Full disclosure: the title phrase is not my own! Rather, “Exercise is a poor way to lose weight” is a tagline that has been spoken time and again by
my friend celebrity trainer Vinnie Tortorich. (Yes, you read that correctly…Vinnie is a trainer, and even he is willing to admit that exercise cannot solve all of our weight woes.)
In this comprehensive article for US News & World Report, Vinnie Tortorich explains his reasoning. If you don’t feel like reading the entire article, here are couple of key quotes:
- “He blames a couple of culprits for the fattening of America. One is the ‘calorie-in, calorie-out’ concept of dieting that has focused on calorie restriction as opposed to the calorie sources. When it comes to protein, fat and carbs from fruit and veggies, our bodies know what to do – using them, respectively, for rebuilding cells and for providing long-term and short-term energy. But calories from grains and sugar? ‘They’re killing you,’ he writes.”
- “It [the increased availability of sugars and grains] was all pretty harmless when it was just a little extra corn and bread. Our bodies could handle it. But, over time, it’s ended up in everything [. . .] And now that we’re flooded with that garbage in such unprecedented quantities, our bodies don’t know what to do with it, and so we convert it to fat and store it.”
Further, check out this TIME Health article: “Eat Less, Exercise More” Isn’t The Answer For Weight Loss. Again, here are some critical takeaways:
- “The uncomfortable fact is that an exceedingly small number of people can lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off following that advice [to eat less and exercise more].”
- Dr. David Ludwig and Dr. Mark L. Friedman “say we should stop viewing weight as something separate from other biological functions—like hormones and hunger and the effects of what foods we eat, not just how much of them.”
- “What, then, is causing the obesity epidemic? The authors say it’s refined carbohydrates. Sugar and processed grains like white bread which have become ubiquitous in our diets, and one of the reasons refined carbs is the prime culprit is that we’ve spent far too long chastising fat. ‘We have to forget the low-fat paradigm,’ says Dr. Ludwig. ‘Some high fat foods like avocado, nuts and olive oil are among the healthiest foods we could possibly eat.'”
- “Instead of counting calories, we should be focusing on the quality of the food we consume, says Ludwig. ‘If you just try to eat less and exercise more, most people will lose that battle. Metabolism wins,’ says Ludwig. ‘Simply looking at calories is misguided at best and potentially harmful because it disregards how those calories are affecting our hormones and metabolism—and ultimately our ability to stick to a diet.'”
Bottom line: the quality of the foods we eat has a much greater effect on long-term weight loss than any amount of exercise does.
However, to be clear, exercise is not the enemy. It is an incredibly beneficial addition to any lifestyle because exercise:
- Boosts happiness
- Helps a person set and achieve goals
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Improves sleep
- Boosts energy
- Increases strength and flexibility
- Improves memory
- Increases self-confidence
- Boosts performance at work
- Makes a person less susceptible to disease
- Increases lifespan
Depending on the day, I engage in some form of aerobic or weight-training activity for one or more of the reasons listed above. Exercise is incredible!
But, for weight loss, exercise should not be the go-to.
The weight gain enemies = refined carbohydrates (e.g., bread, pasta, chips) and sugar (found in almost all processed foods since 50 years ago the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to point the blame at fat).
Thus, your long-term weight loss/maintenance goal should be to reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar.
In fact, if you give up sugar alone for one week–or, even better, for 30+ days!–you can expect the following positive results (explained in greater detail in this video):
- Begin to overcome your addiction to sugar, which has been proven to be even more addictive than cocaine
- Eliminate your bad breath
- Increase your brain power
- Reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease
- Get younger-looking skin and reduce acne
- Improve your heart health
- Lower your “bad” cholesterol. (Note: Not all cholesterol is bad!)
- Improve your mood…eventually. (Immediately after quitting sugar, expect to suffer from mood swings. If your body has been used to ingesting sugar regularly, it’ll be in a mild/moderate/severe state of shock for the first few days as it acclimates to healthier sources of fuel. Don’t worry! This is a normal and great sign that your body is readjusting! )
- Get better sleep
- Decrease your risk of diabetes
- Lower your cancer risk
- Sharpen your eyesight
- Lose weight fast
- Make fewer trips to the doctor
- Save money!
All of these benefits from giving up sugar alone? Sign me up. Imagine the benefits you could achieve from giving up sugar and refined carbohydrates!
(For more specific tips on how to clean up your food choices, visit some of my prior posts: “Sidestep that Sneaky Sugar,” “Snack like a Smartie,” “Clean up your Coffee,” “Eat More of Nature’s EGG-cellent Vitamin,” “Jazz up Your Plain, Full-fat Greek Yogurt,” and “Beware (of most!) Bars!“)
So, improve many of your health metrics through exercise, but focus on diet changes if your ultimate goal is long-term weight loss and/or maintenance.
Have you experienced significant weight loss after switching your focus from exercise to diet? If so, please share in the comments!
In each blog post, I aim to bring you food for thought (pun intended. Note: my day job is teaching English), but don’t take my word for it! Click on and read all of the links above to become your own expert on this topic; knowledge is power. The more you know and understand the “why” behind each biohack, the easier it will be to stick to it and realize you can’t live without it!
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