A lot of people use social media to share mundane things or for self-glorification. I try to use it to share interesting things with people.

A couple of days ago I posted a fun video on TikTok. It’s me stood with a massive sponge cake saying ‘If you eat an entire cake without cutting it, technically that’s only one piece.’ It’s a joke. It’s funny right? Watch it and see for yourself.

My TikTok profile is meant as a bit of light-hearted fun to brighten the day. I’m peppering in some sensible messages, but overall it’s just a food related giggle.

On the whole the video was received as intended, with people having a laugh and a joke along with me, BUT there have been a few that have taken it seriously and think that the message is ridiculous. Comments go along the lines of:

“Just cut it like a normal person, that one piece is over X calories”
“That’s called obesity and maybe you should cut back”
“Diabetes in other words”
“Heart attack waiting to happen”
“The scales will say different”

One person made a comment and then disclosed that they had had someone close to them die of a heart attack and that they were unhealthy. They automatically linked what they see to be unhealthy food and calorie content to poor health.

I think it’s important that we look at this a little, and I’m going to talk about this in the context of me and the cake as an example, but it really does apply to any food. It is an incredibly complex topic and I don’t want to go science mad on you so let’s just cover some basics. In order to save your poor eyes and concentration levels I’ll break this down over 4 posts for you.

First item on the agenda is calorie counting. There is a common misconception that the more calories you eat the more weight you gain, and the worse your health is, full stop. This is a very black and white statement, but nutrition isn’t black and white like that, it’s very nuanced. Technically (or tenticly as one person wrote in a comment ????‍♀️) , the energy balance equation is about energy in vs energy out. Eat less calories than you use and you’ll be in a calorie deficit and lose weight, eat more calories than you use and you’ll have excess calories and gain weight. In physics or maths that is true, but throw that into the human body and all manner of other things get added in to the equation.

There are over 100 genes that determine our body weight alone. Before you’re even born you have 100+ genes that have pretty much already decided what sort of body weight you’re designed to be. These genes all interact with different mechanisms in the body, and respond to the food we consume.

Also, did you know that the number of calories you put in your mouth isn’t the number of calories we absorb and use as energy? True story! The type of food you are eating will have different levels of caloric availability. A good example of this is sweetcorn. Whole kernels don’t get digested well and a large proportion gets passed through the digestive system relatively unscathed and appears out the other end. If you grind that sweetcorn to a powder though it’s more easily digested and you’ll take in more of the calories in the corn.

In addition to that, your body will use those calories more or less effectively than another person’s body will. You may naturally need more calories to function. You may need less. You may be more active and demand that energy, you may not be. Your systems may need more calories to function than the next person’s, or they may not.

So, some basic information to start with, but can you see already that you can’t just say calories in and calories out is an accurate guide for whether you gain or lose weight. You can’t just say to someone “‘eat less calories and you’ll lose weight’. It’s not that simple.


Next up, in Part 2: Does losing weight improve your health?


Please note:  This post is intended to be general information that applies to people who don’t have diagnosed medical conditions and are not pregnant. As always, please see a registered professional before making changes to your diet⁠.

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