vast majority of people should exercise unless they have a medical contraindication.
    I believe I misspoke at the end of my last post when I said that exercise has the certain biochemical effect of energizing an individual as opposed to relaxing them. It was an oversimplification and I should know better than to make those; it can do either or both of these things depending on the individual and the circumstances of the exercise.
    I wonder about your theory. It also seems like an oversimplification, but it’s also intriguing the way you compare the neurochemical effects of nutrient saturation with exercise. Have you done much research into the specific chemical mechanisms involved, or are you just generally speculating based on experience? (Not that there’s anything wrong with general speculation based on experience. Just curious.)

    • This reply was modified 10 years, 6 months ago by heatheriv.
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