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Can Eating Less Cause Weight Gain? A Follow Up

This is a follow-up to the blog ‘Can Eating Too Little Make You Fatter‘, if you haven’t read that yet, then give it a read before continuing. Sal De Stefano follows up on the subject of eating less for weight loss and why it is a losing strategy long term. You can watch the discussion in the video below (The first 20 minutes). So let’s begin…

Eating less and moving more is one of the most popular weight loss strategies, and is promoted by coaches the world over. It can be effective if you eat a diet of nutritious diet that is high in protein. If you don’t get it right though you could slow your metabolism, have less energy, and experience muscle loss. It is an approach that works in the short term but it’s not the best approach for losing fat and keeping it off.

From a coaching perspective, one of the hurdles that come with taking on a client who has already lost a bit of weight through cutting calories is convincing them to increase the amount they eat with good nutritious food. In their mind, this challenges what they believe to be true and is met with resistance.

The human body is incredibly adaptable. One of the things that it is particularly good at is modifying it’s energy expenditure to the amount of energy that it takes in. This is evolutionary and was essential for survival when humans were hunter-gatherers.

Moving on to modern living and the issue of weight loss through moving more and eating less. At first, moving more and eating less will yield results but eventually, you will hit a wall where weight loss will slow down or stop completely. Psychologically this can be a big blow mentally. This occurs because the body’s metabolism has slowed down to survive on the limited calories consumed. This leads to wanting to move even more and eat even less. Eventually, a point of fatigue will be reached and you’ll simply not have the energy to move. Eventually, this will lead to giving in and beginning to eat more while exercising less, and weight will slowly creep up. This will likely continue until you repeat the cycle again. The end result for most people is the weight coming back, again, again and again.

The solution I try to promote to clients is an improved diet with a maintainable amount of calories for the amount they move. So instead of teaching the body to survive on less calories, teach it to use the right amount of calories for the amount of exercise they do. That way they won’t hit that wall because the diet is maintainable and they’ll be able to achieve weight loss while getting enough nutrition to maintain muscle mass. This is infinitely healthier because ultimately when you starve your body of what it needs the first tissue to go isn’t fat, it’s muscle. This leads to feeling, tired, weak, and fatigued which is completely counterproductive.

The Mind Pump Crew shares stories about clients who have used calorie restriction methods and they see the same story again and again. Clients hit a wall and they regress back to square one, putting the weight back on. I myself have seen it countless times over my 15+ years of being a coach.

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Just like the Mind Pump Crew, my goal as a coach is to get clients to the stage where they can be fit and healthy while strength and mobility training 2 to 3 times a week. This is all most people need as long as they maintain a decent level of nutrition in their diet and are fairly active in their day-to-day lives. It’s certainly preferable to high-intensity cardio like running on a treadmill or even weight training with short rest periods. It’s more sustainable and less likely to cause injury.

The best part of taking this approach is that if you’re able to maintain or even lose weight on more calories you have a bigger margin for error. So if person A has a bar of chocolate and is on 3000 calories a day, as a percentage that chocolate bar is less than person B who is calorie cutting and surviving on 1500 calories a day. It means person A can have more of the foods that bring them joy with less of a detrimental impact on their weight and performance.


One thing that came up on the podcast is Ozempic and other weight loss drugs, which work by suppressing appetite and wanting to eat less. Similar drugs have just been approved by the NHS, and I am opposed to them. They achieve the same outcome as a calorie-cutting diet. Which is weight loss via fat and muscle. I also don’t expect it to make any more difference in the war on obesity but I’m happy to be proved wrong when we finally get some quality research. Ultimately I view weight loss medication as a crutch and not a solution, and as far as I’m concerned it can’t be enjoyable.

Health and Fitness should enhance your quality of life, not harm it. The best way to enhance it in my opinion is through strength training and a high-protein diet that will keep your hunger satisfied while giving you the building blocks you need to heal and grow while speeding up your metabolism. In the short term, this might mean that the dreaded scales show that you have put on a pound or two but if you think metabolically and about your body composition (muscle to fat ratio) instead of weight then it should not be anything to worry about.

 Sustainable weight loss is a long game. If over time your body is getting stronger and steadily performing better during workouts then it is an indicator that weight loss will be achieved the right way, and you’ll both look better and feel better. Surely that’s what everyone wants.


Davie McConnachie

Davie McConnachie is Scotland’s leading health and wellness coach, multi-award-winning gym owner, motivational speaker and the founder of DMC Fitness, a fitness education facility known as the premier choice for 1-2-1 personal training. He has inspired thousands of people to fall in love with fitness – his true purpose and mission in life.

Diving into the world of fitness and wellness has helped Davie to deal with his own trauma and inner demons. He, overcame many dark times using his own unique methods to continue his cycle of healing.