Eating Versus Exercise: What makes the difference in weight loss?

The typical paradigm in weight loss is one you've probably had drilled into your head from a young age: eat less, exercise more and you'll lose weight. 

It's the old calories in, calories out theory. This logic, based in biochemistry, is right. But only to a point. Here are the people this theory fails: 

  1. The person who is eating within their caloric range for weight loss, working out several days a week, and isn't losing a pound. In fact, they may be gaining weight. 

  2. The person who maybe counts calories, but isn't perfect. However, they exercise a LOT. Probably every day. If they exercise, they don't care as much about what they eat. Or, if they know they had a bad day of eating, they'll exercise a little more just to level out the difference. They might be in okay physical shape, but they're not near their goal and feel like they've hit a plateau. 

Here's the issue. QUANTITY matters, only to a point. QUALITY trumps in the long term. 

And the reality: you can maintain your healthy weight by eating a quality diet WITHOUT intense exercise. This is not to say exercise isn't important (it sure is), but it is not the essential part of weight loss. From a metabolic standpoint, what you are eating affects your weight more than exercise. 


The reason that quality of diet is so important is because our bodies are a system and food is information. Your metabolism is affected by your thyroid, stress levels, gut health, blood sugar levels, and mitochondrial health. The type of food that you eat affects the type of message sent to these systems in body.

Not all foods affect the body in the same way. 

100 calories of sweet potato does not have the same effect as 100 calories of white bread.

50 calories of a quality olive oil does not have the same effect as 50 calories of a refined and hydrogenated oil like canola oil.

A 500 calorie meal full of processed foods (pasta, sauces, processed meats, packaged foods) is not the same as a 500 calorie meal full of whole foods, minimally processed and refined, and full of foods from the earth.

Real, whole, unprocessed foods are a language that your body can understand. 

They lower your blood sugar, reduce inflammation, support thyroid, gut, and mitochondrial function. 

so what does this mean for me if I want to lose weight?

While quality of food matters most, exactly what you eat depends on your personal circumstance (high carb, low carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, flexitarian...). Everyone is different. As a functional nutritionist, I work to first identify if there are any underlying issues in any of the body's systems - thyroid, adrenal, gut, mitochondria, inflammation, blood sugar dysregulation. Then we use food and lifestyle to bring the body back towards balance. We find what is appropriate for you. 

If I could tell you one thing to start today, it is to listen to your body. Notice how you feel after a meal - are you tired, anxious, irritable? Hungry 1-2 hours later? Craving sweets or salty foods? Noticing acne, bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea? All of this is information. Don't ignore it. 

Contact me here to work with me.

Jen Unruh