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Weight loss: Can you do it with diet and exercise alone?

Weight loss: Can you do it with diet and exercise alone?


Common advice you hear when it comes to losing weight is do more exercise (like walking) and eat less. Logic dictates that if you burn more calories than you consume, you can shed the extra weight quickly. While that might sound like an easy plan on paper, in reality, diet and exercise can only help you so much. There are certain other elements in the weight loss equation that you must account for.  

Obesity is a complex disease

Did you know there are at least 10-12 factors that influence obesity?
Hereditary factors, the condition of the nerve signals in your brain, hormonal imbalance, stress, depression, anxiety, medications, sleepless nights, some medical conditions, social factors, economic circumstances, cultural influence1 

Read more to know the relationship between diet, exercise, the above factors and obesity.


  • In a study done in the UK, “availability of a variety of bad foods” was cited as the top reason for obesity. Most people also felt that “obesity is the individual’s fault”.2 
  • While there may be some truth to it, it is not the whole truth. Diet is just one of the many variables that help in the prevention of obesity.
  • There are a lot of fad diets that are being followed, such as Keto diets, high protein diets, intermittent fasting, and the like. Unfortunately, these diets do not allow for personalized variations and preferences and therefore may not provide long-term weight loss.3 
  • It is important to know that eating habits are not your fault. The amount of food you eat is largely under the control of your brain. The body looks at its fat reserves, keeps a watch on when you last ate and sends signals to the brain based on the response. Based on these signals, your brain tells you when to eat and when to stop. The signal that your brain sends for you to stop eating is called the “satiety signal”. If your energy levels are slow, satiety signals are delayed and you eat more. If there is an imbalance in these signals, it may lead to obesity.4


  • Exercise is something that can’t be ignored. It has several benefits, which go beyond weight reduction. It helps to improve overall physical and mental health. Walking is considered a “non-exercise activity”. Although it increases energy expenditure.5 It is not sufficient to achieve overall health in obesity.6 It is important to devise a proper weight loss workout routine that increases energy expenditure without harming your body and stick to it.
  • However, obesity is not just about being inactive or dieting and exercise. There could be genetic, hormonal, and other factors that contribute to obesity. Thus, you need not blame yourself or feel guilty when you eat more or exercise less. Therefore, you should consult an obesity specialist who can provide a holistic plan suited to you to help you keep the excess weight off over the long-term.

Thus, talk to a specialist to take the appropriate steps to counter obesity.


  1. Apovian CM. Obesity: Definition, comorbidities, causes, and burden. Am J Manag Care. 2016;22:S176-S185.
  2. Beeken RJ and Wardle J. Public beliefs about the causes of obesity and attitudes towards policy initiatives in Great Britain. Public Health Nutrition. 2013;16(12):2132–2137.
  3. Fad Diets Explained [Internet]. American Association of Clinical Endocrinology. 2021 [cited 4 October 2021]. Available from: https://www.aace.com/disease-and-conditions/nutrition-and-obesity/fad-diets-explainedNiemiro GM, Rewane A, Algotar AM. Exercise and Fitness Effect On Obesity. 2021 Jun 8. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 30969715. 
  4. Levine JA, McCrady SK, Lanningham-Foster LM, et al. The role of free-living daily walking in human weight gain and obesity. Diabetes. 2008 Mar;57(3):548-54. 
  5. Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. Obesity Prevention Source, Physical activity. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/physical-activity-and-obesity/. Accessed on 25th August 2021. 

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