I love exercise. In fact, I started my weight loss journey with a walk; I was reluctant to change my diet at first. I found exercise appealed to the more competitive side of my personality. So it is probably odd for anyone who knows me to hear me say exercise is not necessary to lose weight.
I want to share this with you because I recently had a conversation with a friend who was beating herself up for not exercising as much as she had planned in order to lose weight. Her mom was put in the hospital, and she found she was running back and forth and just did not have time to exercise. I told her, “No worries. If you can lift a fork to your mouth, you can lose weight.” She laughed and laughed and said, “You know what? You are right.”
Hers is not the only story I hear regularly. I hear from maintainers who are injured and freaked out that they will gain. I hear from people who are obese and don’t want to exercise until they lose some weight. I hear from people who say, “Well, I can’t exercise, so I won’t be able to lose this weight.”
So as much as I love exercise and acknowledge it has been easier for me to do than to eat “right,” I feel the need to share this message with you. I have learned by trial and error that exercise is no substitute for a good diet.
Maybe you are focusing on changing habits and are struggling with exercise due to an injury, medical condition or pain. Too often I see people quit before they have started because they feel they cannot exercise for some reason. No worries, I say; just start to change your eating habits slowly over time, and the weight will come off. My goal is not to discourage you from exercise, but to remove the excuse of “I can’t lose weight because I can’t exercise.”
I was keyed in to this concept by my 80-year-old grandmother. She informed me that Weight Watchers back in the 1960s and ’70s did not require you to exercise as part of the program. She said women just did not do that, and they still lost weight. I have recently seen and heard stories of others who have not been able to exercise the way they wanted to—or at all—and lost weight.
I want to share this because I see people feeling like a failure if they are not crushing it at the gym. No matter how hard you work out, if your eating is way off and you are eating way more than you need, then you are suffering a lot of physical abuse for no reason. Work out to become strong internally and externally, not to punish yourself for having gained weight.
Again, I am not trying to discourage you from exercise, but instead to give you hope that if you cannot exercise for any reason right now, all is not lost. The fork you lift is a major tool in your weight loss success.
When you are healed from your injury or in a physical place where you can exercise, then start slow and work your way up over time. Don’t feel you need to replicate a Biggest Loser-style workout to be doing something. Any movement when you are coming off an injury or coming from a place of never working out is a plus.
Another issue I see is abusing exercise to make up for eating too much. If you focus on eating well and peppering good exercise throughout your week, you will not be out of balance. If you work out like an Olympian or professional athlete, then you will need to eat more. There is a balance between the two extremes, and I sometimes see people trying to expedite their weight loss results by doing hours of cardio on very few calories.
This can lead to binge eating and an unhealthy relationship with food. You want to slightly lower your calories and slightly increase your movement to burn calories. You have many opportunities each day to increase energy expenditure: walking instead of driving your car around town, parking far away from stores and walking farther, carrying out your own groceries, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Any movement helps make a calorie deficit. You just won’t see this on shows like The Biggest Loser because most people will not find that to be exciting television.
If you are just starting out, I recommend you read my free 23-page guide to habit change. Then focus on your eating habits. How often are you eating? What foods don’t serve you getting to your goal? What is one habit you can begin this week?
Remember, exercise is awesome, and it can give you many benefits, but it does not have to be the deciding factor in whether you lose weight. Here are some resources that help reinforce this message. Remember, exercise for the health benefits and to change the shape of your body, and eat well to lose weight. You can do this, and I hope this helps.
Resources to check out: