There are no shortcuts to weight loss–it’s all about energy balance!

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about how we can lose weight, or, more specifically, “burn fat”:

Weight loss supplements can help you lose weight in the advertised week or 30 days.

Low-fat foods or sugar-free foods will limit the fat you could potentially gain.

Skipping meals will help our bodies burn the fat and lose weight.

The above are, unfortunately, untrue.

The human body’s weight is regulated by energy balance. To put it simply, it is the balance between the energy you consume through food and the energy you expend to maintain life and to perform work.

Before I go any further, I’d like to make a disclaimer that there are a number of variables that can affect how our bodies function and regulate weight, including genetics and medical factors. However, in general, our bodies regulate our weight through energy balance. Furthermore, the concept of energy balance is a complex concept, and this article aims to just brush the surface. A quick spiel.

So, energy balance—what is it?

Like everything in this world, our bodies comply with the first law of thermodynamics: the principle of energy conservation. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but can be transferred from one location to another or converted to and from other forms of energy.

Energy is transferred into our bodies through the food that we eat. This energy is what we call “kilocalories” or “calories”. Every food contains different amounts of calories. For example, a 52.7g Snickers Bar is about 250 calories, while a 100g of whole milk is about 61 calories.

By the same token, our bodies expend the energy that we consume in our bodies for basic biological processes, for digesting food, and for physical activity. Energy that is not used is converted and stored as fat.

This whole concept of energy balance can be summed up in the following formula:

Change in Energy Stores = Energy In- Energy Out

Given the formula above, the following occurs:

  1. Positive Imbalance
    In this case, energy consumed is greater than energy expended, resulting in unused energy being stored as fat. If one remains in a positive imbalance over a long period of time, the result is weight gain.
  2. Energy Balance
    Energy consumed is equal to the energy expended. The result is weight maintenance
  3. Negative Energy Imbalance
    Energy consumed is less than energy expended. If one remains in a negative imbalance over a long period of time, the result is weight loss.

So, the bottom line is, in order to lose weight, we would need to be at a caloric deficit or a negative energy balance for a period of time. None of that mumbo-jumbo junk about pills and shakes promising you weight loss in a week.


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