Burn More Calories Than You Consume: USELESS Weight Loss Advice.

We love to simplify things.

Nutrition Professionals are no different.

By far the most common piece of advice offered by these professionals to people trying to lose weight is ‘burn more energy than you consume”.

They claim that reducing body fat is simply a matter of mathematics. And they’re right… sort of.

You see, the first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only moved from one form to another. This means that if you burn more energy thanĀ  you consume, you WILL lose weight.

So this advice is true? Yes. So what’s the problem?

The problem isn’t that this advice isn’t accurate. It’s that this advice is useless.

And it’s useless because it tells people WHAT needs to happen. We need to know HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Give me a show of hands if you think exercise is good for you…

Now keep your hand up if you think you do enough exercise.

I recently did this survey at a keynote I presented. From a group of 75 people, 75 hands went up with question one. Four hands went up with question two.

Largely speaking, people KNOW what they should be doing. They know the WHAT (burn more than you consume). What they don’t know is the HOW. “HOW can I modify my behaviour to burn more energy than I consume?”.

And this is why the advice is useless. Because it educates, but it doesn’t create a behaviour change. And the former without then latter is useless.

Over one billion people on Earth now smoke. We can hazard a guess that the vast majority know this is an unhealthy practice, yet they still smoke. Knowledge is not enough.

It’s like a Financial Advisor telling you that to get rich, all you need to do is earn more than you spend.

Obvious. We all know it.

Useless. We seldom do it.

So what would be a better approach?

The Nutrition Professional should focus on behaviour change, not education. The science of the human mind, not the science of mathematics.

They should guide their clients through a process to shape and modify their habits.

  1. Setting an outcome goal that their client is initially motivated to achieve that is supported by their values.
  2. Creating process goals (planned habits) that identify the actions required to reach an outcome, supported by an environment with a low barrier to action.
  3. Helping their clients to make a start – the key to forming habits.
  4. Help their clients build their ‘willpower muscle’ by guiding them to consistently make choices that lead towards their desired outcome.
  5. Eventually, willpower won’t be required, as habits become automatic.

This process results in positive, long term behaviour change.

And in the end, that’s all we want. Change. Not the knowledge of WHAT to change, but the power of knowing HOW to change.

Dan Williams

Dan Williams


Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology. He has worked with many thousands of individuals along the full spectrum of health, and has coached at The CrossFit Games. He regularly presents to corporate and fitness industry groups and mentors Fitness Professionals.