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The interplay between calories in what you eat and calories out what you do is called calorie balance. If the goal is to lose fat, you need more calories out than in. There are a few ways to make that happen. Or 3 You could do a bit of both. Hence the common advice: eat less, move more.
Properly followed, eating less and moving more can be great advice. Implementation is simple. And with a little effort, the results start pouring in…. The caloric deficit led to weight loss.
Because thermodynamics. Your inevitable fat loss led to a slimmer waist. Plus, your risk of chronic disease has decreased significantly. A good thing. Problem is, you can have too much of a good thing.
Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less
And when you do, it ceases to be good at all. The general consensus is that bacon is a good—if not great—thing. And I tend to agree. Yes, it was just as delicious as it sounds. It was your usual potluck with one important caveat—whatever you brought had to include bacon. But with something as versatile of bacon, there was a lot of room for culinary freedom. We had everything from sweets and treats like candied bacon to savory deliciousness like stuffed mushrooms wrapped in bacon. Everything tasted great. As the table filled with smokey goodness, my roommate and I knew that this bacon party was a fantastic idea.
Before we knew it, we had too much of a good thing. And I ate way too much bacon. But of course I did.
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There was a seemingly endless spread of bacon-filled goodness and I love food. By the end of the night, I was confined to my couch. Unwilling, or unable, to move.
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Incapacitated by a good thing. By bacon. But too much of a good thing comes with consequences. When I had too much bacon, moving became a terrible idea. I felt sick. Honestly, it is a bit counterintuitive on the surface. If you keep doing the same thing, the law of diminishing returns will take effect.
Why “Eat Less, Move More” Is Crap Advice (For Most People)
Over time, what might get results at first becomes less and less effective. Before long, those results stop altogether think: plateaus. And eventually, the same strategies can even start working against you. In my coaching program , I look for two red flags when deciding if someone should be eating less and moving more:.
And I mean a long string of them, consecutively. The person shows any sign of obsessive or disordered eating which can rampant in fitness culture. If these are the case for anyone, it would be unwise to eat less and move more. At best, the results will be minimal. And if turning right takes you away from your final destination, turn left. That might not be the best idea even though it sounds like a delicious one. In another month Dan figures he'll be under pounds for the first time since his freshman year in college.
But there's something Dan doesn't know: his diet has already failed him.
Why This Weight Loss Doctor Says ‘Eat Less, Move More’ Is Awful Advice
Because he's hungry all the time, his adherence gets a little worse every day. And because he's been over pounds his entire adult life, Dan's metabolism fights back. By the time Dan finally concedes that he's no longer following the diet, he's regained some of the weight, and his body is primed to regain the rest, plus a few extra pounds. That's what happens when you toss a firecracker into the hornet's nest of homeostasis.
In the above example, Dan is waging a war on his body's natural homeostasis—the tendency to maintain its long term equilibrium. What Dan doesn't know is that rapid weight loss like this leads to plummeting level of leptin , a hormone that regulates one's weight. When you lose weight, leptin levels decrease, which leads to an increase in hunger and a decrease in metabolic rate.
Similarly, when you eat a lot, your appetite should decrease. Combined, the effects are supposed to allow you to achieve a somewhat stable weight.
However, this has an implication for weight loss: your body will fight back proportionately against your success. The more aggressive the weight loss, the harder your body will push back—and the harder it will be to succeed. You may coast off the success of the first few weeks, but with each passing day you'll utilize more willpower just to stay "good. Dan is relying on willpower. He's trying to battle nature by eating less and moving more.
In the battle of nature vs. Success doesn't come from willpower, but creating a maintainable, positive feedback loop—a motivation machine that says "the results that I get out are worth more than the effort that I'm putting in. Dan may have created a positive feedback loop at the start, but it was unsustainable. He probably got extremely hungry and found it increasingly difficult to lose weight. Undoubtedly, life also got in the way. At this point, his feedback loop became unsustainable. What Dan probably chalked up to lack of motivation was quite simply the inevitable inability to sustain this feedback loop, thanks to lots of physiological and environmental factors.
Science to Care
No one can rely on willpower forever. Willpower is the ignition that gets a car started, not the gasoline that keeps it moving. It should be protected at all costs through the creation of habit and the motivation-perpetuating positive feedback loop.
That's why it pains me to see people who want to lose weight, then do meaningless things for fitness—say cutting back on sodium, or making it a point to "run every morning". Sure, they may sound like healthy activities, but many times the opposite is true. We've already talked about the relative unimportance of exercise when it comes to weight loss. Tack on a diet of only low-sodium foods which doesn't really do anything by the way and you have a whole lot of pain for very little reward.
Painful activities that don't yield a return are in fact "unhealthy" in the long run if they utilize willpower but don't yield a substantial return on results. The act of reducing sodium, eating "organic", and "moving a little bit every day" just for the sake of it can actually prevent you from creating a healthy lifestyle. Hate running? Then don't run.