Why “eat less move more” doesn’t always work!

Why “Eat Less, Move More” Isn’t Enough

Lauren Gunter | October 2, 2022

You’ve been told that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less and move more. And that is technically true. However, sometimes you’re doing all that you can to follow that simple rule, and nothing seems to be changing.


Even if you understand that way calorie intake and expenditure work, and you trust the science, it’s still really hard to execute for some reason.


On Sunday, you stock your fridge with you celery and prepped chicken, and grapes, you signed up for CrossFit, you scheduled food prep and workouts into your calendar like they’re an important work meeting. And yet, by Friday afternoon you have wilted spinach in your fridge, your gym owner is reaching out asking where you’ve been, and there’s not a prepped meal in sight.


After this cycle repeats itself week after week, it’s easy to feel frustrated and even a little hopeless. “What’s wrong with me?” we ask ourselves. First of all, nothing. Nothing is wrong with you. You do a lot of really great things like work, raise your family, keep your home clean, support your friends, and while these are all such great things, they definitely complicate the simplicity of “eat less, move more.”


We do a lot of things that actually decrease our ability or desire to move, and increase our desire to eat, especially calorie-dense (but not nutrient-dense) foods.

Job – stress, long hours

Family – complaining, constant need for support, can drain you

Sleep – bad sleeper? Waking up, can’t get to sleep

Partner – loves you the way you are and also loves Taco Bell

Take-out – it just saves SO much time

Shame – for eating poorly, so you continue to do it

Kids – you love them, but they’re energetic and take up a lot of energy, especially if child care isn’t consistent

Pain – if you have any kind of injury, moving more can feel good, but it can also increase your pain

Meds – using them to help boost mental health, but certain ones also increase your appetite


Every one of you is a complicated person with your own set of obstacles when it comes to “eat less, move more” and that’s why even though that is technically true, it’s not even close to enough. This is why coaching is so helpful, because we want to know the whole story so that we can give you a plan that will work FOR YOU.


If you’re not working with a coach right now, a good place to start is identifying what makes “eat less, move more” so difficult in the first place, and start taking action steps with those.

This can looks like:

  1. If social situations are the issue: having a tough and awkward conversation with the person who you make bad decisions around. If your partner is constantly bringing you a treat out of the goodness of their heart, explain what your goals are and why, and try to find a solution so they can still show you love, but also help move you toward your goals instead of away from them.
  2. If anxiety and worry, or even busyness are the issue: journal for a few minutes before going to sleep to create some separation and resolve from those thoughts so that your mind can relax and fall asleep.
  3. If the shame of not being consistent is the issue: keeping a food AND feelings journal. Most of you have tracked your food at some point, stop neglecting logging when you get that Taco Bell, and start journaling your feelings around that eating experience. What were you feeling that made you want to get it? How did you feel while you were eating it? How did you feel after, and why is that? This can be scary, but it will help you start working through some of these shameful feelings.


This doesn’t really sound like nutritional advice, so why do those things matter? Because the outcomes make EVERYTHING easier, and when it’s easier, you’re more likely to do it.


Having that hard conversation is awkward, but if this person loves you and wants to support you, usually a compromise can be reached. Instead of eating out 5 times per week, decrease it to 3. They still get to eat out, you get two more healthy meals. Being vulnerable is what deters us from doing this, but we often feel more loved and support after. Prioritising your health is NOT selfish.


Getting some of those anxious thoughts out of your head, even if it’s just temporary, can help you to relax a little more, get better sleep, and have the energy to make better choices like eating at home, or have more energy to move, like walking to work.


Keeping a food journal can help us recognize triggers. Every time I hit a drive thru unplanned, it happens to fall on a day where I had to work late and I leave the office hangry and tired. I feel shame for eating it, and also for not being home with my family for dinner. Once you KNOW this, you can start planning to change it. Spending some extra time with your family in the morning when you know it’s going to be a long day, or bringing a protein bar with you for the car ride home so that your hungriness doesn’t take over and you’re able to think through your dinner choice and eat slowly can help save you hours of stress and hundreds of calories.


The changes are small at first, but over time, you’re able to eat a little cleaner and move a little more, AND most importantly, feel better about the choices you’re making. Your body will begin responding to these changes, and the emotional and physical health together are what lead to those bigger changes we’re all chasing.


Eat less and move more does still work. But we are all complex, and it takes more than you hitting your macros or going to CrossFit every day to see the changes you are looking for. Look behind your difficulty with eating right or working out consistently. How are you managing your stress? How are you sleeping? What are you doing for recovery? It might actually be these things that are preventing your progress.


It may seem like this will prolong the process, but caring for your mental health, sleep, and recovery give you the fuel you need to actually follow through on those nutrition and fitness goals you have.



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