You Can Lose Weight Without Exercise
Updated: Feb 14
There is a misconception that exercising guarantees weight loss. Weight loss is an equation of calories in and calories out. If you are not reducing your calories in, you have to increase your calories out. And the way to do that is exercising. Easy, right?
Using exercise to lose calories is a very bad strategy because it takes a lot of hard work to burn enough calories to compensate for the excess calories consumed. A 12-stone (76 kg) man needs to run for 30min to burn just 300 cal, the equivalent of a muffin. It's very easy to miscalculate how many calories you are burning and how many you are eating.
The American Dietetic Association confirms that it is almost impossible for overweight people to produce the required energy deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day by exercise alone without managing and reducing what they eat.
We tend to exercise to eat. What we should be doing is eat to exercise. We see eating as a reward rather than fuel for our body and brain to function properly. If we followed a healthy diet to nourish our body and enjoyed fun exercise to keep our muscles fully functional, then the odd piece of cake or ice cream wouldn't have an impact on our waistline.
If you want to discover what emotion drives your overeating,
take my Type of Eater Quiz
and receive personalised tips based on your results.
Now, if you lose weight by dieting alone, you will lose fat as well as muscle mass. And this where exercise comes in. Losing weight with diet and exercise gives you the best of both worlds, lose fat while keeping and growing the muscles. And why you would you want to do this? Well, because having more muscle your body burns more calories and it will push you past plateaus.
So how do you increase your muscle mass? Gone are the days of sweaty 1hr aerobics or running sessions and here comes the 8-min HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Sounds good, right? Well, in those 8 mins you are doing exercises giving it all you got for a few seconds and then resting for a few minutes before you repeat the sequence all over again.
And when I say you give it your all, I really mean you go for it with all you have.
The great thing about HIIT is that it burns fat and builds muscle at the same time, and you don't need gym equipment, your own body weight is enough to get started. But is it the right type of exercise for you? Well, you have to choose something you enjoy so you can stick with it. If you see HIIT as a chore and a 1-hr Zumba class or run feels more satisfying and gives you that high of feeling a sense of achievement, then that's what you should go for as it is sustainable for you.
Many people can manage to find an hour or more in their day to drive to the gym, exercise and shower afterwards, but complain that there’s just no time to cook or prepare healthy meals. If they spent less time in the gym and more time making a difference in the kitchen, they’d most likely see much better results.
Also, consider that some people need to connect with other people who are going through the same process as them and find support in a group exercise session rather than going alone.
But be aware that many weight loss and exercise groups are about selling their own products and making a profit.
And although gyms, weight loss organisations and their products can help you lose weight, none of them will ever address the cause of your weight issue. You are still the same person, you still have your emotional baggage, and no exercise, diet or surgery is going to address and change your relationship with food, your emotions, your sense of insecurity, your anxiety or whatever it is you are struggling with.
So what happens once you leave the fitness or weight loss group? Well, you start going back to your old ways and put all the weight back on, plus more, just like 95% of dieters. You have reached your goal weight but you haven't adopted a lifestyle you can maintain because you haven't addressed the issues that led you to overeat in the first place.
Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic says: “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75% diet and 25% exercise. An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 lbs; the exercisers lost only 6 over 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off. If you eat a fast-food steak quesadilla, which can pack 500-plus calories, you need to run more than four miles to ‘undo’ it!"
The evidence is now clear: exercise is excellent for health, it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don't expect to achieve great weight loss by ramping up physical activity alone. While diet and exercise are both important for long-term weight loss, remember this: you can’t out-exercise a diet that is out of whack. It is actually your diet that drives sustained weight loss.
And, of course, this isn’t to say that exercise plays no role. Beyond weight loss, people shouldn’t forget that exercise can have other impressive health perks, like improving the quality of your sleep, lowering your cholesterol and reducing your stress level.
Many studies and reviews detail how physical activity can improve outcomes in musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases and depression. But that huge upside just doesn’t seem to apply to weight loss. The data just don’t support it.