Weight Loss – Why eating less isn’t the answer

by Brad Pilon

Some simple truths when it comes to weight loss:

You’re probably not going to see a magic weight loss pill in your lifetime.

Despite pouring of dollars into anti-obesity drug development, and with many great and creative minds working on the problem  for the last couple decades the Holy Grail of an anti-obesity drug that is both highly effective and safe appears elusive.

(Which of course beg the question – What the heck do the supplement marketers know that these guys don’t )

and quick fixes don’t seem to work either….

Exercise is great, but even the best exercise program can’t prevent things like social overeating, mindless eating, food addiction, or the like.

(fancy way of saying you can’t out train a bad diet)

So if we aren’t getting an anti-obesity drug anytime soon, and exercise has it’s place, but isn’t the cure all…the question becomes:

Why are we so afraid to eat less?

We’ve even tried the opposite (The eat more to lose weight approach) which has the pleasant effect of making you never feel hungry, but you also never really feel lean either.

In the health and fitness world we’ve promoted all combination of proteins, fats and carbs. For some reason none of these combinations had staying power as ‘the cure’

On the government side (where we are typically afraid to take a stand on anything) we stick with the ambiguous and nonsensical “Get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy and balanced diet”

Which of course begs the questions

What type of Exercise?

How much Exercise?

What is healthy?

What is balanced?

And even when we know what ‘healthy and balanced’ is, we’re still skirting the issue of ‘HOW MUCH” healthy and balanced diet.

The answer is less.

If you weigh more than you want to, you are eating more than you need to.

Most likely, our timidness to say ‘eat less’ comes from the fact that there is a small group of people who always see things in black or white type extremes.

So ‘less’ to them means A LOT LESS, or even BARELY ANYTHING….And this is scary.

(I’m not sure why this is, but I have a hunch it has a lot to do with this post –> Perfect abs)

That being said, if this IS the reasoning for shying away from saying ‘eat less’ then we are putting the needs of a few people ahead of the needs of a massive group of people (pun not intended), and this isn’t right.

The other reason we may shy away from saying ‘eat less’ is that it creates the need to know ‘how much less’.

This question creates the need for calorie counting, and predictive equations.

And predictive equations create the need for guesstimating fat mass and lean body mass and the average calorie burning associated with exercise.

So we measure, predict and guesstimate…then pretend it’s all 100% fact.

Because if there is one thing us ‘experts’ don’t like to say..it’s I DON’T KNOW (again probably because of this –> perfect abs)

Now, we all have our estimates (I like 10 times IDEAL body weight if you’re NOT doing Eat Stop Eat,  11 or 12x if you ARE doing Eat Stop Eat), but again, they are ALL estimates.

This is where the confusion sets in…we start pretending we know EXACT numbers when everything is estimates.

So it could be our fear that people would take ‘eat less’ to the extreme that keeps us from saying ‘eat less’. It could be the fact that by saying ‘eat less’ we have to admit that we don’t know EXACTLY how much less.


It could also be the simple fact that ‘eating less’ doesn’t sell.Eat Stop Eat

You don’t sell magazine covers, diet programs, books etc with the headline “EAT LESS TO LOSE WEIGHT” it’s not catchy, it’s not sexy and it certainly doesn’t put you in a “Oh my gosh I HAVE to buy this” frame of mind.

So, those are probably the three biggest reasons why eating less isn’t the answer.

Of course, there is the one reason why Eating less IS the answer…. it works.



Clement September 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Hey Brad, when you say 10-12x ideal bodyweight, are you referring to

a) the calories that you can eat on your Eat days or

b) the amount of calories that you can actually consume in a week, aka 12x150x7 and then spread it over your Eat days, while fasting once or twice a week?

Bill Pairaktaridis September 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I loved both this post and the Perfect Abs one. Things are seriously a lot simpler than most people make them out to be. But I guess that’s the only to sell more books and programs…

Brad Pilon September 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Michael Lee September 30, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Nice post Brad!

You also forgot to mention that by eating more we cater to the consumerism of the world. If you eat less….then they sell less….

In fact, conspiracy theorists argue that many of the items we are told to eat are the exact things that the government subsidized. Some have argued this is why the eating pyramid was created – to get us to eat those items.

Going further with the conspiracy is that the medical field is BIG business and being fat leads to all kinds of problems that need doctors, who prescribe drugs, do surgery, etc.

Then, there is the cyclical need for gym memberships, trainer, supplement companies, etc.

Heck Brad….looks like you are single-handedly trying to take down the economy!!!

AlekIsHere September 30, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I don’t think there is a conscious conspiracy to do this, its just the “collective unconscious of different commercial interests, meeting different mental complexes, and over-protective medical professionals.

With that being said, I do think there is an “unconcious” conspiracy in keeping people from the “eat less” solution”. I don’t believe there’s a central planner in a room deciding to make it happen, but it happens when different pieces come together.

Let me give you one piece as an example that I’ve been using to explain to people. When a researcher wants to do a study, he needs funding. Well, here’s the thing… You could have 20 researchers who want to do a study on “the effects of simply telling people to eat less”. Ignore for a moment my silly study name, as no study would be titled that way, but I’m just making a point. Now think, who’s gonna fund that study? There is no commercial interest in funding that one. A lot of studies are actually funded by food producers.

Then, there’s the second tier… The media. What freaking magazine will have a story “hey, a new study finds that if you just find ways to eat less, you lose weight”… What the heck magazine/tv-station gets eyeballs with that story? This is why they keep running stories on “study finds food xyz helps people lose weight”. Its not a concious conspiracy, it just sounds more sensational and interesting to read. Starting out with that the study on xyz food was easier to get funded.

Here’s another piece: the radical Vegan lobby. A lot of these people are like a religion. They believe they need to get everyone on a vegan diet by any means necessary and that includes faking studies and filling the media with scare stories on anything and everything food related. You can watch the documentary “fat head” on that one.

Basically… they push their religion by any means possible. I’d say most of the obsession with “healthy way to lose weight” was actually started by these folks. They’re behind a lot confusion and fear tactics related to weight loss.

john September 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm

beautiful, simple, and the truth… thanks Brad. jb

Otti October 1, 2010 at 3:19 am

Brad, I’m 100% with you that the way to go in order to lose weight is to eat less. However I’m not sure I agree that others are ignoring the issue of “how much”. In fact many diets and nutritionists do refer to portion size and to the need to reduce quantities.

Magda October 1, 2010 at 4:46 am

Additionally the concept of eating less seems so hard to implement. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. I hate counting calories and planning meals, eating is a spontaneous activity for me, so the idea of checking the calorie content of everything I eat and deciding what I’ll have for dinner during breakfast is just dreadful. Plus restricting calories is often associated with the feeling of hunger.

ESE makes it all so easy I just can’t believe it. I did my fast yesterday, didn’t even feel hungry all day, had a small dinner, went to sleep and now I still feel absolutely full after the black coffee I had this morning. Normally I would eat breakfast at home regardless if I wanted food or not, and by the time I get to work it would be very hard for me not to stop by the bakery for a muffin. Now I used to take fentermine pills for some time in my life and even that didn’t do the job. I guess it’s because fentermine is suppose to work as a hunger suppresant and there was no hunger to supress, my eating was just a bad habit.

Brad Pilon October 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

Portion sizes still don’t give a measurable how much….you could have a massive bowl of pasta, or a small bowl of pasts with some sauce on it…Portions are an excellent start, and for many people are enough but for some it still avoids the issue of ‘how much’…see my post on my idea for a new food pyramid, many of the comments were people finding ways to ‘cheat’ the system… same thing happens to portions..which in principle should be enough

Heather October 1, 2010 at 10:42 am

Now, we all have our estimates (I like 10 times IDEAL body weight if you’re doing Eat Stop Eat, 11 or 12x if you are doing Eat Stop Eat), but they are ALL estimates.

This is where the confusion sets in…

s October 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

though i would agree with you generally, i have to say its not as simple as that…sometimes, its just things like pregnancy that mess things up….i dont eat much at all, and i can honestly say my diet is very healthy, without being extreme (i.e. i will have my yummy dessert indulgence once a wk)…and generally i am not classed as fat in any way…however, my abs have totally betrayed me, and the jelly belly just wont go until i exercise myself to oblivion….the sad truth is that the more overwt you are, the quicker u lose wt, and as all my wt is only concentrated on my abs, losing wt for me is a major struggle…i fast twice a week, and yes i can see a difference, but a minor one so far, plus like i said, its the exercise that will tackle a jelly belly, not “eating less”…as a college-going mom of two, i cant find the time to exercise as often and as consistently as i would like, tho i will aim for 3 half-hour sessions of cardio each week (honestly managing one session most wks these days).
also, we have to take into account age – the older you are, the slower your metabolism, esp. if u havent reduced ur portions as u have reduced ur physical activity/exertion.
and lastly, the other factor is quality of the food u eat…u might “eat less” but if its all coming out of cans and packets, or if the meat and eggs u r consuming are from animals that are treated like crap, then that will definitely affect your wt and your health….there is simply no substitute for healthy, fresh, home-cooked meals.

Terri October 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the reminder once again that simple is better. I recently had a baby and I gained 40 pounds. I’m really struggling with the last 10 pounds. Last week I ran into an old friend, and she lost a ton of weight since I last saw her. Well, I asked her, so what’s your trick to staying so thin? Her reply was so simple it made me laugh – “Well, you really just have to eat less, and to lose weight, you have to eat less than your body needs. Try going to bed hungry every night.” I laughed because it was something that you could tell an alien from another planet or even someone from another country, and they would like “no duh!” We tend to just make everything so complicated, and I do agree that losing weight is a huge business. There are a ton of people that would be out of jobs if we all just stopped eating snacks, breakfast, candy, or drinking monstrous frappuccinos, etc.
Love your blog, and glad to be back on track after a year hiatus!

Danelle October 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I’m confused by the statement “We all have our estimates (I like 10x IDEAL Body Weight if you are doing Eat Stop Eat, 11 or 12x if you are doing eat stop eat), but they are ALL estimates. This sentence didn’t make sense to me. Please expound. Which is it? Ideal body weight? Define that. It seems like the sentence SHOULD read I like 10x Ideal body weight it you are NOT doing eat stop eat, and 11 or 12 x ideal if you ARE. These would yield roughly the same # calories if you are thinking that ESE gives a 20% redux in calories over a weeks time. Please just elaborate on your statement a little more. Thanks Brad!! And yes believe it or not I AM TRYING to let go of OCE tendencies!!

John Sutcliffe October 1, 2010 at 7:32 pm

At last an honest statement of simple fact. We put warnings on cigarette packets and we try to prevent children from buying alcohol and tobacco products but we allow them to enter fast food places and feed them junk processed food. The unpalatable truth is that the United States of America has become a cancer, grossly consuming way over it’s fair share of resources and trying to contaminate the rest of the world with unhealthy corn products, etc. Should entry to McDonalds be prevented for those below the age of 21, and should a cheese burger be required to have a health warning on the wrapping?

Brad Pilon October 1, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I see it… sorry. 10x if your NOT doing ESE, 11 or 12x if you are doing ESE..and that’s just for weight loss.

Brad Pilon October 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm


I agree with most of what you said however “its the exercise that will tackle a jelly belly, not “eating less” this isn’t really a substantiated claim, either is the concept that eating ‘healthy’ has anything do do with weight loss.


Brad Pilon October 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm

yep typo..I’ll fix it

Brad Pilon October 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

John..here’s an interesting question based on your questions…

Is our complete population-sized lack of a true understanding of health, and our susceptibility (gullibility) to fall for hack weight loss marketing proof that we need an educational reform when it comes to this side of science?

annayuen October 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

I have no doubt that ‘eating less’ is the answer, becasue ‘it works’. For me, ESE not only help me to lose weight but cure my bloating problem and improve overall health. I have set up a website http://www.fasting-for-weight-loss.com to spread the news. Of course, I eat less along with exercising, at least 30 minutes of swimming four days a week.

Brad Pilon October 2, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Hi Annu,

Yes the fasting-bloating connection is a pleasant bonus. Admittedly ‘bloating’ is something I wish I knew more about (The physiology)

Tracey October 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm

First time posting, but have been a long time fan Brad. Have you ever addressed insulin and it’s roll in fat loss/gain? I ask because many of my friends are on the Paleo diet and they claim that if insulin levels aren’t low (even if your under your calorie goal for the day) you won’t burn stored fat??? They also feel that by eating Paleo, no starch etc they have less belly fat. Have you ever addressed this topic? Thanks in advance.

s October 3, 2010 at 5:50 am


its not any substantiated claim that i am quoting w/ re: to exercise tightening the abs…i guess its something my logic dictates to me: if pregnancy has stretched my muscles to the point that i now have a jelly belly, surely to tighten those muscles i now need to exercise them? no amount of healthy eating/ eating less/ dieting is going to tighten loose muscles….also, our views are formed based on our experiences, and two years ago i went into overdrive and exercised daily, really intense one hour tae bo sessions…my entire body shape changed in two months…my abs were definitely more defined, i dropped two dress sizes, and i had the figure of a teenager…had i been able to keep it up, by now i am positive my abs would be totally flat and tight…of course i was eating healthy too, most of the time, and hence that too is a belief i have come to based on that experience – that eating healthy helps in a big way.

Brad Pilon October 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Ah, I see you point now, so it wasn’t fat you are describing but more just the shape of the stomach in general….then yeah I think I’d have to agree with you…

Paula October 27, 2010 at 10:33 am

Wow this is great material. Thanks Brad. You refer to the book “Mindless Eating”, which is so insightful. One of the points he makes is that we automatically adjust our portion size to match the people we are eating with. I’ve always had a theory that one reason women gain weight when we marry is because we start matching our portion sizes to the plate of a big guy with a high metabolic rate. In the past couple of years, I’ve shared a lot of meals with my thin, elderly mom and when I do, I eat the amount she eats and skip dessert if she does. Over the last several months, doing this and skipping the cookies in the office, I’ve lost 7 pounds without ever feeling deprived.

I’ve also cancelled my subscription to the “health” website that sends me daily email with something to eat “more” of.

Alberto De Andrade January 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Hi Brad, how are you doing?

My mainly goal is to get very ripped, that’s my primary goal. So let’s say that i lost weight on 2000Cals. If I do a 8pm to 8pm FAST, and eat a pizza, and a soda that is let’s say 1800-2000Cals i will be losing BodyFat, and still getting ripped, eating just ‘crap food’? Thanks for the help & Support.

Cheers – Alberto De Andrade.

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