The multibillion-dollar weight loss industry is self-serving. Information is disseminated not to educate you, but to create a need for the products it churns. Health and weight loss supplements are so skillfully marketed with a facade of pseudo-science that most of us are unable to distinguish the sales pitches from the facts. It is important that you understand the science behind weight loss; it will empower you to make informed decisions about your health rather than empty your pockets on products you don’t need. We’ll be doing a 2 part writeup to string together definitive, peer-reviewed papers and get you up to speed on the fundamentals. Invest 20 minutes of your time to read through the mechanics and psychology behind fat loss, the takeaways will benefit you for a lifetime.
The energy balance equation governs weight loss
Google ‘weight loss’ and you get a plethora of catchy results: ’10 ways to lose weight fast’, ‘3 effective dieting strategies’, ‘how to lose 5kg in a month’. These articles, despite recommending vastly differing and often conflicting approaches may work equally well when executed. This is because weight loss is governed by a simple energy balance equation:
"Change in body’s energy stores = Energy in – Energy out1
Expend more energy than you consume for an adequate amount of time and you will lose weight, period. Weight loss is achieved by reducing Energy in (through eating less) and increasing Energy out (through physical activity or chemical stimulants) sufficiently to net a deficit in the energy balance equation. Energy out will not be covered here, devising an exercise regime that compliments a weight loss diet is complex enough to warrant a separate writeup altogether. Besides, it has been widely established that like for like, controlling caloric intake is far more effective than increasing caloric expenditure for weight loss2,3.
Baselining the energy balance equation as a fundamental law to weight loss will allow you to understand that all prescribed diets work in theory (purposefully or incidentally), given that they somehow induce an energy deficit through their ’10 ways to lose weight fast’ or ‘3 effective dieting strategies’. However, weight loss is not what most dieters are looking for:
1. Hall KD, Heymsfield SB, Kemnitz JW, Klein S, Schoeller DA, Speakman JR. Energy balance and its components: implications for body weight regulation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(4):989-94.
2. Foster-schubert KE, Alfano CM, Duggan CR, et al. Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese postmenopausal women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012;20(8):1628-38.
3. Wing RR. Physical activity in the treatment of the adulthood overweight and obesity: current evidence and research issues. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31(11 Suppl):S547-52.