If you’re trying to lose weight strictly by exercising, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. You’ll see entire teams of overweight couples struggling to stay on the treadmill while Jillian yells at them to keep going. And yes, when the time comes to weigh in, they do lose weight – but you’ve got to ask yourself, is it sustainable?
Unfortunately, in many cases it isn’t and it isn’t long before some of the same people have packed it right back on again. So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s the fact that many people rely on exercise alone as a way to lose weight, and that’s a sure path to failure.
You can’t use exercise alone to lose weight. Period. Why not? Well, think about it. Exercise increases the amount of calories your body burns. That’s good, right? Yes but your body then seeks to compensate for that calorie loss by making you hungrier than you would otherwise be. In other words, exercise increases your appetite making it much more likely that you’ll stop by the fast food drive-through on your way home from the gym. You tell yourself, “After all, I worked hard, right? I deserve a “reward” for working out.”
See how it works? The more you workout, the more your appetite increases to compensate for the calories you burned. The more your appetite increases, the harder it is to make good food choices and maintain portion control. Also, the easier it is to feel like you “deserve” some dessert or an extra helping of your favorite food. And boom, before you know it, you’ve not only erased all the good you did at the gym (from a weight-loss standpoint), but you’ve probably added calories to boot. This is exactly why many people exercise all day long and don’t lose an ounce – and also why quite a few actually gain weight when they exercise.
So here’s the bottom line: you don’t exercise to lose weight. You exercise to get fit. You exercise to tone your muscles. You exercise to increase stamina, build flexibility, and maintain coordination. You exercise to maintain muscle strength. You exercise to keep your heart and lungs healthy. You exercise to reduce stress. You exercise for a hundred-and-one really good and valid reasons — but sustainable weight-loss isn’t one of them.
Losing weight is about 2 things and 2 things only:
- Eat less calories (ie: portion control)
- Making better food choices.
That’s it. There is no more. That’s the whole “secret” to successful and sustained weight-loss. It really doesn’t matter what diet program you’re on or are thinking of trying out: Atkins, South Beach, Primitive, etc. These diet programs provide all sorts of recipes that are designed to help you eat less total calories (number 1 on my list) as well as help you make better food choices (number 2 on my list). That’s all they do. And now that you know the “secret,” you can do it too without having to buy all the books and CD’s and whatever.
If you really want to lose weight, eat less – way less. Pay strict attention to portion control. Don’t use the huge dinner plates that most people (and restaurants) use and start eating your meals on the smaller salad plates. Get yourself a kitchen scale and find out what a “normal serving” of food looks like. Hint: A “normal” serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards and does NOT spill over the side of the plate like the chicken-fried steak special at the local steak house.
Which brings me to the second point, if you really want to lose weight, make better food choices. That means passing on the chicken-fried steak special covered in cream gravy and going with a grilled salmon instead. Choose foods that not only contain less calories, but are also better for you.
So what have we learned here? Well, first, if you’re exercising, don’t stop – just understand that it’s not really going to help you lose much weight. Second, serious and sustainable weight-loss is all about eating less calories and making better food choices.