Losing Weight Through Diet

Losing Weight is tough. It’s a commonly held belief that diet plays a bigger role than exercise, but can you loose weight with diet alone? Would it be possible to lose weight without exercise? Or does exercise play a more important role?

Essentially weight loss works in different ways, but is it simply calories in minus calories out? Basically, at its most basic level, weight loss is an energy deficit. Which means that the calories we take in are less than the calories we burn throughout the day.

Losing Weight with Diet

Essentially, we burn calories in three different ways:

  • Our basal metabolic rate, which is the energy we use to fuel our body’s processes — so things like our heart beating, our lungs expanding and contracting, our brain using energy to think.

  • The thermic effect of food, which is just a fancy term for metabolism. When we eat, our body uses energy to break down and metabolise the food.

  • The exercise that we do. That includes planned physical activity as well as the activities of daily life, like moving around, standing or walking.

So as long as we’re taking in less than we’re burning, in theory we will lose weight. But of course there are many other factors that can affect that balance.

Is losing weight different for different people?

This is where it really comes down to the individualised approach. For some people, they can very easily alter the calories that they’re taking in, increase the calories that they burn and they go forward and they lose weight. But for other people, they might find that there could be a strong emotional component.

They might struggle with emotional eating, they might have certain triggers that cause them to overeat — for example they could have a very stressful day, and the way that they manage that is by turning to comfort foods. Secondly, people have a strong connection with sitting in front of a screen at night and eating, and eating more than what they need to consume.

For other people, they might just find that when they reduce the amount of calories they’re taking in, they feel it’s beginning to affect their quality of life. Because obviously food is connected to so much that we do, it’s connected culturally, it’s connected to our enjoyment and our social life, so that emotional connection with food can be really difficult to tam

How important is diet for losing weight?

People often say that dieting is 80% of weight loss and exercise is 20%, and that’s a fairly accurate assessment. We know that we can really affect that energy balance through our energy intake, much more so than through energy output. To put that into perspective, a half-hour run might only burn 250 calories, but we might feel very, very spent afterwards. Whereas we can easily cut out one 300 calorie snack a day and not feel like we’re missing out.

It is possible to loose weight without exercise, but when we factor in exercise it really boosts the effect of weight loss, because we create a larger deficit between the energy out versus the energy in. So, if you cut out that one 300-calorie snack and maybe you add on an hour-long walk every day, now you create a much greater energy deficit.

What is the best way to start losing weight?

Overall, small yet sustainable changes are the best way to go forward. Indeed all you need to do is think of some of the things you’re willing and able to change, and then build on that.

Basically, it might be as simple as looking at your habits around eating in front of a screen at night. Also, this can lead you to become aware of that ‘mindless eating’ component. For some people, it might be cutting back on the calories they take in through alcohol.

People are much more likely to sustain changes that are balanced rather than extreme, so a balanced approach to diet where you’re not cutting out large food groups or you’re not going into a bad style of eating. Basically we know that those types of (balanced) changes are much more likely to be sustained over the long-term.

How does diet and exercising work together?

Rather than focusing on diet, focus on eating for health, exercising for health, for the benefits that your body receives rather than some sort of punishment. Even if you need help or assistance in doing any of those things, a dietician is your best source of information. Not only can they help you identify what those small changes might be, but they can also help you write an eating plan that takes into account your cultural background, your diet preferences, your energy needs, plus they can also be your champion and support you along the way. Secondly, we know that contact with health professionals like a dietician along your weight loss journey will result in greater weight loss and you’re more likely to sustain or maintain those changes in the long term.”

But it still important to exercise, even if you're losing weight through dietary changes.

We think this one here is a no brainer as there are huge benefits to exercise! It really helps to keep your bones strong, produces all those great ‘feel good’ hormones, improving your mood, it can help you sleep better at night, and generally contribute to an all-round sense of wellbeing. Which is an all around win.

James Watts