People who discover I lost a lot of weight automatically assume I had some sort of intense exercise program. They want to know what kind of exercise I was doing and how much. The truth is I really didn’t exercise at all. Throughout my 130 lb weight loss over the course of a year I didn’t exercise at all beyond a random walk in the neighborhood.
Connecting exercise to weight loss is a big mistake. A stronger and healthier heart, respiratory system, musculature, improved energy, reduced stress, and exercise’s many other benefits are great reasons to exercise. Weight loss is not a good reason to exercise.
I was carrying around over 130 pounds more than I am now every waking hour. That’s exertion. That’s exercise. Obviously its not exercise that is the solution. Think about it. If you began carrying a hundred pounds around even most of the day wouldn’t you expect to lose a lot of weight?
I know overweight people who exercise intensely every day and don’t lose weight. There are overweight people who exert themselves at their job each day – construction workers, farmers, etc.
Another pattern I know I fell into using exercise to lose weight was starting some sort of intense program in conjunction with a diet and then when I hit the goal or end of the diet the exercise program would end too.
Ever notice how all the exercise gizmos that promise to cause weight loss always include some sort of disclaimer or small print like “when combined with a healthy diet?” That’s because its the diet, not the gizmo, that will make the difference in weather the customer loses any weight. They know they’d face all kinds of lawsuits if they promised weight loss as a result of using their product. All they need to do to fend of the lawsuits is tell the truth – that you have to change your eating to lose weight.
They could sell a whistle and put a picture of spandex-clad model on the package. The infomercial could include one actor after another saying things like “I blew this whistle every day and could just feel the weight flying off.” “Blow this whistle every day and lose five pounds a month…” Of course the fine print just has to read “when used in conjunction with a healthy diet.”
I can hear the protests now: “But Eric, when you build muscle and exercise you burn more calories even when you aren’t in the gym exercising!” This is true – to an extent. The problem is the improvement is so easily offset by unwise eating habits. Suppose you up your calorie burning rate by a full 25%. That is lost with a bowl of ice cream or order of fries. You can speed up your metabolism with exercise but skipping meals, irregular or sporadic eating, and starving yourself ratchets it right back down.
Usually when people are exercising to lose weight they are also dieting. That usually means they are starving themselves to some extent while adding other forms of chaos to their food intake. This is all horrible for metabolism and regulating weight. Here, the exercise just compounds the problem by making the body require more, feel more hungry, experience more pain, and introducing another way to fail and lose confidence.
There’s simply no way around the fact that to manage stored energy (fat) you have to manage energy intake – eating. Managing only energy expenditure can not address problems with eating. Exercise is basically just another magic pill.
Why not do both? Why not attack the problem from both ends? Had I already had a regular exercise program when I began losing weight I wouldn’t have stopped. The truth is I didn’t an exercise program. I wasn’t exercising and I knew my food was the first thing I needed to change, not my amount of exercise so I focussed on the food. Now that I am at a healthy body weight I can choose an exercise program for all the right reasons and it won’t be attached to my weight.
The problem with attaching exercise to weight loss is the same problem as attaching other external things to weight loss like pills and diets; if the external element is removed the whole endeavor fails. The solution is beginning from the inside. Find out who you want to be in regards to food and the rest of life and be that person. Learn to be aware of, listen to, and act on your own highest inner intention and everything else will pleasantly fall into place.