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Fitness & Health

02nd Jul 2019

When ‘eat less move more’ doesn’t work for weight loss

'Eat less move more' is a good rule of thumb, but there are certain circumstances when this mantra doesn't work as well as you'd think

Alex Roberts

‘All you need to lose weight is a calorie deficit’

For the most part, this statement is true. But there are times when the ‘eat less move more’ mantra simply doesn’t work, or rather, needs much more detail in order to help someone succeed.

If the secret to getting in shape was as easy as eating less and moving more, the vast majority of the population would be walking around with six-pack abs and bulging biceps.

After all, it’s a ridiculously simple concept – right?

Fundamentally, weight loss really is about getting into a calorie deficit. Take in fewer calories than you burn off and, hey presto, weight loss will occur.

Why do many people still fail to lose weight when the answer seems so simple?

To understand why ‘eat less move more’ doesn’t work as well as you’d think, consider a footballing analogy.

All you need to win a football match is to score more goals than your opponent. But try telling Crystal Palace that’s all they need to do when up against Manchester City away.

It won’t work, will it?

Crystal Palace struggle to score goals. They’ve just sold their best defender. Their strikers aren’t prolific. Their goalkeeper is shakier than a gym newbie trying to squat on a Bosu ball. They don’t have a recent history of toppling Premier League champions.

All these external factors combine to make the idea of telling Crystal Palace “just score more goals than Manchester City” useless advice.

Equally as useless is telling someone with a history of eating disorders that all they need to lose weight is ‘eat less move more’.

There are a whole host of factors at play that shape your relationship with food, fitness, diets, exercise and weight loss in general.

Let’s look at some of the main reasons why you might need to think beyond this concept to really reach your potential.

Telling someone with psychological issues surrounding food to simply ‘eat less move more’ is akin to telling Crystal Palace they just need to ‘score more goals than everyone else’ (Photo: Getty Images)


Your parents play a pivotal role in shaping your relationship with food, fitness and health.

You won’t be surprised to learn that if someone’s parents are overweight, or have a history of eating disorders, there is a high likelihood that the children will too.

It’s certainly not impossible to lose weight in this case. You just have to work hard to form healthy habits, or perhaps call on some help from a personal trainer, nutritionist or friend.

Those growing up in an athletic household will likely have inherited healthy habits such as meal frequency and cooking from scratch as a matter of nurture, but these can be learned by absolutely anyone.


Where you live is often a risk factor for weight gain. If you live in the centre of town, right next to a fast food restaurant or takeaway, your impulse to indulge in junk food is going to be higher than someone who lives in a more rural area.

Living in the countryside often means you’ve greater access to fresh food, particularly those which are minimally-processed and less calorie dense than, say, a doner kebab.

In this instance, no one’s saying you need to move house. Just bulk buy on your weekly shop and prep meals conducive to your goals on a Sunday night ready for the week ahead.

This plate offers a helping hand with understanding portion size

Gym History

For someone prone to binge eating or with a past history of weight loss struggles, things are going to take a little more time. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Trying to shift a significant amount of weight may involve overcoming gym intimidation, keeping a food diary, drawing up your first meal plan and calculating bespoke calorie needs for the first time.

For people with a history of obesity and metabolic issues, there is also likely to be a degree of insulin resistance in place. This is where the body finds it difficult to use the sugar from carbs as energy, and is more prone to store it as body fat.

If you’ve been a regular gym goer from a young age, you’ll be able to lose weight quite rapidly. You’ll likely have a better grasp of your own body and exactly how many calories you need, plus you’ve been through the process of successful weight loss before.

In this instance, ‘eat less move more’ works perfectly fine. But trying to pass it off as something everyone can take to with ease just isn’t going to work.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ method of losing weight, which is why real success stems from adherence. That is, adopting a weight loss strategy that fits with your lifestyle, fitness levels and past experiences.

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