Can someone tell me if my thoughts are correct on CICO

(Doug) #482

Agreed, Paul. So many times we want to approach things in an over-simplified manner.

I see no problem with the physics of it all, nor even with “calories in/calories out” (of course) - there’s no real ‘magic’ at work. We’re big chemical-soup containers and the minutiae of all that happens in us is practically endless, but it’s also that we really use energy for electro-chemical/chemical reactions, many of which make muscles contract and give off heat; not all that complicated.

Okay, but isn’t the human body plenty closed to make things work quite well, here? Outside of enormously rare or contrived circumstances, the energy we take in is overwhelmingly our food - that’s really about it. Then we either excrete it (not much of a thing except in wacky circumstances), store it as fat or use it (use it up) - things going toward more entropy and a happy and satisfied 2nd law of thermodynamics.

In this modern age I think many people are frustrated because we’re so ‘closed’ and efficient with energy; we don’t waste nearly enough of it.

(Take time to stop and eat the bacon!) #483


(Robert C) #484

Just for fun - think of this.

Start a fast and drink the amount of water vapor you breath out each night (internet says it is a few hundred ml and will vary a lot) but, drink it as ice water (i.e. very cold).

Overnight your body will have to find the energy to turn that into vapor (a much higher temperature).

But, according to CICO - you never had a calorie in (you’ve only had water) but you’ve got calories out for sure (i.e. where the body fat was liberated).

(Doug) #485

Paul, true, as far as exchanging matter and energy with our surroundings, rather than just energy, but what we’re mostly concerned with is matter as energy - the energy we get from food and the dispostion of it. In that respect we are ‘closed’ because there really isn’t any true magic at work (too bad for those of us who take in more energy than we metabolize, and don’t want to gain weight).

I don’t think we have to embrace any real magic. Two assertions:

Keto is magic.
Keto is not magic.

I’d say the truth is somewhere in-between. I do maintain that ‘CICO’ will always be satisfied, but that doesn’t mean that all calories are necessarily equal, here, nor that keto can’t make profound changes in outcomes, mostly due to hormonal effects.

Keto is not a supernatural agency, but there can be a kind of ‘magic’ due to the profound hormonal differences it can make.

(Doug) #486

For sure - because of their difference reference points, they observe things differently.

But we wouldn’t say “it’s constant relative to everything,” would we?

Not related to the discussion, really - I’ve always been a big fan of Einstein; the general theory of relativity has never proven false, as far as I know. Lately there has been some thinking that in a very dense universe - like that which followed close on the heels of the Big Bang - the speed of light was faster. Not that Einstein was wrong for our present universe, but I’d never before even really seen the speed of light questioned.

(Take time to stop and eat the bacon!) #487

The human body is not a closed system, because we ingest food, breathe in oxygen, and breathe out carbon dioxide, all of which count as matter, last time I checked. If you were to wrap yourself in cling film, then, for the few minutes you could survive before asphyxiating yourself, you would be a closed system. The reason a covered pot on the stove counts as a closed system is that only heat is being applied, and the cover prevents steam from escaping. Remove the cover, and the pot by definition becomes an open system, because now steam (water molecules in gaseous form—i.e., matter) can escape and water (water molecules in liquid form—i.e., matter) can be added.

As I mentioned before, the words as used in the First Law of Thermodynamics have a precisely-defined meaning, and they are part and parcel of the law. They are in the law for a reason, and removing them from consideration renders any application of that law meaningless.

Has anyone read the paper on CICO and the Second Law? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

(Doug) #488

Robert, yes indeed - so necessarily I had a calorie deficit.

EDIT: Somehow, we must be looking at this in different ways. All along, that CICO would have to apply, has made sense to me.

Not that calorie-restriction is thus necessarily a good way to lose weight. We all know that that’s not true.

But if we’re really just looking at burning more calories than we take in, as with the drinking cold water example (and over enough time to avoid confounding things like increased water retention), then I’d say that weight loss is guaranteed.


The Sun wouldn’t eventually become a supernova and explode if it would just eat less and move more.

(Take time to stop and eat the bacon!) #490

“Just wan more wafferr-theen mint!” LOL!

(Doug) #491

Paul, but why would there be any objection to applying the First Law, anyway? I don’t truly see anybody insisting on real magic, with energy being created or destroyed - in the first place. I don’t think applying the law, here, is meaningless. Matter indeed goes in and out of us, but over time we can never escape the energy balance, one way or another.

Whether arguing from even the most over-simplified assertion related to CICO, or from a ketogenic-advocating standpoint, I either don’t see people proposing that the First Law isn’t satisfied, here, or - if it’s something like the flat assertion that “Calories are irrelevant” - then I’d argue with it as strongly as anybody.

(Take time to stop and eat the bacon!) #492

Simply because it’s meaningless as an explanation of what is going on? As Gary Taubes points out, if you came to a seminar expecting to learn how to get rich, would you be satisfied if the speaker said that it was simply a matter of taking in more money than you spent? Or if you asked why the room was so crowded would you be satisfied with the explanation, “Well, more people entered the room than left it”?

The real explanations are that you take in more money than you spend by doing this, this, and that, and that more people stayed in the room than left it because they were afraid of being eaten by the saber-toothed tigers outside the door.

So, back to our muttons: Why did my caloric intake use to be so much higher than my caloric expenditure? Because insulin. And why is my caloric intake apparently divorced from my energy expenditure nowadays? Because other hormones. As Taubes points out, the First Law of Thermodynamics is irrelevant as an explanation.

(Doug) #493

Okay, but noting that the law applies (or is satisfied) isn’t saying that it’s an explanation. I agree with your points about complexity, real causes and insulin effects - and I’d still say that thermodynamics and physics as a whole apply and prove out. Physics is saying, “This is what’s happening.” When we look at the insulin effects, we say, “This is why it’s happening.”

I don’t think a substantial amount of people on this forum would dispute insulin effects, at all. There seems to be some disconnect, however, that often leads to “CICO is wrong,” or “calories are irrelevant,” stated as simply as that.

I would maintain that CICO is correct, and that is has to be, physically - we are just accounting for energy here, and I’ve never seen anything to indicate that the physical laws would not apply. That is NOT saying that calorie restriction is necessarily a good way for long term weight loss or maintenance.


If we’re misunderstanding CICO I think that side might be misunderstanding “calories are irrelevant.” They’re irrelevant in that if we fix the hormone problem, most people (except for the seriously metabolically deranged) will not overeat. I cannot eat 5000 calories worth of fat, at least not for more than, say, three days in a row. And because I cannot overeat, I don’t have to worry about calories. So as long as the hormone problem is kept under control, calories remain irrelevant.

CICO may or may not be true as it relates to physiology, but its damage as the go-to mainstream health advice cannot be overstated. Goodness knows how many metabolisms it’s responsible for wrecking, how many eating disorders it’s brought upon people. So I think calories should become irrelevant in dieting advice, except under extreme circumstances.

(Doug) #495

I would not say “irrelevant,” I’d say that the hormone problem is the most pressing. Yes, not overeating is a good thing - and this would not be true if calories were irrelevant.

I wouldn’t go quite that far, but agree in the main, KC - so many diet programs over the years had virtually a zero percent success rate in the long-term, due to the real-world effects of calorie restriction.


I think that would show they are irrelevant, tho. If I’m eating 2000 calories of fat and getting full from that, but not getting full from 2000 calories of carbs, then calories are not the issue for why I am or am not full here. It would come down to the nutrient density from what I’m eating and the affect the food has on my hormones.

(Doug) #497

Maybe we’re just thinking about it in different ways… :slightly_smiling_face:

Granted that not all types of calories are always the same in their effects. I’d still say there is relevance, however - the differing effect they have on satiety, in your example, and the assumption that more of them is a bad thing, i.e. you want to feel full.

(Pier) #498

This is all accurate. But I think the reason why many people resist the CI-CO and calories are relevant statements is because they rarely are accompanied by the hormonal and metabolic disregulation pieces of the weight-loss puzzle.

So, reduce calories in to lose weight is sorely incomplete. This is evidenced by the fact that there are people who demonstrably do not lose weight by reducing calories. This is inevitably because of the other piece (though there are probably more) to the weight-loss puzzle – metabolic derangement. If the mainstream, which espouses CI-CO, would also talk about metabolic derangement, hyperinsulinemia, etc., then I don’t think there would be such resistance to the calories argument. Keto seems to address many manifestations of metabolic derangement, whereas the standard eat less, include plenty of whole grains, move more approach does not. This is where keto seems like “magic.” No one is actually literally saying it’s magic from what I can tell. But it does feel miraculous for many who have long struggled to follow mainstream weight-loss guidance.

Someone upthread said something to the effect that calories do matter but cannot completely determine weight-loss. This is an important point. People’s inability to deal with complexity is what leads to shorthand usage of terms such as CI-CO to the extent that it ineffectively and incompletely conveys the meaning of the underlying concepts. Then it becomes a mantra. Then all is lost, and leads to the point of people defending the simple mantra just so that they can be right. This, while failing to bring along the full complex picture.

We can see this inability to cope with complexity in many other areas in society through the pigeonholeing and labeling of everything, as if everything in life is so easily categorized and explained. I do believe if we can follow the path of the fractals of reality, things become easier to understand, but not necessarily less complex.

(Doug) #499

True. Yet on this forum metabolic/hormonal issues are known (to an overwhelming extent, versus the population at large) and for many of us are “the norm.” Noting the CICO energy balance is not the same as saying that calories are all that matter nor that calorie counting is essential or even productive, always. Accepting the common oversimplifications that pertain to CICO and the faulty application of it for weight-loss diets also does not mean that “CICO is wrong,” or that “Calories don’t matter” - especially as unqualified assertions.

:smile: Agreed on the many incomplete applications of CICO. Dr. Fung has talked about the long-term success of caloric restriction, and one diet company - I think it was Jenny Craig, from their own figures - had only a 0.5% success rate for people losing weight and keeping it off for a decent amount of time afterwards (2 years?).

My own experiments with eating less normally ended fast, after only 3 or 4 days, and preceeded binges of gratuitous, historic, brutal, legendary proportions.

To assert that calories don’t matter or that physical laws don’t apply because of keto (or anything else) is at least to imply that some magic is at work. That’s going beyond the realm of truth if the statements are made in an improperly unqualified manner. I’m right with you on the subjective ‘magic’ of keto, etc., however.

Nice post, Pier. A “bumper sticker” mentality does seem to be present, often. “the path of the fractals of reality” - love the phrase.

(Pier) #500

Thanks for your feedback, @OldDoug!

True, all of that. However, CICO has become understood to mean all of those things. And that’s why people fight against the notion. Because it’s incomplete. I just think that if we can become more impeccable with our phrases, then the misunderstandings can be cleared up.

Also, as a relative newbie to keto, it took me several weeks of reviewing info and podcasts to understand this aspect of keto. It’s really not clear when you first come to it.

Separately, I just listened to the 2 Keto Dudes episode from 7 Aug 2016, named The Obesity Code With Dr Jason Fung. The whole episode is great, but, interestingly, somewhere around the 9 min mark (a little bit after), Dr Fung does say it’s not the calories that matter. Lol. He does qualify it by talking about the insulin. So, it’s easy to understand why people say this. But again, in using the shorthand “calories don’t matter,” the qualifications are lost. So both the calories don’t matter and the calories do matter sides are using a shorthand, within which the details get lost.

Also in that episode, Richard talks about his dog and how with calories in and out staying the same, the dog lost significant weight when insulin was reduced. I think this is what the calories don’t matter folks are really trying to convey. I don’t think that anyone believes calories are totally inconsequential.

I love the concept of fractals, ever since I saw this planetarium show on fractals. They put so much into perspective. And you can keep following them endlessly, all the while learning more. I saw the fractals program at a conference on the electric universe, which is at least as controversial as CICO! :grin:

(Pier) #501

This is worth repeating:

This too: