CICO = Calories In, Calories Out. It’s the concept that when you ask how to lose weight it is the most commonly given answer. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.
It’s a simple enough premise. But the idea of “calories in” and “calories out” has become the center of a heated debate between two sides:
BELIEVERS: One side says that if you aren’t losing weight, you’re either eating too many calories, not exercising enough…or both.
NON-BELIEVERS: The other side thinks the whole idea is oversimplified and misguided.
So… who’s right about how to lose weight? Or are both sides missing something?
My opinion is that on one side they are right, if we are holding onto more calories than we are burning, yes, we will gain weight. But is it just a matter of moving more and eating less in order to lose weight? My opinion? No, it’s not that simple.
There are physiological, psychological and biochemical reasons why some people eat more, retain more fat and move less than other people.
There’s no getting around it: If you aren’t losing weight, you either need to decrease “energy in” or increase “energy out.” But, that may involve far more than just pushing away your plate or spending more time at the gym.
For instance, it may require you to:
- Get more high-quality sleep to better regulate hunger hormones so you aren’t spending all your motivation in trying to resist that second helping.
- Try to stress-less. Using techniques like meditation, deep breathing, exercise and spending time in nature. We know cortisol, the stress hormones, is linked to insulin secretion and insulin is strongly correlated to fat retention.
- Move more. Increase your daily non-exercise movement by parking the car a few blocks away from your destination, taking the stairs, and/or standing while you work
- Improve the quality of what you’re eating, as opposed to reducing the quantity. This can allow you to eat more food with fewer total calories
- Tinker with the macronutrient makeup of what you eat. For example: eating more protein and fibre and fat and reducing refined carbohydrates may stimulate your metabolism to burn more and store less
- Experiment with the frequency and timing of your meals and snacks, based on personal preferences and appetite cues. Intermittent fasting (IF) or my favourite, Time Restricted Eating (TRE)are great tools for some people, not everyone, but for some they works wonders.
- Consider temporarily tracking your food intake-via hand portions or weighing/measuring-to ensure you’re eating what you think you’re eating (as closely as reasonably possible). Try using an online tool like My Fitness Pal to get an exact idea of what works or doesn’t work for you.
- Consult with your physician or specialists if consistent lifestyle changes aren’t moving the needle. There are medical conditions or certain medications that may be hindering your ability to lose weight.
Sometimes the solutions are obvious; sometimes they aren’t and sometimes what works for someone will work for you, and sometimes it won’t. Never doubt how unique you are from the inside out. An answer is out there, you just might have to look for it!
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