Welcome to a “Well, duh!” moment in regards to losing weight: Eat less, move more.
Actually, it’s eat less FAT and move more, according to a survey of over 4,000 obese people. Before I analyze what this study means, there is one caveat about “eat less, move more.” It provides an overly simplistic recommendation for weight loss and health. The reality is that obesity is a multi-factorial condition that involves genetic, psychological, financial, emotional, physiological and other factors that complicate things far beyond “eat less, move more.”
In reality, simply saying “eat less, move more” to a person living with chronic obesity is like saying “spend less, earn more” to someone living in crushing poverty.
But back to the main point: The survey shows that diet gimmicks, popular fad diets, pharmaceuticals and off the shelf supplements don’t work. Exercising and a fat-reduced diet are more likely to work than other methods.
OK, exercise is certainly key, but haven’t all those low-carb advocates said that sugar is to blame? Isn’t blaming fat tired and debunked?
No, it’s not, and the reason is because of the math.
I’m a big fan of diets that are low in PROCESSED carbohydrates – that’s where a lot of junk food comes from. But to fuel my exercise endeavors and feel full I live off the unprocessed kind of carbs. Keeping fat intake down – especially the saturated and trans-fat kinds – makes a lot of mathematical sense from a weight loss perspective.
That’s because fat has nine calories per gram, and carbohydrates and protein only have four calories per gram. What’s more, protein (especially) and carbohydrates have a measurable “thermic effect,” which means calories are burned in the process of digesting them, whereas fat has very little thermic effect; it goes to fat stores easily.
Fat is calorically-dense, which means a small amount of food for a large wallop of calories. This image drives the point home. And fat doesn’t satisfy appetite much. In reality, fat has a tendency to make things taste better so overconsumption is promoted. As an example, how much plain broccoli can you eat vs. how much can you eat when it’s smothered in butter or cheese?
The fact is, cutting back on fat cuts caloric intake. It’s all about the math, and when it comes to weight loss, math is what ultimately rules. You need a consistent caloric deficit to achieve loss, so it really does boil down to eat less, move more.
But I said that ELMM is too simplistic considering the multi-factorial condition that is obesity. So how does one actually achieve eating less and moving more?
The answer is: it’s complicated. It’s a long process of changing behaviours gradually and perhaps taking advantage of medical or other professional interventions. What it’s not is wasting money on some gimmick.