CICO Must Die

Focus on calories consumed ignores all the other major (and more important) factors in weight and health.

Article by Ben Wagenmaker | 18 Apr, 2021

Article originally published on on 12/19/17. It has been lightly edited for re-publication.

I admit it. I hate CICO.

Passionately. Hate. It.

You could even say I have a personal vendetta against it.

CICO is an acronym for “Calories In, Calories Out,” but it is also more than that. It is the assumption that in order to lose weight, you absolutely must either eat less or move more. It assumes that all overweight and obese people are either gluttons (eating too much), sloths (not moving enough), or both. It implies a moral judgment on the individual person and removes all responsibility from hormonal factors, such as insulin, and other bodily contributors to size and shape.

The Blame Game

I spent most of my adult life either overweight or obese. At my biggest, I had a BMI of 35.0, which is Obesity Class II. Like most people who struggle with weight, I tried countless diets in which I starved temporarily in order to lose weight, only to gain it back eventually. I tried moving more, which not surprisingly worked up my appetite, making me prone to eating more. CICO is what motivated me to despise yet simultaneously envy fit people, who could both eat more and move less than I, yet not gain weight. CICO is what motivates fit people to judge the overweight and the obese.

CICO is what motivated one schoolmate to greet me on the first day of soccer practice not with “Hello,” but rather with, “You know, you’ve got about six layers of flab around your stomach.” Had he known that I was insulin resistant, yet told to eat 6-8 servings of grains daily, thereby keeping my insulin high and preventing my body from burning any stored fat, would that have changed his opinion?

CICO is what motivated another schoolmate to tell me that he had no respect for fat people, because they can do something about their condition, but they choose not to. I forgive that schoolmate today, because he was speaking out of ignorance. He did not know about insulin resistance. He did not know that I could starve myself by eating a 1200-calorie per day diet consisting of 60% carbs, as recommended by the FDA, and not have any long-term success with weight loss or muscle gain. He did not know that several years later, in 2016, I would lose 70 pounds after I stopped counting calories and significantly reduced my intake of carbohydrate, allowing my body to finally lower its insulin levels enough to allow it to burn its fat stores for energy.

CICO is a Lie

It is not universally true that you must eat less and/or move more in order to lose weight. My life is just one of many, many examples that prove CICO wrong.

If you would like to understand the science behind why CICO is wrong, you can read more in the articles linked below:

Why the First Law of Thermodynamics is Utterly Irrelevant

How to Fix Your Broken Metabolism

Obesity: Solving the Two-Compartment Problem

For more stories of people who successfully ignored CICO, lost weight, and got healthy, check out our Ketogenic Success Facebook group.

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