|Donuts are an abundant source of sugar, fat, AND calories|
Looking at short-term and longer-term studies, the researchers found "unrestricted high-fat dietary patterns lead to higher calorie intake than unrestricted high-carbohydrate dietary patterns (although in some studies, volunteers in both groups overeat)" suggesting that it is actually easier to overeat on fat than on carbohydrates because fat is calorie-dense.
Another study was cited showing that when volunteers were purposely overfed in a controlled lab environment, excess calories caused similar weight gain no matter what the source.
As the authors point out in their explanation of "the difference between addition and subtraction," some low-carb dieters might add extra fat to foods rather than just subtracting carbs, which changes the macronutrient ratios but does not decrease the number of calories. The mirror image of this for the low-fat dieter would be to take the amount of butter you spread on one roll and spread it on two rolls, eating both -- not a good strategy for weight loss.
The Go Kaleo blog has a great discussion on how diet gurus can take even sensible recommendations and take them to silly extremes.
These studies don't seem to have looked at food quality, so feel free to decide they wouldn't apply to your extra-virgin-grass-fed-this or your organic-sprouted-that. I can't tell you you are wrong because there is no evidence one way or another from these studies.
The reality, is, though, that most people who are weight-conscious are probably not eating unrestricted diets. Most weight-loss or weight-management oriented diets limit or make suggestions on followers' foods, while others limit calories (or sometimes do both through proxies like PointsPlus). Food limitations often have an effect on the number of calories eaten, even if the follower is not consciously tracking or limiting calories.
My own example is that Weight Watchers has two techniques that its members can use to follow the program:
- One is counting PointsPlus, which are units based on a formula that takes into account the number of fat grams, protein grams, carbohydrate grams, and fiber. The formula is set up to steer members toward lower-fat foods, and also foods that have higher fiber, and to some extent, protein content relative to the number of carbohydrate grams. Eating 100 calories of butter will "cost" more points than eating 100 calories of quinoa.
- The Simply Filling Technique allows members to eat until they are satisfied from a list of low- or no-fat foods that are mostly minimally processed: Fruits, most vegetables, lean meat and other protein sources, nonfat dairy, and whole grains. Any foods not on the list have to be counted against a weekly PointsPlus allowance.
Thus I lost more weight on the days that I followed this plan, but also found it more restrictive and harder to stick with. I am therefore opting to count PointsPlus most days, but focusing on the Power Foods, and if I get stuck or want to accelerate my losses, I can switch to Simply Filling. I can lose using either technique.
I'm guessing that people who have a large weight loss with Whole30 or other restricted-food plans are having a similar effect -- decreasing the overall calorie intake. At some point, they reach a plateau where their calories consumed even out with the number of calories necessary to maintain, especially as they get good at finding foods they like that fit within the program. I think any of these plans can work as a tool to lose weight as long as a follower can feel comfortable with the restriction.
Thanks for reading! I'm curious to hear your experiences on any of these plans.