Chapter 7 is one of my favourite chapters in the book. I was at a university function in the summer of 2009 and I happened to be chatting to an obese dietician. I was trying to understand from her where the 3,500 formula came from and she was looking at me as if I had two heads. I may as well have been challenging the idea that the world is flat. I decided that there was no point trying to pursue the query with this individual, but it did give me the idea that I should ‘go to the top’ and ask the bodies that rely upon this formula, as the foundation for their diet advice, from whence it came.
So, during June and July of 2009 I wrote to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), Dietitians in Obesity Management (DOM), the National Health Service (NHS), the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Department of Health (DoH), the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO), to ask all of these expert organisations for proof of the 3,500 formula. The answers absolutely stunned me and I hope that they do you also. Even NICE, supposedly the most evidence based of all the above organisations, admitted “Whilst our guidance does contain reference to studies involving 500 calorie deficit diets we do not hold any information about the rationale behind the statement ‘one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose 1lb a week you need a deficit of 500 calories a day’.” That is to say – although we are an evidence based organisation, we have no evidence.
Chapter 7 also has two incredible diagrams – one a study from 2007 with documented evidence from 80 different weight loss methods – all based on eat less and/or do more. You will see what the evidence tells you that you might lose, if you manage to stick to the programme, over a year, two years, three years and four years. I then plot the promise of the calorie theory – i.e. that, if you create a deficit of 1,000 calories a day (7,000 calories a week), you will lose 104lbs in fat alone (more in water and lean tissue) during the year (2lbs a week for 52 weeks). You will not be able to believe the difference between the two charts – what you will lose and what you have been told you will lose.