Why exercise alone doesn't work for fat loss

Study after study after study has shown that exercise alone, without addressing nutrition, does not result in any real-life significant fat loss results. Many of the participants in these studies began a rigorous exercise routine only to lose a pound or two of fat after several months. Talk about spinning your wheels!

That's not to say that exercise doesn't have MANY other benefits, including increased muscle mass, strength, endurance, mobility, balance, coordination, power, independence, self-efficacy, improved brain health and mood, reduced risk of diseases, and decreased pain and stress. It's what I have my degree in; I LOVE exercise, but when it comes to fat loss, it's clear that in order to see results, exercise alone will not do the trick.   

Why is this?

Researchers believe that humans are good compensators. We may not notice that the type of exercise we choose is actually increasing our appetite. How many people do you know, my younger self at one point included, that pick up running to lose weight and don't notice any appreciable fat loss at the end of their training program? Most likely they were eating more because they felt hungrier.

Some of us grab sugary drinks to sip on during our 45-60 minute training session or maybe stop at the cafe after our workout for a sweet coffee and a big warm fluffy muffin. Perhaps we sit on the couch a bit more because we're exhausted from our workout or indulge and treat ourselves later that night with a few glasses of wine or a side of large fries when we go out to eat because we "earned it."

Food also means much more to many of us than just fuel. Have you ever reached for the wine bottle or a dessert after a stressful day? Have you ever overeaten at a restaurant as a way to let loose and unwind after a busy week? Did you grow up being rewarded and comforted by treats or high-calorie foods? Were you raised on processed foods and rarely ate vegetables? When you were younger, were you forced to finish what was on your plate and ignore your fullness cues because wasting food wasn't tolerated? Are you someone who has a hard time saying no to food that's offered to you even if you're not hungry because you don't want to offend anyone?  

Our reasons for eating are many and for a complicated web of reasons tied together by much more than just hunger. Humans are great rationalizers and compensators, and you may even be doing these things without realizing it only to be left scratching your head when you're not seeing the results from the workouts you've put your time, sweat, money and effort into.

People exercise for many reasons, and fat loss never has to be one of them, but if it is for a myriad of reasons, including: 

  • Less joint pain
  • More energy
  • The ability to keep up with your puppies, kids or grandkids
  • Fitting into your old clothes
  • Feel more confident and comfortable in your body
  • Reducing your risk of chronic and/or preventable diseases
  • Lowering your blood pressure or insulin resistance
  • Keeping your heart healthy
  • The freedom to pursue activities in life that bring you joy and purpose

then this next year can be different for you. No more extreme diets that create disordered eating habits. You have a chance this year to slowly develop a healthier relationship with food, change how and why you eat, and mindfully select that foods and meals that leave you feeling better and work for you in YOUR life, one habit at a time with a supportive and non-judgmental coach. 

My habit based program that offers two options: six months or a year, for $99 a month or $149 a month ($149 includes an exercise program), starts on Monday. If you're looking for permanent changes and a new set of habits and skills; if you have ten minutes a day to read or listen to a nutrition lesson that supports your bi-weekly habit; if you want to stop spinning your wheels and start taking effective action, then sign up by Sunday to begin the convenient, supportive online program this Monday.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please email me: info@kaizenhealthandfitness.com 

In good health,