Really nice post!
I'll provide some anecdotal evidence to back up what you're saying...
A few months ago when the Apple Watch came out I decided to use it to try to lose some pounds. I'm in my early 30's and even though I'm fairly active the pounds had started to pile up to the point where I had a "gut" and I wanted to get rid of it. For the record I weighed in at 212 pounds and I'm a 6'4" male... so I was just a bit beyond the normally recommended weight for my height.
I've watched ALL of my friends go on crazy fad diets complete with kale smoothies and quinoa pancakes. They also always talk about how "terrible" soda is for you. They've all failed pretty miserably after a few weeks.
I decided to take a different route. I just decided to eat what I normally eat... just eat less of it and then use my Apple Watch to motivate me to exercise a little more. In most cases I cut my meals in half... but still ate exactly the same thing I normally do: _including_ having a full can of soda for lunch and dinner (either Coke or Dr. Pepper).
I started out with modest exercise goals of 350 calories a day... but eventually worked my way up to 600 calories per day of exercise where I am now. I didn't join a gym or anything... I just went on long walks with my dog (which had the nice side effect of getting him healthy as well ;-)
It's now been just over two months and I've lost _20_ pounds and I'm in better shape than I've been in since high school. I'm actually damn skinny and don't plan on losing any more weight... so I'm decreasing my exercise goals a bit and increasing my eating just a bit and I hope to come into "equilibrium" around 190 pounds... which is fine with me (I don't want to be muscular or anything).
I did all of this while still drinking 2+ sodas a day and eating everything I normally do. All I did differently was have some self-control about how MUCH I ate and got my ass out to do some walking....
Through this whole experience I've done a lot of reading on how our body works to consume, store and burn calories... and I've come to the conclusion that most everything surrounding "dieting" is crack-pottery. It is really hard to find hard evidence that says exactly how our body responds to different stimuli.
For instance, one question I had (since I was doing mostly walking) is: does it matter if you use muscles near fat to burn that fat faster? As it turns out... not for me. Just by walking I was able to remove my gut and love handles and all of the fat off my face and arms. But a lot of the "dogma" out there says you need to "target" fat with specific exercises or you won't be able to get rid of it.
As a scientist myself I just decided to go with conservation of energy. If you eat less calories than you burn (and you do it consistently, every day)... you MUST lose weight... and that seems to be holding true for me ;-)