In December 2022, a study published in the journal Family Practice examined what kind of advice general practitioners give to their obese patients.
Nearly always, the advice given is some form of the generic suggestion to “move more and eat less.”
This included recommendations such as:
● Be careful what you eat
● Eat fewer carbs
● Count your calories
● Be more physically active
● Take the stairs instead of the elevator
● Just change your lifestyle a bit
This superficial and impersonal advice rarely leads to successful weight loss.
Why This Advice Fails
There are several issues with the “move more and eat less” advice for weight loss.
It ignores the individual’s unique circumstances and behaviors. Each person is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Simply telling someone to “move more” without considering their current physical ability, time constraints, or access to resources is not helpful.
This advice also ignores the emotional and psychological aspects of weight loss. Many people struggle with emotional eating or use food to cope with stress. Simply telling someone to “eat less” does not address these underlying issues.
The advice is not specific or actionable. It lacks concrete steps or a plan for how to actually implement these suggestions. Without a clear plan, it is easy for individuals to become overwhelmed and give up on their weight loss goals.
The advice doesn’t educate people on how and why weight gain and loss occur and how diet and exercise impact these measures. Understanding the science behind weight loss can help individuals make more informed decisions about their health.
Finally, this advice can mislead people to believe that exercise burns more fat than it actually does. While exercise is important for overall health, the majority of weight loss comes from diet.
What We Should Be Doing Instead
To find more effective and sustainable weight loss guidance, we must focus on personalized collaboration and education.
This means working in partnership with a healthcare professional or dietitian who can take into account your unique circumstances and behaviors, and provide a tailored plan for weight loss.
This personalized approach should also involve education on the science behind weight loss, including teaching how different foods and activities impact our bodies. Instead of just mindlessly following instructions and plans (which may not accurately fit actual circumstances), you’ll be able to intuitively understand what effects different foods and activities have on your body. This can help you make more informed decisions about your health and weight loss goals.
In addition to diet and exercise, it is important to address any emotional or psychological factors that may be impacting weight gain. This may involve working with a therapist or counselor to address underlying issues such as emotional eating or stress management.