What Really Happens When You Eat Less and Move More

I know you’ve heard it before: if you want to lose weight you just have to “eat less and move more”.

The whole “calories in, calories out” thing sounds completely reasonable: expend more energy than you take in so your body will adapt to burn through extra fat and lead to weight loss.

Except when it doesn’t actually result in weight loss.

Or maybe it sort of results in weight loss, but at the cost of feeling tired, frazzled and hungry on the regular. Here’s a look at what eating less and moving more actually results in.

eating less and moving more will make you want to eat more.

If you’ve skipped on breakfast and eaten a light, calorie controlled lunch, I know you’re familiar with that eat-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feeling when you get home from work. Your hunger hormones are screaming at you to eat and they’re likely screaming for sugar and carbs because your blood sugar is dipping low. Try resisting temptation to eat when your body is throwing you all the signals to shovel pretzels by the handful – it won’t work for long. You’ll give in and likely end up eating more than you need.

I see it far too often with clients: undereating, or “being good” during the day and overeating at night. If you’re in this pattern and wondering why you can’t “just control your portion sizes” or thinking you “just need to have carrots and celery sticks instead” or you’re hoping that by “just avoiding eating after 6 PM” you’ll stay on track – I’m sorry to break it to you, but you’re fighting hundreds of years of human evolution and you’re going to lose the battle.  

moving more (and more and more) causes systemic, low level inflammation.

Maybe you’re thinking you’ll just “move more” by hopping on the treadmill or elliptical for an hour or so a day. You might see the scale move in the beginning as you’re getting more physical activity than you were before, but eventually, if your routine doesn’t change, you’ll plateau. Your body will become more efficient and burn fewer and fewer calories with each long cardio session. Soon, you’ll see a plateau with your weight loss, so maybe you add on a mile or two, or tack on an extra 20 minutes to see additional results. But, when does it end? It’s a slippery slope to overtraining and inflammation.

Not to oversimplify this concept, but inflammation, no matter what the root cause, is a fat loss killer and will hinder your goals for better body composition. Consider some steady state cardio activity in your routine if you enjoy it, but put priority on strength training and high intensity interval training for fat loss. 

eating less and moving more will eventually slow your metabolism.

Contrary to popular belief, metabolism can be manipulated. You are not doomed to a slow metabolism, causing you to gain weight when you just look at a cupcake. While there are a lot of factors that contribute to your metabolism, one of the most effective ways to impact a faster, healthier one is to eat more.

You see, by demanding more of your body with less fuel (read: fewer calories, food, macros) you effectively force it to make adaptations to conserve energy. Non-essential body functions slow down, while essential body functions stay constant – which means your heart will keep pumping and your brain will keep firing, but only at the expense of your metabolic rate. At the most basic level: digestion of food, absorption of nutrients and the production of energy from that food takes a back seat. Your metabolism will slow if you eat less and move more, especially if you do both at the same time.

Ask yourself, when does it end?

Do you just continue to eat less and less and move more and more until you’ve achieved an “ideal” weight and size? Based on the experience I have working with real people, eating less and moving more has never resulted in effortless weight maintenance and long term improved body composition. 

Instead, try something different. Rejecting the idea that you need to “do more with less” is your first order of business. 

Eating more whole, real foods in the right macronutrient balance for you will not only deliver incredible body composition changes, but will help you feel full of energy so you can lead the active life you want to.

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