Why Exercise is NOT the Key to Losing Weight


Creative Commons License photo credit: John Steven Fernandez

Six months ago I weighed 93 kilograms (204 pounds). Today I weigh 83 (182 pounds). In just six months I have dropped a solid 10 kilograms and feel healthier than I have since high school. So how much exercise did I do to achieve that goal? Almost none.

In this post I am going to share with you how I lost the weight and why I am convinced that weight loss has very little to do with the exercise that you do. If you have your own weight loss experiences I would love to hear about them in the comments.

Why my teeth helped me lose weight

So here is the confession. About six months ago I got a new form of orthodontics called Invisalign. Invisalign is basically a series of invisible plates that you wear all day that move your teeth one by one. Every two weeks you change to the next plate and at the end of the series your teeth have gone from crooked to perfectly straight. Which I badly needed.

Anyway, the real kicker is that you can’t eat with them in. You take them out to eat (and drink) and you can only have them out for around 20 minutes at a time. Say goodbye to snacking, sugary drinks in between meals and, of course, say goodbye to second helpings after dinner.

These changes that have been “forced” upon me are the reason I lost 10 kilos so quickly. The secret to lasting and healthy weight loss is not exercise, it is the amount of food you are taking in.

Why exercise is not the answer

Prior to getting these plates I spent a lot of time exercising trying to lose weight. I didn’t have much luck. I would lose one or two kilos but the weight would always come back on as soon as I stopped the intense work outs. Why? Because I was still taking in way too many calories.

Let me show you some maths that I have been thinking about:

One can of Coke has around 155 calories in it.

Running on a treadmill for 20 minutes burns around 150 calories.

That means that after 20 minutes of exercise you have burned off one sugar drink and hardly any fat stores.

As you can see by this simple bit of maths, exercise is not the best way to lose weight. Diet is. It is your diet that will make or break your progress. It is simply too hard to burn off all the calories you need by exercise alone.

Why portion sizes will help you lose weight forever

I am now a firm believer that your portion sizes are one of the most important things when it comes to losing weight. And to prove this we can use a simple example and a bit of maths again.

Let’s say you use an extra large bowl for your dinner every night and fill it up so that you get 100 more calories than if you used a smaller bowl. Now, over a year that is 36,500 extra calories that you wouldn’t have had if you used a smaller bowl. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat so in one year you have added around 10 pounds of fat. And that is just from dinner.

It is really important to control your portion sizes and think of it as extra calories that add up over a year or over ten years. By just making your dinner smaller you will essentially save 10 pounds of fat in a year. It is very powerful.

Why you have to keep exercising

After all this diet stuff is said and done it is still vital that you keep exercising on a regular basis. The exercise helps to increase your metabolism and thus will assist your weight loss progress. It isn’t the main thing, but it will make a massive difference to the way you look and feel. This is especially true if you want to add a bit of muscle or tone – diet can’t do that. Exercise also helps you to feel better about yourself due to the large amount of endorphins that are released. These feel good chemicals go a long way to keeping you healthy.

Does anyone have any weight loss stories to share? I would like to know what has/hasn’t worked for you.

10 thoughts on “Why Exercise is NOT the Key to Losing Weight

  1. Hello there – Just wanted to point out that while portion size is most definitely the key to losing weight and keeping it off, exercise plays a vital role. Just by using the simple Coke math example, if you didn’t have the Coke and ran on the treadmill you would burn 150 calories that weren’t that bad sugary drink. So if you normally consumed 2000 calories a day and burned 150 exercising,and then if you dropped your consumption to 1500 calories a day and still burned 150 exercising you would be losing weight :). As well as boosting your metabolism. Also, the cardiovascular benefits of exercise are indisputable, along with every other benefit that is mentioned, my favorite being the endorphines that make you feel good. Eat healthy, eat proportionately, exercise your heart and mind, live happy. Thank you for always enlightening and making me work out that brain muscle.

  2. Hello,

    My name is Cédric. I have been being registered to the Daily Mind for a long time now. Great work and inspiring ideas. The ad banner on the bottom of the last edition on how to lose weight put a smile on my face: it was a Groupon offer for big burgers!!

    I agree with you about the fact that stopping snacking is the first key to a healthier balance.

    To answer your question on how to lose weight, following calories is not so determinant, but instead:

    – The second key is not to serve yourself a second time.

    – The third key is to have your meals at a fixed time, and especially to avoid having late dinners (start earlier than 8:30pm and finish not later than 9pm).

    – The fourth key is you may have a rich lunch, but you need a light dinner, which implies starting with a salad and having no meat at all.

    – And the fifth key is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but to stop consuming diary products (especially those made of cow milk, which contains enough growth hormones to make the veal outstand 100 kilos within its first year); to reduce drastically or stop eating processed bread of glutinous cereals (wheat etc), especially if the floor is refined and non-organic; to avoid absolutely trans fats including margarines (in spite of what advertising tells you, margarines are all unhealthy and quite dangerous); to stay away from high fructose corn syrup, which is also a human invention your body doesn’t know what to do with (so it piles it up; but don’t you use artificial sweeteners instead, they are even more dangerous in spite of what advertising also tells you).

    Ultimately, how come people do become obese? Because they follow none of the rules stated above (including yours), and because their bodies still feel hungry for missing vital nutrients after eating junk food, so they ask for more! Besides, a mind lacking sufficient and balanced nutrients tends to keep you away from good judgement and good will, eventually increasing your problem (your weight) day by day. So make sure to supplement whatever natural vitamins, trace elements and good fats your body is missing.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if I can help you in any other way.

    Take care,

    Cédric

  3. Hi there,

    Love your site.

    Just wanted to point out to you and other readers that this article can easily be taken the wrong way due to the title and the tiny paragraph dedicated to exercise at the end of the article.

    What needs to be taken into consideration is that the ultimate reason for weight loss is health, followed by of course image and related reasons. Therefore, any weight loss program is incomplete without an exercise component. Exercise is essential to good health and longevity, and when you lose weight without exercising, you may look better and maybe feel better, but you won’t be much healthier after shedding the weight. Additionally, your body will be happy to put back on the pounds very quickly as soon as you stray from your strict diet plan, as your metabolic rate hasn’t changed much.

    While I totally agree regarding the importance of portion sizes, undermining the importance of exercise in a weight loss program is dangerous advice.

  4. I am an emotional eater, my weight increased recently because of emotional turmoils… Once i grasped why I was eating, and of course, with applying above stated tips, I hope I’m on a good way… WE are all hungry for something, and it is not food. I thought Sacher cake will fill my emotional emptiness, but even five pieces didn’t.. So, now I’m trying to be more conscious about it…

  5. Hello!

    I am so enjoying wandering around here and reading your posts. I truly wish you were able to make this daily – you make a lot of sense.

    I wish it were as simple as you describe about diet and exercise. For your plan to be working you must be young. Yes, simply eating less will indeed help weight loss, but less so as you grow older and your metabolism slows. It’s always good to exercise anyway. Don’t think of exercise as being for weight loss (although that’s a nice benefit) but as the way to keep from being creaky, stiff and unsteady as you get older.

    Exercise also produces brain chemicals that fight stress and help you sleep better, both of which put you in a better frame of mind to avoid sugary, fatty comfort foods.

    I wish you good health!

  6. Great blog and great article! I am a psychotherapist and former personal fitness trainer. So I have experienced the fitness industry at its rawest level. It was not a pretty picture to say the least. Many used exercise to extremes and often what developed were very intense cases of exercise addiction which did not guarantee weight loss.

    Exercise is important as an activity to give the body the means to strengthen cardiovascularly and the muscular skeletal systems. But it does not gurantee weight loss or promote in and of itself weight loss.

    Food, weight and body image is very complex dynamic. The underlying reason at least for the general obese population is an emotional/spiritual disconnection. People eat out of an emotional reaction to numb, or appease the pain they wish not to feel. It is a very conditioned reaction and behaviour, It requires one to go INWARDS and connect to the higher self in order to establish a healthy relationship with food, their body and their soul.

    My current work is completely aimed at bringing a spiritual/emotional method which teaches how to process emotions and feelings so that we are not at the mercy of them and have to succumb to self destructive habits and behaviours.

    I wish you continued success! Love your blog.

    namaste

    Piera

  7. I absolutely agree that losing weight is about a lifestyle change and not only about taking additional exercise. This helps but is not the single answer.

    David.

  8. Yup, I agree that dieting and exercising is equally important. One cannot do without the other. And in watching our diet, we should take into account what kind of diet fits our body and lifestyle. Not all the diet can be duplicated. Same goes for exercise too.

    I’d just like to add that while it is important to recognize e the need to keep fit and healthy, we also must not forget that we should not over-emphasize this concern to a point that we equate happiness with being healthy.

    Yes, being healthy may bring happiness. But happiness does not necessarily mean being healthy, especially in this age where health is often associated with the “ideal” body shape. Much fuss in the media about achieving the ideal body image does just that – we tend to focus too much in getting that perfect shape that we forget that people come in different shapes and sizes. There is actually nothing wrong with that. One can be healthy without having acquired that ‘perfect’ body shape.

    So yup, we should rmbr that. At the same time, rmbr that exercising and dieting should be done in moderation and according to how much one’s body can endure 🙂

    Cheers!

  9. I was recently able to lose weight (20 pounds)by combining healthier eating and moderate exercise. You are so right, the main thing is adjusting your diet. I looked long and hard at the calories I was consuming and even kept a food diary. We take in a lot more than we realize! It didn’t take long for me to see that Starbucks fraps and lattes and too much red meat were my undoing. I started ordering unsweet iced passion tea (delicious!) at Starbucks during warm weather and unsweet coffee or tea during cold months. You’re still treating yourself to something delicious but without the hundreds of calories.

    I also limit my red meat and eat more Boca Burgers – along with 3 meatless days a week.

    Being able to wear what I want to and have the energy to do things I want to do FAR outweigh the foods/drinks I no longer eat. I don’t miss them at all.

    Also, make sure each bite or drink counts for something – no wasted or “empty” calories is really key.

    Thanks for a great write up!

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