Most of the people cringe when it comes to exercise for weight loss or at least have to “push” them to do so on a regular basis. Or you may trick your self thinking that you do “like/love” exercising but “if only” you had time for that in your busy schedule. Yet another super common fallacy people believe is that they are over weight because of their “sedentary” lifestyle.

So listen people, here I go

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As fantastic as exercise is, don’t believe for a second that you can reach goal weight through exercise. One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you’ll lose weight. This just isn’t true. Millions of people exercise every week but are still overweight.

I know , I know I am raising a lot of eyebrows out there but when you finally “get” this, it might just spark your love affair with exercise ! That’s what exactly happened with me.

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Think about the naturally thin eaters you know. Their weight seems to stay mind-bogglingly consistent over time— independent of whether they have a gym membership. Right? When trying to lose weight, dieters often use exercise to “cheat the system” by manipulating the calorie in vs. calorie out ratio.

So, where does exercise fit into this new approach to lasting leanness?. From a purely biological perspective your body’s innate wisdom will easily get you to and keep you at your naturally lean weight through hunger directed eating. Exercise is not required. Just look at all of your naturally thin friends who are consistently slim yet they aren’t slaves to the gym. However, the goal of this blogpost isn’t to encourage you to not exercise— it’s to examine your relationship with it. So that, just like with food, exercise can go back to its rightful place in your life. Where it serves you, not the other way around. So let’s dig in to find out how to build a relationship with exercise where you can ditch the drama and enjoy its many benefits.

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Exercise isn’t the Shortcut to Slim. Well, it does yield sensational unparalleled life- and mood-enhancing benefits— but sustained weight loss is not one of them. The big issue here is that doctors and dietitians will tell you to eat healthier food and exercise more as if they are equally important when this is far, far from the case. I am going to show you that while exercise is important for general well-being, cardiovascular fitness and stress management, it is not a big player in losing weight. When 80% of people eventually abandon their weight loss attempt because they find it is too hard as they believe that it results in sustainable and substantial weight loss.

Let me quote a study by North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO).Data from randomized controlled studies suggest that adding exercise to dietary therapy does not significantly increase short-term or long-term weight loss compared with dietary therapy alone.

This is a consistent finding when you look at the research into weight loss. ‘But how can this be?’ I hear you ask. ‘Every doctor since forever has been telling us we need to exercise more if we want to lose weight!’ Intuitively it would seem to make sense – the more we exercise the more fat we burn off. But this is too simplistic. There are other factors at work here. Most commonly what happens is that either through being more hungry after exercise or through misjudging how much we have burnt off, we can easily eat as much as the energy we have burnt off, and usually more. Thinking we can afford to eat way more than we burn off so that, even with high levels of exercise, we end up gaining weight, or at least – for many of us – not losing it.

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Using exercise as a way to shift the calories-in us. calories-out ratio is supremely inefficient when you consider the amount of time it takes to eat something versus the time it takes to work it off. Let’s do the math. Say you eat a cheeseburger with fries. It will take you five to six hours of walking to burn it off. If you throw in a milkshake (or a margarita) you’re looking at another three to four hours of walking. I used calorically dense foods in this example but even a banana takes just under an hour of walking to burn off. So even if you do have the willpower when facing the treadmill that eluded you when you were facing the cheesecake, you would still spend the majority of your waking hours working off your food. And that is not freedom. Hell, that’s not even Life!

But doesn’t muscle burn more fat and in turn increase our metabolic rate ?

The surprising truth. How many extra calories do you think you could eat each day if you replaced ten pounds of fat with ten pounds of muscle? You always hear that muscle burns more calories than fat. Which is true, but egregiously overrepresented. Research published in the Journal of Obesity calculated that one pound of muscle burns six calories per day. Fat on the other hand burns two calories a day. So a pound of muscle burns four more calories per day than a pound of fat. But hold on before you race to cash those calories in on cream puffs. Let’s say you lost ten pounds of body fat and replaced it with muscle— that’s the equivalent to 40 cubes of butter— a huge accomplishment. But when you add it up, converting those ten one pound boxes of butter from your belly and thighs to muscle only burns forty extra calories per day. Total. So those ten pounds of muscle afford you a whopping extra teaspoon (not tablespoon!) of olive oil. Hardly the get-out-of-calories-free card that diet-lore advertises it to be.

But here’s the holy grail truth…

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My current daily-ish peaceful but invigorating relationship with exercise sprouted from an entirely different seed. While I was mastering Hunger Directed Eating I worked ardently at identifying and amassing the tools required to replace Emotional Eating with more productive coping responses.

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When I was “diet-girl”, I’d need to run for an hour or five miles for a workout to count (or even be worth it). Now that I was exploring the psychological effects of exercise , things looked very different. I would then measure the specific changes in my mood and energy. These short walks paired with the measurement process seismically shifted exercise from a gruelling “Should” to a full-fledged, inside-out, powerful, emphatic “Want To”. I now eagerly move my body and raise my heart rate in some way, shape , or form almost every day— because I genuinely want to.

So let me be clear. Exercise is indisputably one of the most beneficial activities you can choose to do. It relieves tension, depression, and anxiety. It boosts your mood, energy, overall health, bone density, and ability to focus. And the list goes on. And on. But I’m guessing that you already know this.

If exercise is in the Should category where you dread it— but know it’s good for you and therefore think you should do it— all the research in the world isn’t going to spring you up out of your seat with unbridled enthusiasm to go for a walk.

The point of exercise from this perspective is not to burn calories, but to enjoy the movement, the empowerment, the grace, strength and perfection of your own body that I bet you have forgotten existed! Look it as a form of self-love!

Exercise because it makes you feel fabulous, not because you feel obligated to do it. As soon as you shift your perspective and see exercise as a source of pleasure allowing you the precious time to tune into yourself, your relationship to it will change. Using physical movement as another form of meditation, fun and inspiration, will radically ignite the experience for you in life.

If you could take a magic pill that would allow you to feel healthier, look better, relieve stress , reduce tension and headaches, have more energy and live longer, would you take it? Of course you would. The great news is, you can have that magic elixir right now and it is absolutely free. Give yourself this gift of movement every day and see how great your life becomes.

Action Steps

1.Break the Connection between Exercise and Burning Calories.Completely disconnect the act of moving your body (exercising) from burning calories and weight loss. (It is so liberating!). Exercise will irrefutably make you happier, healthier, and more cognitively flexible— however, it won’t make you thin.

2. Instead of asking your body what exercise it would like, ask it what movement it would like to do. What movement. It might be dancing, it might be Pilates. Just ask. It might be riding, cycling, running, roller-blading, running on the beach, doing push-ups, yoga or hula hoops. And then indulge into this joyful movement at least 3 times per week. You will be amazed to witness how quickly your body morphs into your more desirable reality.

3. One way to make exercise and movement part of your life is to combine it with something you enjoy. That way you will anchor good feelings to exercise and look forward to it every day. What do you enjoy doing? If you like spending time with friends, make it a point to walk with your friends. It doesn’t have to be power walking. Even leisurely walking is good for your health and feels good. You can also just stand up and move or stretch as you watch favorite shows. If you enjoy music, you can listen to your favourite playlist and walk or just dance around the house as you watch MTV (I love it) . Take a minute right now and think of some of your favourite activities and how you can enhance these activities with more movement and more pleasure.

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In the comments below, please share your thoughts and insights on this. I would love to here from you.
Love
Anu

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