Why “Eat Less, Move More” is Not the Simple Solution for Weight-loss

“Eat less, move more” is the basic advice given to anyone seeking weight-loss to improve their health. However, this message is far too simple. The science behind weight is a lot more complex, and although it has come a long way in recent years, we still find ourselves returning to the same question in the pursuit of weight-loss: am I struggling because I’m simply eating too much and not getting enough exercise?

The Problem with “Eat Less, Move More”

Everybody needs a certain number of calories every day because calories are energy, and they give your body the fuel it needs to run. We all require different amounts because we have different heights, weights, activity levels, nutritional needs, etc.

If you eat a little more and exercise less, you might gain weight. If you move a little more and eat less, you might lose weight. That is the general weight-loss equation, but there is still more involved.

Factors that also affect your weight:

  • Genetics – Some people are genetically predisposed to weight challenges while others don’t struggle with their weight at all.
  • Hormones – They change as you get older, especially in women.
  • Medications – Some medications can increase your weight, especially with prolonged use.
  • Behaviors – We eat for many reasons, including social eating (going out to dinner with friends), emotional eating (snacking after work because you had a bad day), and eating to celebrate by using food as a reward.
  • Sleep – Better sleepers can manage their weight more effectively.
  • Stress – It increases stress hormones that make weight-loss more difficult.
  • Food Choices – Not all foods are created equally. Some foods are more nutritious and help you feel more satisfied after eating, while other foods can trigger additional cravings for sugar, salt and fat. You’ll find more of the trigger foods at fast food restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.

What to Do if You Are Struggling:

As you can see from above, the equation for weight-loss goes beyond just food and exercise. To lose weight long-term, you must look at the whole picture of your life.

Here are some tips if you are struggling with weight-loss for health improvement:

  • Find a nutrition plan that meets your specific needs and lifestyle. If you need help finding what works for you, ask for help from a physician or dietician.
  • Use a fitness tracker to see trends in your physical activity, but don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Give yourself credit for all the ways you are improving.
  • Track your calories to see trends in your eating behaviors, but again, don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Focus on progress.
  • Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. You don’t have to be perfect.
  • Consider your long-term goals and break them down into smaller, realistic goals that you can work on a few at a time.
  • Expect at some point that you will stumble, but just keep adjusting and doing a little bit at a time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Don’t think you have to do this on your own. Find people to be in your support system such as friends, family, accountability partners, dieticians, physicians, trainers, etc.

For more tips on this topic, see the full Health Talk on the Obesity Action Coalition’s YouTube channel from Sarah Muntel, RD that streamed earlier this month. The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is the Producer of the Your Weight Matters Campaign.


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