My most recent blog I tried starting and lost interest in was a fitness blog. Since college I’ve had an interest in personal fitness and started getting into weightlifting my senior year when I had abundant time because I was finishing my last few classes. I spent several hours reading up on building muscle, what supplements work, what supplements don’t, diet and nutrition, the best and worst exercises and how often I should do them, and so on. Much of this was far from straightforward, and I got out my calculator on several occasions to determine just how many grams of protein I should be trying to get, or how many reps and sets of a particular exercise I should be doing.
One thing I did find though is that on the opposite end of the spectrum where things are so simple it almost seems fake is how weight gain and weight loss works. It really comes down to calories. Your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure, is how many calories you burn throughout the course of your day. If you go over your TDEE your body stores the difference as fat. If you go under, your body burns fat to make up the difference. There, that’s it. That’s the “secret” to weight loss. This notion is known as CICO: Calories In, Calories Out.
Media likes to refer to the “CICO diet,” except this is something that they themselves seem to have made up. Referring to CICO as the “CICO diet” makes no sense because it is not a diet, it is simply the principle of how the human body stores or burns fat. Any diet that works, works because it has you eating below your TDEE every day. Any diet that fails, fails because it does not. This isn’t necessarily the diet’s fault, it could be that you are not adhering to it properly or do not understand it, but whatever the reason, you are not losing weight because of CICO.
I am passionate about CICO because it is indisputable. My blog was going to be entirely about it, but one of the reasons I stopped was I got three or four posts in and felt like I said all that there is to say for important things. It is disappointing to me that when I Google “CICO,” the first page consists of sites and blogs calling it the “CICO diet.” Many, if not most say the CICO diet doesn’t take macro- and micronutrients into consideration, or that the CICO diet can lead to unhealthy eating habits. But these websites created the problem they rail against because CICO says nothing about macronutrients or micronutrients, nor does CICO itself cause one to subsist on mini cupcakes and celery. CICO is the law of conservation of energy as it relates to your body.
If CICO were a diet, it would be very flawed, as would any diet that says nothing about how you should eat. CICO should be used alongside healthy and mindful eating habits. In addition to calculating your TDEE and counting calories to stay under, one should avoid refined carbs, empty calories, and caloric beverages like juice and soda, while instead opting for whole grains and varied vegetables and fruits. But this is all out of the scope of CICO. This is how to be healthy, not how to lose weight. The two go hand in hand, but they are not the same.
So yes, losing weight is simple. Calculate your TDEE with one of many free calculators online and consume fewer calories than that every day. I’m not claiming, nor would I ever claim that it’s easy. Unless you drink 10 cans of Fanta Grape everyday and the difference between losing and gaining weight is drinking water instead, it will likely require some large lifestyle changes. However, when you see fad diets, or claims that some simple exercise will make you shed pounds, be skeptical; it’s simply not possible without CICO.