Small food changes & slow weight loss – diet myths

Making small food changes to your diet produces a slow weight loss. According to some “experts”, including the NHS, losing weight this way is really easy. In fact, their overall message is that slow and steady is the best way to lose weight:

"Making small, simple changes to what and how much you are eating and drinking can really help you lose the pounds."

❓ So why is the overweight and obesity level in the UK so rapidly increasing?

❓ Why are so many people struggling to achieve a significant weight loss?

no - the benefit of small food changes and slow weight loss is wrong information

But, the benefits of losing weight slowly through small food changes is wrong information!

In real life and especially for those needing to lose significant excess weight, ie those living with obesity, slow and steady weight loss is generally utter nonsense!!

This article sets out to dispel the diet myths about small food changes and slow weight loss. Whether you carry on believing these diet myths is up to you but be aware the battle will be longer and far harder than is necessary. Ultimately you are likely to fail if you stick with the same old diet fairy tales.

Small food changes

No doubt you will have read the daily articles in the media telling us how just “eating less of this food” or “swapping this food for that food” can shed the pounds. They even have the gall to claim that the weight loss will be for good but where is the evidence?

The need to eat less calories than we need to lose weight is unequivocal so what is wrong with the concept of small food changes?

Eating less:

Let us take toast as an example.

Eating 1 less piece of toast each day, at 80 calories per slice, will save you 29,200 calories in a year.

toast - eat less of what to lose weight?

For those preferring to see the maths of a small food change in action:

80 calories x 365 days = 29,200 calories lost from your diet per year.

🙌🏿 29,200 calories !!

This is a massive number and one that is sure to get many people thinking their weight troubles are over. Unless of course their daily calorie excess is greater than 80 calories.


For real weight loss to occur it is necessary to lose the extra calories which are stored as body fat.

Excess weight comes at a cost of about 3,500 calories per pound of body fat.

So, if you were not eating ANY excess daily calories, eliminating that one slice of toast per day should lose you around 8 pounds of excess weight in a year. We say “should”, because as you will read further on in this article, it is by no means a guaranteed weight loss.

💡 Think of an individual needing to lose just 3 stone, this rate of weight loss will take them over 5 years to rid them of their excess weight.

A poll of 1000 British women shows why expecting to achieve 5 years of dieting, without deviation, is something out of a fairy tale, a diet myth:

While one in seven of women in Britain can stick with a diet for 13 weeks or more, nearly one in four succumb to their favourite food cravings after four weeks.

Weeks? Truthfully, how long do most New Year’s resolutions really last?

Toast, or any other food you can think of that you eat often (ie you like the stuff), is unlikely to be eliminated anywhere near long enough to make even this small difference. Start thinking of eliminating more than one of your “treats” and with realism you’ll know your diet will be doomed.

Do diet swaps offer a better chance of diet success than small food changes?

We are often advised not to eliminate the foods we like after all.

This is a direct quote regarding the “amazing” calorie savings on offer by making 40 (yes 40!) diet swaps. You’d think you’d won the lottery if you take it at face value and note the authors knows this is not likely with their get out clause:

To help you lose weight, we compiled 40 simple swaps that slash your calorie intake significantly. If you made all of these in one week (of course, a lofty goal), you would save over 4,960 calories!

With reference to the data from the poll we mentioned earlier, the ability to sustain diet swaps for any meaningful length of time is poor. The real-life effect will be far less than the predicted 1.4lb loss per week from achieving all of these diet swaps each and every week for the 7.5 months needed to lose 3 stone.

Since a person seriously overweight enough to want to diet, is of course eating more than just the odd extra 80 or so calories a day, the futility of both small food changes and diet swaps is further compounded.

Consuming many calories more than is needed for weight maintenance means body weight is not stable but increasing. A reduction of say 500 calories per day for someone overeating at 500 calories per day only forces weight maintenance, not weight loss.

A single chocolate bar will contain around 250 calories!

chocolate bar contains around 250 Calories - enough of a small food change to get weight loss?

Small food changes and diet swaps are therefore more ideally suited to a weight maintenance strategy after significant weight loss has been achieved.

Maintaining weight loss is not as easy as you are being told. Don’t be fooled into thinking your metabolism has been damaged. This again is a diet myth.

Once you have lost significant weight you cannot underestimate the task ahead of you. It is much more than just eating less than you did before dieting successfully. Your body and brain do not understand immediately that you designed for the weight loss to happen. They will be working hard to prevent you from starving to death so please take weight maintenance as seriously as you did the weight loss.

The maths behind slow weight loss

Other “expert” advice says there is some mythical benefit to health by making sure the weight loss happens slowly, or should we say “slooooowly”.

Slow and steady wins the race, doesn't it?

Tortoise - slow and steady diet myth of small food changes


For our individual who has just 3 stone to lose. Are you sure slow and steady is best?

Let’s think about some analogies… after all how slow is slow?

If you eat 1 fewer calorie every day than you need, it would in theory take 3500 days to lose a single pound of excess weight. This is about 10 years!

Eat 2 fewer calories per day and you cut the time to 5 years.

Get the idea?

credit-card - think of excess weight and obesity like tackling a maxed out credit card

If you have someone with a maxed-out credit card, do we advise them to pay the balance off at 1p per month? Pay £1 or £1000 per month and in time the end result is the same, isn’t it? Well, yes, but this is only relevant if the outstanding balance is very low.

A £10,000 balance would take 10 months to clear at a £1000 per month repayment at 0% interest. This is going to have an impact on this individual’s life in the short term in that their spending power will be vastly curtailed. But this is a good thing. Re-addressing good spending behaviours during this time should help them not max the credit card out next time.

The same £10,000 balance at £1 a month repayment will take 10,000 months which equates to an eye watering 833 years!! So, in reality this individual will not repay their debt, nor undergo any behavioural change.

🧠 You may be thinking that the second scenario is better.

It is less painful when it comes to the repayments, but in life there is so much more complication. Although the debt is static and long-standing, their lack of financial health means they are inevitably doomed when it comes to dealing with rising interest rates, life events, etc.

Slow and steady doesn’t seem the wise option here.

Excess weight is no different. Too slow is equivalent to NEVER.

Our health may be lucky enough to “get away with excess weight” in the short term with a slow and steady approach but our lack of overall long-term health will soon catch up with us. Even if you are one of the very few who can sustain small food changes and diet swaps, one or more of the 200 plus medical conditions strongly linked to excess weight will inevitably not be fought off as we age with the excess weight.

Compare this with rapid weight loss, assuming optimal nutrition continually achieved throughout the dieting process to ensure we are not following a fad diet. At a slow and steady weight loss of 1lb a week it will take just over 10 months to lose 3 stone. That is nearly a year and we have already seen most dieters do not have this level of dieting longevity.

To achieve 2 pounds a week loss, it would be necessary to eat 1000 calories a day fewer than the number of calories actually utilized. For many women this is lower than nutritionally achievable since 1200 calories is the lowest normal food diet that provides adequate nutrition.

How fast is too fast weight loss?

If slow is the name of the game, how slow should we go?

The general advice for traditional dieting (just eating less) is to lose around 1 to 2lb a week. But, if slow is the aim surely a 2lb weight loss is worse than a 1lb weight loss? Why not half a pound or just 100grams a week?

This may seem facetious but it highlights the nonsense dogma that surrounds dieting rhetoric.

Why diet swaps do not work

Incidentally all this advice ignores our modern-day lifestyle of easily accessible and plentiful food.

How many years have you tried to cut back with no success?

Wake up!

The living person has a brain that has been programmed, since primitive times, to have a very strong need to obtain food. The same brain pathways that forced our ancestors to hunt and gather in the face of a hostile environment have now been recognised to be the same as the addiction pathways for alcohol or drugs.

Would you expect an alcoholic to achieve success by advising them to switch to beer instead of wine or whiskey, since it contains less alcohol? Should that cure the addiction?

Is there a diet that works?

We have shown making small food changes and diet swaps might prevent weight gain and is best reserved for maintaining lost weight after dieting. They are next to useless for achieving significant weight loss. Why else are millions of people continually struggling with excess weight?

To deal with excess weight effectively we must take the issue more seriously

It is essential to stop the substance of abuse and also accept that there may be an occasional need to cope with some recidivism as with any other addictive behaviour.

Achieving significant weight loss when you are fighting this powerful biological function requires an intake that has only the calories provided by the essential nutrients and no other ordinary food. The rapid rate of weight loss and the additional inherent behaviour change and palate retraining are also of huge benefit.

Significant weight loss takes much more science and science is what makes Lipotrim a "Gold standard diet".

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