The New Year was here and many people started a weight loss program.  And what was the first thing people did when they decide to shed pounds?  They run to the gym.  After all, it’s “calories in, calories out,” right?  “No pain, no gain,” right?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Everything you’ve been taught about exercise and weight loss is wrong.  Do you run yourself ragged at the gym and barely see any results?  Have you succeeded in restricting your diet and surviving on minimal amounts of food yet don’t see the scale dip in your favor—or worse, stay stagnant or signify a slight gain?  I’m not at all surprised.

Let’s get one thing clear right from the start:  You are not an equation and your body is not necessarily governed by the laws of physics.  While I’m a fierce advocate of exercise for health, I know for a fact that it’s not the primary means to losing weight.  So stop working out in order to shed pounds—or worse, to give yourself permission to eat!

I know, I know.  Everything you see in the media, everything you read in the magazines, is the exact opposite of what I’m saying.  America is a confused, fat, starving nation.

I’ve been teaching my clients about the myth of exercise leading to weight loss for years, and finally, now I’m witnessing a few other influencers sharing my beliefs.  Time magazine’s August 2009 cover was emblazoned with “The Myth About Exercise,” and the headline suggested, “Of course it’s good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight.”  In April 2010, The New York Times printed an article titled “Weighing the Evidence on Exercise.”  At the European Congress on Obesity a month later, researchers presented conclusions that, over the last 30 years, weight gain in the United States can be attributed almost entirely to caloric intake, as opposed to lack of physical activity.

There are three major factors to consider when losing weight: psychology, hormones, and metabolism. 

Have you ever gone to the gym and rewarded yourself with a slice of pizza or a brownie afterward?  Well there goes your work out!  Or maybe you work out like a fiend for 60 to 90 minutes some days, only to sit around for the rest of the day, bringing your metabolism to a screeching halt.  Did you know it’s actually best to keep your metabolism going by remaining active throughout the day just by standing, walking to and from work, or taking the stairs?

And what’s all this talk about will power?  With the constant bombardment of food ads directed toward you—not to mention the abundant availability of sweet, ultra-processed fast foods—will power is nothing but a mind game that either forces you to restrict yourself unnaturally and unnecessarily or makes you feel guilty about the food you like to eat!

And then there are hormones.  Your very existence is, after all, chemical.  You breathe, eat, sleep, move, and even feel according to the dance of your hormones.  Ghrelin, created in the stomach, is responsible for your hunger sensation, and increases exponentially the longer you wait to eat or when you start losing weight.  In females, the more they exercise, the more ghrelin is produced.

Don’t forget about stress hormones.  Even if you don’t feel stressed, your body endures both emotional and physical stress when you go through long periods without rest, sleep, or food.  That’s when the “fight or flight” hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, kick in to prepare the body for danger that’s not really there.  In this heightened state, your body shuts off digestion and calls for the storage of fat in the abdominal area for possible emergency use.

Your metabolism is in constant aim of homeostasis.  Little food (energy in) combined with lots of exercise (energy out) causes your metabolism to slow in its efforts to efficiently make use of the energy imbalance. 

Although the laws of thermodynamics claim that more energy out and less energy in leads to a deficit (or weight loss), the human body and psyche are determined by survival and pleasure.  Again, I highly recommend you exercise for health, stress relief, and enjoyment.  Just don’t do it to shed pounds.  And if you’re overweight or obese, it’s probably best for you stay out of the gym to begin with and just do what you’re meant to do—eat healthily and walk!

If you’re serious about losing weight, there are other more important things you must do.  Instead of running to the gym, run to your grocery store and arm yourself with healthy food.  Start cooking more at home and plan your meals.  Eat breakfast and don’t skip meals.  Eat more, not less!  Practice mindful eating and don’t swear off of the foods you love.  Get plenty of sleep and manage your stress.

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