Calorie counting or Hunger? - a tutorial
by Dr Gosia O'Reilly
(September 2010, last updated in October 2010)
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain,
and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
This article contains some basic information on the topic of caloric estimators, which are used by some for the evaluation of their daily caloric requirements. My motivation is to increase the awareness about their unsuitability for prolonged daily use, specifically (though not only) in the context of the raw food diet. My take on the topic of caloric estimators is driven by my scientific background (PhD in applied maths, lecturing and research experience in applied probability, in particular modeling of real-life processes with an element of uncertainty, publications in international journals, refereeing experience) and my insights into how these calories estimators were constructed and how inaccurate they are. The articles goes beyond the topic of calorie model and looks at more sensible ways of satisfying dietary needs.
My intention is purely to increase the knowledge and to encourage you to investigate, especially when someone tells you not to question their statements or when there exist policies discouraging questioning on a discussion forum. Note that forums are not created by moderators who create the virtual environments, but by those who choose to participate in them, by you. As a rule, those that bring the change are opposed by those who do not think or see that anything's broken. Without questioning however, there would be no progress, ever. All progress is the result of questioning followed by a change.
"The only way most of us started eating raw foods and making this a lifestyle was by questioning for ourselves any "truth" that someone/ an "authority" presented. I would think if the information was a blatant truth always, across the board, no amount of questioning of it would change that. When someone tells me not to question, to just accept, if anything, it makes me now investigate the validity of the one making the statement."
"Unless there is doubt involved, the truth does not fear opposing ideas. (...) We all have to make up our own minds."
Some raw foodists apply the caloric estimators without ever questioning them. They use them, assuming incorrectly that these are accurate enough, forgetting that there exists a superior, exact and natural mechanism of satisfying the needs of the body. Moreover, some very eager advocators of caloric estimators, who have not familiarized themselves with the basic theory in order to understand how these estimators were constructed, oddly insist that one must use these human-made, erroneous, last-century constructs, rather than follow nature-provided bodily mechanism that existed for millions of years. This persists despite the fact that the modern science has already realized the flaws of these estimators and rejected them as innacurate. This is not dissimilar to various other odd, simingly perpetual beliefs, such as the one that humans must eat meat for protein and milk for calcium, that persists amongst the society despite being already rejected by science. People who advocate these various beliefs claim that these are based on science, but their claims are based on the outdated methods that have long been rejected by science.
There is more than one reason for this phenomenon. First, most people when they hear 'scientific', assume that it implies 'factual' and do not bother to find out the fine details of how something was derived by reading the scientific literature. As the result, hypotheses, theories or compelling evidence are often mistaken for proofs, and old models are perpetuated. Second, people tend not to be interested in such details because such interest would involve maths, and this seems a rather unappealing alternative to many. Third, the caloric estimators have been popularized by the fitness community and so people tend not to question them. They operate on a belief that 'if many people are doing it, it must be right', a common strategy used by individuals that may often lead to a success, but not this time.
The caloric estimators that are used to estimate so called basal metabolic rate (BMR), are based on simple mathematical models. I will focus first on one of these estimators, known as the popular Harris-Benedict equation. "BMR is defined as the amount of energy expended while at rest in a neutrally temperate environment, in the post-absorptive state (meaning that the digestive system is inactive, which requires about twelve hours of fasting in humans). BMR is measured under very restrictive circumstances when a person is awake, but at complete rest. An accurate BMR measurement requires that the person's sympathetic nervous system not be stimulated. BMR is measured by gas analysis through either direct or indirect calorimetry. A more common and closely related measurement, used under less strict conditions, is resting metabolic rate (RMR)" .
The Harris-Benedict equation created in 1919, which gives a mathematical formula for BMR, was based on the measurements on a sample of 136 men, 103 women and 94 new-born infants, that have been analyzed biometrically with the purpose of determining the statistical constants (means, standard deviations, etc) .
Let me explain how it was derived. To simplify the matters, imagine that the data is a cloud of scattered dots on a two-dimensional plane, each dot corresponding to the measurements of one individual from the sample, and you are trying to plot a straight line going through that cloud. Some dots from that cloud may end up on the line, many will not, some will be close to the line, some will be far away, as it usually happens with a cloud and a straight line going through it. The line has some particular mathematical properties to ensure that it is optimal, also the analysis for BMR involves more than 2 dimensions, but I omit the details for simplicity.
A linear equation corresponding to the straight line is derived, which is used for the purpose of making predictions. Specifically, for a given individual, a prediction in the form of a dot on the line is calculated based on the linear equation. This of course is an estimate, since no true measurement of BMR is taken.
See the figure below which illustrates this. Line a is the straight line drawn through the cloud of data, asociated with the linear equation. Point A = (x,z) is the true location of an individual, where x is the known measurement such as weight, height and age, and z is the unknown BMR. The estimate y of BMR is derived by assuming that the point A is located on the line a, and that A = (x,y). This is incorrect, since the true location is A = (x,z), of course.
The result of such analysis for BMR predictions, is the following Harris-Benedict equation:
Note that the above method is just a rough approximation method. The probability that your actual BMR is equal to the one calculated by the equation is zero. This is because your true dot in the cloud, corresponding to your true BMR, is unlikely to be on the straight line in the figure above. The actual BMR is not driven by the derived linear equation, but by some other underlying unknown, sophisticated, nature-driven formula that is too complicated to comprehend, and hence impossible to derive. The plot of that formula, if one could derive it, would be a cloud not a straight line. That is, in the above described predictions method, the analysis has been simplified to a great extent!
Consequently, it is important to understand how rough those predictions based on the Harris-Benedict equation might be when applied to an individual. The authors of the method emphasize :
"In carrying out this analysis we have proceeded on the conviction that the widest possible usefulness of laboratory investigations of human metabolism will result from basing measurements upon individuals who are in presumably good health, but who are otherwise typical of the population at large. It is only when the subjects used for experimentation are representative of the general population in type, variability and correlation that results of laboratory research upon limited series of individuals may be safely generalized for rationing or for other practical social applications."
So, from the authors of the method themselves, we hear that the equation is only suitable when used to individuals similar to those that they studied. Of course we do. It is the basic requirement in statistics that the sample must be representative of the population, when the statistics from that sample are used to make any predictions about the population. There is no guarantee that this is the case, but an assumption is made that it is and the techniques used in selecting the sample are designed carefully with this in mind.
Hence, the inevitable question here is "How representative is this sample to the population of raw foodists?". In the studies of BMR, it has been shown that illness, previously consumed food and beverages, environmental temperature, and stress levels can affect one's overall energy expenditure as well as one's BMR. So, how do you think a cooked foodist compares to a raw foodist? Is there any difference in their diet, health or stress levels? How do you define illness? Is there any difference at all in how their bodies operate? Do you think that a healthy, clean body is able to process the food with the same efficiency as the sick body? If the sick body must use more nutrients for processes required to clean and repair it, than a healthy body, does this mean that it will have less amount available for the purpose of satisfying its energy needs? Do you think that there is no difference between raw and cooked foods in their ability to satisfy the energy needs of the body? Do you think that the body will use the same amount of energy to digest either type of the foods or do you think that the digestion processes of more human-friendly raw foods will run smoother?
The body of empirical evidence in the form of real-life experiences answering these various questions is rather large. Nora Lenz , a successful raw vegan since 2000, says:
"The calorie is particularly irrelevant and useless to raw fooders. The true fuel value of any natural unprocessed food is dependent on its quality, freshness and ripeness. This begs the question -- do we really get the same fuel value from the unripe, hot-house-grown, over-refrigerated tomatoes we eat in January that we get from the sweet, ripe, delicious tomatoes we grow in our backyards and eat right off the vine? Clearly there are going to be significant differences, but the calorie theory takes none of that into account. What this means is that caloric values are really only applicable to manufactured, processed foods, which don’t have the same variability as natural foods. The calorie theory originates from a time when only doctors studied health, and they saw absolutely no difference nutritionally between a cooked tomato and one eaten right off the vine."
So I ask, "What is the accuracy of the Harris-Benedict equation when used in predictions?" The answer is quite stark. According to the survey in , which analyzed several caloric estimators (Harris-Benedict, Mifflin-St Jeor, Owen, and World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization/United Nations University [WHO/FAO/UNU]), in relation to Harris-Benedict equation:
"45%-81% of estimates are accurate; errors tend to be overestimates, Error range: Maximal underestimation by 23% to overestimation by 42%".
I hope that the reader sees that the above statistical errors are completely unacceptable. For example, given that a BMR estimate of 2000kcal is an overestimate with an error of 40%, the actual BMR is 0.6*2000 = 1200kcal. The enormous magnitude of error implies that when one is using the estimator, there is a high chance that the estimated BMR is nowhere near the actual BMR. The error is too big and so practically, the estimator is useless. It is pointless to use it in order to predict the BMR of an individual.
The authors of the survey politely conclude:
"Many dietetics practitioners were taught to use various formulas as the basis for energy predictions. Although these equations are widely cited in textbooks and software, when the data are analyzed, it is clear that the practitioner should become aware of the limitations in the use of these equations."
The above survey is not an isolated report, of course. There exist multiple studies that conclude in the same manner. A very recent study which analyzed the validity of the prediction equations for the resting metabolic rate (RMR) proposed by Harris and Benedicti (1919), Schofield (1985), WHO/FAO/UNU (1985), Henry and Rees (1991), Molnar and cols. (1995), Tverskaya and cols. (1998) and Muller and cols. (2004) in 51 adolescent girls girls between 10 and 17 years of age, concluded :
"The study indicates that none of the equations meet all the stipulated criteria and that thus have no validity in the calculation of the RMR".
Another study which measured the basal metabolic rate of 60 women (aged 20 to 40 years) living in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and compared it with estimated values bored on published predictive equations determined that estimated basal metabolic rates were significantly greater (7% to 17%) than measured basal metabolic rate. Conclusion :
"These results show that predictive equations are not suitable to estimate basal metabolic rate in these groups of women and that the use of estimated basal metabolic rate will lead to an overestimation of energy requirements in women with similar characteristics."
Yet another study in which the reliability of commonly used predictive equations (Harris-Benedict, Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization/United Nations University (FAO/WHO/UNU), Schofield weight-only, and Schofield weight-and-height equations) for estimating resting energy expenditure (REE) in infants in both health and disease was assessed. The study involved 36 healthy infants and in 9 infants with cystic fibrosis . The results: "Compared with measured values, predicted REE values varied markedly among equations, overestimating REE in healthy infants (Harris-Benedict equation, 182%) of measured values; FAO/WHO/UNU equation, 104%; Schofield weight-only equation, 107.5%; and Schofield weight-and-height equation, 106% ) and underestimating REE in those with cystic fibrosis." Note that this study confirms the previously stated point that the level of health affects BMR. Conclusion:
"Thus we could rely on none of the predictive equations to give an accurate estimate of REE, and hence energy and fluid requirements, in individual infants. We suggest that when accurate estimates are needed, measurement of REE in individual infants should be attempted, especially in disease states, and that the continued use of current formulas should be reexamined."
It is clear that none of the equations on which the calorie counters are based on, is acceptable for making predictions.
The issue of the innacuracy of the caloric estimators is important because BMR "is usually by far the largest component of total caloric expenditure" and so one cannot estimate their daily caloric requirement at an acceptable level of accuracy without an accurate calculation of BMR. "However, the Harris-Benedict equations are only approximate and variation in BMR (reflecting varying body composition), in physical activity levels, and in energy expended in thermogenesis make it difficult to estimate the dietary consumption any particular individual needs in order to maintain body weight. Each person's metabolism is unique due to his or her unique physical makeup and physical behavior."  It is assumed that BMR is a constant, but it is clearly not, due to those various variables that are changing in time.
As we have detailed above, the existing estimators do not produce an exact measurement of your BMR, but rather, an erroneous and useless estimate based on the statistics from a sample of people, which assumes that you are just like them. So when you calculate your BMR estimate using a caloric estimator, you should interpret the result as follows: "The number I gave you is incorrect. Your true BMR is unkown." I like the following appropriate analogy made by Nora Lenz:
"Most people have not been exposed to the valid criticisms of the calorie theory. It is a testament to the dark age we live in that the calorie theory is regarded as the best measuring system we have for figuring the fuel value of foods. If any other measuring device of use in modern civilization was as flawed, inaccurate and unreliable as the calorie system, we wouldn’t be able to quantify anything. Imagine stepping on your scale in the morning and reading “sorry, I don’t know your weight, but other people like you weigh 180 pounds”. That’s about how scientific the calorie theory is."
Suppose that, unaware of the innacuracies, you adopt the following process in your dietary regiment:
The human factor involved in this process produces additional errors. "People have different concepts of medium, and the use of qualitative terms such as small, medium, and large is not sufficiently descriptive" in caloric calculations. As an example, the concept of a medium apple varied from 4oz to 9oz, more than twofold. "The wide variation in perceptions of the use of "medium" implies that the perceptions of energy also will vary widely."  According to a recent study, nutrition students had a tendency to underestimate the weight of low-energy foods such as apple and papaya, resulting in underestimation of their energetic value. Less than 20% of the estimates were accurate enough (that is, with less than 10% error).  Another study concluded that "Results indicate that calories were systematically underestimated in healthy/weight loss foods".  So, our human ability to estimate the calories or the size of the food as the inputs for a calculator, seems rather poor and carries an error that is too large for the estimate to be reliable.
Moreover, the equation X = BMR + E is an oversimplification the real, far more complex relationship. Note for example that exercise has an affect on BMR. The calculators do not take them into account. "Typically a calorie counter will overreport your calorie expenditure by 20% to 50%.".  "Calorie counters mindlessly add the calories burned exercising as "extra" and in some cases, this practice can significantly influence the calorie calculations. Hence, calorie software counts the part of your usual activities that overlaps with the extra activities twice."  Therefore, the actual equation in its simplest, crude form would have to be X = BMR + E + some unknown error, which could be large. In a more sophisticated form the formula should be X = f (S), where f is some non-linear function of the set S of many various contributing factors, including exercise level, your diet, and your body type amongst others. Hence, your calculations in such adopted regiments are deemed to be completely our of whack and you are not going to meet the true energetic needs of your body when using it.
In summary of the points mentioned so far, the major flaw of the caloric estimators, which have been rejected by science, is that the mathematical models on which these are based, are not sophisticated enough, and this leads to errors of unnceptably large magnitude. Another major flaw of the calorie calculators, which we have not explored yet, is that the analysis is based on the flawed application of the calorie model to humans.
The kilogram calorie, denoted as kcal, is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius . This is a concept that applies in physics. Nutritionists adopted this concept to study food energy, which they define as the amount of energy obtained from food that is available through cellular respiration, and express using kcal. "When the food (providing fuel) reacts with oxygen in the cells of living things, the energy is released. Each gram of food is associated with a particular amount of energy (released when the food is respired). Standardized chemical tests or an analysis of the recipe using reference tables for common ingredients are used to estimate the product's digestible constituents (protein, carbohydrate, fat, etc.). These results are then converted into an equivalent energy value based on a standardized table of energy densities" . The calorific value of food is commonly determined by use of a bomb calorimeter , and involves burning the analyzed substance in a combustion chamber .
Note that this analysis does not involve the measurement of the true energy released by the body during the digestion process, but rather, the energy released by the calorimeter during burning the food in its chamber. Secondly, note that the digestion process does not involve burning the food at all!
So why, you might ask, instead of the crude and inappropriate calorie model, not create a model that does the job more accurately then? The answer might come as a surprise to those who expect that the rigorous science holds the answers to most questions. I happen to have become involved recently on a project concerning a model for human metabolism and hance have a nice example to illustrate the point. To model the balance state in a human cell, a mathematical equation has been developed that describes the chemical compounds and various reactions they are involved in, as well as parameters that quantify what happens. The problem is that there are several thousands of compounds as well as reactions involved, and hence the only plausible way of solving the equation is via approximation methods and random number generators. And this is just a tiny part of what happens within one cell of the human body. As you can imagine, there is not enough brain power or computer power that would allow us to model, analyze, and fully explain our body processes, not even in order to predict what we should have for our next optimal meal.
So, since the calorie calculators are unsuitable for prediction of our energetic needs, what are the alternatives? No mathematical model is ever going to be adequate, since the system we are trying to observe is non-linear and has a large number of contributing factors. Any such model is certain to provide a numerical result that does not match the true need of your body. I say it as a modeler who has had experience in constructing models for various real-life systems. The alternative is to do what humans and all animals have done for millions of years, of course.
We are not born with calculators attached to our bodies. Instead, we have a much more powerful mechanism to guide us. Taking responsibility for one's own sensitivity to the signals body is the core of the idea of hygienic living. To rely on one's own ability to sense the needs of the body, instead of giving power away to flawed linear equations, may require some trust. Nevertheless, without it, how else could one ever become in tune with their body?
Dave Klein, the editor of Vibrance magazine  and a successful raw vegan since 1984 says:
"I never count calories. I just eat and stay fit to keep my blood sugar up and as sustained as possible. When it's low I either rest when my body tells me to, or I have enough fruit to feel satisfied, which means my energy is up and I feel happy. Simple!"
"Calories are not things nor do they give us energy. Calories are actually a measure of the heat released when a food is exploded in a bomb calorimeter. Our cells don't explode or burn food in our cells like a furnace does, and we don't run on heat energy. Food gives us biochemical potential energy from sugar which is used to make ATP -- if the body has a need for the food energy and can process it. Study the Krebs Cycle to learn how the potential energy in food is used to power our bodies. I wrote a detailed article explaining all this called "The Human Energy Scheme" in Vibrance no. 3 which we all need to know about."
"So, why then does everyone go by calories when calories are only a measure of heat energy and not the biochemical energy we actually derive from food? Because the energy of each is roughly parallel, and there is no way to quantify biochemical energy because it is dependent upon our ever-changing body conditions, and because dietitians and food scientists, etc., are ignorant."
Dave Klein lists "eating when there is no true hunger" as one of the factors that can lead to "uncomfortable symptoms and problems when transitioning onto the fruit diet" and emphasizes that "We also need to learn to satisfy only true hunger - that's not easy, but it's necessary to work on it."  Dave Klein describes true hunger as follows:
"We can clearly sense true hunger after we have cleaned out and done a fast or exercised to create a need for nourishment. We need to tune our awareness inwardly and listen to what our senses tell us. If we eat and do not have a good experience, then we may have learned that either we were not experiencing hunger for food (it may have been an emotional appetite), or we may have not selected a food which our body was not calling for." 
Eating according to hunger is not an unusual way of being amongst most long-term raw foodists. For example,
"(Loren Lockman) ate 2 meals per day because that is what appeals, he listens to hunger and responds. Doug (Graham) and Rozi (Graham) have both done both of these things. Infact if you look at most long term raw foodists, they tend to have fasted at some point, usually more than once. Both Doug and Rozi only eat twice per day. Rozi eats breakfast and dinner, skipping lunch. Doug skips breakfast and eats lunch and dinner. Not because they are restricting their food intake, or being rigid, but because they eat according to hunger, not the clock." (Adam, 2010)
Debbie Took says :
"A clean body does not feel the uncomfortable 'gnawing' that most people think of as hunger. And 'stomach emptying' sensations aren't hunger either. Eat when you have appetite for food. That is, when you desire food, when you feel interested, excited by the thought of food, and motivated to eat. When you feel attracted to food, and particularly when you feel attracted to certain foods, eat them (as long as they are raw -don't rely on this if the food is cooked!). If none of these feelings are present....don't eat."
The reader is referred to Lesson 44 at  for further reading on the topic of hunger. This topic has been covered by the classic natural hygiene to a great extent.
The explanation why we should use our natural body mechanisms to decide how much and what we should eat goes beyond the obvious, common sense or hygienic argument detailed above. There exists rigorous-science based validation of this approach as well.
"For more than five decades, scientists have known that animals have the ability to sense when their diet is not providing sufficient amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids found in animals, eight of them cannot be produced by or stored in the body and, therefore, must be obtained through the foods the animals eat. These eight are known as <<indispensable amino acids.>>
Previous research has shown that animals can sense within a matter of minutes if their diet is deficient in an indispensable amino acid, making use of a subconscious sensing mechanism that does not depend on taste or smell. For example, if rats are offered more than one type of feed, and the first feed they try is deficient in an indispensable amino acid, they will soon switch to another feed that provides the necessary amino acids. Gietzen noted that animals ranging from single-cell organisms such as yeast, to invertebrates to humans, appear to have conserved this mechanism through evolution.
(...)Earlier research had demonstrated that the deficiency-sensing mechanism is headquartered in an area of the brain known as the "anterior piriform cortex," which is essential for behavioral responses such as those demonstrated by rats that stop eating a meal deficient in indispensable amino acids.
<<Results from this study define the signaling pathway that, in mammals, tells the animal to go and look for a better food,>> Gietzen said. <<Such a well-conserved biochemical pathway underscores the basic importance in a multitude of biological systems of keeping a supply of the building blocks for proteins readily available.>>"
The above mentioned paper is significant. The current list of other papers that quote it in corresponding research is 75, a very impressive number for a relatively recent work. As one can imagine, the existing body of research in this area is extensive.
"As it turns out, and not surprisingly, our bodies have mechanisms by which they recognize the lack of vital nutrients in our food, and then induce us to desire foods which contain these nutrients. Most of the time, these signals are subtle, somewhat instinctive, manifesting only as a desire for a specific food. (...)How the body knows which foods contain what nutrients remains a mystery."
So the science supports the notion that our own body possesses mechanisms to direct us to our optimal food. We may not be aware of the full complexity of those mechanisms, and not have enough brain and computer power to understand and model them, but we certainly have more than enough ability to follow these mechanisms with an astonishing precision, by using our body senses. Overriding our senses and eating according to erroneous calculators instead, equates to using a far inferior, unsophisticated, and deficient mechanism. The most advanced algorithm that exists, is the one within your body.
Ignoring this advanced mechanism on daily basis because we think we know better than the nature, can have dear consequences. Exploring them fully is beyond the scope of this article, but I will mention some examples to illustrate the point.
First, over the years of my presence at various raw food forums, I read multiple stories of people suffering significant teeth problems, resulting in yellow teeth and cavities. The common underlying cause of those observed problems was ignoring body signals, such as taste, leading to eating unripe fruit or harsh greens or too much fat, and not eating according to hunger but overeating or undereating. When this cause was addressed, the improvement occured resulting in a body condition in which enamel healing was possible. For example :
"I used to have horrible sensitivity of my teeth and enamel erosion. Tomorrow is exactly 4 months since I renounced overts and my teeth feel incredibly better. The eroded enamel spot on the front tooth is hardly noticeable now and only because I know about it. I can tell that I hardly eat any greens now. When I did eat tons of green (because I though it would help my teeth), my teeth became yellow and stained. It didn't bother me, because sensitivity and enamel health are my only concerns. But how much better it is now for me to smile in the mirror and to see bright white teeth! Also I don't eat that many calories right now. I used to strive to eat 2500-3000 cals in the first 2-3 months. Now I eat exactly as much as I want. And having measured my calories for quite a while daily, I suspect that my intake varies widely, but it is often less than 2000. I don't worry about it at all. I just eat all the fruits I enjoy."
Second, the low-fat raw vegan diet, also referred to as the fruit-based diet, has been considered to be the best form of the raw food diet by many raw foodists, and there exists considerable empirical evidence (yet to be studied by the rigorous sciences) in the form of real-life cases to support this view. Consequently, many raw foodists choose this diet to further their health. Unfortunately, when the application of the diet is mind-driven, this can lead to negative consequences when the signals of the body are ignored for prolonged time. For example, prolonged complete exclusion of overt fats from the diet in the presence of body signaling that it wants some, is not a healthy practice. Moth, a low-fat raw vegan well known for her incredible transformation , says:
"I have been craving raw pumpkin seeds for ever a year but haven't "allowed" myself to eat them because they're an overt fat. They are also a good source for zinc, which can be difficult to get on a raw vegan diet. My friend had some raw pumpkin seeds so I finally ate some and immediately it was like my body exploded with bliss, like they tasted INCREDIBLE and filled me with such a sense of well being. I knew then that there was something in them that I needed to eat. I fell asleep that night and when I woke up, not only did I feel great, but I noticed a difference in the mirror! My skin was perfectly clear! For the past year on LFRV I have seen my skin start looking worse and and worse, very blotchy. I was getting so frustrated because I didn't want to eat overts since they usually make me break out! But after eating the pumpkin seeds, my skin looked better then it has all year.
I don't think this is a coincidence. I really believe that there was something in the raw pumpkin seeds that my body was needing! It was really stupid to deny myself pumpkin seeds which I'd been desiring for a long time just to fit a mental ideal of how my diet is "supposed to be." I feel best overt free, but now I know it's okay to give myself pumpkin seeds if I am craving them, for the best overall long-term health! I'm back on an overt-free diet, but I have really loosened up and now I am no longer that concerned about whether or not I occasionally eat overt fats. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal and I am going to start listening to my body's messages more seriously."
Third, some raw vegan athletes proceede to consuming a considerable meal shortly after their workout, because they think this is the optimal strategy, despite the absence of hunger. This pattern, due to the overload of the digestive system, has been observed to result in the symptoms such as depression, lethargy, tiredness, sleepiness, and irritable mood on daily basis . The supression of appetite after rigorous exercise, well documented by science , is a natural mechanism of the body. The obvious interpretation of the lack of hunger in such instance clearly is the body signalling that it is busy with other post-workout tasks, and would prefer not to deal with any extra work in the form of digestion of a large meal. Over-training can also be an issue. Exercise is a crucial factor contributing to health. Extreme endurance is not however.
"Ultra RACING is NOT natural. I do it because I love the challenge and lifestyle. I would NOT suggest that ultra RACING and ultra training is 'healthy' in fact I think long term it might be quite unhealthy." (Mike Arnstein) 
"You must differentiate between living with a sole purpose of optimum health and living with an intent to become as fit as possible."
(Dr Doug Graham) 
"It is my belief that the "competitive athlete," as I experienced it anyway, is overworked and generally enervated as a result. (..) 6-7 hours of training and physical exertion is abnormal, excessive, and disease producing regardless of who you are, what your diet is, and what type of shape you think you're in. (...) Exercise and physical exertion, like every other aspect of health, becomes pathological in excess."
(Dave Tener) 
"Being a hard-core athlete is not ideally healthy. I think it overly wears down our bodies. I think we should exercise moderately, casually, and enjoyably for optimum health. Of course, if you really enjoy being an athlete then all the power to you, but running marathons our whole lives is sure to deteriorate your body." 
"We should spend time outdoors, always be active, creating, working and improving ourselves. Yes, some workout is good, also some running, maybe even some sports. But, being an athlete is not what we are made for, nor is it our purpose. We need to be as fit as possible, but we don't need any records broken." 
I would like to emphasize that applying the idea of listening to the body in the context of the diet, makes sense only when it is applied to the raw foods, and provided that they are eaten mono, unprocessed and without condiments. For example, covering the unpleasant, bitter taste of harsh greens with the sweetness of fruit leads to consuming foods that our body does not really desire. Juicing, which involes too much processing, should also be avoided. "You cannot expect to consume a food in a completely different way to how you would naturally and expect the results to be no different to consuming that food naturally" .
Above all, listening to your body requires listening to YOUR body, not all the various theoretical rules. Adam, a natural hygienist respected amongst raw foodists for his sharp and in-depth contributions to many important discussions, says:
"I am all for experimenting though, because I think that otherwise, Natural Hygiene can just become another religion or dogma. Only when you have actual experience of something can you understand an intellectual theory or concept. Living by someone elses observations is meaningless unless you have the experience to prove it. I believe that if any human experiments enough, they will come to the same conclusions if the conclusion is accurate. And I believe that the conclusions of Natural Hygiene are indeed accurate. I love Doug Grahams saying "You cannot break the laws of nature. You can only prove them". It's probably one of the most profound lessons I have learned."
SOME FALLACIES (F) AND QUESTIONS (Q)F: Calorie model is valid as it helps people succeeding in raw vegan lifetyle. The minimum daily calories is 3000 for everyone.
A: The two statements cannot be simultaneously right, as they contradict one another. If the calorie model was right, then the daily calorie requirement for an active 47-year-old 163cm-tall female is around 2100kcal, nowhere near 3000kcal. They are simultaneously incorrect however. In relation to the first statement, as explained in details above, the calorie equations used for individual predictions are rough estimates with an unacceptable magnitude of error, and have been rejected by science. There is nothing valid about them. Note that even when belief in something that is false seems to be helpful to some, this does not make it correct. In relation to the second statement, besides that it contradicts the first, the number is completely made up and there is absolutely no empirical evidence that would validate it. Furthermore, according to a formula by Dr Doug Graham , the author of 811 diet, "an intensively exercising person (a serious athlete) should take 20 times her/his desired body weight in pounds, in calories per day". This, given 110 pounds for one female person of height 5'5'', equates to 20*110=2200kcal, again nowhere near the 3000 figure. Finally, beyond the theoretical manipulations, real-life cases of very active raw vegans, such as for example Tim van Orden , a very muscular athlete with an intense training schedule and a very moderate average caloric intake well below 3000kcal, is what empirically validates the fallacy of this, as well as the 2000kcal figure if this was suggested instead. Even those raw vegan athletes who often might eat considerable amounts of calories when compared to Tim, admit that their minimum intake falls below 2000kcal. See Erskien Lenier  who reports his minimum intake at 1700kcal. Note that the data based on active raw vegans is what matters in this comparisons. Dr Doug Graham explains:
"The number of calories that an inactive person eats is typically fewer than or less calories than a person who’s highly active. (...) Our specific nutrient content requirements is set up based on the concept that humans will be active, must be active in order to go get their food." 
Summarizing, there exists no minimum, or, by a similar argument, a maximum of daily caloric requirement for everyone. Your needs are individual and the only reliable indicators are your own body signals. Further, your needs are not constant but vary in time, and so imposing any minimum or maximum calories for all and all times is not sensible. Dustin Ransom, a bike racer  and a student of athletic nutrition and exercise sciences, says :
"Rest days I typically eat 1800-2600 calories (depends on the ride I did previous day mostly). Hard days are about 3,000 calories (again depends on length and intensity which can cause it to be slightly sub 3,000) up to close to 10,000."
"I just eat what I desire. Sometimes it's a ton, sometimes it's very little. (...) The only time I don't feel optimal is when I eat too much (eat past my limit in one meal) and don't sleep enough (...). When I say "eat too much" above I am not saying I calorie restrict... I am referring to continuing to eat when I'm already full. For me, the amount of calories is dependent on my physical activity and recovery needs. If I am hungry I won't cut out a meal because I think "Oh I've eaten enough already today." My body tells me what it needs."
The reasons that the calorie calculators appear to help some people are in fact:
(1) Due to the high density and hence small volume of the cooked foods, some people new to raw foodism, in particular when they enter low-fat form of it directly, may undereat at a degree that leads to an uncomfortable level of hunger and reaching for cooked foods as the result. As an example, some people might think that having a large orange and a banana for dinner is enough. Also, many beginners are out of touch with their body signals, including hunger ( amongst other factors such as the need for exercise, rest, sunshine etc). Use of a calculator might seem like a simple and convenient solution that provides answers and some structure to perhaps confused, and bombarded with a lot of new information beginner. Even when the past abuse of the natural instincts has led to the loss of trust in the nature, this is not an optimum long-term solution however. Rebuilding the connection with our instincts is.
(2) Tracking one's caloric intake and using the calorie targets as a goal, even with all the innacuracies, is less likely to cause a person to undereat. Undereating is eating below the body needs as the result of intentional or unintentional failure to respond to hunger. This includes a pattern of intentional undereating in order to meet some some set maximum caloric goal. Overeating on the other hand, is eating above the body needs as the result of intentional or unintentional failure to respond to lack of hunger. This includes a pattern of intentional overeating in order to meet some some set minimum caloric goal. In the transition stage, the body rebuilds itself and so might needs more nutrients, therefore overeating at that stage may not be such a big issue anyway. In the long-term however, this pattern is not harmless, as it leads to developing a bad habit of ignoring the body signals, resulting in measurable health problems as a consequence. It is wiser to rely on the body's natural self-regulating mechanisms than erroneous caloric estimates.
(3) Most people do not consume enough fruit or any fresh, raw foods as a regular pattern. So when a person trying out the raw vegan diet, for the very first time in their life experience the aboundance of hydrating, nutrient-rich foods, after years of malnutrition and body starved of living foods, a short phase of overeating might actually be not such a bad thing. Developing it into a consistent, long-term pattern however, is. Note that this does not mean that we should eat below any specific caloric maximum artificially set by anyone. Rather, we should respond to our body and follow that.
(4) Some people are coming to raw veganism with a history of eating disorders. For those with a history of undereating, their perceived minimum requirement can be ridiculously low, and so monitoring their caloric intake, even when the error of the estimate is too large, could reduce the likelihood of them undereating. Incindentally, some evidence of self-monitoring being helpful in treating eating disorders exists  . As far as I am aware, no studies exist that would verify this technique in the context of the raw vegan diet, but it seems to me that the incredibly nutritious and re-vitalizing raw diet could be a better base for recovery from an eating disorder than a standard cooked food diet. The reservation that I have here nevertheless is whether the application of this technique through an on-line forum, where members may be subjected to isolation, criticism, or even ostracism in the form of banning, for questioning or expressing opinions disapproved by the forum policies, even when this was made outside a forum, and inadequate level or inexperienced form of support, is an apropriate application of the self-monitoring technique. In fact, "Motivations driven by fear/hate can lead, in the long run, to serious mental or emotional problems (e.g., obsessive fear can turn the diet into an eating disorder similar to anorexia nervosa)" . Therefore, a frequent practice of open ridicule of those who do not adhere to the bodily or dietary ideals of the forum, is not a safe or supportive environment for people with or bordering on eating disorders. Instead, as reported by the mentioned studies of successful treatments involving self-monitoring, what works is one-to-one consultations, encouragement and praise.
Q: In the UK, most nutritional information given for figs is 44 - 47 calories per 100g. When visiting countries like Cyprus & America, the range was 75 - 79 calories per 100g. I know figs cannot just lose 30 calories from entering the UK, so I am just confused. What should I go with?
A: Every fig is different. Whether you use the number 45 or 75, you will always produce an inaccurate estimate. This is because the number 45 and 75 are only the averages produced in the analysis of some particular finite samples that happen to have produced those particular averages at a time. In reality, the caloric value of any fig will follow some distribution, and it can be anything from the lower to the upper limit of some possible caloric range. So whatever calculator you use, this will always produce an estimate with a considerable error. The UK and Cyprus numbers are different because they are based on different samples, and there is no guarantee that either is closer to your sample in the meal you consume on any day. In some other sampling experiment, the two numbers may well be completely different, 55 and 65 as example, so there is really no point in using them. You would be closer to the correct value if you took a sample from the place you bought the figs and analyzed it, and even closer if you analyzed the sample you bought, but then you would not be able to eat it, would you?
F: When having to choose between two different calculators, use the one with smaller estimates. For example, count figs at 40cals per 100g. Always better to eat a little more than a little less. That way we can live a little more too cos we have more glycogen stores each day and can live more passionately.
A: Glycogen loading  (also known as carbohydrate loading) is a technique used by endurance athletes before sport events. This method is suitable for high-intensity aerobic endurance events only , recommended for events lasting more than 90 minutes  and is used to improve the performance. Glycogen loading encourages the body to store extra glycogen for the event, so as to avoid running out of it and 'hitting the wall' . Various procedures are proposed, which include eating carbohydrate-rich low-glycemic foods on particular days before the event and appropriately scheduling exercise and rest. The stored reserves of glycogen get depleted during the high-intensity event in the end. Glycogen loading technique has no relevance for everyday use however. For example, if you ate 30 figs aiming at 30*40=1200kcal, but actually consumed 30*60=1800kcal, then if the high-intensity athletic event is not on your agenda, then the excess 1800-1200=600kcal is not going to be burned. The long-term consistent daily consumption of carbs above the needs of the body is unsound and is going to lead to digestive issues (primary cause of B12 deficiency) at the least. Therefore, when you feel full, do not start or continue eating in order to satisfy some numerical calculations, but respect your body signals.
F: I am looking for a tool that I could use for accurate tracking of vitamins and other nutrients. Which one would you recommend?
A: No tool will perform accurate calculations for this task. The nutrient levels will vary per sample of food, according the quality of soil they grew in, sunlight they were exposed to etc. The reason why formulas used in different tools have different nutrients levels, is because it varies so radically compared to synthetic vitamins which are always the same. Each sample of food would need to be tested for nutrient content.
F: The caloric model is a valid approximation to help meet our needs, but only when we are eating our natural diet.
A: Calorie model parameters are derived from the data based on measurements taken from cooked foodists, and so have no relevance to raw foodists eating their natural diet. Calorie model is not even relevant to cooked foodists, because, as science indicates, the parameters derived contain errors of unacceptable magnitude, making it useless for individual predictions. The calorie equations are linear, however the true relationships with the food are not. Linear equations are too erroneousness to be applicable to the real, complex, non-linear system. We need another model for people eating the natural diet, but it certainly is not the rejected by science calorie model. The natural tool for satisfying the needs of the body is the one designed by nature, hunger.
F: Calorie counting is not an exact science, but it is accurate enough. Even IF the calorie model is inaccurate, it is at least something to work with so that we can objectively measure our intake.
A: There is no question about the "IF". As already explained, the calorie model is not only innacurate, but has been rejected by rigorous science due to the unacceptable level of that innacuracy. As decided by science, the model is not something to work with for objective measurements, as the magnitude of error is too big to make it useful. See details and references above.
F: You have to count calories if you want to succeed in raw foodism, especially if you are an athlete. Most long-term raw foodists are aware of their caloric intake.
A: Since, as demonstrated above, one cannot predict their required caloric intake using erroneous calculators or accurately estimate their caloric intake either, tracking daily caloric intake on prolong basis is meaningless. Even if you are a top athlete, this is not needed. Michael Arnstein says :
"I never count calories, I just eat all day or until I'm full, kinda like what animals do in nature."
If a long-distance runner whose energetic needs fa exceed those of an average person, can thrive thanks to listening to his body, so can anyone else. Most long-term raw foodists at some point get asked about their caloric intake and so they quote various numbers. These numbers are merely estimates, usually derived from a guess based on a very small number of calculations, rather than systematic application of calorie model. Note for example that none of them have ever presented any substantial validation of their estimates.
F: One cannot overeat on fruit.
A: One can certainly overeat on anything, including fruit. If you do not pay attention to eating or chewing and eat past your digestive capacity, resulting in indigestion and pain, then you have eaten too much. When you rely on blended foods most of the time, instead of monoeating, then you will not be able to feel the satiation at the time it would normally occur, despite your body digestive capacity having been reached already. When you ate all the fruit that you cared for and satisfied your body needs at your activity level, which manifests by the absence of hunger, yet continue to eat, perhaps for the purpose of meeting a caloric plan, then you are overeating on fruit. The laws of physics apply here of course, and so the consequences of that are measurable.
Dr Graham, who is not fan of undereating, is not a fan of overeating either. He wrote in one of his books "No one should have to recover from a meal!" Overeating does not always lead to gaining weight of course, and gaining weight is not always the result of overeating. Gaining weight can be the result of building muscles, a healthy and desirable outcome (see http://scrawny2brawny.blog.com/about/  and http://www.vegsource.com/  as examples).
"The CONTROVERSIAL Way To Succeed On ANY Diet" 
"Getting Fat on Low Fat Raw - Here's Why" 
"Total 'weight' gain confusion: question for the ladies!" 
"Why am I putting weight on on 811???" 
F: There are two types of people in raw vegan movement, (1) those who eat enough and (2) those who undereat.
A: If we were to be simplistic then there are in fact at least these three, (1) those who eat enough, (2) those who undereat, and (3) those who overeat. If we tried to be a little more sophisticated than this, then there are those who eat enough on some days and overeat on others, those who overeat on most days, those who eat enough on most days and overeat or undereat on others, and so on. Nevertheless, this would still be a huge oversimplification of humans whose behaviours tend to evolve in time, and consist of more than one pattern that may be observed at various time points in their lives. Labelling others, although helpful in the personal understanding of the outside world, when vocalized, might become a limitation imposed on others.
F: There are no overweight long-term fruitarians, therefore one cannot gain weight on a fruit-based diet.
A: False logic. Firstly, note that the first part of the sentence contains a correct statement, but the second one does not (see the explanation above). According to the rules of the logic  (when p is true and q false, then p → q is false), this makes the whole sentence an incorrect one. That is, the second statement does not follow from the first. The reality is that there are no overweight long-term frutarians not due to the fact that it is impossible to overeat on fruit, but due to the fact the long-term fruitarians prefer to follow their hunger, and not some inflated, numerically erroneous recommendations. Mango, for example, says :
"I personally see it as folly to force drink when one is not thirsty, and equally so to eat when no real hunger is present."
Kveta says :
"i never have and i do not count calories, wondering about vitamins, sugars, fats, minerals, etc. i just love and enjoy eating and drinking raw fresh fruit of my choice because that is my nature. and raw fresh fruit makes me feel great, and that is what i want."
Anne Osbourne says :
"I feel it is very important to take into account that we are all individuals and what would be a useful amount of food for one person, may be 'over eating' or 'under eating' for another. Just within my own experiences what constituted a desirable amount of fruit when I first started this diet, would now be more than optimal for me. (...) I think optimal food needs are far from linear, and I do not find that a calorific amount calculated using only sex, age and height can be optimal when there are so many , many factors other than height , biological age, and sex that affect our dietary needs. Due to there being so many factors affecting our daily needs, I really feel that we cannot do better than listening to our own bodies. (...) I feel that blanket judgements on what is optimal for everybody do not necessarily help and this blanket may indeed stifle our own body's natural intelligence. (...) I feel that no one else can really have the same idea of what is happening with our body than our own body itself.
As fruit (especially fruit grown in good soil, properly ripened and chemical-free) is one of the most powerful foods, then it may well be that as we cleanse, less quantity of this most powerful of foods is neeeded to help us thrive. (...) Something else, I have thought about is that if we are eating more fruit than is optimal for us, is that we may not assimilate it as effectively as we would assimilate a smaller volume. (...) I do feel that while fruit and tender greens present the least challenges to our digestive systems, if they are eaten in excess of the optimal amount the body requires then one's health will also be less than optimal. This just seems rational to me. If we have the best and brightest fire burning, we can choke it if we put too many logs on. More is sometimes less.
I really do think the bottom line here is to listen to one's own body. If we are eating totally unprocessed raw fruits and/or vegetables in mono meals, then our body will let us know how much it needs. This may be 200gms of Watermelon at a meal or 1000gms. Only our own body really knows the optimal amount at that specific point in time. (...) I am sure I could 'train my body up' to eat more fruit, but I would not be listening to my body, and I do feel that the result would be a decrease in strength and vitality and most important of all I would be closing my ears to my personal individual needs. And for me personally this would mean 'overeating'."
I encourage you to ask questions, investigate and make up your own mind. I also encourage you to listen intensely to your own body signals and learn from this. Do not give your power away to anyone, but be your own guru. So, draw your own conclusions.
I will end with this insightful quote by Michele:
"Having guidelines is good, but learning to listen to the body's own internal compass is best. Some of us are so afraid of doing that because that listening "muscle" has never been strengthened due to being overrode by domineering influences in our lives that had a vested interest in us not listening to our instincts but listening to their commands. It is an act of courage to take back the sovereignty over our own bodies and listen and be in charge of it. It is our obligation and responsiblity to do this. We can't blame anybody else for what goes wrong with us if we give away our power to decide for ourselves what is in our best interests and instead conform to external pressure."
 A biometric study of human basal metabolism, J. Arthur Harris and Francis G. Benedict, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1918 December; 4(12): 370–373.
in particular see "The Human Energy Scheme" in Vibrance no. 3, a detailed article by Dave Klein explaining the Krebs Cycle.
 http://www.rawfoodexplained.com/overeating/index.html (Lesson 44 from Philosophy, Principles and Practices of Natural Hygiene, originally published as a course consisting of 106 lessons called The Life Science Health System by T.C. Fry.)
 Validation of the equations that estimate the resting metabolic rate in adolescent girls, da Fonseca PHS (Santos da Fonseca, Paulo Henrique)1, Duarte MDD (da Silva Duarte, Maria de Fatima), Barbetta PA (Barbetta, Pedro Alberto), ARQUIVOS BRASILEIROS DE ENDOCRINOLOGIA E METABOLOGIA, Volume: 54, Issue: 1, Pages: 30-36, Published: FEB 2010 .
 Validation of predictive equations of basal metabolic rate of women living in Southern Brazil, Wahrlich V, Anjos LA, REVISTA DE SAUDE PUBLICA Volume: 35 Issue: 1 Pages: 39-45 Published: FEB 2001
 MEASURED VERSUS PREDICTED RESTING ENERGY-EXPENDITURE IN INFANTS - A NEED FOR REAPPRAISAL, THOMSON MA, BUCOLO S, QUIRK P, SHEPHERD RW, JOURNAL OF PEDIATRICS Volume: 126 Issue: 1 Pages: 21-27 Published: JAN 1995.
The CONTROVERSIAL Way To Succeed On ANY Diet
 Getting Fat on Low Fat Raw - Here's Why
Rawkathon Interview with Dr. Doug Graham
Variation in perceptions of a 'medium' food portion: Implications for dietary guidance, Young LR, Nestle M, JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION, Volume: 98, Issue: 4, Pages: 458-459, Published: APR 1998.
Food energy content influences food portion size estimation by nutrition students, Japur CC (Japur, C. C.), Diez-Garcia RW (Diez-Garcia, R. W.), JOURNAL OF HUMAN NUTRITION AND DIETETICS, Volume: 23, Issue: 3, Pages: 272-276, Published: JUN 2010.
Individual differences in food perceptions and calorie estimation: An examination of dieting status, weight, and gender, Carels RA (Carels, Robert A.), Konrad K (Konrad, Krista), Harper J (Harper, Jessica), APPETITE, Volume: 49, Issue: 2, Pages: 450-458, Published: SEP 2007.
Food for thought: Will adolescent girls with eating disorders self-monitor in a CBT group?, Shana Nichols, B.Sc. and Joanne Gusella, Can Child Adolesc Psychiatr Rev. 2003 March; 12(2): 37–39.
Successful treatment of anorexia nervosa with self-monitoring and long distance praise, F. Dudley McGlynn, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Volume 11, Issue 4, December 1980, Pages 283-286.
Theory and treatment of anorexia nervosa and bulimia: biomedical, sociocultural, and psychological perspectives, Steven Wiley Emmett, Psychology Press, 1985.
STUDY SHOWS HOW ANIMALS SENSE WHEN FOOD LACKS AMINO ACIDS
Uncharged tRNA and Sensing of Amino Acid Deficiency in Mammalian Piriform Cortex, Shuzhen Hao et al, Science 18 March 2005: Vol. 307. no. 5716, pp. 1776 - 1778.
The influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin and peptide YY in healthy males, David R. Broom et al, The American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, published by The American Physiological Society. Also see this article.
You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
(Franklin P. Jones)
A three year old child is a being who gets almost as much fun out of a fifty-six dollar set of swings as it does out of finding a small green worm.
Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn't music.
Children are one third of our population and all of our future.
(Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981)
Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man.
In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children. The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted. The result is unruly children and childish adults.
Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they're going to catch you in next.
(Franklin P. Jones)
Children seldom misquote. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said.
Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.
(Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone Scelto)
Women gather together to wear silly hats, eat dainty food, and forget how unresponsive their husbands are. Men gather to talk sports, eat heavy food, and forget how demanding their wives are. Only where children gather is there any real chance of fun.
(Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960)
Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead ought to tell a child to go to bed.
There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.
A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.