Why are people so hell bent on defending CICO

(Jennibc) #1

I rarely go on twitter anymore but decided to hop on today - and this somehow showed up in my feed because people I follow follow her https://twitter.com/W96Emily/status/1440782972517437450

I don’t get it. There are thousands of people who manage to lose weight not decreasing calories and not upping their exercise. Why do our experiences of changing the kind of calories we eat not matter? Why doesn’t it persuade the nonbelievers?

I have been at goal for just a few weeks shy of two years now. According to Johns Hopkins, a majority of people who lose a tremendous amount of weight regain it within 2-3 years, yet here I am still keeping off 120, even during a freaking pandemic that has so many other people gaining . No willpower required.

(Bob M) #2

Because it’s a tautology. All they have to do is repeat “because you ate fewer calories” over and over again.

You stopped eating carbs and lost weight? You ate fewer calories.

You started time-restricted eating and lost weight? It’s because you ate fewer calories.

You rectified your sleep and lost weight? It’s because you ate fewer calories.

You fasted > 24 hours and lost weight? It’s because you ate fewer calories.

It’s easy to never ask, “But why?”, and instead assume CICO works.

I also had been losing for 6+ years, until I (somewhat stupidly) tried the croissant diet. Until then, only lost weight (other than shoulder surgery, where I couldn’t sleep well). I’m back to losing weight again, by going back to low carb. Where I, of course, ate fewer calories. :wink:

(Old Baconian) #3

Because “science” tells us that a ketogenic diet is unsustainable and will kill us.


(Doug) #4

It depends on how you frame the discussion/argument.

While it is faulty to assume that merely eating less or exercising more, alone or in combination, will necessarily give a person what they want, it is also faulty to pretend that there is some ‘magic’ that gets around the basic truth of CICO.

Downstream effects, especially on an individual basis, have to be taken into account - no doubt about that - stuff like metabolic rate, insulin resistance, etc. This often makes things more complicated, and we are ‘complicated’ humans to begin with. Yet the bottom line is that we are talking about atoms and molecules.

“Anyone who tells you weight loss isn’t as simple as"eat less, exercise more” is full of siht. It is that simple. You do that consistently and you will totally transform yourself."

CICO doesn’t need a defense here. The applicable response, that takes into account human reality, is that many people cannot do that consistently enough, or that it is not worth it to them, and that there may be quite a variety of reasons why it’s not worth it to them to do that.

(Old Baconian) #5

And, as Gary Taubes points out, the question is whether the caloric deficit was the cause or the result of the fat loss. In my case, it was the result. I ate in a way that allowed my hormones to control my appetite, and lost a significant amount of fat. Previous attempts to cause fat loss by eating less were never successful.

(Bob M) #6

I actually think it’s not true. What happens is that your body just reduces calorie expenditure at other points during the day when you exercise. Your overall calorie expenditure does not increase or increases for only a short time period.

Here’s a study that examines why the body reduces calories in non-exercising periods when you exercise:

Now, it doesn’t come up with many solutions, but they go over many papers indicating that the body does decrease its calorie expenditure.

This is one of the many reasons CICO is a failed theory.


CICO has to be correct from a physics POV, but as you don’t know CI or CO to any accuracy (you don’t really know the efficiency of the body, and everyone is probably different), it’s irrelevant.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

CICO gets all the advertising. Most folks want a simple answer to their complex problem. They get simple with CICO. "Eat less, move more!"

Keto is sooooo… complicated: stop eating carbs, eat fat and protein when you’re hungry stop when you’re not. That’s just too difficult for most folks to wrap their heads around.

Even many of us who know better make the common mistake thinking: CICO is ‘correct’ from a physics POV but inaccurate only because we don’t know all the inputs and outputs - but if we did, then it would really work. I used do think that. But it’s wrong. Simple thermodynamics does not and can not explain human metabolism. Once you get hormones and enzymes controlling energy intake, distribution, utilization and outflow - the thermodynamics of the physics lab is next to useless. Biological systems are not closed and not in equilibrium.

Simple examples. Consuming more energy than your metabolism uses - does not necessarily result in storing the excess energy. Consuming less does not necessarily result in burning stored energy to make up the difference. The paper linked above by @ctviggen explains how.

Organisms are open systems that exchange matter and energy with their surroundings. This means that living systems are not in equilibrium, but instead are dissipative systems that maintain their state of high complexity.


The paper linked here. And the discussion.

Finally this:

PS: I should add that the fatal flaw in CICO is not that total energy balance must remain the same, ie the First Law. This is always trotted out to ‘prove’ its validity. If we only ‘knew exactly how much in and how much out’, it would work. This is a red herring.

CICO fails because a ‘calorie is not a calorie’ regardless of macro nutrient composition. The claim of caloric equivalence is wrong and violates the Second Law. The article by Feinman and Fine which I link directly above shows this conclusively. This is the head shot to CICO.

(Old Baconian) #9

Of course it’s true, from a physics point of view, just as people who get rich obviously earned more money than they spent. But that is a trivial observation. The interesting questions are why and how.

In terms of the prevalent hypothesis, people get fat because they overeat, meaning they are gluttons and sloths. But as Taubes and Teicholz repeatedly point out, this attitude towards the obese is useless, in terms of getting the obese to stop being obese. And why is that? That question interests me, and it surprises me that no mainstream researcher ever seems to be able to come up with an answer.

As Taubes likes to point out, we know how fat accumulation works at the cellular level: adipocytes accumulate fatty acids under the influence of insulin. We also know that eating some foods stimulates insulin, while eating others does not. But there appears to be a mental block when you ask most researchers to apply the known biochemistry to becoming fat or becoming thin.

I just know from experience that I lost a considerable amount of fat by changing my diet and eating as much food as I wanted. Obviously, I ate in such a way as to lower my insulin, and that created a caloric deficit that was supplied from my internal energy stores, but the amazing thing from my point of view was that it didn’t feel like “eating less,” and it certainly didn’t involve “moving more.” Any caloric deficit was completely unconscious on my part. So how did that work? And why don’t most researchers even want to figure it out? All they do is to say is that my way of eating is unsustainable and will kill me. (Of course, Upton Sinclair’s observation is clearly relevant here.) #NOTDEADYET


CICO is just as irrational as a mind running mainly on carbohydrates.

(Joey) #11

Never heard of this. By any chance, does it stand for “croissants in, croissants out?” :thinking:

(Old Baconian) #12

“Croissants check in, but they never check out! HAHAHAHA!”

(with apologies) (to everyone)

(Jane) #13

EXACTLY! Me too.

(Jane) #14

:laughing: * cue Hotel California song *

(Jane) #15

I think this is also the case with cholesterol numbers and prescribing statins. Dcoctors want a simple test (cholesterol) and a simple response when above xxx (statins) to a complex issue.

To look at ratios, other markers, etc takes more time and self-education. Plus they run the risk of not prescribing “standard care” and can lose their license.


Because people on both sides take it too far, instead of people using common sense and realizing it’s not perfect doesn’t equal it not mattering at all. People one one side thinks it’s 100% the number and no questions asked, and the other side things it makes zero difference. Both of those views are stupid.

Here’s the problem with that, if you say you did that (I used to) how many calories were you eating prior, and how many were you eating during the loss… you don’t know right? So how can you make that statement.

Thanks to “Eating to satiety” and fasting (which wasn’t supposed to lower my RMR) I wound up with a complete trash metabolic rate. I wsa never really “hungry” and thought I was eating enough food… I wasn’t. Then I went the other way and decrease my intake again and again with zero luck. It wasn’t until I got my RMR tested and had a number put in front of me that I realized how bad it was and I ate at a 20% deficit from that number (which was WAY less than I was eating). and then “magic”, which wasn’t magic at all… I started loosing again. Took a long time of reverse dieting to get my RMR back up and now I’m fine. Without knowing that number no doubt I’d still be too heavy and miserable.

(Joey) #17

Same here - and I didn’t have all that much to lose to begin with. CICO is the wrong model. Cutting out the carbs is more about chemistry than physics. :test_tube:

(Old Baconian) #18

And because it needs to be stated, it’s not that physics doesn’t apply, it’s just that CICO doesn’t fully account for all the physical processes involved. “Eat less, move more” is a lot more succinct than “Eat in a way that keeps your insulin low by minimising carbohydrate, getting enough protein, and using fat as your energy source in place of carbohydrate.” But succinctness isn’t everything.


I don’t lose if I don’t eat little enough and why would I? For many people it’s really about calories. Only that works. Eating less and much carbs? Fat-loss. Eating very low-carb but the usual maintenance calories? Staying fat. I saw the latter from proper, disciplined ketoers, I am a bad example but just being in ketosis never caused fat-loss while eating a bit less and much more carbs did. My body must work unusually or something, where is my tiny extra allowance on keto? :smiley:

I know it’s complex and people have other experiences and there are explanations for it - but it’s normal people think their method is the Only Right Way. Stupid but well, it’s humankind for you, at least the majority of it.

BUT people can be so stubborn, stupid and gullible that even very general facts miss them. See the cholesterol myth. And zillion other myths, I don’t even understand how something that never worked becomes a popular method for something. But people can totally believe in that.

I believe CICO always works but it’s the complex CICO that have to as we can’t make energy of nothing. We may waste energy, that’s perfectly CICO for me (bigger CO than expected) just not the super simple one. We can’t calculate our CO… And we can’t exactly track our CI and what if there are absorption problems?

It’s complex. But most people loves simplicity. Who cares if it’s true or not, just gimme quick, super easy answers, now.
So they go and eat 1200 kcal to lose fat because they are females and nothing else matters. Or 75% fat on keto because it’s what should be done on keto according to some people. Or little protein on keto because more becomes sugar for sure. It was all over the place I frequented when I was a newbie but I still see it from new ones here…

(I know we are no calorimeters and not all calories are the same, protein can’t give us the same amount of energy as fat but we usually don’t eat drastically different amount of protein on different days and our tracking if we do it usually isn’t accurate etc… So it’s not a big difference IMO. It’s still informative for me to see if I ate 1300 or 2800 kcal, vaguely. But fortunately tracking isn’t needed since I barely eat plants.
And what we eat may change things, obviously, even fat-loss. But it’s not all about keto or not keto, there are other things and many of us can’t just do keto and lose fat, it’s not that simple, sadly.)

Not irrelevant. I don’t know my exact or just slightly vague numbers (oh one thing I don’t get on the “CICO site” where I sometimes track is that they believe we must eat a bit above our BMR and our BMR can be perfectly calculated there. people come and say their BMR is 1712 kcal. yeah, sure. and this site with only age, gender, weight and height info told you that… not even BF is used there, probably because people have no idea about that either. very persuasive…) but I know from experience that I won’t lose if I eat 3000 kcal. I need to go below 2000 or at least be more active or unlocking some special state but my body doesn’t go there ever, the stubborn, fat-loving or paranoid jerk. I don’t care about +/-200 kcal but 1000 is significant and I do know my numbers that well according to my experience.
Not like I have any control on my calorie intake but I can see if I surely overate. Or under, during the day at least and I should eat more lest I become a gremlin at midnight. A well-behaved gremlin on extreme low-carb but a gremlin nonetheless. We gotta do what we gotta do. I can’t guess my energy intake at all (so I track sometimes) but my body knows if it’s lacking and that’s not always pretty. So I better ensure all is well. Sometimes it involves tracking and if the numbers are very off, tweaking something.

Keto IS complicated to me. Carnivore too. I don’t always know when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat. It’s not straightforward for all of us, all the time. It’s often okay for me (I just don’t lose fat) but sometimes I am a bit lost and do whatever and hope for the best. And things may get messed up. Eating when hungry and only then is both impossible and seemingly very wrong in my case and it’s just the start :D. And I for one always felt when I was hungry or satiated, on every woe (it’s still super strange to me that not everyone is like this. though I have different hunger signs. and many other eating urges). So it could be even worse.
I don’t think people typically have problems with the difficulty, they have problems with not eating their fav carbs…

True, I did that all my life but it was CICO. My huge CI raised my CO so I ate at a balance.
But many people gain if they eat more than their normal maintenance calories or when they get less active (and the other factors stay the same), each and every time they do it. It’s good to figure out how we work (but we shouldn’t be surprised if our body simply change their ways when we try something we never did. or if some time passes and it becomes different).

I write a lot, then see that you came and wrote so wise things :smiley: I like this metaphor, we can go farther with it… We can look at our balance and tweak things to change it for the better - but we should be smart at it. Simply not paying for needed things for our comfort isn’t the way just like being hungry because we are on a diet sounds pretty bad unless we can’t help but do it.


But many people love to eat “whatever they want just staying below 1200 kcal” (or 1113 because the calculator said so), I heard it so many times from people and they were so very happy with that… Well, if it works for them, fine, last time it was about duck fat :smiley: Simple CICO combined with the usual diet food sounds even worse.
(But very low-carb isn’t needed for everyone to lose fat. And keto isn’t enough for everyone. It never will be succint enough, people are just too different for that. And minimizing carbs means different things for different people too. What we can do isn’t always low enough but it’s fine if we can do it gradually and are very patient.)