Weight loss – it’s more than “eat less, move more”

Many people would like to lose weight or are advised to do so for health reasons. Often, you’re told just simply “eat less and move more”. Theoretically, that is true when it comes to energy balance – less in through food and drinks and more out which can only be controlled by exercise (unfortunately you can’t control your metabolic rate). However, that simple one-liner can all be too frustrating, it’s an over-simplified perspective on weight loss that places the blame on the person looking to lose weight.

energy balance
The only modifiable factor on “energy out” is activity

Here’s the BIG picture…

Weight loss is hard, it’s complicated and NOT so simple. Depriving yourself by “eating less” may not actually work, it may leave you feeling irritable and ready to give up and try again “next Monday”. There’s research showing that we actually eat the same VOLUME of food each day. Meaning if you eat 10 cups of food each day, you generally eat the same amount every day despite what the food actually is! So changing your plate to be at least half non-starchy vegetables and less processed stuff means we don’t have to drastically reduce portions just change the types of foods instead.

Image: eBay

Second of all, the fact that 60% of Australians are either overweight or obese is clearly not a reflection of each of those individuals. When it affects so many people, it’s clear that there are several systemic factors at play. The environment that we live in pushes us to make choices that may go against our grand plans of choosing the healthier options. Think about what’s on the end of supermarket aisles advertised as “on special” – yep it’s the soft drinks, biscuits, chips and chocolate. Those foods seem like the cheapest choice!  We jump in the car and drive to these supermarkets, walk around the shops, put it back in your car and back home you go compared to our ancient ancestors used to walk long distances for food. Or even just before the advent of the car, carrying our groceries back from local markets.

Image: The Conversation

Then there are convenience stores and service stations packed with more of the same foods open all hours of the day and night. Add on top of that our jobs where most of us spend the day seated either at a desk or behind the wheel reducing how much energy we expend.

Businesswoman Working In Office
Image: Expert Beacon

Put simply, good intentions to improve your health through diet and exercise is simply the opposite of what our environment is pushing us towards. Not to say, that it cannot be done but recognising that all these factors are at play, not just your “will power” to lose a few kilos.

Not to mention everything that happens within your body…

On top of that our human physiology goes against weight loss, we are made to store things for a “rainy day”  such as famines except that rainy day never comes! If your Mum put on a few too many kilos when she was pregnant with you, you were more likely to be born larger and be overweight later in life. We are evolutionarily made to be attracted to sweet and fatty foods because they give us the most energy, which we needed back when we were hunter-gatherers but not so much now we live in a plentiful environment.


Culture, hours of sleep, finances, mental health, other health conditions, relationships with food can all contribute to the picture of obesity.

So, tell me again why being overweight is THAT person’s fault? Yes, you can lose weight but it will take effort and planning to go against all the elements to reach your goal! Your choices in this obesogenic environment do make a difference – start small and think sustainable long-term changes, anything positive is going to benefit your health!

See an Accredited Practising Dietitian who can individualise a plan to your specific needs including medical conditions, income and cooking skills.


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