I'm reading a great book, "10% Human: How Your Body's Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness" by Alanna Collen. Anybody read it?
I bought it ages ago and finally remembered it. It has those real world examples and medical mystery stories that make the science exciting to read. There is a significant connection between gut microbes and mental health, which is fascinating. Specifically, they talk about personality changes, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and autism in connection with changes to gut bacteria. Then there's the weight factor.
There's a big difference between the gut microbes found between lean and obese individuals. I'd learned that in other books but this one had interesting thoughts and examples. It talks about the futility of standard calories in / calories out math. Your particular community of microbes plays a big role in determining how many calories you absorb from what you eat. It's not as simple as what it says on a nutrition label. Two people eating the same portion of the same food will absorb a different amount of energy from it. It's also what your body chooses to do with that energy, whether it burns it off immediately or stores it away.
Talking about the 3,500 calories = 1 pound theory:
"Even in some of the earliest studies of weight gain, the numbers didn't add up. In one experiment, researchers fed twelve pairs of identical twin men an excess of 1,000 calories per day, six days a week for 100 days. In total, each man ate 84,000 calories more than their bodies needed. According to theory, this should have led to to a weight gain of 24 lb in every man. In reality, it was not that straightforward. For starters, even the average amount the men gained was far less than math dictates that it should have been, at 18 lb. But the individual gains betray the real failings of applying a mathematical rule to weight gain or loss. The man who gained the least manged only 9 lb - just over a third of the predicted amount. And the twin who gained the most put on 29 lb - even more than expected. These values aren't '24 lb more or less,' they are so far wide of the mark that using it even as a guide is purposeless."
That sums up my experience with calorie counting - purposeless. LOL I was always many pounds and a bucket of sanity away from what my calculations suggested should have been happening. I know others have better luck.
The fact that nearly all the men gained less than predicted suggests that the body resists sudden weight gain the same way it resists sudden weight loss. In its efforts to protect us, it wants to stay the same or move slowly, nothing shocking or dangerous.
The book says it's true that energy in must equal energy out for weight to remain stable. But mechanisms that go way beyond how much we eat and how much we move are responsible for regulating both the calories we absorb, and even more so the calories we either expend or store.
What fascinates me is that if I let my body be in charge, telling me when it's hungry and when it's not, my weight settles in a good place and stays there, without me trying to closely manage days or meals. When I was tracking and following arbitrary rules, I was convinced that VERY BAD things would happen if I stopped. I was certain that I would spiral out of control and gain a million pounds, but my body actually does a much better job than I was doing. I don't track anything but I know if I'm hungry. I know if I like my food. I know if I'm totally satisfied or if I want more. That seems to be enough, which is mind boggling after thirty-ish years of unnecessary scheming and manipulation.