What a Russian Gun Designer Can Teach You about Successful Weight Loss

Georgy Shpagin probably never cared about weight loss in his entire life. Growing up during several Russian revolutions, he was probably more worried about starving than losing a few pounds.

As you’ll see, however, his struggles led him to a conclusion that can help any aspiring dieter lose weight.

Learn how a failing Russian weapons engineer can help you break through your weight loss plateau.

Learn how a failing Russian weapons engineer can help you break through your weight loss plateau.

Born in 1897, Shpagin was drafted into the Russian Army at age 17 to fight the Germans in World War Ⅰ. After the war ended, he became a weapons designer for the Red Army.

He wasn’t very good.

Shpagin designed guns like a desperate dieter tries to lose weight. He made complicated and elaborate designs, hoping to create the next great gun. You probably know someone who takes a similar approach to weight loss — fad diets, supplements, and complex exercise plans in hopes of finding a magic formula that will make the pounds melt off.

For fifteen years, none of Shpagin’s work was noticed or mass produced. He failed, just as many dieters do.

After this dry spell, however, he changed his approach and created some of the most well known and effective weapons in the history of the world, several of which are still used today.

The secret? He changed his philosophy of weapon design — the same philosophy you should use to lose weight.

The Untold Truth about Weight Loss

“Complexity is easy; simplicity is difficult.”

- Georgy Shpagin

That was his secret.

Most diet books, supplement manufacturers, and weight loss gurus complicate your weight loss efforts. They create problems that don’t really exist, and then offer solutions to those problems. For example:

Fake Problem: Carbs and insulin make you fat.” 

Fake Solution: “Don’t eat carbs.”

Fake Problem: “Your not losing weight because your body has too many toxins.” 

Fake Solution: “Use this supplement, this diet, or avoid these foods to ‘detoxify’ your body.” 

Fake Problem: “You have hormone imbalances that makes it impossible to lose body fat.” 

Fake Solution: “Follow this diet, avoid these foods, use these supplements, and follow this exercise program to make your hormones help you lose weight.”

Fake Problem: “You need to reprogram your genes for weight loss.” 

Fake Solution: “Follow this diet, avoid these foods, use these supplements, and follow this exercise program to use epigenetics to help you lose weight.”

In other cases, pseudo-solutions are created by people who aren’t trying to sell anything. They’re just wrong:

Fake Problem: Eating late at night makes you gain more fat.” 

Fake Solution: “Don’t eat after X o’clock to lose body fat.”

Fake Problem: “Waiting too long between meals puts your body into ‘starvation mode.’” 

Fake Solution: “Eat many small meals throughout the day to stoke your metabolism.”

Fake Problem: Fructose is toxic and makes you fat.” 

Fake Solution: “Avoid high fructose corn syrup and other high fructose foods to help you lose weight.”

Fake Problem: “Gluten causes inflammation which makes you gain weight.” 

Fake Solution: “Eat a gluten free diet to lose weight.” 

This is noise. These fake problems are static that distract you from the things that actually help you lose weight and keep it off.

The truth is that weight loss is simple: You need to create and maintain a caloric deficit.1-3

This is not always easy, but it’s the only way any human has ever lost weight or will ever lose weight (besides surgery).

Yes, protein intake is important.

Yes, as you get leaner it can be harder to lose fat (but it’s still only coming off if you’re in a caloric deficit).

Yes, you may have to increase your physical activity or keep decreasing your calorie intake once you lose a certain amount of weight to maintain a caloric deficit.

Yes, it can be hard to eat less.

Nevertheless, you are never going to lose weight unless you create a caloric deficit. In addition, if you set up your diet intelligently from the beginning, most of these nuances are still not going to be an issue.

The Only Guaranteed Way to Lose Weight

At the end of the day, every successful diet is based around one simple concept — creating and maintaing a caloric deficit until you reach your desired weight.

Georgy Shpagin was right — complexity is easy; simplicity is difficult.

It’s easy to waste years of your life trying to lose weight with pseudoscientific fad diets, avoiding certain foods, and only letting yourself eat at certain times. It can be difficult to commit to a lower calorie diet.

Over the long-term, however, would you rather spin your wheels, living in frustration from never losing weight, or finally see the number on your bathroom scale drop?

If you want option two, listen to Shpagin. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, create and maintain a caloric deficit.

Forget supplements.

Stop buying diet books.

Eat what makes you happy.

Ignore blogs and websites that offer fake solutions to fake problems.

Keep an honest record. Track your progress, count calories if necessary, at least to learn portion control until you start to lose weight.

Learn from people who know what they’re talking about. Read the work of Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, James Krieger, Brad Schoenfeld, Jamie HaleAnthony Colpo, and others like them. They’ll make your weight loss efforts easier.

Start practicing Imprüvism — ignore what doesn’t work, find what does, and spend your time and energy on the latter.

Eat less + move more = lose weight.

It’s that simple.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to get exclusive member’s-only articles and podcasts. Only want to learn how to lose fat? Click here to buy my book, Flexible Dieting.


1. Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, Sears B. Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(5):1055–1061. Abstract: http://pmid.us/16685046 | Full Text:  http://goo.gl/mFYu7 

2. Schoeller DA, Buchholz AC. Energetics of obesity and weight control: does diet composition matter? J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105(5 Suppl 1):S24–8. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2005.02.025. Abstract: http://pmid.us/15867892 | Full Text: NA

3. Buchholz AC, Schoeller DA. Is a calorie a calorie? Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(5):899S–906S. Abstract: http://pmid.us/15113737  Full Text: http://goo.gl/5xnTT 


  1. says

    Hey Armi,

    Great article full of sensible advice that really works.

    Unfortunately it’s not what the snake oil salesmen want people to believe.

    After all, where there’s a problem there’s good money to be made in overcomplicating the solution.


    • says

      Well said Tim,

      Luckily, there’s also good money to be made by spreading accurate information that actually helps people. Hopefully more and more people can make a living by helping others simplify their lives.

  2. Inquisitor says

    Have you completely disowned the Dave Asprey connection??? You should write a take-down/call-out article, he is a charlatan of the highest order.

    • says


      Thank you for commenting. I do plan on writing a skeptical analysis of the Bulletproof Diet and several other of the claims on that site, but there are a few more interesting topics to cover first. Most of the information on that site is inaccurate, as you said.

      • JB says

        Armi, I’m glad you moved on to such great projects.

        An article about the claims of the BPD and how you disagree is a long overdue, and expected by many.

        Weight loss by “detox”, the 4500kcal and still losing weight story from Dave, that’s one thing and it’s easy to see how that’s bogus. Long term health by avoiding inflammatory food is another, I hope you plan on debunking (or agreeing) on that part as well. While I know that IIFYM works to get ripped, I’m not so sure it’s a good choice in the long run.

        Thanks, can’t wait to read that.

        • says

          That’s a valid point, and one I’ll address as well. From what I’ve read thus far, inflammation can be a contributor to many diseases, but the foods that most people call “inflammatory” generally aren’t, at least not to a significant degree.

          As long as you don’t go to ridiculous extremes in terms of junk food consumption, you’ll generally be fine. A good rule of thumb is to get at least 80% of your calories from whole food sources, with the rest from discretionary calories (this also depends on your total calorie needs to some degree).

          Hope that helps.

    • says

      Armi is a SCAMMER TOO. In fact, ALL of these Bloggers are scammers. Look up URGELT of YouTube. He has done a FABULOUS video about Internet scammers and the CRANK science that thrives on the Internet where they form crank communities:


      Obesity is hellishly complex. Colpo and Armi have the POOREST understanding of it. TOP scientists even struggle to understand it. Weight loss solutions will NOT be fuond on ANY bloig.

      • Pat says

        “Obesity” is mentioned ZERO times in the article. Of the 30 or so times it is mentioned in the comments so far, 25+ of them are by you, Razwell. You seem to imagine that because obesity is complex, mysterious, and the subject of much ongoing research that people can’t talk about normal weight loss.

        Guess what? Non-mysteriously, complexly obese people want to lose weight, too. Most people aren’t obese. Every article written about weight loss doesn’t have to apply to obesity. Give it a break. This is advice is solid for MOST people.

  3. says

    Colpo pointed me here. Glad to see you on your own writing stuff that makes sense.

    I was just re-reading some metabolic ward studies this morning and also had a discussion with a colleague about a diet based on food sensitivities – your piece was well-timed :)


      • says

        Thank you for that! It was actually with Jeff that I was discussing the food sensitivity diet – he caught wind of it from someone he works with. A quick look at the references revealed the author didn’t do a whole lot of homework – not a single reference in support of her food sensitivity = no weight loss hypothesis. Of course, her general recommendation after all the sensitive foods are cut out ends up being meat, veggies, and some fruit so of course most people will end up being better off.

        • says

          Obesity is NOT well understood. The very best scientists in the field STRUGGLE to understand it and admit much uncertainty and vast unknowns . The unknowns are FAR greater than any knowns.

          Sites such as YOURS and McDonald et al admit none of that. You have a filter in your head. You want the world to be black white and simple. You cling to the desperate caloric hypothesis which is an error in cognition and has immense evidence against it.

          Dr. Friedman and collegaues want people to MOVE AWAY from the NOSTRUM “eat less, move more”. he SPECIFICALLY NOTED that it is NOT a scientific approach to obesity.

          It has been studied by science and IT IS A FAILURE.

          • Pat says

            The unknowns are greater than the known in EVERY field. So what?

            Only a fool would think a hypothesis can be desperate. In any case, the reason it persists with nutritionists, doctors, and health practitioners at every level is that it works for MOST people. There may be exceptions, but those exceptions don’t mean we can’t talk about normal weight loss.

        • says

          Not surprising. It’s amusing how many people try to justify common sense recommendations (eat meat, fruit, vegetables) with nonsense (food sensitivity diets).

      • says

        That article could not possibly be filled with more M-I-S-I-N-F O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N. It reveals a complete lack of understanding of obesity. It is COMPLETELY AT ODDS with the extremely detailed work Dr. Rudolph Leibel has conducted for 30 years.

        SETPOINT- YOUR BODY WANTS YOU AT A CERTAIN WEIGHT RANGE about 15 pounds in either direction. Trying to go below this genetically determined range will have you encounter ridiculously fierece metabolic opposition and biological resistance. It is THE BODY EXERTING CONTROL. THAT is the reason for “plateau.”

    • says

      Colpo is GROSSLY and LAUGABLY uneducated on the topics of obesity and coronary heart disease.

      EDUCATE YOURSELF. His books are NOT valid sources of information. They are second and thrid hand sources filtered through a mind with no udnerstabnding of how science really works.

      The scientists who are MY sources are the BEST and ARE valid. But, they admit MUCH uncertainty, UNLIKE crackpot Colpo.

      • Razwell's a troll says

        Please not listen to Razwell, he has been trolling Anthony for years, as I’m sure many of you know. What an obsessed person.

  4. Emily says

    Actually it’s not always that simple. I wish it were. I ran a huge calorie deficit, plus exercised on top of that. And lost very little over a period of 2 months. Kept track of everything I ate and wore a fitbit to track exercise. I’m a firm non-believer of calories in calories out. There’s more to it than that, it is more complicated – at least for me.

    • Bob says

      Sorry, but no matter what you believe has been ,is and always will be scientifically validated. You can deny it but not repeal it.

    • says

      Hey Emily,

      I’m not questioning your personal experience and it sounds like you had a tough time during those two months.

      However, I think it’s likely that the countless victims of famine, WWII Japanese POWs and so on would believe otherwise. Of course these were not RCTs carried out in a metabolic ward but perhaps they’re worth bearing in mind all the same.

      If the calories in/calories out model is completely incorrect that suggests that, to one degree or another, we are passive observers of what happens to our body composition. To me that’s a very scary prospect.



      • says

        The caloric hypothesis is FAR too SIMPLISTIC to explain body weight and FAT regulation specifically, by itself. This is understood by REAL scentists who are NOT affiliated witht these corny crank blogs.

        Science from PIONEERS such as Dr. Jeffrey Friedman ( and the foundation was laid by Douglas Coleman in the 1960′s) has shown that weight is overwhelingly INVOLUNTARILY REGULATED. Sorry, it what REAL SCIENCE has shown us. It is bad news, but it is closer to the truth than this Internet slop.

        • pat says

          We get it. The body is an extremely complex biological entity. All of the theories of obesity are incomplete. So what? There are sensible ways for more or less normal people to lose weight.

      • says

        “If the calories in/calories out model is completely incorrect that suggests that, to one degree or another, we are passive observers of what happens to our body composition. To me that’s a very scary prospect.”

        Well said Tim.

    • Antoinette says

      This guy has no idea what he’s talking about. Try the Atkins or South Beach diets. They work fast and you’ll feel amazing.

      • says

        I agree, Antoinette. These Internet shysters are grossly uninformed. The top scientists who are my sources of information have advice that is completely at odds with these Internet bloggers.

        There are MANY paths energy can be led to . Humans also excrete about 7 % of calories. The caloric hypothesis is laughably simplistic and ONLY uneducated bloggers cling to it. It cannot at all EXPLAIN obesity.

        As Stephan Guyenet said: “Calorie PARTITIONING is a central factor.” Stephan is the only blogger I respect. In obese people, the partitioning is different than a person such as Arnold- where his calories got shuttled to the muscles and other areas of the body for repair. He was in a “surplus” too. He gained mainly muscle.

        There are MANY obese people exercising faithfully and eating nutrient dense and reasonably- BUT THEY REMAIN obese.

        The 300 pound Regan Chastain here is more flexible than ANY of these Internet bloggers are. Have a look.

    • Camila says

      I completely agree.
      I hated that ‘balance’ bullshit, but it’s what the body requires. As long as the body is in a state of stress (relationships, work, whatever) despite how little one may eat and how much they may exercise, they will not lose weight, if it is genetically predisposed to them that fat = safety. Some people are built to be wiry to run away from stress, others are built to absorb it. A caloric deficit + exercise can yield stress for sensitive individuals, particularly if it attacks the hormones. Despite my best efforts, I could not lose weight exercising with caloric deficit (and I mean moderate, not starvation dieting); and I tried it all, sprints, lifting heavy, measuring macros, cutting out sugar/grains/whatever fad is going on…I could not put on muscle, let alone lose any fat. In fact the more I worked out, the more I gained weight. I finally leveled off with yoga, walking, and eating exactly what I wanted.
      I would argue that the average person is not in any way ready to take on a steady, solid, slow loss. If they are overweight, chances are they are stressed to begin with, a bit of a catch-22. That’s why there’s the regain or the struggle to maintain. Their bodies lose weight at first because they register that they need to fight for their lives (caloric deficit and workout). I feel those that can and do keep it off have a very slow and moderate approach to begin with, and those seem few and far between, according to all these fad blogs out there.

    • says


      Unless you had your energy expenditure precisely measured using doubly labeled water, and food intake precisely measured (which dietitians don’t even do accurately), then you cannot know whether you are in a calorie deficit. Ignoring changes in water weight, if you aren’t losing weight, then you are not in a deficit, no matter how much you think you might be.

      • Eson says

        James, creating a deficit, counting your calories, measuring your expenditure, and taking records of your weight loss is not an exact science.

        You set a daily calorie goal, you weigh and calculate everything you eat so you know you are getting as close to that calorie goal as possible every day.

        Then you watch the scale for 2 weeks, write down every day what you weigh at the same time of day, then create a diagram to see where you are going.

        Are you loosing weight? great, just don’t loose to fast.
        Standing still? decrease daily calorie intake by 500-1000 kcal. Re do the 2 weeks.
        Gaining weight? how much weight? gained 2 pounds indicate a 500 kcal surplus, so lower with 1000-15000 kcal a day.

        If your deficit brings your kcal intake down to below 1500 kcal, it’s time to start doing some cardio to increase energy expenditure without lowering food intake.

        James, it’s really easy, but takes work.
        Try it out if you are having problems loosing weight.

        • says

          You DO NOT UDNERSTAND that the body DRAMATICALLY REDUCES total energy expenditure.

          DON;’T expect that exercise to burn ANYWHERE near what it used to at your greater weight. The body reduces total energy expenditure FAR MORE than what would be expected from weight loss itself- IT FAR EXCEEEDS THAT. THIS is NEWLY gained scientific knowledge.

          So all of that “cardio” is NOT going to burn much. This is not a person’s fault BIOLOGY is the REASON for weight regain.

          The body is NOT passive .It does NOT “sit there and take it” as you try misguided weight loss attempt strategies . It responds AGGRESSIVELY- EXTREMELY AGGRESSIVELY.

          Scientists do not even understand all of the limitless tricks your body has to KEEP you in a range over the LONG TERM.

        • says


          I never claimed it was an exact science, and no, I have no problems losing weight. In fact, my clients have lost an average of 40 pounds.

          I think you misunderstood my post. My post was to challenge individuals such as Emily who think that they’re in a deficit and not losing weight; because they “believe” they are in a deficit and they are not losing weight, they think that this somehow “proves” that energy balance doesn’t matter. My point is that this is not true. If they aren’t losing weight, they are not in a deficit.

    • says

      Emily :

      You are CORRECT. Scientists far above any people on here told me PERSONALLY the caloric hypothesis is FAR TOO SIMPLISTIC by itself to even begin to explain body weight and fat mass regulation- which is hellishly complex to the extreme. This is not at all an issue among genuine scientists. They all understand this.

      It’s ONLY a ( phony and false) issue among crank Blogosphere gurus who make their living promoting this nonsense.

      • Simon says

        Hey, cuckoo bird, when you wear your tinfoil hat, do the aliens talk to you?

        I’m curious why you continue to post here? Why harangue people that apparently don’t care about your unsubstantiated claims and opinions?

        Say ‘Hi’ to Elvis for me, will you? I really miss him.

    • says

      Emily, it can be tough to maintain a caloric deficit, and many people have stories like yours. However, whenever people are placed in a controlled environment and forced to eat less and exercise more, they lose weight.

      • TMS71 says

        Everyone uderstands that reducing the amount of stored body fat means that the body must be buring more fat than it is storing. The same goes for muscle and other tissue. If the amount is increasing then the body is synthesizing more of it than it is breaking down. These are simple facts but they are also completely trivial when it comes to the question of how best to achieve and maintain weight loss. Even though Razwell is completely overzealous in his attempts to convince people of this, he is right. The metabolism, appetite and energy level change dramatically in response to forced caloric deficit. It doesn’t work. I’m not going to come on here and suggest that I know what does but I do want to make the point that forcing a calorie deficit doesn’t. It seems to me that if anything is going to work it is limiting one’s self to foods that you will spontaneously eat less of. If you limit yourself to certain foods and find that you are eating less this means that you have created a reduced calorie intake and the system has not increased your appetite to compensate. As for your energy expenditure, that is hard to say. If your resting metabolic rate also has not compensated (by declining) then the new food limits are working. If you like the foods that you eat well enough to stick with them then you can maintain the weight loss. In a sense you now have a new lower set point in this world with self-imposed limits on WHAT you can eat. But forcing a calorie deficit will not work. You’ll have to fight the desire to eat more, your body will expend less energy, you’ll make yourself miserable and you’ll regain all the weight and then some anyway. Don’t do it. It’s stupid.

        • says

          Thanks for the comment TMS71,

          Even though Razwell is completely overzealous in his attempts to convince people of this, he is right.

          No, he isn’t. Your comment also disagrees with him. He has said that obesity is basically almost all genetic, that humans have virtually no control over their fat mass, and that calories are totally irrelevant for weight loss. This is not what you said (you are closer to the truth).

          The metabolism, appetite and energy level change dramatically in response to forced caloric deficit. It doesn’t work.

          Mostly true. This still doesn’t prove a caloric deficit isn’t necessary to lose weight. Appetite will sometimes increase, but not always.

          When it comes to energy expenditure, most studies have found only extremely small reductions in basal and/or resting metabolic rate after weight loss. For example, in the Minessota Starvation Study, where the (normal weight) subjects lost about 25% of their total body weight and their metabolisms decreased by about 40%. Only about 15% was due to an actual decline in metabolic rate as you’re referring to it. The rest was due to the fact that they weighed less, and thus burned fewer calories when they moved. On average, the reduction is about 120 calories per day — at most 400-500 calories per day. This can countered by a small increase in activity and/or a reduction in calorie intake.

          It seems to me that if anything is going to work it is limiting one’s self to foods that you will spontaneously eat less of.

          That can certinaly work for some people, but it’s still dependant on the person establishing a caloric deficit. Most successful dieters use some strategies to prevent overeating such as removing tempting foods from the house, eating more protein to help conrol appetite, using smaller dishes, etc. This doesn’t change the fact that ultimately, they have to eat less and/or exercise more.

          If you like the foods that you eat well enough to stick with them then you can maintain the weight loss.

          Agreed, but there’s no need to avoid all other foods in order to lose weight as long as you maintain a caloric deficit. Indulging occasionally is not going to make most people overeat.

          In a sense you now have a new lower set point in this world with self-imposed limits on WHAT you can eat.

          Yes, but you still have to eat less to lose weight. Eating mostly less rewarding foods is one way to accomplish that, but calories still count.

          But forcing a calorie deficit will not work.

          Yes it does, but it has to be sustainable over the long-term.

          You’ll have to fight the desire to eat more…

          Yes, if you have problems with appetite control. However, there are ways to minimize, or completely mitigate these effects.

          …your body will expend less energy…

          Not to any significant degree. You can also make up for the difference with a small increase in activity levels or reduction in food intake

          …you’ll make yourself miserable and you’ll regain all the weight and then some anyway.

          Some people might be miserable on a diet, others won’t. If you maintain the caloric deficit (through whatever means), the weight will not come back.

          Here are some references that you might find interesting regarding the changes in metabolic rate to weight loss:

          Tremblay A, Royer M-M, Chaput J-P, Doucet E. Adaptive thermogenesis can make a difference in the ability of obese individuals to lose body weight. International Journal of Obesity (2005). 2012. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.124.

          Dulloo AG, Jacquet J, Montani J-P, Schutz Y. Adaptive thermogenesis in human body weight regulation: more of a concept than a measurable entity? Obes Rev. 2012;13 Suppl 2:105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01041.x.

          Muller MJ, Bosy-Westphal A. Adaptive thermogenesis with weight loss in humans. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21(2):218–228. doi:10.1002/oby.20027.

          Bosy-Westphal A, Braun W, Schautz B, Muller MJ. Issues in characterizing resting energy expenditure in obesity and after weight loss. Front Physiol. 2013;4:47. doi:10.3389/fphys.2013.00047.

          Apfelbaum M, Bostsarron J, Lacatis D. Effect of caloric restriction and excessive caloric intake on energy expenditure. Am J Clin Nutr. 1971;24(12):1405–1409.

    • DanT_PT says

      There is every chance that you didn’t see the results you wanted because your calorie deficit was too high, there has to be a sensible balance between a caloric deficit and an increase in energy expenditure, did you base you calorie deficit on your base metabolic rate and daily energy expenditure or did you just knock a thousand calories a day from your diet and increase your activity at the same time?

  5. Antoinette says

    Really? Tell this to my two teenage children that have lost a total of 70 pounds in just under 3 months without caloric restriction. You really have no idea what you’re talking about.

    • says


      Unless you measured your children’s energy expenditure using doubly labeled water, and precisely measured their food intake (which research shows even dietitians can’t do accurately), then you cannot say that they weren’t in a calorie deficit.

      The fact that they lost 70 pounds proves that they WERE in a calorie deficit. They may not have intentionally restricted their calories, but they certainly did to some degree. Otherwise, you would need to explain how the carbon and hydrogen atoms stored in their fat tissue just vanished into thin air.

        • says

          He is not introducing science int this. He has no idea what science really is. I know, I DEAL with real life scientists often. Krieger is introducing his corny brand of salesmenship which fools low intelligence Internet sycophants.

          These Internet gurus are nowhere near as smart as they arrogantly think they are and PRETEND to be. My scientist sources would make short work of their misinformation.

          I was told personally ( and verified it by research) by one of the BEST in the field that his team’s detailed research has shown :

          “When it comes to body weight , THE BODY HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN.” This IS bad news.

          But, from this DEEPER understanding , we will EVENTUALLY build proper treatments.

      • says


        GIVE me the equation for applying the conservation of energy law to the human body. I KNOW you cannot. NO scientist that I have ever spoken to could- not even a rough idea- and they admitted as much. I spoke to the BEST.

        I know for a FACT that Lyle McDonald’s equation is laughably wrong and simplistic. I have spoken with the best of the bnest on this matter, even emailing Stephen Hawking himself. The human body is OPEN SYSTEM and it is ALSO a NON- equilibrium system. Because of these two factors , any attempt to apply the conservation of energy law to the human body would require an equation that is EXTREMELY complex- much, much , much more complex than for closed system equilibrium thermodynamics. THIS area of thermodynamics is extremely subtle and NOT well understood.

        Are the conservation laws valid for life? Yes. But it is FAR more complex than that. One MUST be very careful how we define the SYSTEM in question.

        I recommend YOU ( and your gurus) READ Chris Jarzynsky’s work on this matter of NON- equilibrium thermodynamics. EDUCATE YOURSELF. McDonald and you could not be more wrong.

        You could not possibly be more UNEDUCATED about obesity. I SPEAK with TOP obesity researchers ( far above any of you) and “eat less move more” is NOT the solution. I assure you that Lyle McDonald , Anthony Colpo and yourself are nothing more than salesmen scammers. The BODY controls the mythical “energy balance equation.”

        Lose 10 % of your weight and your body RESPONDS by REDUCING total energy expenditure DRAMATICALLY- at least 20 % less. This effect does not go away.

        Obesity is a hellishly complex chronic disease that scientists stuggle to understand. It has no current cure.

        Mice became obese WITHOUT eating more calories. TIMING IS important and there are at least 4 other studies I have seen where you can fatten mice WITHOUT making them ingest more calories. There are at least 4 other studies which also show TIMING matters. Your body is far less efficient at various times.


        “Body weight regulation is EXTREMELY COPMPLEX. The caloric hypothesis is FAR TOO SIMPLISTIC to explain body weight regulation by itself. ”

        The caloric hypothesis is only clung to by the ignorant who want a simplistc world. It is an error in cognition . The information contained in Colpo’s and McDonald’s book is outright FRAUD.

        I guess there is no money to be made the scammers admitting :

        *obesity is extremely complex with more unknowns than knowns

        *that body weight is overwhelmingly INVOLUNTARILY regulated and voluntary efforts have extremely limited ability to affect weight over the long term

        *that the body fights back at weight loss attempts as if your life depended on it- extremely aggressively

        *that the body NEVER adjusts to the weight reduced state . This effect persists the rest of your life as far as scientists know.

        *that obesity is as heritable as height

        I have news for you: Stephan Guyenet is on MY page and acknowledges I know what I am talking about. We BOTH tire of you Internet cranks. You Internet gurus are CLUELESS and laughable.



      • says

        STOP MISREPRESENTING things, Krieger. GIVE me the EQUATION for applying the conservation of energy law to the human body OR stop talking about it.THIS area of thermodynamics is NOT well understood and is a work in progress. The human body is an open system and NON- EQUILIBRIUM. Because of this it WILL have to be hellishly complex.

        Hawking, Krauss and MANY others near their level could not do it.

        Down this road YOU do not want to go. Down this road the commercial diet industry does NOT want to go. Their business models would FALL APRT completely.


  6. says

    “Counting calories is ANOTHER FARCE. It is a complete illusion.

    NOBODY could consciously match the ONE MILLION TO TENS OF MILLIONS of claories ingested to expended over a year , LET ALONE 10 YEARS. . DESPITE THIS MOST PEOPLE ( not trying to change weight ) remain remarkably weight stable over a decade. Studies from all around the world – Isreal, Sewden and elswhere show this .

    The maintenance of a STABLE body weight over a year to YEARS with MARKED differecnes in eating and exercise is a PHENOMENON .

    The BODY itself COUNTS CALORIES ( the brain is well aware) AND FAR MORE ACCURATELY THAN WE EVER COULD. ADD TO THIS FACT that caloriei labels are OFF BY AS MUCH AS 10 % TO AS MUCH AS 80 %.

    You people are LAUGHABLY uninformed.

    • david s. says

      And you Razwell are annoying. Have nothing better to do than troll? What’s with all the SHOUTING?
      You don’t agree with Armi and some other posters…great, move along.
      And I bet you “DEAL with real life scientists often…”
      Say, just who are your “scientist sources?”

      • Will says


        If someone obese did have a slower BMR due to genetics, that means they would still have to create a caloric deficit in order to lose body weight. Obese individuals are shown to have a higher BMR in the first place due to higher metabolic demands. Obese individuals largely overestimate how many calories they burn per day though exercise and largely under report how many calories they eat per day.

        Eat less, Move More= Weight Loss

        • says

          The body has extremely strong compensatory measures that off set your efforts. “Eat less ,move more ” does NOT guarantee weight loss. It is a WORTHLESS NOSTRUM that is laughed at by serious obesity researchers are exposed as a failure in the literature. It is NOT a solution to severe obesity at all.

          “Our rersearch has CLEALRY shown that when it comes to your body weight, THE BODY HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN “- Dr. Rudolph Leibel

          No MONEY TO BE MADE ADMITTING THE ABOVE DISCOVERY. IT IS BAD NEWS. The news for severely obese people is NOT good. In the future in may be because of our DEEPER understanding.

          In obesity, things go wrong and become disregulated. Normal people could NEVER get Manuel Uribe’s size.

          ALL eating reasonably and exercising can do is keep you about 6 to 10 pounds lighter LONG TERM. It is VERY limited. Severe obesity is NOT a simple condition of overeating.

          li”Modern Science vs The Stigma of Obesity” by Dr. jeffrey Friedman and colleagues.

          In fact. Dr./ Friedman and Dr. Leibel have a CURRENT CAMPAIGN trying to EDUCATE idiots like Bloggers , the public and even other scientists that:

          “Obesity is NOT what YOU THINK it is.”- Dr. Leibel

          I deal with REAL scientists, NOT the phony scamming Blogosphere.

        • says

          Furthermore, the chemical behavior of fat cell receptors is NOT understood AT ALL.

          Fat tissue is a genuine ENDOCRINE ORGAN that is hormonally and metabolically active, NOT a passive storage depot. It is DEFENDED by the body extremely aggressively.

          Obesity is poorly understood. A normal person could not get to 1,000 pounds. There are OVER 400 genes involved in the regulation of body weight.

      • says

        Don’t worry David, I’ve blocked his IP Address from the site. We shouldn’t be bothered by him any more.

        All of the comments from “Seth Goldstein” and “Derrick Whitney” are also from him — the same computer.

        • Simon says

          Well-done, Armi. I was wondering how he could type in that straightjacket.

          On another note, I just found your Website this evening and have been enjoying the material.

          Keep up the good work and best of luck!

  7. gavrilo says

    Adapting Comrade Shpagin’s theory of simplicity I propose the following:

    1.Since we know that we require an energy deficit to lose weight.

    2.Since we know that we cannot control BMR.

    3.Since we know that we can control food intake.

    4.Since we know that food calorie measurements are inaccurate.

    Let’s use food volume instead, measured as follows:

    1. Establish a starting point (i.e. 1 lb. of protein and 1 lb. of carbohydrates).

    2. Select the foods you like.

    3. Reduce volume as needed to establish an energy deficit. (i.e. reduce a gram per week of protein and carbs).

    4. Adjust reduction as necessary.

    • Derrick Whitney says

      You are missing the point. The body fights back. Body weight is involuntarily regulated by complex neural circuitry.

    • says

      That’s not a bad idea, but there are a few problems.

      1. It is possible to get a much better sense of your calorie intake over time by weighing, measuring, and reading labels. You don’t have to do it with extreme precision for it to work.

      2. Protein and carb needs may change based on your activity levels, level of caloric deficit, and personal preferences. Trying to adhere to a specific volume of food would be hard for most people.

      3. Different forms of protein and carbs have vastly different caloric densities.

      4. There’s some research showing that food volume is a major que as to total consumption. Most research indicates that lowering the caloric density of food is generally going to be better tolerated than decreasing the volume.

  8. Derrick Whitney says

    To the Blogosphere dopes: Anthony Colpo, Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald James Krieger:

    Body weight is INVOLUNTARILY REGULATED by hesllishly complex neural circuitry. Fat mass is defended extremely aggressively. The BODY is in control – NOT you, for the most part.

    Fat loss/muscle loss and fat gain/muscle gain is an EXTREMELY COMPLEX PHYSIOLOGICAL AND BIOCHEMICAL PROCESS.

    It is NOT a basic thermodynamics issue, you stupid asses. I have this on the BEST authority. TOP physics professors.

  9. Derrick Whitney says

    MICE are NOT just hypothesis generating, Alan Aragon. In fact, MANY TIMES ther RESULT IS EXACTLY how it happened in humans. LEPTIN for instance. The pathways are exactly the same. In fact ,Dr. Friedman’s LAB uses knock out mice ALL THE TIME to make great advances in uderstanding NEUROBIOLOGY of body fat regulation.


    Are you BLOGOSPHERE CRANKS suggetsing YOU know MORE than Dr. Friedman about obesity research ???????


  10. Derrick Whitney says


    HOW DO WE KNOW THIS ??????

    MICE !!!!!!!!

  11. Derrick Whitney says

    NONE of you CRANKS understand that there is NO SUCH THING AS “THE scientific method.” There is NO singular method OR step by step process ,YOU INTERNET DOPES.

    It is a MYTH. What we learned in 7th grde is NOT valid or an accurate representation of how SCIENCE WORKS in the real world among professional researchers.


  12. Seth Goldstein says

    Alan Aragon and Anthony Colpo are so grossly uninformed/misinformed about obesity that it is beyond laughable to any REAL scientist.

    Nothing anybody from the commercial weight loss industry says about body fat is valid. Nothing. This industry is well known to REAL scientists as complete fraud.

    We have very lmited ability to affect our body weight, especially over the long term. This is what REAL science has found so far. NO MONEY in admitting that, huh Colpo and Aragon?

    Look up “Dr. Jeffrey Friedman Factors Affecting Obesity.” I DO represent information from GENUINE science – REAL science – NOT Blogosphere utter nonsense.

  13. MZD says

    “””In fact, long chain fatty acids have huge energy potential for the host. One molecule of glucose has only six carbons. Glucose can make 28-30 ATP from it. One molecule of an 18 carbon stearic acid, a FFA, has three times as many carbons as glucose but makes five times the amount of ATP (147 ATP), while only having two times the caloric density of glucose. This shows you precisely why a calorie is not a calorie and why calories in and calories out makes little sense thermodynamically.”””

    Got this from a blog entry with the title “EMF 4: WHY MIGHT YOU NEED CARBS FOR PERFORMANCE?” Google it. Change your perspective.

    • says


      The article you quoted has zero references. The fact that different molecules produce different amounts of ATP does not prove a high fat diet offers a metabolic advantage. If it did, you would expect people on high fat diets to lose weight at the same calorie intake as people on high carb diets when protein intake is the same. This is not what happens.

      If you can provide human research showing that when people are placed in a metabolic ward, where a researcher is measuring their food intake, the subjects consume doubly labeled water to monitor their energy expenditure, they eat the same amount of protein and total calories, and the group who eats a high fat diet loses more weight than the high carb group, it might be time for a change of perspective. However, the evidence would also have to be so overwhelmingly convincing and repeatable that it refutes the last century of research on weight loss, which is probably won’t.

  14. says

    The calorie theory is communist. The word itself does not even make any contextual sense. Did you count the calories of fat in your brain? To make a calorie, you have to burn food. Hormones are real, toxins are real, eating frequently to control blood sugar is real, going gluten-free, all this stuff is real on the holistic side of things. The mainstream, communist, top-down food guide pyramid control of dieting is all based on the calorie theory. This article is the noise.

    • says

      The calorie theory is communist.

      What does the idea that eating excess calories makes you fat, and visa versa, have to do with the redistribution of wealth and government control over the economy?

      The word itself does not even make any contextual sense.

      In what way does the word “calorie” not make sense?

      Did you count the calories of fat in your brain?

      Are you suggesting that brain cells are a significant source of fuel for the body?

      Hormones are real, toxins are real, eating frequently to control blood sugar is real…

      The article did not say that hormones or toxins aren’t real, nor did it say that some people may need to manage their blood sugar levels with more frequent meals. Hormones obviously have an impact on weight loss, but playing with your diet or other lifestyle factors to change your hormones will not cause weight loss without a caloric deficit.

      …going gluten-free…

      Could you provide a reference showing that eliminating gluten causes greater weight loss?

      …all this stuff is real on the holistic side of things.

      What do you mean by the “holistic side of things?” Could you provide references to some “holistic” methods that cause weight loss without a caloric deficit?

  15. paladinbael says

    Every fat person that i have ever known has been a person who over eats,under exercises and complains endlessly. Without exception.

  16. says

    I think everyone can agree that the caloric deficit concept is in line with the law of conservation of mass when it comes to weight loss. Technically, the calories in/calories out concept is true; however, focussing on calories in does not always work well, which is why exercise is so important. While exercise is an important factor in the [calories in] – [calories out] = [net weight change] equation, and it is an extremely important activator of metabolic rate, it is not the only metabolic rate determinant. This article focusses on diet and exercise, which will work for the majority of the general population. It is solid information, particularly in he light of research that show that people who believed they were accurately estimating their caloric intake immediately after meals often underestimate their actual intake by up to 50%. This suggest many have no clue of appropriate portion size, much to the glee of the food industry, I’m sure. Hormonal deficiencies, which are quite common, and mitochondrial dysfunction, along with other genetic and acquired metabolic challenges often dictate the need for medical intervention. These factors complicate the calories out part of the equation to the degree where exercise becomes intolerable or stressful and may trigger additional mechanisms that contribute to fat gain. If the sensible approach discussed in this blog doesn’t work for you, then seek the assistance of a specialist who can help you address hormonal and other issues.

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Dr. Jacobs.

      “Hormonal deficiencies, which are quite common, and mitochondrial dysfunction, along with other genetic and acquired metabolic challenges often dictate the need for medical intervention.”

      Do you have any evidence that…

      a) hormonal deficiencies are common.
      b) mitochondrial dysfunction is common (and if so, what kinds, exactly?).
      c) either of the above contribute to weight gain or inhibit fat loss.

      What kind of “other genetic and acquired metabolic challenges,” that are not still overcome by increasing physical activity or reducing calorie intake, are you referring to?

      “These factors complicate the calories out part of the equation to the degree where exercise becomes intolerable or stressful and may trigger additional mechanisms that contribute to fat gain.”

      What causes exercise to become intolerable or overly stressful?
      What “additional mechanisms” does exercise trigger that contribute to fat gain?

      “If the sensible approach discussed in this blog doesn’t work for you, then seek the assistance of a specialist who can help you address hormonal and other issues.”

      What kind of specialist? What would this specialist do to cause weight loss?

  17. says

    The food guide pyramid is based on counting calories, which is socialist/communist, and the liberal school system indoctrinates all kids with that theory by mandating public schools (nursing homes and hospitals) consume this socialist food and that’s what they are taught in health class. It’s a one party outlook which leaves no room for alternative viewpoints because it’s mandated by law. That’s communist.

    You have to burn food before it becomes a calorie. A calorie is as good as wind. It’s immaterial. You can not account for how much fat is not burned vs whats burned, go learn about the turnover rates of protein, carbs and fat and they vary by organ. It’s not a simply calories in vs calories out scenerio as reductionists would have us believe. The law of thermo dynamics and the calorie theory was just called one of the top 10 scienctific fairy tales of the modern time. I will not reference because I am a capitalist and do not want to educate my advarsaries. To understand how hormones work you would have to have an expanded mind to picture everything is happening at once. One reference is the Ludwig study that proved all calories are not equal.
    The turnover rate protein, carbs and fat varies based on the organs, and depends on hormones, where the moon is, how much you slept last night. I really don’t like arguing with calorie theoriest reductionists because I end up educating them instead of just defeating them.

    • says

      I agree that the government should not be responsible for distributing health information. However, that doesn’t prove their recommendations are incorrect. Public schools are also forced to teach kids that 2+2=4. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Refusing to teach things that have no basis in reality is not communist. That’s science.

      You can not account for how much fat is not burned vs whats burned, go learn about the turnover rates of protein, carbs and fat and they vary by organ.

      Yes, and the sum of those changes determines what researchers call energy balance. In other words: Calories In – Calories Out.

      The law of thermo dynamics and the calorie theory was just called one of the top 10 scienctific fairy tales of the modern time.

      By who, you? Physics is a fairy tale?

      I will not reference because I am a capitalist and do not want to educate my advarsaries.

      Having no data to support your statements makes you a capitalist?

      One reference is the Ludwig study that proved all calories are not equal.

      So you do have references, or not?

      I really don’t like arguing with calorie theoriest reductionists because I end up educating them instead of just defeating them.

      Or because you can’t support anything you say.

  18. grinch says

    90% of dieters fail at long term weight loss maintenance no matter what approach they try. Every person that has tried a fad diet has also tried other fad diets, including the basic calorie counting approach. They all fail. Eat less, move more is no more effective than any fad diet. If it were so effective at maintaining weight loss, then everybody would be doing it. Turns out hormones really do beat willpower most of the time.

  19. danimal says

    im glad it wasnt’ just me who thought Dave looked very droopy and haggard.

    I too would like to understand how Armi’s move away from bulletproof came to be

  20. Jack Thomas says

    Good stuff! I’ve had good results by 1. Cutting out coffee, sugar, white bread, 2. Engaging in low level exercise – in my case walking/hiking 1 hour per day, 3. Using a supplement by these guys http://www.amazon.com/Garcinia-VitAssist-Suppressant-Supplement-Guarantee/dp/B00C8AK72G – don’t know if it is in my head or real, but I feel like I have more energy and I eat less 4WIW, 4. Focusing on eating ‘real food’, nothing from a package, 5. Drinking lots of water every day. Granted, it is a simple plan, but I’ve lost 24 pounds over the last 6 weeks – I’m 6’4” and started at 260 pounds.

    • says

      Way to go Jack, congrats on the weight loss. Sounds like a simple and overall effective plan thus far. Can’t really say anything about the supplement since I haven’t researched it, but I’m always skeptical. In any case, your other strategies seems wise. Keep up the great work!

      - Armi

  21. samc says

    The proposition that calories in vs. calories expended is surely valid. However certain foods are triggers for some people to increase the calories in part of the equation which eventually slows the expended portion as well. Carbs and sugar cause me to eat more than I should and don’t satiate the way fats & protein do. I easily control my weight and caloric intake if I avoid the “bad stuff”.

    It isn’t something that everyone gets. Those that have never had weight issues can’t understand it and therefore insist that calories in vs. out is the only meaningful factor.

  22. phil says

    great article, spot-on!
    i shamefully enjoyed the rather bonkers megaphone comments from that raz-and-other-names chappie and he sadly appears to be a symptomatic victim of the enormous swindle which the obesity-industrial complex has fostered upon us. i don’t dispute that obesity is a difficult issue, but complex? only perhaps insofar that we allow it to become one. sadly, a whole industry has now sprung up around obesity, with legions of doctors, scientists, researchers, writers, publishers et al not in search of a solution, but focused on stoking the fire and thereby ensuring themselves paid gigs and secure employment ad infinitum. their tendency to drive up the complexity of the obesity argument by claiming “it’s hormonal/physiological, don’t you know” is a pernicious way to silence the sceptics by inferring that this is all rather complicated and therefore beyond simpler understanding or analysis. no doubt the current hormonal/physiological angle will soon be replaced by another fad doctrine once that well has run dry …….
    throughout the tens of thousands of years of human evolution, not once was obesity an issue until the last quarter of the 20th century. granted, there were always fat people, but they were predominantly the better-off who had access to more food and/or a more reclined lifestyle. needless to say, the cultural and culinary change over the last 50 years (more sedentiarism and cheaper processed food) have played havoc with our metabolism. whereas in the past lean-ness was more or less foistered upon us and therefore unavoidable (physical jobs, expensive food), these days we have to exert our own discipline to remain in shape – but of course that would mean hard work and lots of effort and we couldn’t possibly be exposed to that!
    as the old italian saying goes: pasta doesn’t make you fat, it’s how much pasta you eat that makes you fat.

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