Working out has helped countless individuals lose weight and gain control of their health. What most people don’t realize is that exercise is not the best way to achieve their weight loss goals in the long run.
Why You Shouldn’t Work Out for Weight Loss
For many reasons (which I’ll outline later on this blog), exercise is an integral part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It can certainly help you lose weight, but there are a few realities that many fail to consider.
Your Workout Routine Is Not Sustainable
Let’s say that you’ve created a plan designed to flawlessly help you achieve your goal within the next 3-6 months. Just like in dating, there are a few red flags that will signal that your plan is too good to be true:
- You don’t currently have a consistent workout routine, but you’ve resolved to hit the gym 5-6 days a week. How’s that going for you? Most people burn out after about 3-6 weeks of all out effort, after which they decide that working out is too hard. Sure, the 1,000 calorie a day burn will make the fat melt off much faster, but will you be able to withstand the soreness, the fatigue, and the extra commitment on your schedule? For most, the answer is no. [PS – If you’ve already run too fast out of the gate with your 2018 resolutions, check out this blog on How to Dominate Your Fitness Goals, even if you’re losing steam].
- You have a solid workout routine, but you’re exhausted all the time, and you still haven’t reached your goal. Adrenal fatigue is real. Your body is attempting to catch up with the demands you have placed on it, but you are not giving it ample time to recover. This is usually due to a combination of factors, including but not limited to, stress levels, lack of sleep, a poor diet, and/or physical exhaustion. The problem for many is tha, maxed out at 7 days a week, they can’t possibly work out MORE to lose the weight they want. And they shouldn’t try to, because our bodies don’t work that way. Sobering fact: if you want to keep the weight you’ve already lost off, you’ll have to keep working out at the same rate…forever. That, in and of itself, is crazy making.
- You don’t even like working out. Did that 6:00am bootcamp have you weezing until you felt like throwing up? Or perhaps you felt dizzy after the first few minutes of yoga, thinking “Geez, I’m not even in the last pose before they move onto the next” or “you expect me to put WHAT WHERE!?” Unfortunately, there are too many people who hate working out, but do it because they think it will help them lose weight. I’m not encouraging you to ditch exercise entirely, but if you don’t have any good feelings toward the workouts that you’re doing, perhaps they aren’t for you.
Weight Loss is 80% What You Eat
I’m sure you’ve heard this before and I’m about to lay it down again. The saying that “abs are made in the kitchen” is spot on. Proper nutrition is the key to losing weight. No, you don’t have to starve yourself. But you do have to LEARN the proper way choose your food so that you are adding healthy options AND eating things you like.
The other thing that most people don’t realize is that you need to eat MORE when you exercise. The rate at which your body burns calories increases when you work out. You need nutrient dense food in order to recover and tone/build muscle. Those who have the hardest time with this are people who do a lot of cardio. If you’re exercising frequently, you might feel like you’re always hungry. This can be hugely frustrating for those seeking weight loss. It’s a vicious cycle. If this is you, it’s time to break the habit.
Why You Should Exercise
The above notwithstanding, there are many reasons to add or keep exercise as a major part of your lifestyle.
Because it Sculpts Your Body
As shallow as this may sound to some, the reality is that many people who start exercising do so to create a body that looks toned and strong. It’s a nice benefit of strength training. In combination with a healthy diet, which can help you lose weight, strength workouts will build and define your muscles.
A word of caution for anyone who exercises to sculpt: Even if you achieve your “ideal” body or come close to it, do not expect it to last forever. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain tone year-round. Understand that everyone has their off season, even athletes and sports models. So, enjoy it when you have it, but don’t be disappointed if you slide a bit and the abs fade or if work gets busy and you lose some muscle.
Because it Feels Good
Okay. If you don’t like working out, this might be a hard pill to swallow. But if you re-frame what a workout is, you might find that you like exercise after all. A few of my favorite non-formal types of workouts include:
- Taking a stroll on the beach.
- Going swimming.
- Playing fetch with the dog.
You probably do some of these things already. If not, perhaps there is something you enjoy that you can add. Once you’ve developed a habit, consider adding a strength session with a personal trainer or a simple, 20 minute home workout routine 1-2x a week. The benefits include:
- A rush of endorphins that can boost your mood for about 12 hours following exercise.
- Reduction in stress due to increased oxygen intake and lowered blood pressure.
- Increased flexibility, which reduce and/or alleviate pain you may feel in muscles and joints.
- Improved balance.
- Improved memory.
- More self-confidence
- A boost in your immune system.
- Increased bone density, which reduces your chances of injury due to an accident or fall.
Plus, with your trainer or in a group class, you’ve got automatic friends you can turn to for help and advice regarding fitness and life. You might actually find that everything associated with working out is completely worth the effort.
Of course, my favorite benefit of working out is inspiring others. We lead by example. Your commitment to staying strong and healthy affects the people around you. The energy you gain from exercising is infectious, which will only motivate others to better themselves too!
If you’re truly interested in weight loss, stop struggling through workouts to achieve that goal. Educate yourself on proper nutrition and healthy habits to reduce stress and increase energy and focus on all the good that working out can give you.