Using Ockham's Razor To Streamline Your Weight Loss Efforts

William of Ockham, born in 1285 was a Franciscan friar known to us today through his philosophy on decision making which has come to be known as Ockham’s Razor. The basic tenet of his theory is that the simplest answer is usually the correct one.

When solving a crime police detectives will focus their attention on the most likely suspects before looking into more improbable scenarios. Doctors will attribute a patient’s symptoms to the most likely illness before investigating a rarer diagnosis. Ockham’s Razor suggests these early suspicions will prove correct which justifies the hierarchy of thinking.

Unfortunately when pursuing fitness goals we can easily lose sight of the likely suspects blocking our progress. Oftentimes unscrupulous marketing, catchy media headlines or buzzing social trends will derail our focus and trap us in a spiral of complicated solutions to a simple problem.

By applying Ockham’s Razor we can strip away the clutter and leave behind the core principles which ultimately govern our success. Let’s take the classic example:


Ockham’s Razor suggests you are simply not in negative energy balance. Either you are consuming too much or expending too little. It’s not because you have failed to implement the perfect fat-burning exercise into your workout, it’s not because you have exhausted your supply of the latest metabolism boosting supplement and it’s not because you missed your target macronutrient ratio by a few grams of carbs.

Strip away all this noise and you are left with the root cause of the problem.

I accept energy balance is simple on paper but multi-faceted in practice but even so there are only a handful of options to play with when looking to tip the scales in your favor. 

  • We can perform intense exercise to increase lean mass and boost metabolic rate
  • We can consume more whole foods to increase the thermic effect of feeding
  • We can move more frequently to increase non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis
  • Last but certainly not least we can consume fewer calories (food and liquids)

If your weight loss protocol does not (directly or indirectly) involve one or more of these options then you are likely spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.

Time to bring out Ockham’s Razor!