Why is it easier to put on weight than it is to lose it?

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: calories in > calories out = weight gain, calories in < calories out = weight loss. But not everyone believes it. After all, I imagine most people would find it far easier to gain five pounds rather than to lose five pounds. If the maths is correct then none of that should matter though, right?

The point is that almost everyone finds it easier to gain weight than to lose it. But is that really the case? What that really means is that people find it easier to make the number on the scales go up, rather than go down. It doesn’t mean that they find building muscle mass easier than burning fat.

Not all weight gain is the same. Yes, it is all as a result of a caloric surplus, but slowly gaining weight over the course of a few months is completely different to gaining a few pounds after an extravagant holiday! Your metabolism can be completely altered by changing habits over the course of a long period of time. That isn’t going to happen after just one weekend. Caloric defecit will still lead to weight loss, your metabolism will just dictate the rate at which this weight is lost.

You hear a lot of the time that you should just ignore what is on the scales. Don’t pay attention to a number that effectively means nothing. I can see what this is trying to get at. You can’t just say that at a certain weight you are healthy and anything above or below that is bad, that’s why BMI is such a poor device. Healthiness is determined by a wide range of factors. But one of those factors is weight and ignoring it completely is just as foolish as ignoring body fat percentage, blood pressure or resting heart rate. You just don’t want to depend on one figure too much.

But there are other reasons why gaining weight seems that much easier. Part of it is psychological. Humans generally enjoy eating and any opportunity to do that a bolit more is going to feel a lot easier than cutting it out. Especially if what you enjoy eating is the stuff that you avoid when you are trying to lose weight. Of course it will feel a lot harder if you are having to stop doing the things that you enjoy.

Then you have to consider the calories out side of that equation. Calories out is not the same as calories burned through exercise. You can go to the NHS website and find out exactly how many calories are lost simply by sitting still for the whole day, which depends on your height and weight currently. The more you weight, the greater that number. So somebody who weighs 60kg can eat exactly the same food and do exactly as much exercise as somebody who weighs 100kg and if that provides a caloric deficit they will both lose weight, but they won’t lose exactly the same amount as each other.

In reality it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be preoccupied with weight on its own. Unless you compete in sports where you actually have to meet certain weight targets then it should just be thought of as another indicator. And you never see people getting worked up about their body fat percentage, do you? Setting targets is important, it gives you something to aim for, but if you decide to make your targets more focused around actual positive lifestyle changes, then the chances are you will be healthier and start to look the way that you wanted. And if that happens then I will guarantee you won’t be at an unhealthy weight.

Ollie Lawrence
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