The 3,500 Calorie per Pound Rule Is Wrong

The 3,500 Calorie per Pound Rule Is Wrong
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How many fewer calories do you have to eat every day to lose one pound of body fat?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The first surgical attempt at body sculpting was in 1921, with a dancer wanting to improve the shape of her ankles. The surgeon apparently scraped away too much tissue and tied the stitches too tight, resulting in necrosis, amputation, and the first recorded malpractice suit in the history of plastic surgery. Today’s liposuction is much safer…only killing about 1 in 5,000 patients, mostly from unknown causes; throwing a clot off into your lung, or perforations of your internal organs.

Liposuction currently reigns as the most popular cosmetic surgery in the world, and its effects are, indeed, only cosmetic. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed obese women before and after having about 20 pounds of fat sucked out of their bodies, resulting in nearly a 20 percent drop in their total body fat. Normally, lose even just 5 to10 percent of your body weight in fat, and you get significant improvements in blood pressure, blood sugars, inflammation, cholesterol, and triglycerides but, liposuction sucks. None of those benefits materialized even after the massive liposuction. This suggests subcutaneous fat—the fat under our skin—is not the problem. The metabolic insults of obesity arise from the visceral fat: the fat surrounding or even infiltrating our internal organs, like the fat marbling our muscles and liver. The way you lose that fat, the dangerous fat, is to take in fewer calories than you burn.

Anyone who’s seen The Biggest Loser shows knows with enough calorie restriction and exercise hundreds of pounds can be lost. Similarly, there are cases in the medical literature of what some refer to as “super obesity,” in which individuals lost up to 374 pounds largely on their own, without professional help, and kept it off for years. The guy lost about 20 pounds a month cycling two hours a day and reducing intake to 800 calories a day, which is down around what some prisoners were getting at concentration camps in World War II.

Perhaps America’s most celebrated TV weight loss was when Oprah pulled out a wagon full of fat, representing the 67 pounds she lost on a very low-calorie diet. How many calories did she have to cut to achieve that within four months? Consult leading nutrition textbooks, or refer to trusted authorities like the Mayo Clinic, and you’ll learn the simple weight loss rule: one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Quoting from the Journal of the American Medical Association, “A total of 3500 calories equals 1 pound of body weight. This means if you decrease your intake by 500 calories daily, you will lose 1 pound per week. (500 calories per day × 7 days = 3500 calories.)” The simple weight loss rule that’s simply not true.

The 3,500-calorie rule can be traced back to a paper in 1958 that just noted that since fatty tissue on the human body is 87 percent fat, a pound of body fat would have about 395 grams of pure fat. Multiply that by nine calories per gram of fat gives you that “3,500 calories per pound” approximation. The fatal flaw that leads to “dramatically exaggerated” weight-loss predictions is that the 3,500 rule fails to take into account the fact that changes in the calories-in side of the energy-balance equation automatically lead to changes in calories out—for example, the slowing of metabolic rate that accompanies weight loss, known as metabolic adaptation. That’s one of the reasons weight loss plateaus.

For example, imagine a 30-year-old sedentary woman of average height who weighs 150 pounds. According to the 3,500-calorie rule, if she cuts 500 calories out of her daily diet, she’d lose a pound a week, or 52 pounds a year. In three years, then, she would vanish. She’d go from 150 pounds to negative 6. Obviously, that doesn’t happen. What would happen is that in the first year, instead of losing 52 pounds she’d likely only lose 32 pounds, and then, after a total of three years, stabilize at about 100 pounds. This is because it takes fewer calories to exist as a thin person.

Part of it is simple mechanics, in the same way a Hummer requires more fuel than a compact car. Think how much more effort it would take to just get out of a chair, walk across the room, or climb a few stairs carrying a 50-pound backpack. That’s no lighter than carrying 50 pounds in the front. Even when you’re lying at rest sound asleep, there’s simply less of your body to maintain as we lose weight. Every pound of fat tissue lost may mean one less mile of blood vessels your body has to pump blood through every minute. So, the basic upkeep and movement of thinner bodies takes fewer calories. So, as you lose weight by eating less, you end up needing less. That’s what the 3,500-calorie rule doesn’t take into account.

Or imagine it the other way. A two-hundred-pound-man starts eating 500 more calories a day. That’s like a large soda or two doughnuts. According to the 3,500-calorie rule, in 10 years he’d weigh more than 700 pounds! That doesn’t happen, because the heavier he is, the more calories he burns just existing. If you’re a hundred pounds overweight, that’s like the skinny person inside you trying to walk around balancing 13 gallons of oil at all times, or lugging around a sack containing four hundred sticks of butter wherever you go. It takes about two doughnuts worth of extra energy just to live at 250 pounds, and so that’s where he’d plateau out if he kept it up. So, weight gain or weight loss, given a certain calorie excess or deficit, is a curve that flattens out over time, rather than a straight line up or down.

Nevertheless, the 3,500-calorie rule continues to crop up, even in obesity journals. Public health researchers used it to calculate how many pounds children might lose every year if, for example, fast food kids’ meals swapped in apple slices instead of French fries. They figured two meals a week could add up to about four pounds a year. The actual difference, National Restaurant Association-funded researchers were no doubt delighted to point out, would probably add less than half a pound—10 times less than the 3,500-calorie rule would predict. The original article was subsequently retracted.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

10 times less than the 3,500-calorie rule would predict. The original article was subsequently retracted.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Vidmir Raic via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

The first surgical attempt at body sculpting was in 1921, with a dancer wanting to improve the shape of her ankles. The surgeon apparently scraped away too much tissue and tied the stitches too tight, resulting in necrosis, amputation, and the first recorded malpractice suit in the history of plastic surgery. Today’s liposuction is much safer…only killing about 1 in 5,000 patients, mostly from unknown causes; throwing a clot off into your lung, or perforations of your internal organs.

Liposuction currently reigns as the most popular cosmetic surgery in the world, and its effects are, indeed, only cosmetic. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed obese women before and after having about 20 pounds of fat sucked out of their bodies, resulting in nearly a 20 percent drop in their total body fat. Normally, lose even just 5 to10 percent of your body weight in fat, and you get significant improvements in blood pressure, blood sugars, inflammation, cholesterol, and triglycerides but, liposuction sucks. None of those benefits materialized even after the massive liposuction. This suggests subcutaneous fat—the fat under our skin—is not the problem. The metabolic insults of obesity arise from the visceral fat: the fat surrounding or even infiltrating our internal organs, like the fat marbling our muscles and liver. The way you lose that fat, the dangerous fat, is to take in fewer calories than you burn.

Anyone who’s seen The Biggest Loser shows knows with enough calorie restriction and exercise hundreds of pounds can be lost. Similarly, there are cases in the medical literature of what some refer to as “super obesity,” in which individuals lost up to 374 pounds largely on their own, without professional help, and kept it off for years. The guy lost about 20 pounds a month cycling two hours a day and reducing intake to 800 calories a day, which is down around what some prisoners were getting at concentration camps in World War II.

Perhaps America’s most celebrated TV weight loss was when Oprah pulled out a wagon full of fat, representing the 67 pounds she lost on a very low-calorie diet. How many calories did she have to cut to achieve that within four months? Consult leading nutrition textbooks, or refer to trusted authorities like the Mayo Clinic, and you’ll learn the simple weight loss rule: one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. Quoting from the Journal of the American Medical Association, “A total of 3500 calories equals 1 pound of body weight. This means if you decrease your intake by 500 calories daily, you will lose 1 pound per week. (500 calories per day × 7 days = 3500 calories.)” The simple weight loss rule that’s simply not true.

The 3,500-calorie rule can be traced back to a paper in 1958 that just noted that since fatty tissue on the human body is 87 percent fat, a pound of body fat would have about 395 grams of pure fat. Multiply that by nine calories per gram of fat gives you that “3,500 calories per pound” approximation. The fatal flaw that leads to “dramatically exaggerated” weight-loss predictions is that the 3,500 rule fails to take into account the fact that changes in the calories-in side of the energy-balance equation automatically lead to changes in calories out—for example, the slowing of metabolic rate that accompanies weight loss, known as metabolic adaptation. That’s one of the reasons weight loss plateaus.

For example, imagine a 30-year-old sedentary woman of average height who weighs 150 pounds. According to the 3,500-calorie rule, if she cuts 500 calories out of her daily diet, she’d lose a pound a week, or 52 pounds a year. In three years, then, she would vanish. She’d go from 150 pounds to negative 6. Obviously, that doesn’t happen. What would happen is that in the first year, instead of losing 52 pounds she’d likely only lose 32 pounds, and then, after a total of three years, stabilize at about 100 pounds. This is because it takes fewer calories to exist as a thin person.

Part of it is simple mechanics, in the same way a Hummer requires more fuel than a compact car. Think how much more effort it would take to just get out of a chair, walk across the room, or climb a few stairs carrying a 50-pound backpack. That’s no lighter than carrying 50 pounds in the front. Even when you’re lying at rest sound asleep, there’s simply less of your body to maintain as we lose weight. Every pound of fat tissue lost may mean one less mile of blood vessels your body has to pump blood through every minute. So, the basic upkeep and movement of thinner bodies takes fewer calories. So, as you lose weight by eating less, you end up needing less. That’s what the 3,500-calorie rule doesn’t take into account.

Or imagine it the other way. A two-hundred-pound-man starts eating 500 more calories a day. That’s like a large soda or two doughnuts. According to the 3,500-calorie rule, in 10 years he’d weigh more than 700 pounds! That doesn’t happen, because the heavier he is, the more calories he burns just existing. If you’re a hundred pounds overweight, that’s like the skinny person inside you trying to walk around balancing 13 gallons of oil at all times, or lugging around a sack containing four hundred sticks of butter wherever you go. It takes about two doughnuts worth of extra energy just to live at 250 pounds, and so that’s where he’d plateau out if he kept it up. So, weight gain or weight loss, given a certain calorie excess or deficit, is a curve that flattens out over time, rather than a straight line up or down.

Nevertheless, the 3,500-calorie rule continues to crop up, even in obesity journals. Public health researchers used it to calculate how many pounds children might lose every year if, for example, fast food kids’ meals swapped in apple slices instead of French fries. They figured two meals a week could add up to about four pounds a year. The actual difference, National Restaurant Association-funded researchers were no doubt delighted to point out, would probably add less than half a pound—10 times less than the 3,500-calorie rule would predict. The original article was subsequently retracted.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

10 times less than the 3,500-calorie rule would predict. The original article was subsequently retracted.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Vidmir Raic via pixabay. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

If it were just a matter of your weight settling at the point at which your reduced calorie intake matches your reduced calorie output, it would take years for your weight loss to plateau. Instead, it often happens within six to eight months after starting a new diet. I explain why in my next video, The Reason Weight Loss Plateaus When You Diet.

This is the first of 14 videos that are part of my fasting video series, for which I recently did two webinars. All these videos will appear on Nutritonfacts.org for free over the next few months, or you can get them all now in a digital download here: Intermittent Fasting. I just did a webinar on Fasting and Disease Reversal, so check back here in a few days for a link to the digital download for that. And I have one more coming up on October 25 – Fasting and Cancer. Go here for more information and to register.

The next several in this series are:

Some other popular videos on weight loss are:

I also recently tackled the ketogenic diet, if anyone is interested:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

155 responses to “The 3,500 Calorie per Pound Rule Is Wrong

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  1. I think much of this could be inferred with simple observation. But it’s great to be made more clearly aware of it. There is, however, something to add on both the weight loss and weight gain side. If I am at 300 lb at 5’6″, then I would likely not be walking much. I suspect this would make fat easier to add.

    Conversely If I loose a hundred lbs then walking 5 miles would become easier.

    But then to make it even more complicated, there is the question of metabolic efficiency which would definitely be influenced by the exercise or lack there of.

  2. I never heard of that rule. “Rules are meant to be broken,” anyhow.

    It must be a drag to have to count calories. Never had to, as I’ve posted before. I intuitively know what foods to avoid or have only occasionally.

    1. YR,

      What did your family eat growing up?

      You mentioned SAD once, were they genuinely SAD diet or were they cake at birthdays, not much processed food? Did you go out to restaurants?

      I ask because you have a simplicity in this process and I am wondering if it came from a grandmother or mother or whether you really just went off in your own direction?

      1. Deb,

        While growing up, I ate nothing like what appears to be commonly eaten these days. We did eat meat, but not much — it was too expensive — but also a fair number of servings of veggies and some fruit. My mother would mix skim milk (which she made from a powder) with whole milk, to make 2% milk, to save money; we got one glass at lunch and one at dinner (and some for breakfast cereal, which was oatmeal during the winter). After that, we drank water. We rarely ate cake, cookies, etc for dessert. I don’t recall consuming soda, chips, etc. We never went out to eat as a family — again, too expensive. So, home cooked meals. Some processed food, but rarely. We took lunch to school: Sandwiches, carrot sticks, a piece of fruit, etc.

        I am now so grateful for our “austere” style of eating. And I never felt deprived as a kid. But then, food was never of much interest to me, either.

        I did gain weight, later, as an adult, even as a vegetarian (there are a lot of CRAP foods which are vegetarian, even vegan). Which I eventually decided was the not what I wanted to be doing. So, I started practicing portion control and making healthier choices, and lost about 25 lbs over 18 months, which I kept off for 20 years ago. (I did not go back to the way I used to eat.) A few years ago, we switched to Plant Based Whole Foods eating (we dropped dairy products and eggs, and I lost another 10 lbs without even trying. It’s stayed off for several years. And we don’t plan on reverting to eating what we ate in the past.

      2. “….you have a simplicity in this process”
        – – – – –

        No sure what you meant by this, Deb.

        Yes, always plenty of desserts when I was growing up, thanks to me. :-( I made the cakes, cookies, pies, fudge (!) for the whole family. My mother often gained some poundage….my sister has weight issues now too. As did my brother (he also liked his daily bottle of beer). I must have inherited my dad’s “slender” genes, as I’ve never had a weight problem.

        1. Thanks for sharing.

          It helps me to understand what you are communicating.

          You might have better stretch receptors or a stronger metabolism or it could be in your genes or something else. My friends who are fidgety can eat way more calories and, so can the ones who are earlier risers or just a little bit more active. One of my friends turned out to have hyper thyroid, where the rest of us probably had sluggish thyroids and the one with the hyper-thyroid would eat twice as much pizza as the rest of us and then she would eat a piece of pie while the rest of us were full, but she was the thin one. Might have been soda or something sneaky in the equation.

  3. Oprah is heavier again and doing Weight Watchers / WW.

    Almost all of the Biggest Loser people are heavier again.

    I could add, so are 99.9% of all people who tried to lose weight using calorie restriction.

    I am wondering how people get up to 1000 pounds.

    I mean logistically, even if they were trying, how does it happen?

    1. Well, no matter what gimmick a diet is using, it does come down to calorie restriction. Juggle the macros as we may, if we are taking in too much energy, it has to land somewhere. Being a slender small person, I am eating few calories just to prevent weight gain. Given my high activity level, it can be discouraging.
      I have also found that cholesterol levels can follow the weight loss curve downward, but, if I stay at that low weight the over time the cholesterol levels creep upward again. Wish Dr Greger would address this.

      1. ” if we are taking in too much energy, it has to land somewhere”

        Thank you kind sir! This is called the First Law of Thermodynamics, and is something Dr. Greger has not heard about, judging by this video.

        You may be interested in the book “Hacker’s Diet”, freely available on the internet, where the human body is evaluated as a physical system.

        1. This is simply wrong. It applies to a controlled, closed system. Eat a bunch of unshelled nuts, or whole flax. You won’t gain weight. It is impossible to be overweight and eat a McDougall style, starch based WFPB very low fat, diet.

          1. Blair,

            I am going to say that it isn’t impossible. Older women who are post-menopausal and more sedentary would be a group who might not ever get down to their ideal weight and I am saying that first hand.

            It hasn’t mattered all that much what I eat. I am still trying different combinations, but it has been several weeks now since I went off avocados and most nuts and I am not losing weight. I have even been exercising and that hasn’t really helped either. Plus, I went off my green tea lattes.

            You might be right about not gaining weight in the first place. I suspect that it was the going very low calories at times, which shuts down the metabolism and then it is so hard to lose even a pound, even if you are overweight.

            I am not arguing against the reality that some people have lost 250 pounds on The Starch Solution and some have lost 250 pounds on Eat to Live and I am sure it would be the same for each of the WFPB diets.

            I know that being post-menopausal and having a sedentary job does make this process harder.

            I am happy though that I haven’t gained weight in 3 years and that is an accomplishment because I had been gaining the 5 pounds a year, usually mostly probably over the holidays.

            1. Hi Deb,

              I must say that I’m post menopausal, and this is the least I’ve ever weighed in my life. Twelve pounds less than my high school weight, and I was not overweight then. I mean, it was the 70s; very few people were overweight back then!

              My friend saw me at my daughter’s wedding last year, asked what I was doing because she was so shocked at how thin I was, and she, too, took my advice and lost 15 pounds in one month. This, after her doctor told her that very month after seeing my friend’s weight that this is what happens to women when they hit menopause, and that there is nothing that can be done. Another friend lost 12 pounds in 3 weeks, and it was the first time in 15 years where she could close her fists completely with no pain. (She has some kind of arthritis, and eating this way also reduces inflammation in the body. I did not tell her this before she started this type of eating, though! She just reported it to me as one of the side effects.)

              It’s all done through intermittent fasting, but I like to call it “intermittent eating.” I eat within a 6 hour window 6 days a week, and I do not count calories at all. I eat a ton of avocados, nuts, olive oil, butter, cheese, and I even consume carbs. Wine every night, too. Most people start with a 12-hour window which is basically just sleeping and not eating anything after dinner the night before, and then tightening the window of eating from there, little by little, to what works best for them. I would be curious to see if this eating style works for you!

                1. Honestly, in studies, sometimes intermittent fasting made women worse and I don’t know why some of the women ended up with glucose metabolism issues and other women didn’t, but, either way, I wouldn’t give WFPB any credit if it was intermittent fasting doing all the work.

                  1. Deb – maybe you should consider getting professional diet help instead of trying to find it on this site. You clearly do not have the typical outcome that the majority of plant based eaters do. So maybe it’s time to get some professional help.

                    Try contacting Dr. Klapper – he will counsel you and follow you and he will help you to move forward. Since all of the other advice that others have offered fall flat for you, perhaps a more professional counsel would be beneficial.

                    You seem to be really stuck and unable to move your situation forward. Perhaps with venue is not your answer.

                    You also might find support with Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s group which is an online support group. And he, as well, will offer online appointments. Perhaps you should try there.

                    1. Ruth,

                      Next is Dr. Greger’s book.

                      I have watched a zillion videos from each of them and do know what all of them would say and I have been doing the things.

                      I could never have afforded to pay them for these past 2 years without having results when it is all of them who I am listening to.

                      I have looked at cost and I do know that 1 half-hour session with Dr. Lisle is something like $75 and he will probably say the exact same things about calorie density and not drinking juices and not eating fats, etc. And do 50% starch and 50% non-starchy vegetable and watch out for flour and white pasta, etc.

                      Honestly, I looked at the cost of Dr. Fuhrman’s counsel and all of them it would have cost thousands of dollars for them to tell me to do the things I have already done.

                      And I am up to the realities that I don’t sleep and I didn’t have enough Vitamin D and all sorts of things like having a sedentary job, etc.

                      Edison said something like I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work but didn’t spend the $10,000 going to California, which I couldn’t have done even because of my responsibilities and money.

                      I see it as I have learned more on this web-site because all of the diets are represented.

                      There are still a few things I can try. I can stop eating soy, which would be hard, and I might NOT choose to do it, but I could if I have to.

                      I already gave up almost everything else, so what is one more thing, but I might choose to not even try to lose weight and just keep eating WFPB because giving anything else up might pull me out of WFPB altogether and I still do believe that it is way healthier than anything else I would do.

                    2. Should I pay $75 to have Dr. Lisle say, “You can always give up soy?”

                      And, if I say, “No” to that, it becomes, “You can always give up plant milk” and that is easier because I drink herbal tea without plant milk and my diet is so narrow that getting rid of coffee is something I am contemplating.

                      There are so few things in my diet, which it could be and I know that I just have to decide which one to try next.

                  2. Have you tried skipping dinner instead of breakfast? This is can be more difficult at first but has helped me. There is some evidence that time restricted eating with a fasting window between sunset and sunrise can be more beneficial for health and weight loss compared to skipping breakfast style IF and eating the last meal late.

                2. Like I said, I eat tons of fats. When I switched to this eating style, my body craved fat constantly. I was so worried I was going to start gaining weight, only to step on the scale after a few weeks only to be amazed and thrilled.

              1. ‘and I even consume carbs.’

                It’s scary just how much this idea that eating carbs is bad for us and/or makes us fat, has eneted the public consciousness as a kind of establisehd ‘fact’.

                In reality, low carb eating is not only dangerous, it is an inefficient way to lose fat.

                ‘Compared to participants with the highest carbohydrate consumption, those with the lowest intake had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over an average 6.4-year follow-up. In addition, risks of death from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer were increased by 51%, 50%, and 35%, respectively.
                The results were confirmed in a meta-analysis of seven prospective cohort studies with 447,506 participants and an average follow-up 15.6 years, which found 15%, 13%, and 8% increased risks in total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality with low (compared to high) carbohydrate diets.’
                https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180828085922.htm

                And a low carb diet is no better for weight loss than a high carb diet and may even be worse
                https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4962163/

                But there’s money to be made from pushing low carb diets on the public. So, who cares if they increase mortality risk and and don’t work any better than safer diets? Not [eople selling sensational books or diet ppans, that’s for sure.

            1. This is absolutely false, sorry to say. I’m proof that eating fat almost made my pants fall off! We have been improperly educated on fat in our diets since the 80s.

              1. Suzanne

                Along with most of the American public, you have been conned. Yes, it’s possible to lose weight on a fat diet or a cabbage diet or whatever in the short term, but long term there’s a price to pay. You might find it useful to review these vodeos

                https://nutritionfacts.org/?s=keto

          2. The way the nuts prevent weight gain is by giving you a sense of being full for longer, leading to you eating less of other foods. It is not impossible to get fat on nuts, merely uncomfortable. Just ignore fullness.

            Nuts still have lots of energy, and it isn’t just disappearing.

            https://nutritionfacts.org/video/testing-the-dietary-compensation-theory/

            The human body is highly controlled, at least very efficient, when looking at energy. Billions of years of evolution made sure our metabolism is very efficient, and that we need very little food to survive.

            But the past few centuries have seen an abundance of calories, and the body has not had time to adapt.

        2. Dan – I would really prefer that you – and other’s – not attack Dr. Greger on these kinds of issues. If YOU were a physician you would know about the first, second, and third laws of thermodyamics. As do I with a basic science background with a BS. This video was not about thermodynamics – Dr G was just trying to educate his followers most of whom do not have a technical scientific background

          Your need to be arrogant on this site isn’t helpful to others who are simply trying to find their way to a better, more healthful, life.

          1. Dr. Greger started this video with a : he applied the 3500-calorie per pound rule incorrectly, then claimed it wouldn’t work.

            He applied it only once, and got a caloric intake that was valid for the BEGINNING of the weight loss.

            The correct way to apply it is to RECALCULATE EVERY DAY.

            Here is a CORRECT calculator, which adjusts for decreasing metabolic rate with decreasing weight, showing curved lines (if you look closely, or want to lose a lot of weight):
            https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=lose+weight

            While I regularly appreciate the videos on this site and I support Dr. Greger’s work (hence my being on the site and buying the books), this particular video is neither scientific nor actionable.

            I am arrogant, sure. But if you want to contradict a specialist, you’re gonna have to hurt some feelings.

            1. I agree with this. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Greger, and a supporter of his, but this video is very misleading. He says the 3,500 rule is inaccurate, but then describes it as being accurate. He just applies it incorrectly. Any amount of reading about the 3,500 calorie rule will tell you that it’s 3,500 calories BELOW your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

              Perhaps he’s right, and most people misunderstand the basic principle of weight loss (that you have to consume less calories than you burn). If that’s the case, maybe those folks will find value in this.

              Of the hundreds of his videos I’ve watched, this is the first I’ve really been disappointed in. I can live with that ;-)

        3. Your thinking is overly simplistic.

          For one thing, how many calories we take in may be less important than how many calories we actually absorb. We absorb fewer calories from whole foods than we do from pueed or blended foods for example.

          if your claims are typical of this Hackers Diet thing you are promoting, perhaps both you and the author should reserach the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

      2. Your cholesterol creeping up(I presume to a level deemed undesirable) can be caused by ingesting excessive cholesterol, or a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol, or both. If you eat a WFPB diet, the only cause would be genetics. What does your doctor say about it?

        1. In rare cases a person can follow a WF PBD and still gain weight. A woman connected to Dr. McDougall gave a talk, where she was always overweight even while eating whole foods, plant based. Her secret was cutting out the fats, so she either removed or greatly restricted anything with fat, for example, oils, and nuts. But for most of us, once we remove meat, diary and processed garbage our weight normalizes automatically.

          1. Michael,

            High Carb Hannah gained 30-something pounds mostly just eating fruit and said that she was hungry all of the time on top of that.

            I am on a lot of sites and there are a lot of people who don’t lose weight and I will tell you that each thing I have given up, I thought “This will be it” and I moved all of the way over to salads with no-oil dressings every day as my main food and didn’t lose anything.

            It is a mystery to me still.

            I thought, “Okay, I will add working out at the gym and THAT will surely work” and, so far, it isn’t really doing anything, but I might not be walking fast enough on the treadmill or some other factor.

            It just is hard to figure out.

              1. Deb, I see you mentioned having a “sedentary job” more than once. This can make a huge difference. I assume you don’t live in an area where you can walk to work because in big cities like New York, that’s one way we counteract this. If you work 9-5, exercising at the gym becomes rough, I know. I was fortunate when I worked in that I was done by 3 or 3:30. Working out at a fairly vigorous level (speed or intensity) and for a sustained period of time is very important for weight maintenance, for me anyway. I’m 66 and have been able to maintain a BMI of 20 for a number of years. I also do what most people frown upon: I weigh myself daily. If I see I’ve gained a couple of pounds, I try to be more conscious of how many nuts and how much nut butter I’m consuming. I generally go way beyond the recommended ounce. Also, I snack on Wasa crackers with nut butter and fruit spread. Not ideal, but a woman’s gotta live a little.

            1. A huge part of the weight loss / obesity problem is the hormone disruption caused by all the incredibly toxic chemicals in use food production. Going as organic as possible is essential for everyone to be healthy and especially for those on a WFPB diet who still face weight problems.

              1. Clinton,

                I agree. Those things would be on a list of causes of obesity.

                What I will say though is that when I watch Krock’s in the Kitchen, they both lost over 100 pounds in a year and never went organic and they eat nuts and tahini in their hummus and lots of other things, which I have gone off.

                It is fascinating.

            2. Deb – I see that other’s have sent you this information before. But you might want to re-look at it again.

              Calorie Density by Jeff Novick.
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CdwWliv7Hg

              If you are continuing to have trouble with your weight, eat on the less calorie dense spectrum. And eat often enough to keep your hunger at bay.
              And if you drink alcohol – stop it.

              McDougall: “People love to hear good news about their bad habits”.

            3. Dan Buettner recently stated that one of the characteristics all the Blue Zone group have in common, is that they ‘sweat’ between 5-10 hours a week. Walking is hardly any exercise at all, unless you are 85 or older. A daily favorite is running 15 stories of stairs (x 4) = 60 floors, every morning. At age 70, it is the perfect warm-up to the rest of one’s exercise regime.

              1. LGK

                Well done but lets not underestaimate the benefits of walking. It beats sitting on the couch by a long walk (so to speak) and it’s a type of exercise that almost anyone can do. As regards mortality risk, it may even be more important than doing those other more vigorous exercises you write about:.

                ‘Associations with walking adjusted for other moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity were similar to walking only.’

                You are 70 and this study of US adults aged =70 and over found

                ‘Inactivity compared with walking only at less than recommended levels was associated with higher all-cause mortality (hazard rate ratio=1.26, 95% CI=1.21, 1.31). Meeting one to two times the recommendations through walking only was associated with lower all-cause mortality (hazard rate ratio=0.80, 95% CI=0.78, 0.83). Associations with walking adjusted for other moderate- or vigorous-intensity physical activity were similar to walking only. Walking was most strongly associated with respiratory disease mortality followed by cardiovascular disease mortality and then cancer mortality.

                Conclusions
                In older adults, walking below minimum recommended levels is associated with lower all-cause mortality compared with inactivity. Walking at or above physical activity recommendations is associated with even greater decreased risk. Walking is simple, free, and does not require any training, and thus is an ideal activity for most Americans, especially as they age.’
                https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(17)30460-9/fulltext

                1. Okay Mr. Fumble, thanks for giving more value to walking.

                  My health club is exactly one mile away from my house, and I walk there 5-6 days a week, but I did not really think that it added much value. Now I know different.

                  1. Mr. Fumble,

                    However, I want to note that I use to have a resting heart rate of 51-52 bpm as a result of regular ‘cross-trainer’ activity. Since I started running the stairs daily, it has given me a RHR of 45 bpm, and I will gladly accept the difference.

          2. Oils aren’t whole plant foods in the first place. Neither are breads, pastas, hummus, nut butters, smoothies etc.

            What people say they eat, and what they tell themselves that they eat, is often rather different to what they actually eat.

            1. “breads, pastas, hummus, nut butters, smoothies” ? There are recipes for these and using these (whole grain) In the “How Not to Die Cookbook”. Not everyone needs to be as extreme as you

          1. Yes Julot, if you are referring to me and my cholesterol issue. These things are good to mention in case some readers are new to wfpb eating. We do not buy/eat oils, avocado, nuts, coconut anything, olives or chocolate. We also do not eat processed cereals, pasta etc.

  4. The flattening of the curve makes sense but the next logical question is whether there is a formula that takes into account weight loss/gain, BMR, etc… which provides an accurate assessment of how many calories in/out equate to 1lb of fat.

    And for that matter, is there a similar calculation for adding muscle as opposed to losing fat?

    1. I believe this video is a bit off, because of the first law of thermodynamics. If you supply less energy (calories) than your body needs (and correctly account for metabolic adaptation), it will eventually have to dig into the energy reserves (fat).

      While the rule is “wrong” in the global sense (i.e. the chart is curved, not a linear equation), it is still useful for in a “local” sense, i.e. compute your basal metabolic rate every day, not just at the beginning, and make sure to eat less than that. I believe Dr. Greger is wrong, implying this wouldn’t work. But it’s just thermodynamics.

      1. A problem with this type of criticism is that it forgets to include the rider ceteris paribus (ie all other things being equall). I thought that that was eseentially Greger’s point?

        For one thing, it ignores the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

        The thermal/mechanical/energy efficiency of fuels like coal, gas, oil, solar etc are all different ….. so quite clearly total (potential) energy ‘in’ isn’t the be-all and end-all of the argument.

        1. You are right. I have ignored the body’s energy efficiency, because I make a big assumption: that we have an accurate basal metabolic rate.

          This is usually seen through simplistic models, like being proportional to body weight, but of course there are many more variables.

          One could accurately measure the total oxygen used for burning, in order to accurately find their BMR every day. But that would be quite a challenge, and that is why we use simplistic models.

          As for the difference between the various “fuels” from which we get calories, I make another assumption: namely that the labeled calories actually show what the human body absorbs. For instance, insoluble fiber is not digestible by us, but it does burn in a calorimeter full of pure oxygen (and in people’s furnaces in the form of trees, for that matter), which means the label might overestimate its energy.

          Also, here’s the article which Dr. Greger based this video on:
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23628852

          This article has a response which summarizes my point that the new caloric intake must be calculated from the new BMR (or in the response’s words, “ΔEB is dynamic”).
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23774459

          The authors have responded to this response, where they admit “We agree with Hall and Chow1 that the 3500-kcal rule prediction is more accurate when the change in energy balance (ΔEB) includes the effects of a progressively decreasing weight loss over time.”
          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23774461

          However, the point, it seems, is that people apply the 3500-rule incorrectly. Dr Greger did not explain this, he merely said that it’s wrong.
          (From the same response) “the 3500-kcal rule in every instance that it is applied in the global obesity literature and in countless weight management programs assumes ΔEB is static”

  5. reasonable rule for normal-weight individuals redarding Weight Gain.

    Now do a video on Alcohol Calories:
    a couple extra beers a week does me in!

  6. I do understand how to slowly become obese by eating the wrong foods.

    I also do understand that dieting shuts down the metabolism and that still affects people years later.

    I do understand how people get up to 300 and 400 pounds by their 60’s, but those people are eating junk food while sitting in front of the television for hours every night.

    I don’t understand the 1000 pounds in their 50’s.

    1. It is not really complicated at all .
      Carbs plus protein (meat, soy, etc) makes one gain weight .
      Fat plus protein makes muscle especially if you use resistance exercise .
      Carbs or fat with low protein will make you lose weight.
      Caution using fats however , it may harm your heart health.
      Waiting patiently for Dr new Diet book!

    1. I agree. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is not created nor lost; merely moved. So, your body has to dig into fat at some point, it can’t just create energy out of nothing.

      The other side of the same coin is that, if you pump it full of energy it doesn’t use, it will not get destroyed, but stored (as fat).

      1. A lot of energy may be dumped as waste depending on the fuel. Coal produces more waste than oil. Whole plant foods produce more waste energy thsn pureed plant foods..

  7. There are a lot of calorie trackers online where you can enter your body weight and height, level of activity, and the tracker will calculate the amount of calories to eat based on resting energy expenditure. What I’ve discovered based on my own results is that the “level of activity” part is always overestimated. I have a sedentary job so just because I hit the treadmill for 30 mins a day for 5 days a week or lift weights 3x a week doesn’t really increase energy expenditure where it affects my body weight. Unless you run a marathon daily or have a job that has you on your feet doing physical labor (lumberjack, farmer, construction worker, etc), I’d recommend putting “sedentary” under these calorie trackers otherwise they will overestimate the calories needed.

    1. I absolutely agree! Many people overestimate their “activity level”. I made sure to read the calculator’s definition, and it worked. I warmly recommend it!

      I used Wolfram Alpha and Cronometer.

      If you calculate the metabolic rate every day, you will get an accurate estimation of weight loss using the calories in food. Why is this the case? Because of the first law of thermodynamics, and the fact that the human body stores as much energy as it can as fat, and only spends it when absolutely needed.

      1. I like the simplicity of Cronometer, and the way it can sync with my Fitbit and allows me to input other biometrics like blood pressure and blood sugar. When I’m having weight trouble, I go back to Cronometer, and my problem becomes clear. I always use the “sedentary” setting whether I am or not because it gives me a more realistic calorie limit. It always works if I am totally compliant. My WFPB diet has always tended to drift into a PB diet that includes tortilla chips, pasta, and similar items. Even my WFPB diet can include far too much hummus, and yes, too many nuts. I have a large appetite and a poor full response to foods, even filling foods like walnuts. So there are a few things that I need to measure. Cronometer reminds me how low-calorie density works. It isn’t anything that Dr. Greger and others haven’t told me, it’s just a personalized demonstration that helps me deal with reality.

  8. I think the “rule” is mis-stated in this video. You need a roughly 3500-cal deficit to lose a pound. After losing some weight, the calories burned will go down and you have to reduce from that new baseline to lose a pound again. That’s what the video is saying. The baseline changes, so the calorie reduction must also be recalibrated. At some point, a calorie deficit becomes unhealthy so you shouldn’t attempt it any longer. The video confuses deficits (calories in minus calories out) with a one-time reduction in absolute calories that is maintained (and will result in the gradual reduction of periodic weight loss). This is misleading at best.

    1. Agree. The first law of thermodynamics: your body is designed to keep energy around as fat, for when you need it. If you stop eating, it will use its reserves, since no matter what the basal metabolic rate (BMR) will be, it won’t be zero.

      The 3500-calorie rule is usually just a rule of thumb, but if you somehow accurately recalculate your BMR every week, and make sure you stay 3500 below it, then you will surely lose at least a pound per week (“at least” because you also move around, it’s not just the BMR).

    2. The title of the video is a little misleading. The video does not challenge the formula of 1lb fat = 3500 kcal. Instead, the video challenges (and successfully so) the common and erroneous application of the 3500 rule, e.g., the idea that eating 500 kcal less each day would equal a lb of loss each week. That application is worthless unless you are factoring in your resting metabolic rate and understand that the rate changes with your age and weight. But . . . what if you do calculate your RMR correctly? In other words, lets say that a 5’10’ tall, 300 lb, 40 year old male, uses something like the Mifflin St Jeor Equation (https://tdeecalculator.net/) and determines that his RMR is 2,732 kcal per day. And then he has a 3500 kcal deficit (using that baseline) over the following week . . . would he lose a pound of body fat? Is the 3500 number accurate with the other variables controlled for? Almost everyone uses this number, so I would love to see some analysis on it from a bright mind like Dr. G.

  9. I’m not sure for many people calorie restriction will cut it. Insulin rise or time it is raised is probably more of a factor than actually counting calories in my experience. Let your body burn the fat instead of feeding all the time.

    1. Patrick, agree, eating, snacking constantly, is the worst thing to do. Cannot lose weight that way. What happened to people eating 2-3 decent meals, no snacks?
      Also, people need to realize that how many calories you burn is not only affected by exercise (moving), but also by how much muscle vs. fat you have. Muscle uses far more calories per hour (about 2&1/2x) than fat. So a thin, fit person can eat more and not gain weight.
      More reason the 3,500 rule is not valid.

      1. “What happened to people eating 2-3 decent meals, no snacks?”
        – – – – –

        The last time I snacked between meals was when I was a ‘teen. If you eat enuf at the other meals, seems to me there should be no need to be hungry.

        1. YR,

          I eat snacks; I call them dessert from one meal, or an appetizer for the next meal. But it’s food like fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, yogurt. I eat small meals (and I feel full) and even smaller snacks. It works for me.

        2. YR, I had gotten into the bad habit of blurring meal times and snacking frequently through the day. You inspired me to try eating at meal times only, and so far, I feel better for it. The first couple of days was a bit tough, but now (3 weeks in) I’m fine with it.

    1. Wow! A very nice calculator, showing you exactly what the “activity levels” mean.

      This has to work, because of the first law of thermodynamics, if not for anything else. Same as any other object in the universe, the human body cannot create energy from nothing, otherwise we wouldn’t need to eat.

    2. Dr. Sidney, That is a nice calculator- although, it does not take into consideration body fat – (much like the current BMI unit being used in most medical offices) I put my stats in and it assumed that I had 29% body fat (to start), when actually it is 18%. Also, a Low to no oil WFPB diet increases metabolism by 17-20% so the calculations in the standard BMR measurement, (from where I assume the niddk.nih group derived their model), are conservative in that instance.

      I use a Basel Metabolic Rate calculation done the long way with my clients to guesstimate daily calorie consumption needed to lose weight. This is ONLY if they are not losing on a clean WFPB diet with no calorie counting. Clients are measured additionally on a professional grade body fat scale – Some who add weight resistance training will be increasing muscle, which weighs more than fat. I use the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), scale for determining target body fat ranges depending on age.

      Yes, post-menopausal women are indeed the most difficult group for weight loss. My experience has shown that It requires the McDougall maximum weight loss regime + intermittent fasting to get the pounds off. With those measures in place – IN the end, emphasis is placed on being HEALTHY, feeling better, reversing health issues/disease and being patient while the weight slowly drops.

  10. So Doc, is there a simple mathematical equation that isn’t errant to use? I think the old 3500 calories per 1 lbs of fat provides a nice objective gauge if it were correct. Would be interesting to know an accurate one. I’m sure they are plenty as bodybuilders and athletes certainly have this dialed in to hit a specific composition on a specific date.

    Thanks,
    bslifka3

  11. Hi Everyone

    This is the first time I’ve posted and I have a question.
    I am a 65 year old man,type 2 diabetic and 5 stone overweight. I eat a very low fat WFPB diet, I do like salt. I have been on the WFPB diet for about 5 yrs it has really helped with my diabetes, my insulin use is very small compard to what it used to be, but I am still fat! does anyone have any suggestions?

    1. A high carb low fat high water fruit based diet of mostly raw foods for a few months will make you lose all the weight you want and probably improve your health overall and well being~

    2. Dusty,

      Dr. Greger’s book will be coming out pretty soon.

      How Not to Diet will have all sorts of tricks in it like which foods speed up metabolism, etc.

      Diabetes is something which can make it harder to lose weight. Insulin definitely makes it harder.

      I will suggest double-checking everything you are eating to look for hidden oils. What I mean is that there is often oil in plant milk and we often have things which aren’t WFPB in the mix. The vegan burritos and vegan ravioli and vegan dumplings, which I loved all had some oil in them. Yes, those aren’t exactly WFPB to begin with, but those were things which I enjoyed as transition foods and hidden sources of oil or sodium would be things to look for first.

      Also, think about whether you are drinking any juices or smoothies and if so, switch things up.

      Dr. McDougall has a Maximum Weight Loss plan and he has a lot of recipes on-line.

      That plan is much more stringent.

      https://www.drmcdougall.com/2019/05/15/mcdougall-program-maximum-weight-loss-10-point-checklist-and-recipes/

      Looking at it, soy is one, which I still haven’t lowered.

    3. Dusty, You are doing something not quite right with how you are eating the NO WFPB diet. have you seen a professional plant-based nutritionist? Are you drinking alcohol? Processed foods with fat or oil in them and mis-reading the ingredient label? I am able to help most people REVERSE their T2D in 5-6 wks. Especially men typically lose weight like crazy. Exercising too? Even better! I have never posted this in the comments before but it saddens me that you’re not getting results – especially with your obvious motivation. Feel free to contact me here – https://www.facebook.com/wfpbhealth/

      1. Wow, Tom, that one was a good one!

        The concept that they found out that people who eat higher amounts of salt drink less water and that when the astronauts ate higher amounts of salt they were complaining of hunger are interesting concepts.

        They drank less water?????

        That is hard to understand.

        The fascinating part is that what is running through my mind is Shark Week and a woman who survived after a boat went down and what I remember was that 2 of the males got so thirsty that they drank seawater and then, they went so crazy that they jumped in the water to be eaten by the sharks.

        Not exactly helpful in understanding the astronauts. It just is a random saltwater thought.

    4. respond with your food log for a week.
      that’s the only way any health professional can objectively guide you.
      non health professionals will exhaust you with anecdotes and guesses.

    5. Hello Dusty,

      It’s great that you’re trying to get healthier and are eating WFPB. I would highly suggest checking out Dr. Greger’s upcoming book “How Not To Diet” in December; however, there are some things that may help. Exercise is certainly an important component, and a few additional pointers from Dr. Greger’s weight loss lecture are: eating a larger breakfast and smaller meals as the day goes on, removing salt, and snacking on fruit, such as apples before meals. These are some techniques that can help further shed some pounds.

      I hope this helps,
      Dr. Matt

  12. It is always a good idea to double think oversimplified broad generalizations regarding health. (remember that glasses of water per day recommendation?) While humans are of the same species, we vary genetically, have different internal biomes, and do wildly different things to our bodies resulting in variables that do not fit into simple cookie cutter predictability. We are all biochemically different. This is why a drug that works wonders for one person might be a complete disaster for the next. This ‘difference’ also affects our digestion, how much we absorb, how much is turned into brown fat (which burns calories by turning it to body heat) versus white fat, how much brown fat our bodies maintain, and our glucose tolerance. Obviously we are all very different how our bodies handle calories.

    1. That is very astute, Jimbo.

      I like how you worded it.

      It is always a good idea to double think oversimplified broad generalizations regarding health.

      That is a conceptual mouthful.

  13. This video did not prove this rule wrong….in the end, if you burn more calories than you absorb/use/store, you will lose weight. I understand that the exact amount of calories that you consume can be used or stored by your body differently depending on your own genetics and a host of other factors, but so what? Just because Susan used to burn 2200 calories just existing, but now only burns 1500 (because she’s lost 45 lbs) doesn’t mean that the rule changes…it just means she would have to eat less to achieve a deficit.
    I do look forward to what I presume Dr. Greger is going to touch on: factors that cause/enable you to burn more of the calories you consume.

    1. I agree with you Marie.
      Greger is confusing variance in an isocaloric diet with variance in the effects of a 3500 Calorie per week energy intake deficit.

      1. I guess that one good thing about our upcoming winter: the shivering that ensues.

        I’ve been a fidgeter from waaaay back. My mother used to tell me to stop shaking my feet, etc. while we were at Sunday Mass. But I was always anxious to get the heck outta there. No human should have to sit still for a whole bloody hour or so.:-)

  14. The thing I have always thought about is absorption of calories, I eat as much as I like when I like on a plant based, no oil, minimal processed food diet. I feel that sometimes the foods go through my system before my body has absorbed either the calories or probably the nutriments. Iam 5′ 7′ and weigh 145 lbs all the time. I used to weigh 180 so it is not my metabolism that keeps my weight stable. Do I have a valid point ?

    1. I believe so.

      People have no trouble accepting that eg different types of coal have different energy extraction efficiencies. And power stations usually turn coal into powder before extracting energy. For some reason, it often appears to be assumed that food is different and there is 100% energy extraction efficiency from all foods irrespective of their type and form.

  15. What about wearing a weighted vest to lose weight? If what you suggest about needing more calories when you weigh more is correct then wearing a weighted vest or clothing could do the trick. Thoughts?

  16. This is one of the few times I see a serious misunderstanding by NutritionFacts and Dr Greger re the nutrition science.
    This video is not interpreting the 3500 Calories per pound of bodyfat tissue statement correctly.
    And I have never heard it referred to as ‘a rule’.

    The Facts:
    – The guideline says if a person reduces their Calorie intake by 3500 Calories a week BELOW an isocaloric diet intake, over time they will lose an average pound a week. How active a person is, is irrelevant. Activity level is accommodated in the definition of isocaloric diet, meaning a diet adequate to maintain a particular bodyweight.
    3500 Calories subtracted from an isocaloric diet results in an average loss of one pound a week over time, independent of a person’s weight.
    Greger is confusing that the Calories in an isocaloric diet decrease as one gets lighter.

    – it is scientifically ignorant to argue against this guideline by comparing what happens when people overeat 500 Cals a day. Why? because people vary in their ability to store surplus Calories as fat. Some people burn more excess Calories via thermogenesis, using higher levels of brown adipose tissue.

    – This video also ignores that resting energy expenditure per unit bodyweight increases as one gets slimmer. Why? because fat makes up a smaller % of total bodyweight. And bodyfat has a lower metabolic rate than lean tissue. However, this has nothing to do with the weight lost on a 500 Calorie/day deficit.

      1. Deb, for you to ask if we just lose weight until we vanish can only be said if you are missing the point.

        Do you comprehend what an isocaloric diet is? I explained what it is. And it is critical to understanding what is meant by a weekly 3500 Calorie DEFICIT.
        DEFICIT means you eat 3500 Calories LESS than the Calories required to maintain bodyweight.

        So if someone drops their weight from 200 lbs (39% bodyfat) to 100 lbs (6%bodyfat), and continues to adjust their calorie intake to 3500 Calories BELOW that required to maintain their current bodyweight, then yes, that person will kill themselves.

        Where Greger is confounding the subject is in misrepresenting what a “500 Calorie/day deficit” means.
        The critical component is in the word DEFICIT.
        DEFICIT means you are eating less than what is required to sustain your CURRENT bodyweight.

        I honestly cannot clarify it more, and have to wonder why Greger has gone down this road. I am a primary care clinician with more qualifications than Michael, and it baffles me why he addresses issues like this.

    1. Runner’s world said that most overweight people lose HALF of the weight that the 3,500-calorie rule predicts. They said that a 7,000 calorie deficit is closer to what it actually takes for the weight loss.

      1. It still is highly likely that you don’t vanish in 3 years.

        The Biggest Loser is one example which I will use because they exercised 8 hours per day and ate serious calorie-restriction and their metabolism was still so stalled 6 years later even with that much exercise and almost all of them gain it back.

        1. If people exercising 8 hours per day have their metabolism slow down for a decade or the rest of their lives or something like that and can only eat prison camp calories, without gaining weight, then it has to be complicated.

          1. Here is the article about it and they called boosting metabolism with exercise during dieting a myth, too.

            Even with the amount they were exercising, their metabolism was slowing by several hundred calories per day.

            https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/6-years-after-the-biggest-loser-metabolism-is-slower-and-weight-is-back-up/

            Only 1 person didn’t regain the weight, and those who did were worse off because they couldn’t eat as many calories without gaining weight as they had before the show.

            1. Their metabolism went down further after leaving it.

              Mentally, I just do think I shut my metabolism down.

              The part that is so confusing is that if I did go lower and lower in calories by dropping things like soy, it just becomes like any old diet I ever did.

          2. Deb, this is part of what I have been saying. I think in some ways you are over-complicating things. If a 250 lb woman wants to weigh 120 lbs, she can not get there while eating like a 250 lb person. She has to consume less. And once she makes it to 120 lb, her calories to maintain that weight will be very small compared to when she was heavier. (even though I am active, muscle-y etc, it takes not many calories to maintain this weight.) Call it prison camp calories or whatever you will, it’s the way it is. Real food offers the greatest satisfaction and health benefits for the calories consumed.
            btw, I like soy milk in coffee but don’t eat other soy products.

              1. What I see is that I can look at High Carb Hannah and a lot of very thin vegans and they are eating 2500 to 3000 calories per day.

                We always did 800 to 1000 calorie diets when we were young and then, at a certain point, you lose over 10% of your body weight and start feeling starving all of the time because of hunger hormones.

                1. Deb, Re the ‘lose more than 10% Of your body weight and start feeling starving…’ , I think you might be panicking unnecessarily here. I have not experienced the starvation effect, ever. Feeling hungry for the next meal is natural, and normal. Dr Greger designed a food plan that is nothing short of brilliant imo. Why not start there? Keep it simple!
                  The serving sizes are small.. I eat 1 cup soy milk and 1/2 cup beans or lentils per day usually (2 bean servings instead of the 3) You can cook squash or potatoes on sunday and reheat in the microwave during the week. Steam some veg, eat fruit for dessert and you will be feeling great and improving sleep.

            1. Barb, you said ” I eat 1 cup soy milk.”
              – – – – – –

              Seems to me that would include the whole pot of coffee as opposed to just a cuppa. No? Yes?

              1. yes YR, 1 cup soy milk for the whole day, on average. I splash some on my oat bran and berries too.. I eat lots of veg and fruit, but do not often get 3 servings of beans in as per the Daily Dozen.

                1. AHso….that makes more sense. :-) I was confused by this statement:

                  “btw, I like soy milk in coffee.” I thought that was the only item you put it in.

        2. “The Biggest Loser is one example which I will use because they exercised 8 hours per day and ate serious calorie-restriction and their metabolism was still so stalled 6 years later even with that much exercise and almost all of them gain it back.”

          LOL there is absolutely nothing unusual about the Biggest Loser 6 year follow up study.

          The 14 contestants in the study on average lost 40% of their bodyweight on the show.
          Their resting energy expenditure (metabolism) dropped 23%, and dropped a little more in the months after.
          This is totally normal and expected.

          Only 4 contestants regained more weight than they started the show with.
          One did not regain weight.
          The rest regained some of the weight.

          The reason they regained weight has absolutely NOTHING to do with a slower metabolism.
          Do you understand what slower metabolism means?
          If someone loses 40% of their bodyweight, they will burn much less Calories.
          This does not mean their metabolism has slowed.
          It means they have less cells than before, 40% less mass, which requires less energy to keep alive.
          Their brain still requires the same energy as before. There has been no slowing of the brain, no slowing of the muscles when used for activity.

          When talking about metabolism, it is unscientific to talk about a person’s total resting energy expenditure.
          One should be talking about the metabolic rate of particular tissue per pound of tissue weight, specifically (brain, heart, muscle, fat).

          The reason people put weight back on after Biggest Loser is because they go back to eating a lot of rubbish food.

          I know literally hundreds of people who have lost 150 pounds+ who have kept it off for 10+ years.
          They have achieved this by banning themselves from junk food, like an alcoholic bans himself from alcohol.

          Greger should be focusing on why people have an appetite for the wrong foods. He would do more good in understanding andbroadcasting that.
          Much of it has to do with mental health issues, endocrine dysregulation, stress, and sleep quality.

          To lose weight, we should stop focusing on activity and exercise, and start focusing on mental health and stress management, life meaning and balance. When one is perpetually stressed and lonely and tired, it is difficult to stick to a healthy diet.
          This is how the world differs today compared to when our ancestors existed.
          And there was no obesity epidemic 50+ years ago.

          1. The word “metabolism” was what was used by Kevin D. Hall of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland and the sentences Dr. Greger was reading was also by a scientist. The words are not Dr. Greger’s words. He is reading the exact wording from a journal document.

            So I guess not everyone agrees with you.

            1. Reading the studies, they have studied to see how much was metabolism versus nonadherence and one study which was focused on figuring that out said that changes in metabolic rate explained on average 67% of the less-than-expected weight loss,

      2. “Runner’s world said that most overweight people lose HALF of the weight that the 3,500-calorie rule predicts. They said that a 7,000 calorie deficit is closer to what it actually takes for the weight loss.”

        There’s thousands of studies Runner’s world ignores to come to that conclusion.
        If people lose less weight than intended, it is because they
        – change their activity levels or lie about them, when dieting.
        – do not accurately fill in food logs. All people working in nutrition studies know lying or forgetting about one’s real food intake is the norm when keeping a food log.

        People absolutely lose weight on a 3500 Calorie weekly deficit.
        Why do you think people lose weight on a WFPB diet? because they are taking in less Calories, even if it is 500 Calories/day less.

        1. Bruce,

          I am not trying to argue with you, but it is professionals who are using the terms and they talk about things like Leptin resistance affecting hormones and all sorts of things like that and I do think metabolic adaptation and leptin resistance and the whole ghrelin problems all seem more real to me than what you are saying.

          You are talking to people before their leptin and ghrelin and metabolic adaptation problems have happened is my guess, but I am looking forward to Dr. Greger covering some of these topics, but with him, it will not be that he is confused. He will be reading the studies.

          1. I guess I am trying to follow what you are saying versus the fact that I read about resistin and ghrelin and leptin-resistance and THOSE make sense to me. I feel like when I read those things, I think, “Yes, somebody gets it.”

            I found one which talked about how resistin affects the metabolism of things like broccoli and tomatoes and those are often in my daily salad.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4949892/

            I have done food journals for years and have at times spent whole years in plateau mode and the sites like Spark-people and Fit To me and other sites, which I have used do say that they are adjusting for age and all sorts of things.

            Resistin and leptin and ghrelin can be affected by lack of sleep and that makes sense, too.

            I honestly don’t understand everything. I just do understand how hard I have been working at this process.

    2. Yea, I think it’s mainly just a poor job of titling the video. The title of the video should be “Why a simple 500 calorie reduction to your diet may not result in a 1 lb. per week loss of weight”.

      But it can if you do it right. … If you are exercising to maintain lean body mass, you can do a better job of preventing the decay of your resting metabolic rate as you lose weight. If you maintain all your LBM and just lose fat, then your reduction in calorie output should be minimized. And as you become more athletic and enjoy using your new fit body, you can increase that number. What did Michael Phelps say he consumed, like 8000 calories per day? Ok, and he is not 500 pounds. So with lean body mass comes a higher metabolism.

      1. That didn’t happen to the Biggest Losers who did the 8 hours per day exercising and did lose the body fat and did gain muscle, but their bodies didn’t have an increase in metabolism because of how low they went in calories. He went up in calories with the exercise and probably never damaged his metabolism.

  17. Of course. And it’s no surprise that the graphs are exponential either; this is exactly the same as (dis)charging a capacitor through a resistor in electronics where the graphs also look like this. Duh :)

    What would be useful to have then, is a formula that defines the new set point in terms of energy consumed. And, to get rid of fad diets, that ought to distinguish between fat and lean mass. It need not be simple, because we have computers (and humans get it wrong in so many ways anyway). It’d be something like

    (kg_fat, kg_lean) = FORMULA (intake_fat, intake_carbs, intake_protein)

    Before we have that I’m sure dieters will stick with silly forms that happen to provide *some* form of prediction to look ahead at (and be disappointed about…)

  18. I feel like the title of this video is misleading. The main point of the video’s content is that “resting metabolic rate” / “caloric output” is reduced when losing weight (or increased when gaining weight). This fact results in a shrinking of the caloric deficit achieved when reducing caloric intake, which causes an eventual plateau in weight loss. HOWEVER, would it not be true that if you maintained the deficit (500 calories in the example given) by either further reducing caloric intake as resting metabolic rate was reduced or by increasing caloric output (say by increasing exercise) as resting output is reduced – that you would in fact lose a pound every 7 days? And if so, then is the fallacy really having to do with the 3500 calorie rule? Or wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that the issue is that it will be difficult to maintain a consistent caloric deficit as weight is reduced, thereby making a cumulative deficit of 3500 for a given week hard to accomplish. By stating that the 3500 calorie per pound rule is false, I imagined the video would discuss new reasoning that says keeping a 500 calorie deficit for 7 days would not cause a 1 pound weight loss. But the video does not seem to claim that….only that the deficit will be hard to maintain without further adjustments.

    1. I am listening to all of you, but then, how is it that if your resistin levels change you will metabolize broccoli differently is that built into what you are talking about?

      They have done studies where approximately 67% of it is metabolic adaptation versus nonadherence to the dietary lifestyle. Does your model take that into account?

      There are also set points where ghrelin and leptin-resistance affect hormones and metabolism and hunger.

      It seems to me like Dr. Greger is pointing out the reality, which 99.9% of dieters fail using calorie restriction. I think Dr. Fung did the math and so did the Bright Lines woman, whose name I can’t remember. It was less than 1% of the people using calorie restriction succeed in the first place and, of those, almost 99% gain the weight back and if you go 10 years out they will have gained it all back, plus some.

      (The Biggest Loser study they reviewed things at 6 years and they were up to 290-something and were still gaining. I suspect that by 10 years out they will be heavier than when they started and not be able to eat the same calories they used to be able to eat and, again, I think that was Dr. Fung’s math, but I watched it a year or so ago, but the whole point was that almost everybody fails when the method was simply calorie restriction.)

      1. There are some theories that it was messing up the leptin, ghrelin, resistin, 9 hormones involved in obesity is part of what caused the obesity epidemic in the first place and, YES, I would put the processed food industry and fast food industry and animal products industries above the damage trying to lose weight accomplished, but I have seen doctors who said that they gave themselves obesity problems by dieting, which they never had done before, but after they dieted, they found out that they suddenly couldn’t maintain their ideal weight anymore.

        I remember a book called, “Diets Don’t Work” by somebody way back when, but I believe the doctor used to look down on obese people, then, he dieted and ended up making things worse, and that is all I remember.

        1. Dr. Greger, I love you and I am not jumping ship. I will be reading your book, but you are going to have to twist my arm really, really, really hard to get me to try to do it by going really low calorie again, and I might stubbornly draw a line in the sand because I will be upset with myself (yes, myself) if I do very low calorie and trigger the whole stupid ghrelin thing again.

          Fool me 100 times and there is a really big problem.

          1. And I will add that because I am trying to be just plain authentic on this site, this morning my friend tried to win me to the fact that Slim Fast now has chocolate and peanut butter meal bars and I paused and listened to the ingredient list and did not go out and buy one, but I did eat a Lara bar and pondered whether I could just do the shakes or bars again and not have to think about any of this anymore and that is because it really is confusing to me.

            1. I actually considered that for myself after reading your post Deb. I thought about swapping a vegan shake mix for dinner for the next 6 months or so. There are a couple of advantages to that for me, but I am going to check out a couple of the calculators that people posted first to determine calorie levels.

  19. I believe the 3500 calorie rule always applies, you just have to adjust your daily caloric intake as your weight drops to ensure you maintain the same caloric deficit. So let’s say you weigh 150 pounds, and at that weight you burn 2500 calories per day. You would consume 2000 calories per day to put you at a 500 calorie per day deficit (3500 calories over a week resulting 1 pound of weight loss). Then let’s say you get down to 140 pounds, and now at that weight your body is burning 2200 calories per day. Now, to have that same rate of weight loss, you would intake 1700 calories per day to create the same 500 calorie deficit. So, the 3500 calorie rule still works, you just have to modify your daily caloric intake to maintain the daily/weekly deficit.
    Caveat: to ensure most of what you are losing is fat, you would need to ensure you were doing some sort of resistance training and keeping your protein relatively high. This will help maintain lean body tissue (muscle) forcing the body to go after the fat stores to make up for the energy (caloric) deficit

  20. Laughing.

    I just spent time in prayer and I am going to try to use my faith instead of my logic.

    I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.

    I saw a study even just on positivity and once my focus switched to trying to lose weight or the fact that I haven’t lost weight I lost my way. Weighing isn’t helpful to me. Perhaps Waying will be more effective.

    1. Deb, c’mon. This is not logical. Take whichever spiritual path suits you, but don’t think it is going to help you lose weight.

      First of all, if you were spiritually enlightened, then you wouldn’t care about your weight; so these are contradictory goals.

      Second of all, and back to the point at hand, Dr. Greger is all about plant-based, whole foods. If you buy his cookbook and try to follow those recipes all the time, then you will probably lose weight without even having to concentrate too much on the calories or hormones or any of that stuff because they are generally low calorie and high nutrient meals – and they will make you full. Plus, cooking them will take some energy and burn some calories!

      Third, even if you don’t lose weight right away, you will be doing your organs a huge favor. He points out many times over how all these foods he recommends will help your kidneys, stomach, liver, heart, brain, etc.

      So if these calorie in/out metrics don’t jive with your outlook, just follow Dr. G’s cookbook, go out for a walk every day, and I bet you’ll find that all this debate is not so important.

  21. Hello.
    I want to change diet from standard mix to whole foods plant based foods. But I have a genetic disease and I need to gain weight. I can’t lose any more weight as that’ll make me BMI under 16, makes doctors alarmed. Can anyone tell me good mix of foods known to give weight gain?

    1. Hi, Aya! This post should help answer your question: https://nutritionfacts.org/questions/what-is-a-healthy-way-to-gain-weight/. If you’re looking to gain weight in a healthy way on a whole foods plant-based diet, it basically comes down to consuming more calorie-dense foods. Examples include “nuts, nut butters, dried fruits, tofu, avocados, and whole grain breads/crackers/dry goods. Eating more cooked food than raw also helps with calorie intake”.

    1. I was thinking to check the source of information as I heard the study on radio. I felt it came to challenge more succeeding doctors who uses scientific evidence to guide us through to reduce or quit animal meat. I wonder how much eople with smart brain can cherry pick or translate all the weak evidence studies.
      The release of the study is sure to confuse many.
      We need to urge Dr.G to digest the study for us.

  22. Dear Dr Greger + team,

    I’ve recently come across several articles/youtube videos saying that red meat is not as bad for us as we originally thought. Here are 3 videos on youtube coming from seemingly reasonable doctors claiming that the science does not support that red-meat is bad for us. In particular, they seem to reiterate the point that the studies they are talking about only cite relative increase in risk, whereas the absolute increase in risk of eating meat is virtually negligible.

    1) Dr Eric Berg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1wy2NeItQQ
    2) Dr Ken Berry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwyjo-NgQsE
    3) Dr Aaron Carol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V669Wm9Maf0
    4) https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/red-meat-unhealthy-maybe-not-researchers-say

    I’ve been following you and your work, without having delved into the research papers. I would like to know whether these doctors and articles who seem to be citing recent scientific results have any validity, and if not, how to counter them?

    Thanks!

    1. I would rather rely on Dr. Dennis Burkitt’s studies between African Americans (ate lots of meat), and native Africans (ate no meat). The native African’s were a lot healthier and in particular had a lot less incidence of colorectal cancer.

  23. I always go by “If in doubt, don’t.”

    I’ll continue to avoid red meat, no matter what the latest “findings” claim.

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