In this article I would like to clarify the difference between the Hormone Factor approach and the strategy most dieticians use for weight-loss purposes. I am regularly criticised by people who have not read my book. I never said that calories are of no importance, that the First Law of Thermodynamics is total nonsense, and that you can drink liters of flavoured dairy products without gaining any weight as long as your hormones are balanced. Hormones do something with calories!
Losing Weight > Calories
Many dieticians use calculators to estimate calorie intake and energy use by means of simplified methods. In the end, energy use should be higher than energy intake, if you want to lose weight.
Where energy intake is concerned, certain values are used for food consumption by humans. Simply put, a human being may take in 9 kcal from 1 g of fat, and 4 kcal from 1 g of protein or carbohydrates. This is an estimation, because it varies from one person to the next how much is absorbed, depending on his or her bowel function and metabolic capacity.
The energy use is calculated by means of a formula. A very important part of this formula is the energy use while resting. This is estimated on the basis of muscle mass and/or age.
In short, this calculation is not all that accurate. However, even if it were accurate, the human body will function differently where calories are concerned. This calculation is based on the assumption that it does not matter which food sources are consumed to provide these calories and that the body is a mere garage box where calories are stored before they are used up.
When this method is used, the pitfall is to take in too few calories and burn up too many - as is the case in crash dieting and prolonged training sessions. The rebound effect of these crash methods will eventually lead to the yo-yo effect - which is the simple reaction of the body to activate the survival mechanism. This is a normal hormonal and mental counter reaction, which this dietary concept does not take into account. Other matters not taken into consideration in this concept, include: what happens to the fat percentage in the body when prednisone or anabolic steroids are taken while the energy balance remains the same?
Obviously, there is more to the story than just calorie-in, calorie-out. What happens in the body with these calories? Most people are not interested in just losing weight, but lowering their fat percentage.
Losing Weight > Hormones
How the body deals with energy is affected by hormones. In turn, hormones are affected by our lifestyle. The Hormone Factor describes how we are able to affect our hormones by means of our lifestyle, i.e. food, exercise, stress reduction, mental aspects.
By far the most important contribution to the body's energy use is provided by the basal metabolism, or energy use while resting. Dieticians often regard this as a constant factor, depending on the weight of fat-free mass and age. When I look at the hormonal system, the thyroid gland plays a central part in this. There are substantial individual differences in the function of the thyroid gland from one person to the next. Therefore, I do not regard the basal metabolism as a constant factor. The burning of the thyroid's pilot flame also depends on stress and the person's eating and training behaviour.
In case of crash diets with an extremely low carbohydrate consumption, the thyroid gland may slow down, causing the metabolic rate to slow down as well (decrease of free T3 and increase of reverse T3 in blood). There are other causes for a slowed down thyroid gland as well. For example autoimmune diseases and other problems of the thyroid gland. However, in practice, I have noticed that almost everybody with a slightly slowed down thyroid gland is able to lose weight - it can rarely be used as an excuse. Those who do gain weight often eat more in an attempt to counteract the listless feeling that occurs in case of a shortage of thyroid hormones. A good intake of calories and no extreme carbohydrate reduction are important to maintain proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Another way to raise the basal metabolism is to create extra muscle mass.
Whether we use more energy than we take in or not, it is more important to find out how the fat, muscle and glycogen stocks are affected by it. Many people would be fine with consuming more energy and using it, if these calories are used to create muscles rather than fat. What we do not want if more energy is used than taken in, is that valuable muscle mass is burned to supply this energy, while the fat remains where it is. Hormones are involved in the way in which energy is stored in the body. For example, testosterone and growth hormone will ensure the storage of more energy in muscle mass, relatively speaking.
Hunger and Satiation
Hormones affect feelings of hunger and satiation. The present food industry is very interested in making us feel more hungry, resulting in us buying more of their products. Sugars, aromas and flavourings are added to food products to upset the hormones that affect our feelings of hunger and satiation. Many people who eat according to The Hormone Factor will eat to satisfy their hunger and automatically eat less. This makes this method so easy to follow compared to regular calorie-restrictive diets, which require a lot of discipline and which will lead to mental frustration and compensatory behaviour. Naturally, there are influences on eating habits that go beyond the hormone factor.
Obtaining an ideal physical composition is a little more complicated than just adding two and two. Calories are important, but more important is how the body responds to and anticipates these. This is the task of hormones, which we can influence by adjusting our lifestyle according to the crucial Hormone Factor.