Many people are of the belief that if you want to lose weight you simply need to cut your calories and increase your exercise (there needs to be more calories going out than coming in). Simple as that, you lose the weight you need and all is well. These people believe that this is the ONLY thing that matters.
Before we delve into this topic, it is worth addressing that the ‘calories in, calories out’ argument is incredibly important. It’s true, you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, but that is an incredibly black and white way to look at it and does not address the enormous big picture that is at play when it comes to weight loss.
If it was as simple as ‘calories in, calories out’, anyone equipped with a calculator could be a nutritionist, there would be no need to go to university (unless it was to do a maths paper) & individuals like myself, would be out of a job. If only it was that easy, but sadly it is not. There are so many more variables to the equation.
For example, the amount and type of calories we eat affect the amount of ‘calories that go out’. Take protein for example, it has a higher thermic effect meaning it takes more energy to digest than other macronutrients. Protein also creates greater satiety so you will probably end up feeling fuller for longer. Don’t believe me? Try having 300 calories from Coca-Cola for breakfast and then the following day the same amount but from eggs and compare how you feel after each (please don’t actually do that).
Yes, weight gain is caused by eating more calories than you expend. But why?
My biggest issue with the ‘calories in, calories out’ theory is not that it is wrong (because it isn’t). But it doesn’t make any progress towards fixing the problem.
Take the motorway as an example. It is absolutely bumper to bumper. Someone asks you ‘why is the traffic so bad?’
Your response? ‘Because more cars are getting on the motorway than off the motorway.’
So yes, while that is in fact correct, it doesn’t address the cause, and if you don’t address the cause, you are going to have a very hard time coming up with a solution.
Another factor that can affect food intake is hormones. Your hormones go beyond your ability to ‘abstain’ and when they are working against you, it can make eating in a deficit, borderline impossible. Take the hormones ghrelin and leptin as an example. Ghrelin is coined the ‘hunger’ hormone and tells you when you are hungry, while leptin is the satiety hormone which tells you when you have had enough to eat. When you are tired or stressed, leptin can be down regulated and ghrelin upregulated. This means you will feel hungrier than ever, and have a lesser ability to know when you are satisfied. Ever had those days after a late night where you can’t stop eating? Well your hormones may be working against you.
Therefore, it becomes apparent that there is so much more to the weight loss formula. A successful weight loss program, is one that looks at your entire lifestyle, rather than just one tiny piece of the puzzle. It is not until you take into consideration all of these factors that you can make long-term sustainable change.