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There is an oft repeated phrase concerning weight loss, “It’s as simple as calories in, calories out. “  Meaning, if you eat less and exercise more you’ll lose weight.  There are a number of reasons why that doesn’t work.  
Why it's not about calories and exercise
Exercise & Eating Less is Not the Answer
The Futility of Exercise as a Weight Loss Strategy
There are lots of great reasons to exercise but weight loss is not one of them.  Let’s do the math and I’ll show you why .
First, let’s take a look at the calorie expenditure of a few different exercises.    The table below, reprinted from http://www.nutristrategy.com/, gives the calorie expenditure for two different body weights.  A higher bodyweight requires more energy expenditure during exercise.

Activity, Exercise or Sport (1 hour)
155 lb
205 lb
Weight lifting, light workout
Walking 3.0 mph, moderate
Stretching, hatha yoga
Tai chi
Golf, general
Health club exercise
Aerobics, general
Playing tennis
Cycling, 12-13.9 mph, moderate
Stair machine
Jumping rope, moderate
Let’s say a person wants to lose 20 lbs.  A pound of bodyweight represents about 3500 calories.  So to lose 20 lbs multiply 20lbs time 3500 calories/lb and you get 70,000 calories.  Let’s pick a middle of the road exercise in terms of calorie expenditure, health club exercise, for example.   For the 155lb person, losing 20 lbs would require 180 hours of health club exercise.  That’s equivalent to going to the health club for an hour, three days a week, for over a year.  That’s a serious level of effort and dedication in order to drop those 20 lbs.
The poor trade-off between effort and results should be apparent.  If not consider this, 80% of the people who join a gym quit within 3 months.  If you do stick it out and lose the 20 lbs you’ll regain it all when you stop exercising.  It gets even worse;  studies have shown that many people actually gain weight with added exercise because they tend to “reward” their exercise effort with food or eat more believing the workout “cancels” out the extra calories.
Why a Calorie is not a Calorie
Changing what you eat is the answer to permanent weight loss, but you won’t get there by counting calories.  Yes, you heard right, you won’t get there by counting calories.  The reason is your body digests protein, carbohydrates, and fats differently and processed foods can alter your metabolism.  Let’s look at some different foods and how they are digested.
200 Calories of Simple Carbohydrates
A bowl of cooked macaroni has about 200 calories, 7g protein, 40g carbohydrate, and 1g of fat.  The refined flour in the pasta is easily converted to sugar by the body.  If you washed it down with a soda or covered it with a high sugar content commercial pasta sauce, it’s almost certain your blood sugar will spike.  This causes your pancreas to release insulin to drop the sugar level and causes your liver to convert any excess sugar to fat for storage.  The subsequent drop in blood sugar will elicit the release of hunger inducing hormones. 
200 Calories of Protein
How about half a cup of tuna in oil, which has 220 calories, 26g protein, 0g carbohydrate, and 12g of fat.   Fat is processed differently than carbohydrate.   Proteins are comprised of complex molecules which the body must breakdown into amino acids.  This digestion process takes much longer than the simple carbohydrates.  No associated spike in blood sugar accompanies the protein digestion and thus no immediate conversion to fat storage and no immediate release of hunger inducing hormones.
200 Calories of Fat
Now let’s look at 2 oz. of coconut.  It has 200 calories, 2g protein, 9g carbohydrate, and 19g of fat.  Fats, like proteins, are complex molecules which must be broken down for digestion.  They are, in fact, even slower to digest than protein.  Slow digestion means you feel full longer and will eat less.  The body uses fats for both energy and construction of hormones and other materials.
This is a simple example but the point is a calorie is NOT a calorie.  Different foods are digested differently.  Refined carbohydrates convert readily to fat storage and leave you feeling hungry.   

How to Eat to Lose Weight
Eliminate these toxins
Hydrogenated Oil – Replace this “trans” fat with healthy natural fats and oils.  The process of hydrogenating oil kills the essential fatty acids (EFA) your body needs.  Because hydrogenated oil lacks these EFA’s it will leave you hungry and eating more.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – HFCS is an extremely sweet modified food substance.  If you’re eating foods with HFCS your consuming a lot of sugar which will be stored as fat.
Refined Sugar and White Flour – You body can not metabolize large amounts of sugar rapidly.  Refined white flour is quickly converted to sugar.  Your body will store this excess sugar as fat to avoid dangerous increases to your blood sugar levels.
Artificial Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners send signals to your body that is receiving a large dose of sugar.  Your body reacts to prevent a blood sugar spike by releasing insulin to drop your blood sugar.  No sugar ever arrives and now your body must raise its blood sugar, so it sends you hunger signals.
Eat these foods
Vegetables and Leafy Greens – Buy the best quality you can afford.  The high nutrient content of these will satisfy your body’s requirements for vitamins and minerals.  Don’t make these a tiny side dish, but rather a main course.
Free Range Pastured Beef, Chicken, & Eggs – Free range, pastured meat has a higher nutrient content and lower fat than factory farmed meat.  It also is not full of pesticides and antibiotics found in the factory farmed meat.  All those chemicals disrupt your body’s natural balance.  Eggs from pastured hens are an excellent food.
Fruits – Natural fruits are high in fiber and complex carbs, both of which slow digestion and leave you satisfied.
Nuts & Seeds – Pitch the snack foods and start eating nuts and seeds.  The natural fats will curb your appetite.
Try to reduce grains and dairy.  Lean towards sprouted drains and fermented dairy, yogurt and kefir.
It’s All About Controlling Appetite
Give your body what it needs and your appetite will be in control.  Your body wants nutrients, not calories.  The way to give it what it needs is with whole, natural foods.  Make these changes and you can forget counting calories and knocking yourself out at the gym.  The pounds will melt away.  Natural weight loss occurs at about a ½ lb to 1lb per week.  It’s not fast, but it’s permanent!
Written by Peter Wright

This post is part of Fight Back FridayMonday Mania, and Real Food Wednesday.
Photo 1 Ray Algar (Author). (2008), https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/tTiwgA-m-Ux_KNiyrfREctMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?full-exif=true
Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

I’m on a mission to help you prevent and reverse chronic illness by utilizing nutrition to restore your body’s natural balance.

Contact me directly for a free 30 minute consultation.
Peter Wright, NTP, CGP

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  1. Unknown February 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    I have been eating this way for 2 years now. I haven’t lost any weight. I eat this way at LEAST 80% of the time. I wish it were this easy. 🙁 At least I am healthier (hope I am).

  2. Healing Center of Maine February 3, 2012 at 6:40 am #


    You can feel good knowing eating better quality foods does make you healthier.

    If you would like to record what you are eating for a few days and send me the list, I’d be happy to offer some suggestions. It’s important to write down the brand names of the foods, approximate quantities, and all beverages. Use the Contact Form on the blog to send the information.

  3. Unknown February 3, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    Thank you! I will do that. It may be next week before I do, as I will be doing a food journal sometime soon anyway, for another project. I really, really appreciate your offer!!!

  4. Anonymous February 7, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Try to reduce grains and dairy. Lean towards sprouted drains and fermented dairy, yogurt and kefir.

    typo.. 🙂

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