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How Good is Exercise for Weight Loss?

It seems we are bombarded with advertisements for THE workout that will make all the difference to our weight. Magazines, infomercials, facebook ads all suggest the next best one is just around the corner.

And the idea is tempting.  After all, if we believe exercise is the missing key to managing our weight, we can still enjoy our food without thinking we are deprived.

I fell for this philosophy for more of my life than I care to admit.  I didn’t mind exercising and man, I really liked my french fries (and chips.. and candy…).  It was so much easier for my mind to accept the idea of having to just work harder to burn off the food I was still eating than to truly change what I was eating.

So did it work? Nope!  To be fair, there were a few glimmers of success with my “exercise hard and ignore my diet approach” but these involved quite a bit of physical activity and were not sustainable.

You Can’t Outrun Your Fork

The evidence also does not show exercise to be a good weight loss tool by itself.  The old saying of “you can’t outrun your fork” is true.  It is just so easy to eat all the extra food energy you burn in a workout in a matter of minutes.

I remember the show “Kenny Vs Kenny” did an episode on this.  One of them ran on a treadmill while the other ate pepperoni pizza.  Guess who won?  Pepperoni pizza by a landslide.

This is Good News!

This is actually great to know.  It removes one more thing to feel guilty about.  So many of the people I work with talk about how they need to be exercising more in a confessional tone.  Often this perception that exercise is essential can become a barrier to people even starting to work on their weight, particularly if they have joint issues, chronic pain or other mobility problems.

But guess what – you really don’t need to exercise in order to lose weight.  What you eat is so far and away more important than the exercise you do that if you had to just pick one, go with a way of eating that works for you.

So, Forget Exercise??

Not at all! I still believe exercise (or physical activity, if you prefer) is very important for overall health. There is a lot of evidence for benefits in metabolic health, heart health, bone health, mental health etc.

What I am suggesting is to stop focussing on exercise solely as a means to weight loss.  It really isn’t that good at this.  Instead, focus on making exercise enjoyable and something you do because it is good for your body and makes you feel good.  Does the idea of exercise sound crazy to you?  I highly suggest you give it another try when you are no longer depending on it as a weight loss tool.  Then the intensity and calorie burn doesn’t matter.  You can just move in a way that feels good, no matter what that is for your particular body.

Some Additional Thoughts

I think there are situations where exercise helps with weight loss.  If you are sticking with your plans for eating and exercise adds to your results, great! In particular, resistance training (strength) helps maintain lean body mass during a weight loss and can help with weight maintenance.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is showing some positive results in decreasing fat and increasing lean muscle mass.  That’s great if you enjoy it.  Just remember, it still won’t be able to make up for a bad diet.

Listen to this week’s podcast episode below for more thoughts on exercise.

And make sure to tune in next week when Sarah Bowen Shea from Another Mother Runner will be joining me.

Learn to Lose Weight Without the Deprivation

That sense of deprivation is the Achilles heal of most weight loss attempts. Imagine if you could eat exactly what you planned and never feel deprived… the weight loss process would feel so much easier!

My private coaching will teach you to get over feeling deprived and stop depending on willpower.  Sound good? Then lets chat in a free session!

 Book a free introductory session and start finding your solutions!


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