How does working out fit into losing weight with real, whole foods? Is exercise necessary for weight loss on it's own, as part of a program, or not at all?
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Welcome to the sixth installment of the Losing Weight with Real, Whole Foods series! For this article, I'm tackling something I think is really misunderstood by most people and I'd love to know if you agree with me or not, so be sure to weigh in (ha! See that pun there?) by leaving a comment. You can see all the other parts of this series below. Affiliate links are included for your convenience.
Whenever anyone asks me about exercise and weight loss, I always hesitate to answer because my answer is not politically correct. The short answer to the question, "Is exercise necessary for weight loss?" is...
Before you hit that button to leave, though, hear me out:
I'm not saying exercise isn't important.
It IS important for a number of reasons like quality of life, healthy bones and muscles, and heart and lung health, among others. One of the reasons I've always wanted to be at a healthy weight is to be able to do things with my family and friends, whether it's hiking, kayaking, sightseeing, or bike riding. I want to enjoy these things feeling strong, not winded and tired.
So yes, exercise is very important.
But is exercise necessary for weight loss?
The way to lose weight is to eat less. Period. This is not the popular answer and I'm the first one to tell you it is hard. But here's the thing - what we put in our mouths matter.
(I should add that this is assuming you lead a normal life. If you are sedentary and are not moving daily -running errands, working in the yard, walking, cleaning, etc. - the amount you would be able to eat would be minimal. In that case, you need to add movement to your day in order to eat even normal small portions.)
Exercise and movement ARE things you should be doing to feel better and enable you to lead a full life, but eating less (and, I would add, choosing quality foods) is what you need to do to lose weight.
This, of course, goes against all the media outlets that tell us that we have to exercise X number of times each week, plus eat a lot of "diet" foods to lose weight. While everyone is different and certain metabolisms may react differently to exercise, my experience and observations tells me this generally isn't true:
- I've already shared how eating whole milk, bacon, butter, and eggs (nutrient-dense, whole foods) in addition to vegetables and fruits and just a few grains has helped me to be at a weight that I thought my body wasn't "made" for. The key? Eat Less.
- In college I took an aerobics class from a woman who weighed 180-200 pounds - working out three times a day, four days a week.
- When my sister ran a marathon one year, I was surprised to see there were lots of heavy people (though not my sister!) illustrating that even with the training a marathon requires, the weight doesn't automatically come off.
- Certain types of work outs can make you more hungry (while others don't)
- Exercising often makes me think I can eat more - after all, I deserve it, don't I?
Exercising alone won't help you lose weight...but guess what?
Eating less, even without exercise, will.
So, my point is - lets not use the excuse of no time to exercise to put off attempting to lose those pounds and get healthy. Start eating less of the right foods and the weight will start to come off. And then, guess what?
If you're like me, a curious thing will happen: you'll want to exercise more.
Because you're feeling better. You're motivated. You're excited. But the motivation will now be to get in better shape, health-wise, and not just weight loss. They actually go hand-in-hand towards a healthy lifestyle, it's just that eating less is the more important of the two, I believe.
What exercises do I do now along with eating real, whole foods?
It depends on the season, I'm more active outside in the summer and less so in the winter, so that's when I use the treadmill. I try to do an official workout 2 to 3 times a week.
During the year that I lost the weight, though, it was only 2 times a week, or 1...or even none. However, I didn't have a job where I sat for hours a day - I moved throughout the day teaching preschool, gardening, or completing DIY projects in-between working on the computer.
If your life is more sedentary - eight hours sitting at a desk, then home to watch TV - you'll want to think about ways to add more movement to your days.
Updated to add: This totally happened to me! When I left teaching to work on AOC full-time in 2014, I sat more in front of the computer than ever before.
Two things happened from this: I ate more snacks (easier to get than when you're running around), and I didn't feel as good. Obviously I gained a few pounds. Sigh - it doesn't end, does it?
I added a Stand Up app to my phone that lets me know every 45 min that I need to move and I consciously drink more tea, coffee, and water through out the day to battle the munch-while-on-the-computer syndrome.
A Simple Exercise Routine
An exercise routine doesn't have to be complicated, expensive, or take a lot of time (though a goal of moving often should be a part of our whole day). As an example, in the last installment of this series I will share my simple and easy 30 to 40 minute routine. (You can go HERE to see it now)