Why Calorie Reduction & Exercise Doesn’t Always Lead to Weight Loss

For years people have bought into the notion that 3,500 calories added or subtracted from one’s diet means you will gain or lose one pound, respectively. It’s an easy concept to grasp and helps people feel in control of their weight. And, if you’ve followed the man who went on the Twinkie diet, this formula does seem to work, at least in the short term (meaning it’s the total calories that matter, not the type of calories). But, in reality, few aspects of nutrition are that clear-cut, especially weight control.

Why doesn’t this simple formula of subtracting 3,500 calories through a combination of food and exercise expenditure work? For one thing it doesn’t take into account the type of weight you are losing (muscle, bone, fat) and how your metabolism changes over time based on the type of weight you lose and your overall daily calorie needs (which change as your weight and body composition changes). But, a new tool, from the National Institutes of Health, uses a mathematical model to predict weight change based on changes in diet and physical activity. This new formula helps account for changes in metabolism as you lose weight. So for instance, if you start at 215 lbs and then get down to 180, you’ll have to drop your calorie intake further or exercise more to continue losing weight.

Despite the fact that this model is for reseach purposes and not an individual prescription for weight loss, it is indeed, pretty cool and hopefully will contribute to additional research on weight loss.

Take a look at this Body Weight Simulator by clicking here.

The team that developed this Body Weight Simulator found that people adapt slowly to changes in dietary intake (this is one reason many people quit and think “changing what I eat doesn’t work!” And, they also found that initially, heavy people can quickly lose weight. The neat thing about this new model is that it can show how long it will take to achieve a specific weight loss goal if one aspect of nutrition or exercise is altered (consistently altered that is).

Keep in mind that the most effective way to lose weight is an individual approach that takes into account your medical history, medications, exercise program, types of food you consume and your daily life (this is why following a specific diet book may work for your friend but not for you). And, as you make diet and lifestyle changes, remember that it may take time to see the results on the scale or in your clothes.