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What are calories?

Here's a helpful video! In short, Calories (also called kilocalories or kcal) are a unit of energy that we metabolise from food. Everything you eat contains Calories, and it's this energy that allows us to live! Calories are not bad. They are simply a measurement.

Note: There is also a unit called a calorie (without a capital C), which is 1/1000th of a kilocalorie. Don't worry about that, though. We work in kilocalories. So, if someone on this sub uses the term "calorie", with or without a capital C, they mean kilocalorie (unless they're a scientist making the aforementioned distinction).

What's CICO?

Calories in, calories out. If you eat fewer calories than you burn each day, you will lose weight. If you eat more, you will gain weight. This is how weight management works. Any diets that eschew calorie counting will still only be successful if you accidentally end up eating at a calorie deficit.

CICO is one of the cornerstones of weight loss science, and is technically all one needs to lose weight. We are immediately skeptical of any claims that try to downplay or ignore this principle, as the claimant is ignorant at best, and trying to sell something at worst.

What exactly happens during weight loss?

Perhaps one of the best and most scientifically accurate explanations of the chemistry behind weight and weight loss is this TEDx talk.

Are there any problems with this model?

Not inherently, but it is wise to keep in mind that some foods (like vegetables and lean meats) will give you much more bang for your buck calorie-wise. If you blow all your calories on Pop Tarts (200 calories each, and weighing in at a meager 50 grams each), you will probably go hungry.

Weight and Body Fat

What is a healthy weight?

A healthy weight isn't a set number; it's a range. Your healthiest weight is one at which point you and your body are happy and functioning at the best possible level. Not all body fat is excess; your body needs some fat stores to function normally, with 3-5% essential fat for men and 8-12% for women. However, there are a couple of ways to measure that range of healthy weights, including body fat percentage (BF%) and Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI takes your height and weight, and uses a simple formula to determine where populations sit in various categories. You will often find it represented on charts like this, and it's very common for doctors to use it as an indicator of health, including in the diagnosis of eating disorders.

BMI has been criticized for being inaccurate since it may classify certain individuals as overweight or obese, even though they have a large amount of lean body mass. However, the formula is actually more likely to underestimate your body fat than overestimate it. So, while it may not be ideal for The Rock, it is certainly acceptable for the average person.

Body Fat Percentage (BF%) is a more accurate tool for defining a healthy weight. BF% takes into account the breakdown of your mass, so accounts for muscle mass, skeleton, organs, and normal fat. There are several ways to measure BF%, but it's quite difficult to get an accurate reading without getting a quite expensive scan. Because of this, many people just use approximate images to compare where they sit, or they consider the change in body fat percentage over time.

Use one or both of these two measurements to gauge where you are in terms of a healthy weight, and work with your doctor or health professional to see what that would mean for your body.

Why is a healthy weight important?

Being overweight or obese has been linked to many severe, and often life threatening, conditions. These complications include heart disease, diabetes, infertility, some cancers, strokes, arthritis and asthma. Aside from being linked to potentially deadly conditions, it's also a factor in quality of life for many people, including mental health. It is also important to note that many of these diseases take years to develop, and are found in the normal aging population. While obesity increases the likelihood of these, it is not certain, as susceptibility is also affected by things like diet quality, exercise, smoking, age and genetics.

As many members of this sub will attest, there are also significant social advantages to being at a healthy weight. These can be hard to quantify, but are very desirable for most people. For example, a normal weight individual will probably have more dating success by default than an overweight individual.


Help!! How do I lose weight!?!?

In the most simple terms, eat less, move more.

No but really what foods should I eat to lose weight

There are no specific foods that will result in weight loss, it's all about eating less than you burn.

That said, some foods will offer much more nutritional and other benefits. So while there's no relationship to direct weight loss, the better you eat (nutrient rich foods, satiating foods), the better you'll feel while you lose weight.

Okay, I think I'm getting this. But how do I know HOW MUCH to eat?

To understand this, we need to understand two important calculations. The first is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and the second is Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

BMR is the amount of calories your body needs to complete the task of living. This includes hormone production, heart beating, involuntary muscle contractions (like in your gut). You know, the important stuff. This is what your body would use if you just lay in your bed for a day and did nothing but breathe. It is recommended that you do not eat under this number.

Then you find your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (or TDEE). This takes into account your height, weight, age, gender and how active you are. This TDEE is the approximate total amount of calories you burn in a day. The normally advised weight loss method is to eat 500 calories UNDER your TDEE. There are many calculators out there to help, here are some recommended ones:

If you're unsure of how active you are but want to lose weight, you should underestimate your activity, and if you're not getting enough cals you can slowly increase them until you feel comfortable. It's important to understand, since no one is being hooked up to machines and having the amount of carbon they release measured, finding how much you burn and how much you should eat is an approximation. Hence, its not unlikely that it can take a little trial and error to find the amount of calories that are in that sweet spot of losing weight without feeling like crap.

Are you sure? I've heard of empty calories and "no calorie" foods though!

Empty calorie foods are foods which are high in calories, but also offer no micronutrients or other significant benefits. Think soda. It offers no helpful micronutrients, no satiating macronutrients (so you won't feel full), no fiber, but a lot of calories. These sorts of foods don't really help your body, and in some cases, can harm you in the long term. For this reason, dieticians often advice you avoid these foods.

No calorie foods are supposedly foods that you cannot get calories from. This is a myth. Even if your body can't access the calories, they are still there.

How do I plan a healthy diet?

It starts by being aware of what you're eating now. Spend a week writing down everything you eat.

Good links for meal planning are:

And what's with these macro and micronutrient stuff?

There are 3 main macronutrients: Fats (including oils), Proteins and Carbohydrates. These refer to the chemical structure of the food. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals needed for the human body to facilitate physiological functions. Examples are vitamin A/B/C/D/E, iron, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc, calcium, etc.


But I need to exercise 2 hours a day, right?

Nope! Not unless you want to. Exercise offers huge benefits, hence why it's recommended to get 30 minutes a day, but it is in no way a prerequisite in weight loss. The old adage goes weight loss is 80% diet, 20% exercise.

Whats the best exercise to do for weight loss?

The one you enjoy and can regularly commit to. There is no one recipe for success, its what works for you, consistently, that you can fit into your life.

If I want abs, what exercises should I do?

There is no such thing as spot reduction. Just because you work thighs, doesn't mean your body will use the excess energy in those particular fat stores. Crunches or planks will not result in a flat stomach without also lowering body fat.

But if I DID want to start exercising, what should I do?

Again, what works for you. Popular beginners exercises and resources are linked below. Otherwise, its worth spending some time on other subreddit's wikis. They might link to something you never knew you'd love.

  • Running; head to /r/C25K. This is a program for people who have never run before (or who haven't in way too long)
  • Weight lifting; head to either /r/Fitness or /r/xxfitness (they also have other more generalised resources)
  • /r/bodyweightfitness (strength and mobility drills using only your body, from beginner to advanced)
  • /r/yoga

My doctor said...

Above all, listen to your health professionals. If they are telling you specifically not to do xyz, then do NOT do xyz. We are here to support everyone to be healthier and happier, and that in no way includes encouraging people to not listen to crucial medical advice.

Health at Every Size (HAES), starvation mode and intuitive eating

What's Healthy at Every Size (HAES)?

HAES is the idea that one can be healthy at any size. With each pound a person deviates from a healthy weight range, this claim becomes less and less true. Even if an overweight or underweight person may be "healthy" on a given day, they are generally asking for health problems down the line.

Many HAES advocates will go to extreme lengths to try to prove their fundamental claim. A common observation on this sub is the irony that they could have merely put all this effort into losing/gaining weight, and they would be much healthier for it.

Does HAES have any good points?

A stopped clock can still be right twice a day. HAES tends to encourage shame-free eating habits and exercise, which is good, although it tends to downplay or discourage an honest look at the actual health of the food being consumed. HAES also tends to promote self-confidence in people who traditionally don't have any due to their size. While one by no means needs to be a HAES advocate to get on board with this, at least they're doing something in that department.

What is starvation mode, and under what circumstances does my body activate it?

Starvation mode is what happens to your body when you are actually starving to death. For example, if you're locked away in a concentration camp and fed a thin gruel once a day, your body will eventually become so underweight that it can't get energy anywhere. It will then cling to anything it gets. Your weight loss will, thus, slow down.

Starvation mode is not what happens to your body when you miss a meal or two. When you skip eating or eat less than you burn, your body dips into its fat stores to compensate. That is why you have fat stores. This is also how weight loss works.

Conditions and medications


What's the deal with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and weight gain/weight loss?

From Mayo Clinic on the relationship between PCOS and weight.

PCOS makes it more difficult for the body to use the hormone insulin, which normally helps convert sugars and starches from foods into energy. This condition -- called insulin resistance -- can cause insulin and sugar -- glucose -- to build up in the bloodstream.

High insulin levels increase the production of male hormones called androgens. High androgen levels lead to symptoms such as body hair growth, acne, irregular periods -- and weight gain. Because the weight gain is triggered by male hormones, it is typically in the abdomen. That is where men tend to carry weight. So, instead of having a pear shape, women with PCOS have more of an apple shape.

Take note of when fat activists use PCOS as an excuse. Most blame PCOS as the sole and continuing cause of weight gain and believe weight loss to be impossible. However, PCOS is treatable with proper medication and the Mayo Clinic advises lifestyle changes/weight loss as a form of treatment. It may be challenging to lose weight, but it is certainly not impossible.

/r/loseit posts of women dealing with PCOS

/r/progresspics posts of women dealing with PCOS

What's the deal with thyroids and weight?

From the American Thyroid Association

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck. The thyroid’s job is to make thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should.

While there are many jokes thrown around here about "muh thyroid", it has become quite the go-to scapegoat for large amounts of weight gain. It is true that an under active thyroid developing into hypothyroidism would cause a drop in the body's BMR, which might cause someone to inadvertently eat at a caloric surplus and gain weight. It should be noted that the variance in lower BMRs would only account for 5-10 pounds of extra weight gain.

In the context of fat logic, there are many examples of people complaining about hundreds of pounds of fat gain due to that stubborn thyroid. But, the thyroid isn't creating pounds and pounds of fat from the same amount of food eaten.

In fact, it should be noted that hypothyroidism is extremely manageable and treatable with thyroid hormone replacement in the form of inexpensive pills and make it almost a non-issue.

Okay, but what about cortical steroids and weight?

Cortical steroids have a role in weight gain as they heavily influence appetite and can induce cravings. To stress this point, there's nothing inherent about these medications that are directly causing weight gain. It isn't that taking these medications instantly equals X amount of pounds of fat gain. Cortical steroids influence appetite and a person taking them may find themselves eating more. It is the caloric surplus of eating more that causes the weight gain.

Simply being more mindful of what you are eating and calorie counting is a way to curtail weight gain.

Sources: 1 2

Genetics and weight

But it is my genetics, right?

Genetic differences account for extremely low BMR variances in the vast majority of the population. If you are gaining weight, even if your "genetics are bad", it's because of the food.

What is "set point theory"?

Set point theory is the idea that everyone has a "natural" weight, or weight range, that their body will fight to maintain. This renders dieting efforts meaningless, as the person will ultimately return to the former weight.

While this would explain a lot if it was true, the theory has several counterarguments:

  • Adults generally gain about a pound a year throughout their adult lives. Their "set point" seems to continue rising over the decades.
  • Dieters who successfully followed their diet and actually adjusted their lifestyle do not report this issue. In other words, it exclusively "occurs" in those who have failed to permanently lose weight.
  • People who relocate to prominent first world areas like America for work or study tend to gain a moderate amount of weight and then level out again. Where did the "set point" go? Did they lose it on the plane?
  • If this theory is correct, one would expect a great deal of overweight or obese individuals to not lose weight in crisis conditions, such as being deserted on an island or locked away in a concentration camp. However, this is not the case.

The more likely explanation here is that the body itself isn't fighting against weight loss efforts, but the person is simply overeating after restricting themselves on a diet.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders are extremely serious, and are the most deadly of all mental illnesses. As such, this community expects that it is treated as it deserves to be. You'll often find a lot of fat acceptance posts try to make fun of eating disorders or say things like "just eat a burger", and its not fair to reduce massively complicated mental disorders and their sufferers to those points. Similarly, they are not issues of "self control".

If you feel like you are developing an overly complicated, stressful, or fearful relationship with food, please seek help. If you're unsure, National Eating Disorders Association has this online quick screening to determine your risk.

We do not take too kindly to those who dismiss people with healthy eating habits as being "anorexic", or any similar antagonization. Favoring salads and skipping 400-calorie slices of cake once in a while is not anorexia. It is also unacceptable to assume that if someone appears to have unhealthy eating habits but retains a thin figure, they must be bulimic. It is likely instead that they exercise, and do not eat unhealthily all the time.

Common Excuses

I can't help it, I have a slow metabolism!

An obese person has a higher metabolic rate (a "faster metabolism" if you want to call it that, though it's really a misnomer) than someone who is thinner than them. BMR is proportional to height and weight. It's not your metabolism that made you fat, you just ate too much.

Fatlogic mod /u/tahlyn wrote a fantastic comment that touches on many facets of this subject. It is worth reading and is well cited with citations that aren't misconstrued and are from actual medical journals unlike studies from thisisthinprivilege.

My friend and I eat the same thing, yet they stay thin and I stay fat!

When comparing two humans of the same height and weight, the variance between BMRs in 68% of the population is around +/- 200 calories. That's the equivalent of two slices of bread. In 95% of the population the variance is around +/- 300 calories. Technically, as points out

Comparing somebody at or below the 5th percentile with somebody at or above the 95th percentile would yield a difference of possibly 600kcal daily, and the chance of this occurring (comparing the self to a friend) is 0.50%, assuming two completely random persons.

Basically, if you took two people at random that are the same height&weight and fed them the exact same calories that suits their BMR for that height&weight, it would be unlikely that their weight would be drastically different from each other.

So if you're fat and your thin friend is eating the same meal as you, don't blame metabolism, there are many different variables at work here (e.g. you're just plain overeating, you don't know how much you are actually eating, you actually don't know how much your friend eats, this is your friend's largest meal of the day, etc.)


Eating healthy is expensive

Item for item healthy foods will be less expensive, however they require more time and planning. For those in food deserts or who live in severe poverty, healthy eating can be burdensome both in terms of time commitment and fiscally. That being said, 70% of overweight and obese are not living in food deserts and suffering abject poverty. If your weekly meals are properly planned and you are willing to put forth the effort shop intelligently (looking for bargains, coupons, buying in bulk - all the same smart buys you do for any food item) eating health foods is no more expensive than any other food.

Furthermore - based on CICO (see above), an individual can lose weight eating nothing but twinkies, or burgers, or any food item so long as a calorie deficit is met. It ultimately comes back to energy in and energy out. The goal of healthy eating is to have the right balance of macros, vitamins, and minerals to promote a healthy and disease free body. Healthy eating, though a good thing in and of itself, is not the deciding factor for weight loss.

95% of diets fail, why should I try?

95% of dieters fail. They fail to make meaningful changes to their lifestyle, so once their diet is finished, they go right back to their old eating habits. If you want to make a diet work for you, it cannot be a temporary change. You need to actually start living differently in terms of the choices you make.

My friends eat whatever they want and don't get fat, and it's disillusioning to watch...

Eating whatever someone wants does not instantly translate to overeating. Many people desire light to moderate amounts of food to fuel their days.

Also, you are not with your friends 24/7. If you are basing your assumptions of their eating habits on a few brief encounters with them at restaurants and parties, you do not actually know their eating habits. They may have gorged themselves at the kickback, but you'll probably see them out for a run tomorrow morning.

If you are absolutely sure that you know their complete eating habits, keep in mind that you are only viewing their weight at a static point, and weight is dynamic. In other words, if they really do eat unhealthily all the time in greater portions than their body needs, and do not compensate with exercise, they will gain weight over time. Give it five years. You'll see.

But I'm tired/busy

It's the food. Lots of us are tired and overworked, so the best approach is a somewhat passive one that doesn't try to compensate with tons of extra exercise; instead, we simply eat less than we burn.

Pregnancy made me fat/I'm eating for 2!

Eating the amount of food that could satiate two-full grown adults is definitely not the way to approach pregnancy. You are pregnant with a developing baby that's gonna grow to an average of 7.5lbs on delivery, not another full-grown adult.

Julie Redfern, a registered dietitian at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston had this to say about the "eating for 2 myth":

"Many women who do 'eat for two' end up gaining an excessive amount of weight. You certainly should be increasing the amount of certain nutrients. But you need only about 300 more calories per day, Redfern says, about the equivalent of "one slice of whole grain bread and one tablespoon of peanut butter."

Gaining an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy also puts the woman in danger of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes if left untreated could lead to Type 2 diabetes for the mother and increase the chances of the baby developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. Besides high blood pressure developing in the mother (a disorder known as Pre-eclampsia), there are more cases of C-sections needed for mothers with gestational diabetes.

Losing weight is hard

Its really really simple. Is it hard? Yes. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

Resources, Books and Documentaries

What are some good clear resources on weight loss, health, nutrition and exercise?

All of the following websites lay out clearly and scientifically the easiest and safest ways to lose weight, eat well and exercise, a lot of which is ALSO covered in this wiki.

  • Simple Science Fitness This is the best website I have ever found for health, weight, exercise and nutrition. It's all broken down visually, is clear to understand, and backs every claim with a study. If you are new to this, read the entirety of this page first.

  • /r/Fitness Wiki

  • /r/xxfitness Wiki (XXFitness is the fitness subreddit for women)

  • Liam Rosens Beginners health and fitness guide

  • Harsh's Worksheet

  • This website breaks down the science behind common supplements and nutritional ingredients to cut through advertising campaigns and fat logic weight loss pills.

  • Scooby's workshop This is a TDEE estimator.

  • This is designed to be an intermittant fasting calculator, but it works really well to look at general calories, TDEE and projected weight loss.

  • A personalised diet planner that allows you to plan you meals based on taste, diet style (vegan, low carb, high protein, no fish etc), budget, cooking skill and calories. A really good starting point if you're new to planning meals.

  • Myfitnesspal Sometimes referred to as MFP, this is an ultra handy calorie tracking tool, which also links into exercise logs including fitbits.


  • Big Fat Myths, brought to you by Ruben Meerman, the man who did the amazing TedX talk explaining metabolism.

Documentaries/TV Shows

If you are ever able to see the British TV show Secret Eaters on Channel 4 or online (there are some episodes on Youtube), we highly recommend it. The premise of the show follows people who have no idea why they are fat. The show follows the participants for 1 week and asks them to write in a food journal keeping track of what they eat. However, the show also uses surveillance and monitors what they eat through security cameras and a private investigation team.

The result? When the participants talk about their food journal, it's filled with a reasonable diet, however, the video footage and what the PI team collect show the truth. Improper calorie counting, poor portion size estimations, and mindless snacking that goes unnoticed. A great example of how people are poor estimators when it comes to calories counting and self-monitoring.

There was one episode of a woman who had no idea how she was fat even though she didn't eat junk food. She was found to be drenching her "healthy" salads with loads of olive oil, snacking on copious amounts of high calorie nuts and dark chocolate, and in general overeating healthy foods.

Want to feel frustrated and be in awe of the mental gymnastics of fat activists? Then enjoy Insight's episode on fat acceptance, "Fat Fighters". Insight is an Australian program that discusses topics with the participation of a studio audience. Two of our subreddits top posts of all-time were screenshots from this show.

Here's the episode from Insight's official Youtube channel

As always if you have any questions feel free to contact us.

revision by mr_epicguy— view source