Reasons why you are fat:
- You consume more energy than you spend.
End of blog.
OK… not really. BUT… it is almost that simple.
For the large majority of people, our body weight (in particular, the amount of that weight made up by body fat) is dictated primarily by how much energy we consume vs. how much energy we burn.
Yes, there are some medical conditions and medications that make weight management very difficult.
But for most people, our capacity to manage our body weight comes down to very, very simple maths....
Energy In vs. Energy Out. Plus vs. Minus. Addition and Subtraction.
If we have more energy coming in than going out, we end up being in an energy surplus.
If we have less energy coming in than going out, we end up being in an energy deficit.
If we have the same amount of energy both in and out, we are energy neutral.
These three scenarios are all that matters when it comes to body weight management (please note: this says weight management, not overall health, we are only talking about weight management here, not health… although intertwined, they are different… cool? Great, let’s continue).
When we are in an energy surplus, our body either uses that left over energy to build muscle (with the right stimulus, but that’s an entirely different blog itself), or stores that energy as glycogen (in your liver primarily), or as triglyceride (body fat) for use at a later time.
When we are in an energy deficit, our body uses other energy sources, one of which is... Yep, that “stubborn” body fat! (interesting side note: most of your body fat is actually exhaled as carbon dioxide. Want to read more about it? We did too. Check out this article)
If you are energy neutral, your body has the right amount of available (absorbed/consumed) energy to burn relative to the amount of energy needed to sustain your activity levels - body fat is neither stored nor ‘burned off’ (exhaled).
So, if you spend more days (or weeks/months/years) in an energy surplus than deficit/neutral, your body is spending more time storing body fat than using it, and hence will be gaining weight.
And how do we consume more energy than we spend? How do we end up in an energy surplus all the time? By eating/drinking too many calories/kilojoules, depending on which unit of measurement for energy you prefer to use (definitions here).
Could this energy come from carbohydrates? Yes, absolutely.
Could this energy come from fat? 100%.
Could this energy come from sugar? Yep, sugar is just a form of carbohydrate.
Could this energy come from protein? You know it.
Could this energy come from junk food? Very easily.
Could this energy come from broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, avocados, beers, burgers or boiled eggs? YES - your body doesn’t distinguish between energy units in this regard - if there is anything left over after your body has used energy each day to keep your body’s systems running, perform basic tasks, heal muscles, fuel workouts and keep you breathing… then mostly, it gets stored as body fat.
And if there isn’t anything left over and your body still needs energy to perform those tasks of living? Then it will ‘burn off’ your body fat.
So, you want to lose weight? Want to decrease your body fat percentage? Want to drop clothing sizes/get shredded/tone your butt/get ripped arms/become leaner/any other description of losing body fat?
Then spend more time in an energy deficit than in a surplus/neutral. And this needs to be done primarily by monitoring how much you consume, not how much you spend!
The slightly cliche saying of ‘You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet’ - is actually very true, people just get hung up on what constitutes a bad diet…
In this saying (and remember, we are just talking about weight management, not health) a ‘bad diet’ simply means one that gives your body too much energy.
The saying should read - ‘In terms of body fat management, it is very difficult to compensate for a high energy diet solely by increasing your energy expenditure’ - but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…
Our point here is this - Exercise is great. It can keep you strong, supple, and sane, if done correctly.
But have you ever eaten a cheeseburger, taken note of the calories in it, and then jumped on a treadmill and tried to burn off the same number of calories or more???
Please don’t, because that will be a very long, very unpleasant time on the treadmill.
It is so easy to ingest calories, yet so much harder to spend those calories through exercise. So, knowing everything you do now, you can see that exercise is not the answer to the fat loss question... right?
You know what is the answer?
Eating less. And drinking less too, if you drink calorie-filled liquids (... which includes basically everything except for water).
For a useful way of tracking your calories (not long term, just to get an idea of your input/output), try a tracking app like MyFitnessPal or FatSecret. It will show you pretty quickly whether you spend more time in an energy surplus or deficit… but odds are, you already know without the app telling you :)