Myth: Move more, eat less for weight loss

I have been studying for an advanced health and fitness certification. This requires me to review fitness, fitness nutrition, and anatomy – I am sure to be over-prepared for the exam. I am immersed in the text. I am thinking.

There is nothing new in weight loss.

There will never be anything new in weight loss.

Every year, millions of individuals fail at weight loss. MILLIONS. Of those who successfully lose weight, only 2-4% will keep that weight off for a year – even fewer keep it off for more than a year. Every year, more individuals purchase gym memberships, infomercial products, supplements, and more – and still fail at weight loss. Individuals invest a great deal of money, time, energy, and heart. What is everyone missing?

Unfortunately, we are often misled. The gimmicks lie – using key words to trigger emotions. The claims of quick fixes are alluring, but unnatural and unsustainable. Weight loss is not as simple as calories in < calories out. More often than not, the most significant changes need to be made to meal plans and diets.

Eat less, move more?

We have all heard this.

A, if only it were so simple.
B, most individuals need to eat more (but perhaps fewer calories).

I request that all my clients maintain a food log – whether with an app such as myfitnesspal or handwritten. More often than not, after reviewing the details of his/her log, I am recommending that the client eat MORE. More fruits and vegetables. More protein.

Who wants to eat less?

We live in a culture where we love to eat. We enjoy eating – some enjoy it more than others. I discuss weight loss with individuals daily. Many express the frustration of, “but I eat so little.” Sometimes this is an accurate statement and the individual has been eating too few calories (usually the result of ineffective and misinformed dieting). Other times, the individual is lying to herself. And in some situations, she is eating a high number of calories in a small portion of food.

I seldom flat out tell individuals to eat less. Who wants to eat less? One reason I avoid this advice is that it has a negative connotation – goals and objectives and the steps required to obtain them require a positive mindset. Instead, what can you add, improve, or experience?

For example, the goal “I will not eat candy bars.” Great, this may stop you from eating candy bars – but it may also make you think more about candy bars. The focus is on the candy bars. An alternative goal, “I will eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal.” The focus is on adding a healthful behavior – the focus is on eating fruits and vegetables. Your increased satiety will, more often than not, reduce your desire for candy bars. Further, you are focused on actively doing something good for yourself.

Further, you have not established a restriction (often negatively perceived).

If I workout, I can eat more

False. Does a professional athlete or physical laborer who is active 4-12 hours a day require more food on most days? Yes. They are expending 4500-7000 calories during practice, training, and work (McArdle, Katch, & Katch, 2005; McArdle, Katch, & Katch, 2010). Does your 200-600 calorie workout require that you eat more food? No. And certainly not if you are aspiring to lose weight. (NOTE: I will not address the specifics of the science, but will gladly provide it for anyone who requests it.)

Some may argue that I eat more than the average individual. Yes I do. I first give considerable thanks to my genetics. Second, I am far more active than most. Third, I eat more fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are low in calories but carry a high nutrient density. So I may eat more – but I do not eat more pizza, cheeseburgers, candy, chips, etc.

Do we need to move more?

There is a misconception that all overweight/obese individuals are physically lazy. Is this true? I see moms and dads hustling after children. I see overweight men in softball leagues. I see all shapes and sizes of individuals at the gym – most all of them going hard. NOT all overweight/obese individuals are lazy. In fact, many are the opposite of lazy.

The most frequent feedback I hear from prospective clients – I workout and I eat well and no matter what I do, I do not get results so I give up.

Have you been there?

Are you there now?

The bottomline

Move more, eat less is less than helpful advice. Many individuals are moving – inefficiently and ineffectively – and eating less – too much less.

My advice? I provide it through my posts. Review how many calories you should eat, meal and snack creation maade easy, and how many days a week you should workout, and anything else that catches your attention along the way. And everyone has individuals needs – what works for your girlfriends and neighbors may not work for you. What worked for you 20 years ago may not work for you now. The human body is an amazingly complex system – but treat it well and you will be on your way to the results you desire.

and

Think Positively. Eat Mindfully. Move Intentionally.

References

Cooper, K. H. (1982). The Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being. New York: Bantam Books.

Loucks, A. B. (2004). Energy balance and body composition in sports and exercise. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 1-14.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2005). Sports & Exercise Nutrition (2nd Ed.). Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.

McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2010). Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance (7th Ed.). Lippencott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia.

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