We’ve heard it all before. Weight loss is just a matter of “calories in vs. calories out” and the solution to everyone’s weight problems are to just “eat less, exercise more.”

While I generally agree the solutions to many health issues are simpler than some people make them out to be, sometimes they’re not that simple. Yes, drastically reducing calories will often result in weight loss – for a period of time. But calories are merely one part of the equation. And prolonged calorie restriction may result in long term metabolic damage and nutritional deficiency if not done properly.

I’ve taken issue with the calories in vs. calories out mantra not because it is downright wrong, but because it is simply incomplete. Though there are some whose knowledge and work I admire, like Dave Asprey, who flat out disagree with the focus on calories. Dave has gone so far as to demonstrate one can lose fat by increasing calorie intake to 4,500 calories per day (2,000 above maintenance), eating entire sticks of butter, and not exercising.

For me, “eat less, exercise more” is simply not the entire picture. I would hope it’s obvious that eating a diet that consists purely of doughnuts and soft drinks, even if it’s low calorie, will not result in optimal health, fitness, and body composition regardless of its impact on body weight.

The body is complex and weight regulation is dependent on many interlinking factors such as hormones, genetics, inflammation, sleep, stress, toxin exposure, hormone receptor sensitivity, nutritional status, protein/fat/carbohydrate ratios and sources, timing of food intake, gut microflora, exercise type and intensity, amount of muscle mass, environmental temperature, etc.

But before you start to feel overwhelmed or hopeless because you think you may have trouble with one or more (or all) of these issues, realize that the solutions/fixes are often pretty simple (though not necessarily easy). Many times, it’s just one or two things a person needs to change like getting more sleep and reducing excess sugar intake that fixes a lot of stuff all at once. In fact, by following all of the tips laid out in this guide, you’ll address the root cause of the vast majority of health and weight issues whether you realize how it’s happening or not.

For many people, it’s simply a matter of “eat less junk, eat more nutritious food, and exercise properly for your specific goals.” For more complex medical conditions, of course you should see a specialist.

The “hidden” sources of weight gain that are woefully left out in particular are: inflammation, stress management, and high toxins in the diet.

Inflammation can largely be reduced by grounding/earthing , fish oil supplementation, reducing intake of oxidized vegetable oils and trans-fats, utilizing healthy spices like turmeric, and other healthy lifestyle actions.

Managing stress and negative emotions is covered in depth earlier in this guide.

Eating a low toxin diet is more difficult as many foods, even health foods, contain toxins when not properly prepared. But a good rule of thumb is to purchase organic food, preferably locally grown, and limit high toxin foods like non-organic corn, produce with a lot of pesticides, and poor quality meats. Also, see the section on detoxifying which provides additional measures for reducing toxin load on the body.

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