"Eat less, exercise more"?

nutritionist Southend-on-Sea Leigh-on-Sea

For the last 50 years, we have been told by scientists, doctors, journalists and even our own common sense that if we want to lose weight, we need to “eat less and exercise more”. Simple.

This advice is based on the energy balance equation:

calories in > calories out = weight gain

calories in < calories out = weight loss


According to this, in order to control weight, it doesn’t really matter what you eat as long as you make sure that you watch your calories. Doughnuts, pizza, cola, and chocolate bars are all fine, as long as you do not exceed your allocated calorie intake or if you do, you need to work out to burn it off. As long as you do that, you’re fine.

One gram of protein has 4 kcal, one gram of carbohydrate has 4 kcal, but one gram of fat has 9 kcal. It’s a no-brainer: Cut back the fat as much as possible and you are ‘saving’ calories. Eating a low-fat diet is the easiest way to stick to a calorie-controlled diet.

Who could argue with that? And why, in fact, would you argue with that?

A good reason might be the fact that we have been given and following (or at least trying to follow) this advice for decades now, but … it’s not working. If it’s not working, then obviously that’s our fault: We’re too greedy, too lazy, and have no willpower. If we did as we were told, ate less and exercised more, we would lose weight. It’s our fault!

However, over the last few years, more and more researchers have started questioning the energy equation theory (or should we say ‘dogma’?). What if it doesn’t actually work like that?

The calorie content of food is established in labs by burning the food and measuring the energy generated in the process. This energy is expressed in kilocalories (kcal) or kilojoules (kJ). But what happens inside our bodies is not the same as what happens in a lab: The food we eat has to go through a number of processes in the body and doesn’t just get burned as energy. Micro- (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) and macro-nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates) affect metabolism, hormones and brain chemistry. As it turns out calories from fat have a profoundly different effect than calories coming from carbohydrates.

“Fats have to be burned and are not easily stored as they do not spike insulin – the fat storage hormone. Fat works on the brain so you get less hungry throughout the day. On the other hand, sugar and carbohydrate calories do exactly the opposite.” (Dr. Mark Hyman – Eat fat, get thin)

So, if you get less hungry, you’ll effortlessly eat less. If sugar and carbohydrates make you more hungry, it would be extremely difficult not to eat more. You would be trying to wrestle your body chemistry down with willpower. What if that’s why we are all failing to stick to our ‘diets’? 

If you would like to learn how to conquer your cravings, lose weight and regain your energy, why not give me call and see me in clinic at The Body Matters in Leigh-on-Sea?