Losing weight isn't as simple as "eat less & move more"

Every day, I scan the news for breakthroughs in health / fitness / obesity / etc.

And just about every day, I run into some “expert” who informs the rest of us that permanent weight loss is as simple as “eat less and move more”.

Today’s post is for that “genius”.

eat less move more


In today’s study, researchers looked at the role of gut hormones and the hypothalamus in appetite regulation and obesity.

And I don’t know about you, but when I look at the diagram below and I try to figure out the complicated relationships between the following hormones, neurons, peptides, receptors and neural pathways, I start to believe that appetite control (and in extension – obesity) may be a bit more complicated than “eat less and move more”

gut hormones and appetite control


How about you?

Can you see why pharmaceutical companies have never been able to find a successful weight loss drug?

There are so many different factors at play, it’s almost impossible to pin down that one magic bullet solution.

gut hormones and their effect on food intake and body weight


For example, a few years back they thought that if they could increase your levels of leptin, your appetite would disappear and obesity would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, they soon found out that a large percentage of overweight people already had high levels of circulating leptin. Unfortunately, like a type 2 diabetic with high levels of insulin, all of the leptin in the world isn’t going to work properly if the leptin (hormone) receptors won’t allow the leptin to do it’s work.

See, I told you it was complicated.

Like this article???

If you like this article, don’t forget to subscribe to @healthhabits. When you subscribe, my friends at MailChimp will make sure to send you an email every time I post something new here at the blog.

As well, you also get access to the series of Supplement Reports that I am publishing this year.

button subscribe



  1. Actually, many scientists agree that it still is that simple. They do admit, however, that there are many other factors affecting one’s weight maintenance and hunger, such as what you mention, but the energy balance (which is basically the eat less / move more that you mention) is still, by and large, the most important. Energy in and energy out. If one wants to lose weight, then consume more energy than one takes in.

    The nitty gritty of doing his is what makes people so obsessed. See, what you just mentioned is a large part of the Zone diet, which makes a big deal of how many times you eat in a day, how long you have to wait before eating again, and so on, in order to balance the hormaones and whatnot you just mentioned.

    Of course, then again, other books like to refute this, saying that you don’t need that many times during the day, or it’s okay to wait longer, etc. Point there is that it works for some people and it doesn’t for others.

    But a good first step is always just do the basic “eat les / move more” strategy, then go into the complexities of it when (or if) it stops working, with a bit of experimentation (and consultation from a professional nutritionist).

  2. Oh, by the way, I’m not disagreeing with you or anything in my long comment there, but just really adding. It really isn’t that simple in the long run, but it should always be the proper first step, in my opinion.

  3. I know I posted this several months ago, right after I read my first Health Habits article, but it took me 3.5 years of working out BEFORE my weight dropped. Because my primary focus was to get healthy (Type II Diabetes, High Cholesterol & Blood Pressure, and a newly discovered Heart Mummer),, I did not focus on my weight.

    If I had become weight loss conscience, I would have given up. In fact I put on weight and my endo yelled out me (I got a new endo). I knew I was on the right track, despite my weight gain, because my too tight clothes were no longer to tight. Then 3.5yrs latter, I was getting ready to go to church and I pulled out a two piece dress that I hadn’t worn for a year and the skirt fell off! I had lost weight, and a lot, since my last doctor’s appointment four months before.

    Do what ya gotta do to stay/keep healthy and the rest will take care of itself. Maybe the internal mechanisms change first, before you see the so called outside changes.

  4. I was actually the same as NotThePest when I started working out over a decade ago. I lifted weights a lot and got plenty muscular, but never lost a single pound.

    Thankfully, it didn’t take me 3.5 years to lose my excess flab, as I immediately fixed up my diet about a year later, and it yielded excellent results. I dropped literally all of the junk food from my diet and ate plenty more vegetables.

    I kept it up and became very slim after a few years. It really does take a good combination of eating right and exercise to keep the weight off.

  5. Im beginning to think that maybe the emphasis should not be on losing weight, but rather eating healthy and exercising. Many studies show that overweight people can be healthy if they eat well and exercise.

  6. Dr. Dan,

    I don’t think the studies done about weight loss using exercise and calorie reduction are done long term. Please look at me now and think I never had a weight problem, even those who new me when I had a weight problem (selective memories). In one of the research papers I read it stated that it took about two years to regain and/or reverse blood vessel elasticity to optimum levels when one begins a sustained exercise program. (Can’t remember which journal I read that). Taking that in account, how many other body systems need “time” to reverse themselves when we have abused them? Since I’m not in the medical field, I’m not sure if I’m just blowing hot air, but I am a believer in our bodies’ ability to heal itself.

  7. And it’s not just the hormones & brain chemicals that make obesity complicated.

    For many people, emotions & thoughts play a large role in overeating

    Link to a new study in combating emotional eating

  8. Perhaps all of those chemicals we’ve been consuming (HFCS, MSG, etc) have finally caught up to us. There’s a reason why these substances (amongst others) are banned in Europe.

  9. I agree obesity is a complex multifactorial issue; however the things we can control are somehwat clearer. The two of factors are eat less, exercise more. Pictures on TV showing people starving in some parts of the world uniformly show thin bodies; only the corrupt leaders appear obese.

  10. @doc: If we could control intake and expenditure, we wouldn’t have obesity, or at least obesity at the current rates.

  11. Do not post things like this that make people give themself excuses. Human genetics have not changed significantly in the past 300 years (or 1000 for that matter), and yet the only obese people back then were royalty because they ate like pigs.

    Fat people eat too much and don’t exercise enough. That “too much” and “enough” is different for different people, but it isn’t that different.

  12. I could not agree more with this article. I have seen the effects of the so-called “starvation mode.” If it wasn’t more complicated than to simply eat less and move around more, there wouldn’t be so much conflicting information out there. Thank you for providing readers with useful knowledge. Any Doctor that I have spoken to regarding losing weight has said that I should eat every 2 hours per day (5-6 meals) and intake at least 1600 calories for my size and age just to keep my body functioning properly while leading a sedentary lifestyle. I have joined a gym and lost some weight, so I will be able to reduce my necessary caloric intake slowly. I recently checked out a diet book touting information about eating more and losing weight, but their diet only included 1000 calories per day. I bet you will lose weight on that diet…and gain it all back again. Only now, your metabolism is slower than ever. I had a problem loading the entire study mentioned in this article. I would love to view it. Thanks again for a good read.

  13. Okay. So, I just redid my calculations with a BMR reading from a different source than I was using at first and this diet would allow me to lose 1 lb per week that I was reading about. Hmmm… Guess I wouldn’t starve after all. I would’ve omitted the info about the diet from my last post, but there’s no way for me to edit my previous comment.

  14. Actually, I still think it’s that simple. If you think about it, most of us who are interested in our fitness, image and well-being, eat less than most other people. In terms of calories, at least. I mean, a huge salad will hold you for hours and will provide proper nutrients and protein (if you add chicken, turkey, bacon etc) and has maybe 300-400 calories. And that’s if you go crazy with the dressing or fat of your choosing. On the other hand, half a personal pizza has like 1000 calories and won’t hold you for long or provide as many nutrients. Not even close.

    So, basically, we’re eating more caloricly sparse foods filled with satiating fiber and protein. So, we are eating less calories and most of it is from quality sources. So, yeah, calories count in context. But I still think it is that simple. Eating less and moving more would do millions of obese people a great amount of good.

  15. So much easier than eating less and moving more.

    Eating less is freaking hard if you ask me. And moving more can often be a hassle too, especially for us lazy folks.

    Just eat and exercise at the right times. Period.

    Cool Article though, Doug – I actually plan to study this and see if there’s things that can help EET’s metabolic messages be even more powerful.

    EET Fitness

  16. While I agree with the statement about “more complicated than boo”, I think you too, are indeed short-sighted. Fitness geeks are a whole world away from being a biochemist.

    You know how many “experts” are meat-heads that lift weights and get their “insight” from a gym? 98%. A degree in kinesiology doesn’t mean you know any biochemistry. In fact, it’s all pretend.

    If you want to know biochemistry, then do at least a single degree in just that. Not “Gym”, not “Soccer”, not “Weightlifting”, nor “Bodybuilding”. For the most part, most if not all “experts” should just shut up about biochemistry, because they are guessing.

    Nothing in this article mentions anything about various makeups of genetics. In fact, anybody who has extra weight, from a biological standpoint, is indeed more “healthy” than others. They have stored energy for the future. Their system is indeed efficient and operate at a lower level. It’s the skinny bastards out there that can’t store any future. Their ability to be amongst the “survival of the fittest” is short-term.

    Appetite management is just a fraction of what’s going on. But nice try.

  17. Rico – I’m sure that I am short sighted about weight loss. That was kind of my point with this article.

    But let me try and address your comments:

    The “experts” that I was referring to are those very same 98% that you referred to. I would even expand it to include just about everyone involved in public health, any form of sport or exercise and almost every nutritionist/dietitian that I have ever met. Unfortunately it would also include a whole bunch of biochemists as well.

    Regarding your concern over the lack of info on genetics in this article – this article was based on a study that focused on the epigenetic role played by your gut hormones.

    Thanks for reading.

  18. …and gut hormones (endocrinology) is founded upon feedback mechanisms where genetic expression eventually occurs. Of all the people that would know, it would be biochemists, which obviously have to study genetics as well. People have different efficiencies when it comes to mass transfer. Africans, who see this every day, say us white folks spend too much time indoors, and we don’t walk anywhere. They also say that large people are a sign of wealth. Western opinion is the opposite, but I think it’s based upon insecurity.

  19. Don’t claim to be an expert, and I respect your credibility. Like Fitness Phillipines, I acknowledge that there are a few other factors involved in the losing and gaining of weight but the reality is that Americans watch “a study” every week on TV, and the results–coming from drastic changes in diet and exercise–are pretty convincing.

    And for most Americans, there is a pretty big space in between their current eating habits and “starvation mode.” That gap in between is probably where we want to be.

  20. “And for most Americans, there is a pretty big space in between their current eating habits and “starvation mode.” That gap in between is probably where we want to be.”

    well said.

  21. @ Chris Schumerth

    I would argue that for the morbidly obese (especially if we uncover that they’re generally hyperinsulinemic and insulin resistant) their adiposity is actually an indicator that they’re starving at the cellular level.

  22. Genuine science has turned up MANY new thongs about obesity, and continue to do so each and every year. NONE of these new things are behavioral.

    We do NOT control energy balance to anywhere near the degree people falsely believe. The BODY balances thre MILLIONS of calories you ingest in a year or more. NO ONE can conciously do that. Our weight regulatory systems operate LONG TERM – year or more – not meal to meal, day to day or month to month. Diets are a DEAD END. They do not work. And exercise is dramatically overrated for fat loss.

    We need to lower the ADIPOSTAT. Please have a look at my blog which features WORK RENOWNED scientists such as Dr. Jeffrey Friedman and Dr. Linda Bacon.

    The PUBLIC NEEDS to be educated/ Obesity is HELLISHLY COMPLEX.

  23. Eat less, move more is an EXTRAPOLATION by the commercial diet industry. It REMAINS UNPROVEN as a LONG TERM successful treatment of obesity.

    The commercial diet industry exists precariously on false promsies and false assumptions.

  24. So I can sit back, eat pizza and when I put on weight it’s not my fault cos it’s more complicated than that. To think I’ve wasted all that time and effort to stay in shape!

  25. I’ve learned a lot about the American Diet the last 3 months, including how our food is toxic from the pesticides and chemicals sprayed on our food, not to mention when the food is sprayed by the toxic chemicals, we are killing all the nutrients in the ground, so our food is deficient in proper nutrition, leaving our bodies craving and hungry because we are not getting what we need. This causes us to overeat. In addition, the food companies are putting chemicals in our food to make them addicting, so people can not control what they eat or how much they eat, its like any other addiction and you are feeding your addiction. This is why a nutritional cleansing system is important to rid your body of toxins and feed your body proper nutrition. Please email me if you would like more information to get healthy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.