Eat Less Move More?

- POSTED ON: Aug 17, 2012

You've heard it a million times, Eat Less, Move More.

You’ve may have also heard that that ELMM = Eat Less Move More is a failed strategy for weight loss. The rationale is something like one, or more, of the following:

• A calorie is not a calorie, because two people who eat the same amount won't weigh the same, or gain or lose the same amount of weight.

• The 3500 cal/pound fat figure is wrong because with deliberate overfeeding
or caloric restriction, people don't gain or lose exactly as this formula would predict.

• If you eat less your metabolism will just slow down to compensate.

• If you move more deliberately, aka exercise, you'll just move less later in the day
and/or be so hungry you'll compensate by eating more.

A study of body composition of small children as related to total body fat and physical activity level published in 2012 indicates that non-exercise activity thermogenesis is genetically hardwired. This means that naturally more active babies put on less body fat than the naturally less active ones because they naturally expend more energy.

There are many studies which show that there’s a wide variation between the resting energy expenditures of different individuals. A study of Thermogenesis after cold and overfeeding published in 2007 indicates that thermogenic responses are genetically hardwired.

Although it appears possible that both non-exercise exercise activity and thermogenesis is genetically hardwired, there are many gurus and diet book authors who say that eating this or that macronutrient, taking this or that supplement, exercising or not exercising this or that way, or adopting their particular food and/or exercise plan holds the magic answer.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I don’t believe there’s a whole lot that we can do about our genetic hardwiring. Personally I prefer to manage calories-out in a manner I know there is some control over, rather than chase after false promises of boosting metabolism through various other, largely untested/unsubstantiated, and often expensive, means.

I'm not aware of any clinical evidence that supports the notion
that a person can't lose weight eating less total calories of whatever.
*How* a person prefers to eat less is individual.
Different diets or food plans seem to really be merely variations of the same general theme. The amount an individual need to eat or the amount they need to exercise to accomplish weight-loss is different from person-to-person.

Calories-in is just a shorthand way to describe the amount of food we put into the body.
Calories-out is just a shorthand way to describe the amount of energy the body uses.
Calories-in/Calories-out is merely a shorthand way to generally describe how energy in the body works.
That's it. That's all it means. 

However, what’s true is that those calories numbers are often different for different people
…even for those people who have the same height, weight, age, and activity level.
The bodies of different Individuals are genetically different, and EVERYONE doesn’t have a body that uses the same exact amount of energy. Some types of food might provide different energy for different bodies. Some people have to take less calories in, because their body simply doesn’t use as many calories.

There are scientific studies that show people successfully losing weight simply by cutting portion sizes and making no other change. Again, someone might argue whether this is sustainable, but that argument could apply to any type of diet, way of eating, or lifestyle program, including one that changes macronutrient content.

It seems to me that Consistent Adherence to a Diet, or Way of Eating, is the most important predictor of success...not the macronutrient content. If changing macronutrient content helps a person to consistently adhere better to that diet or way of eating, then great. But if it doesn't, that person won't have any more success with it, than with any other approach.

I’m thinking that what matters is getting one’s individual Diet, or Way of Eating, to support the lifestyle that one wishes to have. We don’t need to get caught up in whether or not the lifestyles of other people match the Diet or Way of Eating that we’ve chosen.

Carbs make you sluggish?

Reduce them.

LOW carbs make you a miserable nonfunctional wreck?

Eat more of them.

Hate physical exercise?

Do only the amount of exercise necessary to keep your body functional for your normal activities.

Running makes your body feel good?


Obese or overweight and want to weigh less?

Adjust your calorie intake…. of whatever foods you choose to eat within your personal lifestyle …DOWN, and eat only the calorie amount …of whatever foods you choose to eat within your personal lifestyle….that your body needs to sustain the weight you want it to be. Ignore the advice of experts that contradicts your own experience.  If averaging 1200 calories daily causes your body to be overweight or obese, eat less than 1200 calories in a way that meets your body's basic need for protein, vitamins and minerals.

Want a different body type so you will look like a slender, shapely magazine model?

Too bad. (Except maybe in some future life, if you believe in reincarnation.)

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Dec 03, 2012 wrote:
Dr. Collins, in your statement "eat only the calorie amount …of whatever foods you choose to eat within your personal lifestyle….that your body needs to sustain the weight you want it to be. Ignore the advice of experts that contradicts your own experience." do you mean adjust your diet calories to what you would eat for maintenance at target weight?

On Dec 03, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             To maintain one's target weight, one cannot eat more calories than one's body burns. One method which can be used for weight-loss is to estimate how many calories one's body will burn at target weight (AND SINCE WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT, THE BMR/RMR CHARTS WILL ONLY PROVIDE AN ESTIMATE) ... and then work to eat exactly that many calories daily. If your target weight maintenance calorie estimate is accurate, eating in this manner will bring you DOWN to your target weight, and keep you there. In this way, during your weight-loss phase, you will eat the same way that you will eat during your maintenance phase. The primary problem is that one can't really KNOW the amount of calories one is ACTUALLY going to burn at target weight, and probably, at target weight, there will STILL have to be an additional downward calorie adjustment.

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