Everyone knows I’m not an expert regarding nutrition and fitness.
The yearly promise to work out is just about on us. If you want to build strength, that’s great. If you’re going to lose weight, I would ask you to read this first. Then, decide to focus on your food choices, where you will save yourself time, trouble, and money. Skip the gym if you want to lose weight. You can walk anywhere.
As an adult, I have yo-yoed a few times. The lesson I learned makes people skeptical: if you want to lose weight, stop stressing so much about exercise. Just keep food out of your mouth as much as possible. And when you eat, eat foods that fall in the Venn diagram of what you like and what is healthier. Over time, that change alone will work miracles for you.
It’s equally valid that most of us suffer from a misunderstanding regarding the role exercise plays in the realm of weight loss. Our metabolic rate is set already. Most of the energy we expend isn’t variable. Activity is, of course, a portion, but not as significant as most of us believe. Most of our culture is immersed in the ‘exercise more’ mantra. Science demonstrates that weight loss occurs more efficiently through healthier diet choices – even if you don’t increase your activity level. We should focus much more on our public and private food policies.
Note: exercise yields impressive benefits to us physically and psychologically. Stop reading into my point. Exercise isn’t as important as diet, though, in weight maintenance. It is one of the biggest fundamental flaws that plague us. (I imagine Rob reading this and already arguing.)
People of the same body composition, sex, and other factors have markedly different metabolisms, which results in the one using a lot more calories than the other. Despite what some will preach, no one definitively knows why this is the case. Those same two people can engage in the same diet and physical activity – and one of them will weigh less than the other.
If you want to increase your basic metabolic rate, the science is settled: greater muscle mass requires much more energy to sustain. I’ll leave it to you to read the literature. Running will burn calories while building muscle mass will burn more calories even while you are resting. A word of caution, though: as you increase your muscle mass, your body will trick you into consuming more fuel to sustain it.
If you’ve tried diets, especially gimmicky ones, it’s not you who failed. They don’t address the science of human physiology and weight. Don’t start any program that you can’t do for the rest of your life! If you can’t imagine yourself making better food choices for the rest of your life, you will not succeed. All long-term weight management plans that work start and end with healthy food choices. It is that simple. Simple observation will remind you that it is EASY to lose weight. It is damn near impossible to keep it off.
We can all agree that our energy intake is based on the food we put into our mouths. If everything is equal, reducing how much you put into your mouth will inevitably cause you to lose. If you go on a starvation diet, you can expect your body to fight back by lowering your metabolic rate. You’ll need to adjust your plan of weight loss accordingly. Not that most people can do it, but the best way to lose weight is to do it on a very long, consistent schedule. I can’t say I didn’t fall victim to the all-or-nothing approach. It gives results. They don’t last, though. That is true for almost everyone who diets to lose weight.
You have to eat to lose weight.
This sounds ridiculously simple.
For a variety of reasons, people tend to eat more after intense exercise. They also tend to overestimate how many calories they’ve burned while exercising. Other behaviors undermine our exercise routines, as well. Regardless of how much you exercise, it takes a vastly disproportionate amount of activity to overcome overeating caloric intake.
I’m in no way saying that we shouldn’t exercise more. Exercise is vital for good health but not as crucial for weight loss and maintenance.
You can read the last paragraph as many times as you’d like.
Poor diet has a more significant impact on obesity and weight than exercise. Science says it. Not me.
I don’t remember where I read it, but someone said, “You can’t outrun a bad diet, no matter how much you run.”
I’ll remind you one more time that I am not saying exercise doesn’t offer benefits; they don’t compare to healthy eating where weight is involved.
This isn’t a justification for laziness. However, it is a bold statement to tell you that if you need to lose weight, whether for weight loss or better health, you will see a significantly greater result if you focus first on diet.
If you do it incrementally, you’ll have a greater chance to maintain the weight you achieve. Fighting your body’s set point comes with significant risk. Very few people can adapt to a new diet and regulate how they do it sufficiently to give their body time to adjust. The longer you were overweight, the greater this tendency will be. Our bodies don’t resist gaining weight nearly as much as they resist losing it, even to go to a normal weight naturally.
Less than 10% of people who commit to losing weight tend to keep it off long term. If you can think of obesity as a disease, you’ll likely adopt lifestyle changes that stick. Even though it isn’t rocket science, some of the changes include avoiding high-fat foods, avoiding needless sugar, some form of exercise, avoiding unnecessary snacking, regularly weighing, eating less for each meal, choosing more filling and healthy alternatives, and maintaining a record or awareness of what you’re eating.
Though it borders on stupidly obvious, most people do best when their activity is based on walking, free and always available. Everything that complicates your ability to exercise and eat healthily will be an impediment if you want to maintain your weight. For this reason, gyms, specialty exercises, and expensive supplements aren’t sustainable long-term for most people.
Please keep it simple.
Find healthy food. Eat it instead of the foods to which you are accustomed – as much as possible. Reduce snacking. If you can do that for six weeks, you will see a loss in weight. Find literature that is based on science, using some of the things I’ve mentioned here.
Here it is, for most people, boiled down to its essence: if you are overweight, you are overeating.
Nothing can change that.
Likewise, though, there is a way out if you are truly willing to look at what you eat and admit it’s a problem.