Probably the most common question I get asked by patients is “Why can’t I lose weight?”. From my experience, the 2 most common reasons why people find it difficult to lose weight are:
- under-estimating the amount of calories in food.
- over-estimating the effect of exercise on losing weight.
In other words, we often downplay the effect of food on weight gain and think exercise will help balance things out. Of course, exercise does help in losing weight, but nowhere near as much as most people think.
Why is that?
As you can learn here, our metabolism is designed to extract the maximum energy from food. A chart from the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health shows how much you have to exercise to burn off calories (click here to see it). For example, you will need to walk 26 minutes or run 13 minutes to burn off the calories from just one can of a soft drink!
Patients tell me that they exercise for an hour a day but still gain weight. On analyzing their food pattern, I almost always find out that they are consuming more calories than they are burning, even when they exercise for long hours. So when it comes to losing weight, exercise is nowhere near as important as what food you eat.
Food vs. Exercise: which is more important for losing weight?
I sometimes ask patients how important diet and exercise are when it comes to losing weight. Most people say that they are equally important. But based on research and my medical experience, I would say that the ratio would be food 80% important and exercise 20% important when it comes to weight loss.
Sometimes there is a medical reason why you can’t lose weight. Conditions like hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome, depression etc can directly and/or indirectly cause weight gain. Some medications can also cause weight gain. These include insulin, prednisone, some birth control pills, certain anti-depressants etc. Consult your doctor if you think a medical condition or a medication may be causing your weight gain.
How many calories should I eat per day to lose weight?
Counting calories is important to lose weight. There are various apps and charts you can use to help you count your calories. If you want to lose weight men shouldn’t eat more than 1800 calories per day and women 1500 calories per day.
The good news is that if you are willing to make significant changes in your lifestyle, you are almost guaranteed to lose weight. Click here to learn more and start shedding those pounds!