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Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Weight Loss May Be Wrong

21st March 2023

For decades, we've been told that losing weight is all about "calories in, calories out." The idea is that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you'll lose weight. But recent research has shown that this oversimplified approach to weight loss may be misleading, and that there are many other factors that contribute to our body weight and health.

Here are some of the reasons why everything you've been told about weight may be wrong:


While it's true that the number of calories you consume and burn is a crucial factor in determining your weight, it's not the only factor. Other factors, such as genetics, hormones, gut bacteria, and sleep, can also play a significant role in your body weight and health.

Research has shown that various factors, including genetics, gut microbiome, sleep, and stress, can influence body weight and metabolic health. For example, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that variations in the gut microbiome can affect body weight and insulin sensitivity (1). Another study published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews found that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain and metabolic dysregulation (2).


Another common misconception is that all calories are created equal, and that it doesn't matter where those calories come from. However, research has shown that the type of food you eat can have a significant impact on your weight and health.

For example, a calorie from a processed, high-sugar food may have a different effect on your body than a calorie from a nutrient-dense, whole food. Additionally, different people may process calories differently depending on their genetics and gut bacteria.

There is growing evidence that the quality of the diet, rather than just the quantity of calories, is an important determinant of health outcomes. For example, a systematic review published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology found that high sugar intake is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems (3). Another study published in the British Medical Journal found that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables was associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity (4).


We've all heard of someone who lost a significant amount of weight on a specific diet, but the truth is that diets don't work for everyone. In fact, research has shown that most people who lose weight on a diet eventually regain it, and sometimes even more.

This is because everyone's body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Additionally, restrictive diets can lead to disordered eating and a negative relationship with food.

Research has shown that long-term weight loss maintenance is challenging, and most people who lose weight eventually regain it. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 70% of participants regained the weight they had lost within five years (5). Additionally, a review of 31 long-term diet studies published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that most diets resulted in modest weight loss and that there was a wide variation in weight loss outcomes between individuals (6).


Finally, it's essential to remember that weight is not the only indicator of health. While being overweight or obese can increase the risk of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, it's also possible to be healthy at any size.

Focusing solely on weight loss can lead to a harmful obsession with numbers on a scale, rather than an overall focus on health and well-being.

While being overweight or obese can increase the risk of certain health conditions, it's also possible to be healthy at any size. For example, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that fitness level was a better predictor of mortality risk than body mass index (BMI) (7). Another study published in the journal Obesity found that weight stigma and discrimination can have negative health effects, including increased stress and decreased physical activity (8).

In conclusion, while the "calories in, calories out" model of weight loss may have some merit, it's far from the whole story. To achieve lasting health and well-being, it's essential to take a more holistic approach that considers all of the factors that contribute to our body weight and health. This means focusing on nutrient-dense, whole foods, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and engaging in physical activity that we enjoy.

Want to easily generate a meal plan with a specific number of calories by selecting foods you want to eat? AutoMealPlanner makes it easy to generate a custom diet and know how much you should eat in each meal.


  1. Lam YY, Ha CWY, Campbell CR, Mitchell AJ, Dinudom A, Oscarsson J, Cook DI, Hunt NH, Caterson ID, Holmes AJ, Storlien LH. Increased gut permeability and microbiota change associate with mesenteric fat inflammation and metabolic dysfunction in diet-induced obese mice. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34233.
  2. Spaeth AM, Dinges DF, Goel N. Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. Sleep. 2013;36(7):981-990.
  3. Malik VS, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and cardiometabolic health: an update of the evidence. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2020;8(9):715-728.
  4. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(25):2392-2404.
  5. Anderson JW, Konz EC, Frederich RC, Wood CL. Long-term weight-loss maintenance: a meta-analysis of US studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;74(5):579-584.
  6. Franz MJ, VanWormer JJ, Crain AL, Boucher JL, Histon T, Caplan W, Bowman JD, Pronk NP. Weight-loss outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of weight-loss clinical trials with a minimum 1-year follow-up. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107(10):1755-1767.
  7. McAuley PA, Kokkinos PF, Oliveira RB, Emerson BT, Myers JN. Obesity paradox and cardiorespiratory fitness in 12,417 male veterans aged 40 to 70 years. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(2):115-121.
  8. Puhl RM, Heuer CA. The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update. Obesity. 2009;17(5):941-964.
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