Why Weight Loss Isn't As Simple As Calories In Vs Calories Out

With over 26% of UK adults and 1/5 of our children leaving primary school obese it’s clear we’re dealing with an obesity crisis. We often hear people claim that if you eat less and move more you’ll solve the problem. Although, this is an incredibly reductionist view, it really isn’t quite as simple as that and here’s why…

1. Appetite and weight management
Our appetite signals are incredibly powerful, they’re there to notify us when we’re hungry and satiated. Grehlin (the hunger hormone) appears to be very effective and reliable at letting us know when we’re hungry but when it comes to Leptin (the satiety hormone) our environment can often override this. I’m sure we can all relate to the time we went in for another serving of dessert or picked a snack off the checkout aisle because our environment drove us to do so. Research also suggests that chronic over-consumption can stimulate a constant desire for hedonic rewards making resisting food extra challenging. What’s more is that hunger hormones have been shown to increase in response to weight loss, making weight maintenance even more challenging.

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2. Maternal influence on infant nutrition
Studies have shown a relationship between mothers who smoke during their pregnancy and an increased risk of obesity in the child in later life. The same has been shown for mothers who have a poor diet during the first and second trimester but interestingly no association was made between obese offspring and mothers who have a poor diet in the third trimester. Although conversely, mothers who were exposed to famine during their pregnancy led to the offspring with increased health complications later on in life. Evidently, the maternal diet plays a considerable role in the offspring’s weight management and health related complications later on in life.

3. Nutrition labeling
With so much information of health and nutrition in the media it can be incredibly challenging to identify the truths from the myths. The regulations on nutrition guidance on packaging has become more complicated to understand and latest research shows that whilst 50% of shoppers use it in-store, only 20% use it online and considerably less actually understand what it means.

4. Bioavailability of nutrients
Bioavailability is the amount of the nutrients which can be absorbed and utilised within the body. Whilst a food may contain x amount of energy (denoted as calories) if the full amount of energy cannot be released from the food it may have an affect on weight. As an example, foods with a low glycemic index may have a significantly lower release of energy as some fibres create a coating around food particles inhibiting the release of energy. In one study chickpeas showed to release less energy than wheat particles. The factors which determine this include: whether the particle separate (detach from other particles) or fracture (briefly split), permeability of the cell wall, cell size, shape and thickness and the type of fibre. Other research suggests that fat released from almonds is limited as only the first layer ruptures to release the fat during digestion. The remaining fat is excreted via stools.


Furthermore, some processing techniques may increase the availability of starch in certain foods, consequently increasing glycemic index. Therefore, this theory works both ways; it is possible to significantly increase the bioavailability of energy by changing its state. This suggests that not all calories are utilised equally.

It’s also important to note that in relation to weight loss this is an interesting area although we should also be concerned about micronutrients not being absorbed as a result of cell walls inhibiting their release.

5. Adaptive thermogenesis
Adaptive thermogenesis refers to the amount of heat produced (or energy used) in response to environmental changes in body temperature and diet. Research shows that our resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy you burn at rest with no activity) decreases following weight loss of 5% body weight or higher. This means that where you might have required 1300kcal at rest you may only require 1200kcal at rest (these figures are examples). Therefore that extra 100kcal that you’ve been consuming now becomes a surplus. Stick with me…

Furthermore, adaptive thermogenesis decreases after 10% of body weight loss. This often occurs as a result of a calorie restriction which causes your metabolism to slow and therefore reduces the amount of calories you utilise making it even harder to lose weight.

There you have a few key reasons as to why suggesting that weight loss isn’t as simple as calories in< calories out. This isn’t to suggest that weight loss isn’t achievable at all it’s to draw your attention to such a highly complex area which is very often limited to a single equation.

How To Lose Weight Ahead Of Summer Without The Crash Dieting

Summer diet preparations are often based around some sort of drastic crash or highly restrictive diet. You might be familiar with the cycle of eating well before your holiday and then after a few days on the beach eating and drinking whatever you like you’re back to where you began or often in a worse place. Holiday preparations don’t have to be extreme, dramatic or unsustainable. In fact it's the perfect excuse to clean up your unwanted dietary habits.

Below are my top 5 tips for staying healthy in the run up to summer without leading to a period of restriction and despair.

Switch up your snacks: snacking on high sugar foods can stimulate your appetite and contribute to blood sugar roller-coasters. Try opting for snacks high in protein and healthy fats to keep you fuller and prevent you over eating later. Good options include: hummus and crudites, olives, nuts and Greek yoghurt with cinnamon.

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Drink plenty of water: often we mistake thirst for hunger leading us to eat unnecessarily. Ensure you’re drinking around 2L a day to prevent this. I recommend keeping a bottle of water with you at all times to prevent you dehydrating.


Load up on vegetables: try creating a meal around vegetables and then adding a source of protein or healthy fats rather than having the vegetables as a side dish. Veggies are low in calories and high in fibre which means it will keep you fuller for longer with less energy.

Load up on the beans and legumes: like vegetables these foods are typically low in energy and high in fibre. Therefore, they will give you volume without adding a ton of extra calories. Get creative by adding these to your salads, stews and soups.

Look after your gut: gut health has been associated with weight management as it plays a role in hormone balance. Try eating foods high in prebiotics and probiotics such as sauerkraut, kefir, natto, yoghurt, kombucha.

Eat mindfully: eating whilst distracted is a large contributor to over eating. When your brain isn’t engaged it’s not processing the food properly meaning you won’t digest it as well and your satiety hormones take longer to kick in.

Don’t over estimate your burn: over-estimating your calorie burn is a key reason why you might be pounding it out in the gym but not losing weight. Try to eat what you usually would rather than thinking that you ‘deserve this because you’ve just finished a class’.

Avoid under eating: you may think that weight loss is a case of the less the better. Although this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you’re not eating enough your body goes into starvation mode and stores fat as a result of not knowing when the next meal is coming. Your metabolism will slow significantly making it much easier to gain weight once you start eating normally again.

Be aware of your alcohol consumption: social summer plans often revolve around drinking. Alcohol contributes to empty calories as well as increasing your appetite and driving your desire for high sugar high fat foods. Ahead of your social arrangement decide how many drinks you’re going to have to prevent you getting carried away and over-consuming. Opt for clear spirits with soda and lime over beers and cocktails to save on the calories. I also recommend making spritzers your best friend to ensure your wine goes a little further.

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There you have a few tips to help with sensible weight loss ahead of summer. Remember sensible weight loss is more sustainable and you're less likely to regain it as soon as you hit the beach. 

5 Daily Habits Which Might Be Affecting Your Healthy Glow

We know about how external environmental factors can affect our skin. I.e the make up we use, the cleanser we wash with and the pollution around us. However, we appear to be kept in the dark about how some of our daily habits might be affecting the health of our skin. So in this article I'm shedding light on how some of your daily habits might be risking that natural healthy glow! 

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1. Excess sugar consumption: here it is again. Excess sugar can enhance the release of insulin which can cause inflammation and impaired collagen production. Digested sugar can also bind to collagen to further inhibit your glow! 

2. Excess  coffee consumption: coffee is a diuretic which means its likely to contribute to dehydrated skin. If you are a big coffee consumer try swapping one or two cups a day for herbal tea and ensure you're drinking the equivalent amount of water to maintain your hydration status. 

3. Poor sleep: sleep is the time for our skin to repair and rejuvenate. The term 'beauty sleep' didn't stem from no where! If you're someone who has difficulty sleeping try consuming caffeine no later than 2pm, and incorporate more gut friendly foods into the diet (as the gut is responsible for secreting melatonin - the sleep hormone). Gut friendly foods include: fermented vegetables, kefir, kombucha and Greek yoghurt.

4. Smoking: this can increase oxidative stress and limit blood flow to the skin. Furthermore smoking can generate inflammation and can cause your skin to look dull and grey. 

5. Low fat diets: fats are essential for maintaining the epidermis (the outer protective layer of the skin cells). Therefore following a low fat diet may risk the protective nature of the skin causing it more prone to damage from external factors. Additionally, fats are required for the absorption of certain nutrients particularly vitamins A and E which are essential for the production of collagen and elastin (two key components of healthy skin). 

There are a variety of other factors which can affect your skin health. Do let me know if you're keen to find out more!