FOR decades we have been told dieting and sweating at the gym are the only ways to shape up. But a sensational new book claims we may have been wasting our time.
The fundamental weight-loss formula of eating less and exercising more is based on a “shambolic lie”, says a shocking new work.
What’s more, author Zoe Harcombe, a nutritionist, argues that calorie-counting can actually make us GAIN WEIGHT.
In The Obesity Epidemic, Zoe accuses the weight-loss industry of “fuelling a crisis that is killing thousands”.
The nation was stunned this week by news revealed in The Sun that Britain’s fattest woman had died from a heart attack at the age of 41. Sharon Mevsimler, who weighed 45st at her peak, passed away after a lifetime of bingeing on junk food.
Experts warn more and more of us could suffer the same fate, with one in four Brits now classified as obese.
But what if we’re all following the wrong weight-loss advice?
Zoe believes we are.
She claims: “There’s no doubt that calorie-counting will make you put on weight.”
Our bodies need a minimal amount of calories, she says, which they use for repair and maintenance.
This figure is about 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men.
Experts say if our calorie intake drops below the daily recommended amount, our bodies start burning fat stores.
But Zoe disagrees. She says that instead of burning blubber when we cut calories, our bodies simply cut back on the DIY.
In fact, she says our bodies will start to hold on to fat when we cut calories — a measure evolved to deal with times when food is in short supply.
What’s more, if we start exercising in addition to cutting calories, our bodies cut back further on repair and maintenance.
Zoe adds: “Although we are told the body gives up its fat reserves if we eat less and exercise more, it’s not as simple as that.
“There are many different factors in play.
“If you cut your calories your body will fight you at every step.
“You won’t lose weight but you will be malnourished.”
She adds that the “eat less, exercise more,” formula is applied in NHS treatment plans across the country, including youth “fat camps”.
The formula states: “1lb of fat contains 3,500 calories; to lose 1lb a week you need a deficit of 500 calories a day.”
Put in simple terms, to lose weight you need to eat 500 calories a day less than you use.
This would mean 1,500 for woman and 2,000 for men.
The formula first entered the public domain in a little-known diet book published in 1918 called Diet And Health With Key To The Calories by Lulu Hunt Peters, according to Zoe’s investigations.
It has been slowly propagated ever since, she says, without ever holding scientific merit.
Zoe adds: “The UK National Food Survey confirmed we ended the last century eating 25 per cent fewer calories than in the Seventies.
“Yet the obesity rate has increased six fold since then. It is insane that we ignore these clashing facts.
“We know we are are eating fewer calories and exhausting ourselves in the gym.
“Yet the statistics show that a low-cal diet of processed foods means we are getting fatter every day.”
Under the Freedom Of Information Act, Zoe asked the Department of Health why they use the calorie formula, where it came from and upon what evidence it is based.
The written response, detailing no information, left her speechless.
It said: “The Department is unaware of the rationale behind the weight formula you refer to.”
Zoe also issued FOI requests to other Government and dietary organisations — the NHS, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), and the Association For The Study Of Obesity, all of whom use the equation as the “first law of dieting”.
None was able to explain why they use the equation, or the scientific basis behind it.
NICE, the UK’s leading evidence-based organisation, responded: “While our guidance does contain reference to studies involving 500 calorie-deficit diets, we do not hold any information about the rationale behind the statement.”
The NHS stated: “Our team do not hold this information and are unable to assist you with your enquiry.”
Zoe says: “The simple truth is that human biochemistry is infinitely more complex. It will not follow any mathematical formula in behaviour.
“Telling people otherwise is purely deceptive.
“Even if people lose a fraction of the weight that this formula promises, it is inevitable they will put it straight back on again — the body simply adapts to the lower calorie level.
“Research has proven that this is what happens.”
But not everyone agrees with Zoe’s claims.
NICE argue that the weightloss formula of eating fewer calories does have scientific basis. Their guidance states: “Diets that have a 600 cal/day deficit (or those that reduce calories by lowering the fat content), in combination with expert support and intensive follow-up, are recommended for sustainable weight loss.”
NHS dietician Cath Collins also disputes some of Zoe’s findings.
She says: “It’s true no weight loss formula will fit everyone.
“But it takes a lot more than cutting 500 calories a day to become malnourished.
“Our body certainly won’t go to into standby mode.”
“And all the evidence points to the fact that the only way to lose weight is to cut down your calorie intake and supplement this with exercise.”
In our 30 day weight loss challenge one of the things that we tell you is to stop dieting because diets do not work; we teach you what does work.