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The Balanced Equation: Exploring Nuances Beyond ‘Eat Less, Move More’ for Weight Loss

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Losing weight often boils down to the classic advice of eating less and moving more. It’s a typical recommendation because it creates a calorie deficit, where you burn more calories than you consume, leading to weight loss. When your body burns more calories than you eat, it taps into stored calories, including body fat, to meet the increased demand for energy.


Exercise also contributes to burning more calories by increasing energy expenditure, creating a more significant calorie deficit that can lead to more weight loss over time. In theory, these strategies make sense as they target the core cause of weight gain: consuming more calories than your body needs.


However, it’s essential to understand that weight loss is a complex process influenced by various factors besides diet and exercise, such as stress levels, sleep quality, and environmental factors. While a drastic calorie deficit can effectively reduce weight in the short term, adhering to it in the long term can be very challenging. Additionally, there are several reasons why relying solely on eating less and exercising more for weight loss might not be ideal.


Not All Calories Play by the Same Rules!

Our bodies react differently to the various types of calories we consume. A calorie from protein is not the same as a calorie from carbohydrate or fat. Take, for example, 100 calories from biscuits – they impact your body differently than 100 calories from grilled chicken or a bowl of mixed berries. Refined carbohydrates and sugars found in products such as pastries, pasta, white flour, and sugary drinks can stand in the way of your weight loss goals. These foods increase insulin levels and cause the body to store fat. Moreover, they are digested quickly, leaving you hungry even after consuming a large portion and most likely leading to overeating. On the flip side, foods rich in protein and fibre keep you feeling full, prevent blood sugar spikes, and reduce the urge to snack between meals.


Let’s talk about fat issue – in the past, there was a widespread belief that consuming dietary fats was directly linked to various health issues and weight gain. Therefore, there was a big push to avoid it. However, despite the focus on low-fat diets, obesity rates continued to rise. Ironically, people consumed more processed, low-fat products that often contained added sugars or refined carbohydrates, which could have contributed to the obesity epidemic and related health issues.


It’s important to note that while dietary fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient, providing 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for protein and carbs, not all fats are created equal. Hence, it is crucial to understand which fats are good for our health and which are not (look at the table below).


Adding good fats to your diet, like those in fatty fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, can satisfy your meals and help your body in different ways. Some evidence (Liu et al., 2018) indicates that including unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, is associated with weight gain prevention. So, enjoy those healthy fats for a happier and more balanced diet!


Watch Out for Nutrient Gaps!

If you drastically cut calories or limit certain food groups, you risk missing out on essential nutrients. For example, it can result in deficiencies of vitamin B12, folate and important minerals such as iron and magnesium. 


Consuming a diverse range of whole foods is essential to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs. Pay attention to where your food comes from and aim for local and minimally processed options. Ever heard of “Eat the Rainbow”? It’s not just a catchy phrase – it means including fruits and veggies of different colours on your plate. Plants pack a punch with phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, each colour offering unique health benefits. So, embrace the rainbow for a healthier you!


Focusing on the quality of calories consumed is more important than the quantity for weight loss and overall well-being. Aim for a balanced diet that includes a mix of nutrient-rich foods for optimal health and sustainable weight management.


Beware of Metabolic Slowdown!

Guilt free meal

When you cut down on calories a lot, your body might hit the brakes on its metabolism to save energy – it’s like a survival mode. This slowdown can hit a roadblock in weight loss, making it difficult to shed those extra pounds. Quick weight loss can lead to a sluggish metabolism, as seen in a study on participants from The Biggest Loser show. After six years, not only did they gain most of the weight back, but their bodies also burned fewer calories than before the show.


To avoid these metabolic hiccups, aim for a moderate calorie deficit for weight loss. It can be easily achieved by reducing refined carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods and swapping them for complex carbohydrates and less processed foods. It is important to approach weight loss safely and sustainably. Making small changes to your calorie intake can be a great place to start.  


Watch Out for Overdoing Exercise!

Regular exercise is fantastic for overall health, especially when trying to lose weight. But hold on a second before you dive into extreme workouts. Sure, pushing yourself might sound like a shortcut to shedding those pounds, but it comes with some serious risks.


Think about it like this: Your body needs time to bounce back after intense workouts. If you go all out without enough rest, you could feel exhausted, weaken your immune system, and even get injured. These injuries could be anything from minor aches to more severe stuff like stress fractures.


And here’s another thing – constantly going all in on extreme workouts can lead to burnout. That means you might lose your mojo, feel more tired than usual, and even deal with mental health issues like anxiety or depression.


While exercise alone may not lead to significant weight loss, it is a vital component of a weight management program that includes a healthy diet and behavioural modifications. It is important to note that exercise offers multiple health benefits that can support weight loss, including a faster metabolism, reduced stress levels, better sleep, and an improved sense of self-esteem.


Instead of aiming for the extreme, focus on a balanced, doable fitness plan that you actually enjoy. Include a mix of cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises, and make sure to give your body the rest it deserves. Gradual progress, active recovery, and paying attention to how your body feels are the keys to rocking long-term success in weight loss and overall well-being.


We're All Different!

Guess what? Everyone’s body is one-of-a-kind, and it doesn’t respond the same way to diet and exercise. Factors such as age, gender, medical conditions (if any), and lifestyle play a big role in appropriateness and how our bodies react to weight loss tricks. Recognizing and embracing individual variability is crucial to finding an approach that works on a personal level. 


For personalized and effective weight loss guidance, seeking assistance from health professionals, such as weight management specialists, nutritionists, or fitness trainers, is advisable. They have the know-how to create a plan that fits your unique needs and goals. With their help, you can make a weight loss plan that’s achievable, realistic, and all about you!


Taking a More Comprehensive Approach-Holistic Focus

The emphasis on weight loss alone may divert attention from overall health.

Instead of focusing solely on weight loss, let’s broaden our perspective. It’s not just about the scale numbers. Adopting a holistic approach means embracing a well-rounded and nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and prioritizing mental well-being. This way, we’re not just fixated on losing weight but nurturing our overall health.


In Conclusion,

Effective weight loss involves understanding the complexities beyond a simple “eat less, move more” mantra. To drop those pounds in a healthy and lasting way, consider the calories you’re putting in, how your body reacts to changes, and keeping a well-balanced exercise routine. Consulting with health professionals is a great idea – they can help craft a personalized and doable plan that fits your needs, promoting overall well-being.