No. Of course the answer is no. The answer is always no. Not even just because of Betteridge’s law of headlines. No one knows. Research in human nutrition is still just scratching the surface  and consensus on the interpretation of results isn’t going so well. If the scientists throwing their lives away to study nutrition still don’t know why we get fat or how to lose weight, then you and I DEFINITELY don’t know.
“But it’s easy! You just eat less and work out more”
Pshhhh. Get that basic-ass cave man science outta my face. If I hit rat with club then no more rat. That is the only cave man science I’m going to accept here.
Calorie balance sounds so simple. “Burn more calories than you take in and your weight will go down”.
Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. - H. L. Mencken
Turns out that you are a magical human animal, your body is constantly doing extremely complicated things to keep you alive, and your weight at a set point. If simple calorie balance worked then you would only have to burn an extra 150 calories per day to drop a pound of fat per month. According to this chart all I would need to reach that goal is to get a dog  (see dog below, no, seriously, look at him, I love that little guy) and spend about 30 minutes walking him each day. Then, through the magic of calorie balance, I would lose a pound a month until dying in 6 years from low body weight.
Dog walking isn’t deadly . My body would just make me more hungry and then I would see a slice of pizza and my brain would make me eat that pizza . I would probably let the dog have some pizza too because how do you resist that face?
Working out to lose weight leads to unintended consequences and more specifically can lead to a perverse result. That means that what you are doing to lose weight could actually backfire and keep you from getting any sexier. This sentence captures the problem: “I worked out today so I can totally eat this.”
No Jessica, you cannot totally eat that. Put it down.
If you burn 300 calories working out, but follow that up by eating 450 calories more than you usual, then even calorie balance says you won’t lose weight. Think that training up and running a marathon will help you lose weight? It probably won’t. You will burn calories and your body will demand that you recover those calories. Your body will win the fight with your willpower. You will eat. And oh my god it will taste sooooo good . Watch a marathon, there are plenty of overweight people running marathons (I have been one of those people multiple times).
Yes. Exercise can make you gain weight. Not even just muscle weight, you may add fat.
Weight gained per month in units of Dollar Slice Pizza consumed daily (if simple calorie balance was a real thing. But it isn't. So stop looking at this)
Though consuming fewer calories than you burn would results in weight loss, that fact is almost completely irrelevant. Even if you track and regulate your exact calorie intake/burn (you won’t) your body will work hard to sabotage your efforts. Additional complications like the impact of sleep, insulin response, gut bacteria, and diet composition all make it even harder to understand why we get fat and how to lose weight.
That said, the Paleo diet, juice cleanses, and your fad diet of choice are all stupid, sorry , but people have lost weight on them. Clearly, even though experiments on human nutrition are hard, there are a lot of people out there and some of them are looking good. You, I, and scientists don’t perfectly understand the human body at the micro-scale, but we can work with macro-scale observations. Trial and error has produced some diets that work, but it still takes a balance. Fad diets that throw away all scientific basis may work, but often not for the reasons advertised, which can result in unnecessary hardship while losing weight. The goal should be to use anything we know about how the body works to make the weight loss process easier.
In the next article I’ll write up the results of my low-carb-high-fat soylent-variant-supported adjective-extravaganza diet . For today, I want to leave you with these take aways:
- Don’t feel bad if you don’t have stunning abs, human nutrition is still not well understood
- Weight loss is more complicated than simple calorie balance
- Trying to lose weight can have the opposite impact: it is easy to attempt to lose weight only to instead gain or see no benefits because simple plans based on calorie balance can lead to perverse results
- Yes, exercise can make you gain weight... even fat
- The goal of a diet should be to maximize positive results while minimizing the hardship on your life
- I’ll advocate for a diet that has demonstrated results for many people (macro-level logic) but uses what little we do know about human nutrition to work with the body and make the process easier (micro-level logic) 
There was a great article about an upcoming experiment that sounds pretty groundbreaking. They are going to put a person in an air tight room and measure everything about his/her metabolism for like a month. But the internet betrays me and is withholding its secrets so all you have is my dumb memory to do a terrible job trying to remember and that isn’t good enough for anyone. Please, kind citizen of the internet, know about this article and find it and tell me where it is hiding ↩
His name would be Stanley ↩
Oh man, but if it were there would be a show on Discovery channel about dog walkers and how deadly their job is. I would watch that so hard and oh man now I wish dog walking was so deadly ↩
Thanks brain. Pizza does sound nice ↩
Seriously, someone hand me a pizza right this instant ↩
Ok, obviously, no I’m not ↩
Which obviously is working really well otherwise I wouldn’t be talking shit about other diets ↩