When 'Eat Less, Exercise More' Is Not Enough

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Many patients come to me after years of trying to lose weight. Often, they are told to ‘eat less and exercise more.’

There is a tendency to reduce complex problems into catchy, overgeneralized soundbites - and doctors are just as likely to use them as the rest of the population.

‘Eat less, exercise more’ is ineffective in many cases. If you are not losing weight but feel like you should be, then it is worth investigating possible biochemical impediments that may be affecting you.

Let’s go over a few situations that are proven to inhibit weight loss in healthy individuals.

a bowl of berries. text overlay says when eat less, exercise more is not enough

Adrenal Fatigue

When people hear ‘hormone imbalance’ they usually think of reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone. There are many other hormones in the body that serve hundreds of purposes.

Your adrenal glands balance electrolytes in your body, are vital for kidney function, and they release adrenaline. Your adrenal glands also produce cortisol, a stress hormone. When cortisol is either too high or too low - you will not be able to burn fat.

In different chemical scenarios, stress can cause both high and low cortisol and is usually classified as ‘adrenal fatigue' or 'adrenal dysfunction.’

Blood Sugar Imbalance

Insulin resistance is an increasing problem due to generally poor diets and low levels of exercise. Insulin is a hormone that comes from your pancreas; it is the key to ‘unlock' the fuel from your food. Insulin resistance is when the cells in your tissues, muscles, and liver do not adequately respond to insulin - this causes your pancreas to release more and more insulin to compensate.

Persistent, abnormal blood sugar caused by insulin resistance results in your cells not getting the fuel they need. Insulin resistance is the biggest impediment to weight loss.

When our body is unable to derive fuel from food adequately, its priority becomes sustaining adequate cellular function - not losing excess weight.

Without addressing insulin resistance, your dieting will have little to no satisfactory results.

Many patients with blood sugar imbalance can fix the problem with proper diet and lifestyle interventions. Your treatment will depend on what you are eating now, any additional medical conditions and other symptoms you may have.

If, for example, we find a bacterial infection in your gut or we see you have food allergies then we will tailor your diet and nutritional medicines accordingly.

Hormone-Mimicking Chemicals: Xenoestrogens

We are exposed to xenoestrogens on a daily basis. These chemicals mimic the body’s estrogen and can create a situation where the body has an excess of estrogen.

All hormone levels have a 'sweet spot,' too low or too high can cause many problems, including significantly slowing your metabolism.

Xenoestrogen levels are correlated with weight gain, obesity, thyroid problems, sexual dysfunction, and increase the risk of various types of cancers. Both men and women feel the effects of xenoestrogens.

When there is an overabundance of estrogen, the liver can become overwhelmed and eventually become ineffective at burning fat. This situation is especially prevalent in women whose progesterone levels are very low in comparison to their estrogen.

In addition to disrupting normal liver function and causing hormone imbalance, xenoestrogens disrupt blood sugar which, in turn, affects insulin function. When insulin stops working it becomes extremely difficult to burn fat.

We are exposed to xenoestrogens from sources like plastics, most processed foods, household and industrial cleaners, cosmetics, furniture, and coatings on cookware (like Teflon and copper).

Gut Imbalance / Infection

The health of your gut microbiome impacts weight gain and weight loss. Your intestinal tract is filled with bacteria that is vital for your immune system and the conversion of fuel into usable energy.

An imbalance in this delicate microbiome resulting in too much ‘bad’ bacteria can result in you burning an estimated 300 fewer calories per day than someone with a healthy microbiome.

That loosely translates to 0.5-1lb of fat per week that you do not burn as a result of your gut microbiome. That is the equivalent of running 3 miles every day to make up the difference!

An underlying gut infection can create many other symptoms and even contribute to disease processes. It also creates inflammation throughout the body and inflammation impedes the fat burning process.

So this means that even if you are eating a perfect diet and you have underlying inflammation, your efforts could very well be thwarted by inflammation from a ‘silent infection.’