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Exercise does NOT make you lose weight.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Now, how many of you saw that title, felt righteous indignation, and clicked on it just to have the privilege of citing me the latest new study by Dr. Joe Schmo, Fitness Expert, from the University of Good Health and Happiness that will prove me wrong, wrong, wrong?


But I will qualify the title.

Exercise does not make ME lose weight. Whatever it does for you, that’s your story.

Now I know what you’re thinking.
“Poor girl, she’s so discouraged!”
“Don’t give up, it’ll work eventually!”
“You must be doing something wrong, try {{insert link to fitness article}} instead!”
“Drink more water!”
“Eat more freggies!”
“You need to eat more calories since you’re exercising more!”
“Muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t worry about it!”
And my personal favorite: “Focus on something other than the scale, like inches, fit of your clothes, or general good health.”

And you’d all be right. But you’d also all be wrong.

How do I know this? From personal experience.

My first year here on Spark I lost 40 plus pounds without a lick of exercise. Not one step walked, not one pound lifted, not one stroke swum, nothing. All I did was change my eating habits and track every morsel of food I put in my mouth.

Forty plus pounds gone, with no exercise. So don’t tell me you can’t lose weight without exercise. I’m not buying it.

So what’s changed? Well, for one thing, I started exercising.

(Housekeeping: Let’s dispense with this now. I hate the word “exercise.” I don’t know why, I just do. So let’s start using “work out.” It rolls off my tongue better. And it’s more macho.)

I also stopped paying attention to what I was eating and slacked off the tracking. And that, I believe, is the true culprit in why I gained back 15 pounds.

So, now that I have renewed my efforts at paying attention to what I’m eating and I have a good workout plan in place, why is the weight not coming back off? Why am I actually gaining? What do I need to change to make it come off again? I’m of two minds.

One is that I lost 40 plus pounds in a year with no working out. Ok, simple. Stop working out.

Um, no.

Two is that I need to stop worrying about weight and just concentrate on getting in shape.

Um, whom are we kidding?

So we are back to **gasp** …..


Ugh, why do I hate that word so much?

Because balance takes work. It takes thought and it takes being willing to change. I hate thinking. I hate work. I’m lazy. And most humans abhor change. And I’m set in my ways and stubborn.

But the truth is, the number on the scale means a lot to me. It meant a lot when I weighed 192. It meant even more when I weighed 140. And it means something completely different now that I’m struggling in the upper 150s and yo-yoing with the same three or four pounds week after week after week.

Inches? I have lost very few. In fact, I’ve gained inches in some places, like my arms and thighs. Most swimmers have shoulders like linebackers. And my hips are like rocks.

Fit of clothes? I started in a size 16 pants and size 22 or so shirt. After the initial weight loss, I fit into a size 8 pants and a size 12-14 shirt. (For the record, I only lost one bra size.) Great! Now I’m solidly at a size 10 pants and a size 14 shirt. I’m happy in those sizes, except that I spent a lot of money on a couple of really good suits that I now can’t wear. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting that 15 pounds gone.

General health? Don’t misunderstand. I have grown to love my workouts. I love, Love, LOVE swimming. I love the water, I love the softness and coolness and quiet of the water. I love how it feels on my skin. I love the feel of the resistance of the water. And I love my swimmers’ arms and shoulders and hips.

I like walking too, and my dogs like walking. I have a love/hate relationship with running that I’m trying to improve, just because I’m stubborn. And I like biking.

I hate strength training, and I hate machines, and I hate group classes. You can tell me until the cows come home how great and how necessary they are, and how I should do it anyway, but I’m not buying that either. I’m old and I’m stubborn, and I’m not doing something I hate to do, no matter how good it is for me. Life is too short, and there are other options.

Working out has given me many, many benefits. But one thing it has *not* given me is weight loss. In fact, it may even be contributing to weight gain. So why do I keep doing it? Aside from the love aspect, here is what working out has done for me.
• Muscles! I have them!
• Reduced blood pressure
• Slower, easier breathing
• Lower resting pulse rate
• Sick less often, and for shorter periods
• Better moods
• Better digestion
• Better sleep
• Better focus
• Better skin
• More energy
• Better sex

So here’s where the balance comes in. All those benefits from working out need to be balanced against the weight loss I want to achieve.

You see, I really do want it all. Now I have to figure out how to get it because I refuse to believe they are mutually exclusive.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    1488 days ago
    Loved your blog! Lee andothers have said everything and more ... You know acurious thing about adult exercisers is that one seems to go from just wanting to make "improvements", to looking and feeling better, then wanting better performance and your body starts to change, and then things like big calfs on women - something some women have surgery to remove - look sexy to other athletes or would be athletes/exercisers/workouters!!! :-D
    Be healthy!
    1663 days ago
  • QUAIL75
    emoticon I agree that it's all about balance and regardless of what you're doing, you won't lose weight unless you create a calorie deficit.

    It all goes hand in hand and all the benefits of working out can not be denied.
    1664 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

    I agree with so much of what you said And I am PRAYING that we Both find that "Balance" between The Number On The Scale & Having MUSCLES! I Want Them BOTH!!!
    1664 days ago
    I recently read a book called The Cure for Everything that said the same thing. The author (Timothy Caulfied, a professor in Canada) looked at all of the studies and said that exercise is great for your health but doesn't do much for weight loss. He said that for middle aged adults, if you're exercising and NOT gaining weight, then you're right on track. Because gaining weight in middle age is so common.

    He said that the studies show that calorie restriction is REALLY where it's at when it comes to weight loss.

    Health isn't all about weight loss... it's also about being fit.
    1664 days ago
    I like the saying "You can't out train a bad diet." I hope you find the balance you need!
    1664 days ago
  • BOPPY_
    I see that the exercise that you do frequently is swimming. According to Covert Bailey, exercises such as swimming, which do not raise core body temperature (since you're immersed in a heat sink) are largely ineffective as a way of burning calories. That's one of the reasons that so many exercise programs/calorie measures emphasize sweating and increased heart rate.

    Now, I've tried to see whether Bailey's contentions were based on scientifically sound research. Too much nutrition, fitness and exercise theories are based on theoretical blather, untouched by empirical research, of any kind; and, even when research is empirical, seldom does the researcher control (or even understand) the independent variables.

    I'm trying to be helpful, here, but even I am having trouble understanding how what I've just written would be helpful. Try adding aerobics, walking or running?

    emiLEE latella (?) emoticon

    I've found Bailey's theories to have a ring of scientific plausibility, but as I said, even his unusually reasonable tone is NOT evidence of proper research.

    And, oh, BTW, I am not an anti-swimming bigot; anything but. My dad was a swimming coach, and I always swam, until shoulder and back problems made that impossible.

    1664 days ago
  • BOPPY_
    I don't agree with your post in either the general (which you "qualified"), or the specific (YOU), case.

    I've lost over 110 lbs. I lost the first forty without doing any "workouts" because I didn't want to hurt myself. Since then, I regularly "work out". At various different points, I've had to adjust my workouts in the distribution of cardio, stretching and strength training. I've also had to change my calories to not eat to little or too much, given the extent of my calorie burn.

    Yes, you can lose weight without working out, but with the right workouts, you can (a) sustain significant rates of weight loss over a longer period of time, and end up with a healthier overall body and mindset.

    Having said all that, I say unto you now (;-):

    Congratulations on your success, and keep after it! emoticon

    Lee emoticon

    1666 days ago
    You are so funny, you really crack me up. No wonder you were voted a motivator!
    1681 days ago
    good luck. reflecting on what is going on can't help but aid in getting to your goal. i had trouble for a year: up and down the same three pounds. Someone finally told me what you say in your title. at first it was heresy. so many of the weight loss messages focus on working out. eventually things changed. i kept assessing what i was doing, and got beyond that, but i know i might need to access again at some future time.
    1712 days ago
    Gosh...I was going to leave you just a witty emoticon of someone standing in a balance posture...but there wasn't one. Now I have nothing witty to say.
    1712 days ago
  • PSMITH3841
    You are getting sooo good at this writing stuff! I was hooked by the end of the 1st sentence.....not only the style, but the content caught my interest and was right on the mark (although, I don't think I've been balanced for some time!LOL). This lawyer jazz is turning you into a force to be reckoned with! You go girl! Impressive! emoticon
    1712 days ago
  • RUSSELL_40
    I agree with the title of this blog. Exercise as a weight loss tool is useless. It just makes me eat more later. I still do a 90 minute walk, but for cardiovascular health, not for weight loss. I think the exercise as a weight loss tool is a wash.
    1712 days ago
    Balance is the word! Balance in our eating and exercising. Balance with our work and personal lives. Balance in everything it seems.

    On another note - have you considered the possibility that at your height and age, this may be close to your body's "happy" weight? My doctor told me he'd be thrilled if I could just lose another 10 pounds - that for my age and height, it would be great. Me? I want to lose closer to 35. Big difference there. Right now, I'd be thrilled with the first 10, then another and another.

    Best of luck on your journey - to finding balance.
    1712 days ago
  • LIZZYP609
    My mother has always been thin. It wasn't until just 3-4 years ago that she started to get the menopausal belly weight gain. She hated it. She started to exercise which she I NEVER remember her doing before. She did it for a full summer than stopped. She has been steady gaining weight ever since. She is no where near obese but my theory is that she messed with her metabolism when she started to exercise and that is why she is steady gaining. Could be what happened to you.
    You are right about balance. There always needs to be. you will find it. cause you are stubborn. emoticon
    1712 days ago
  • BILL60
    Nutrition is 80% of the equation and exercise is 20%. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. To those that say that exercise will not drop your weight, I invite you to a weekly regimen of 250+ miles of biking weekly. Do that for a month and (assuming your nutrition is in check) tell me how much you've lost. Cause you will have lost.
    1712 days ago
    I'm with you! Exercise doesn't make me lose weight, but as you say, there are MANY other benefits that are wonderful.

    Plus, if I'm exercising, I'm not eating...hard to run and eat an ice cream cone.
    1713 days ago
    Yes, it is all about balance and finding what will work over the long run.
    1713 days ago
    I agree that exercise does not lead to weight loss, but that's ok with me, I'm working on gaining muscles. I also strongly agree that it's not worth it to do exercise that you don't like. There are indeed many other options for getting stronger muscles and swimming is a great one. As my upper body strength gets better I'll be able to use swimming for some cardio without hurting my shoulders the way I did last time. Every time I'm increasing the dumb bells a little I know I get closer to it.
    1713 days ago
    I agree that weight loss is mostly about the food, I have to track or I end up gaining it back everytime. What I have found to be true for me is that in order to get over a plateau I had basically been on for years (losing gaining the same 5 lbs) I had to turn up the intensity. I don't work out longer, I work out harder. My knees are old and beat up, so for me it can't be running, but I can get 20 miles on a bike pretty fast and I'm lifting much heavier weights and I'm doing really tough power type yoga. You are at what I think of as a tough weight and size. You aren't obese, you probably look fine in your clothes, you probably feel pretty good, so why bust your butt? For me it gets to be a mental game to push hard enough to take it to that next level. It isn't easy.
    1713 days ago
    I love, Love, LOVE swimming. I love the water, I love the softness and coolness and quiet of the water. I love how it feels on my skin. I love the feel of the resistance of the water." A woman after my own heart (grin). You obviously understand, why haven't you joined the 2013 100 Mile Challenge? Don't tell me it's because you don't have access to a pool, I don't either and I'll have a goose egg next to my name for another couple of months. Embarrassing but it's worth it to interact with a great bunch of people who feel like I (and you) do.
    1713 days ago
    ((standing ovation))

    You will find that balance.

    1713 days ago
    You are right exercise won't make you lose weight but it will make you healthier. I have done it all different ways too. Once didn't try to do anything and lost 30 pounds. I've done drastic diets, I've worked out till there was no tomorrow. I don't particularly like to work out, I'm not a huge fan. But I want to be healthy and I only know that some of this and some of that will get me there. My biggest gripe is that people say muscle weighs more then fat. Not really a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. Only difference is that pound of muscle will help kick your metabolism up. Good luck in finding your balance. It is not easy I know that for a fact. I am still struggling with those same pounds too.
    1713 days ago
  • KIMBERLY19732
    WELL SAID! My cardiologist (and he's lost some weight) said that dietary changes the weight of the body.Workouts change the SHAPE of the body! It's taken me a while to digest that too!
    1713 days ago
    lol , I absolutely agree . I lost 70 pounds in the past and gained them back doing exactly the same amount of exercise , ok , workout. and I can't possibly do more unless I convince Bill Gates or someone to keep me at home free from dreaded work. workout is for muscles , skin , being toned , anything you want but it doesn't help me much losing weight. I do it cause I'm addicted. it feels good a few hours after doing it and terrible after that. I 'm sick more often and have less energy than when I take a break emoticon but I still can't stop doing it. it has a small role in the calorie deficit I'm trying to raise.I don't know how it is for others and honestly I don't care, but for me the only thing that works is eating less , sometimes even that doesn't work. and you'll laugh , sleep more works better than exercise emoticon
    1713 days ago
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