Energy is needed to change eating habits

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We are told that in order to lose weight, we need to use more energy than we take in. “Burn off more than you eat” is the advice. The focus is then on calories and exercise, and the emphasis is on using up as much energy as possible.

But there is a whole other issue around energy which gets overlooked when people talk about weight loss. It is the fact that changing an established eating habit requires effort, which means that it requires energy.

So in order to change an unhelpful eating habit, you need enough energy to be able to change the habit. You don’t need a lot of energy, but you do need some.


Let’s take the example of snacking in the evening when you’re not hungry. If you do this regularly you’ll be carrying around extra weight just from this one habit. Maybe half a stone, maybe more. Like with any eating HABIT, when you change it for good, you’ll lose that weight for good.

You need just enough energy to be able, when you are about to have the snack, to interrupt this automatic sequence of think-of-food-get-a-snack and do something different instead. It will take effort and energy very briefly (maybe 30 seconds). If you are exhausted at this point it will be much harder to do.

Attending to your body’s need to recharge and recover after a demanding day will help you. Building up your energy reserves by rest and relaxation will help. Taking a short break to have a cup of tea or doing a crossword or walking round the block may be enough. Your daily routine will determine when you can do this and trial and error will tell you what works best for you.

  • Remember that it’s not selfish to look after yourself.
  • Many people think that looking after themselves is selfish. So they fail to pay attention to their body’s need for rest.
  • In fact you need to look after yourself to be any use to anyone else.

I work with many people whose energy is very depleted, their mood is flat and they have come to feel helpless about successfully losing weight. What I point out is this:

Before an aircraft takes off, the safety demonstration by the cabin crew emphasises that if oxygen masks are deployed, it is essential to put your own mask on before helping anyone else with theirs. You’re no use to anyone if your oxygen level falls too low.

The same thing applies with energy. If you are too depleted and lacking in energy you are less able to help others, so it’s not selfish to look after yourself. And it is by looking after yourself that you conserve enough energy to make lasting changes to your eating habits.

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