Why do you exercise? Really. Why do you exercise?
I was a big avoider of exercises of all kinds when I was overweight. I considered walking the mall while on a shopping trip to be my exercise for the week and would stop in the Food Court to fill up on foods from coffee shops like this one and cookie stores.
I’d sit in the mall chairs and munch on a pastry, drink a coke, and complain how much my feet hurt. But inside my mind I would be thinking, “I’m doing good on my diet. I just walked for 15 minutes in a row.”
I tried to think of ways to sit most of the day and the thought of putting any physical effort into my life made me tired.
So I sat as much as possible and tried to avoid exerting myself.
It was a sad existence.
When I finally decided to lose weight that final time, one of the three things I committed to was regular exercise. And committed I was.
I exercised six or seven days a week for the entire 14 months it took me to lose a total of 158 pounds. The only days I missed were ones where I was sick or the kids were sick. I exercised on vacations, on work related trips – everywhere.
But did exercise really affect my weight loss? It’s an interesting concept and one that I think about a lot. I do think that exercise positively affected my weight loss efforts. Definitely. But I also think I could have lost weight without exercise because I had done that before.
Back when I was early married and had put on about 40 pounds, I went to Weight Watchers and lost 22 pounds. I did not exercise once and still lost the weight. Sadly, I put back on the 22 pounds and added another few pounds to go with it. I put back on the weight because I had not changed my relationship to food, had not dealt with the emotions and excuses surrounding my food choices, and did not change my lifestyle.
Exercise became an important part of my lifestyle change. I’ve continued to exercise six days a week for 15 years. Of course I miss a day here and a day there because of unforeseen circumstances, but for the most part, I am extremely consistent. (Even in rainy weather)
However, I do not rely on exercise to keep me at a healthy weight nor did I rely on exercise as the primary means for weight loss.
Exercise enhances your weight loss and weight maintenance efforts, but rarely causes either unless you pair exercise with a lowered calorie, healthy diet.
I see it all the time. Friends or acquaintances ask me why they are not losing weight. Although there certain reasons to pinpoint when answering this question, one reason I see for their lack of progress is that they are relying too heavily on exercise to lose weight. Sometimes they rationalize a bad diet because “I worked out.” Other times they eat more than they should because they exercised. Still other times they simply do not realize how many calories they are burning. In most cases, they overestimate.
I exercised in conjunction with a healthy diet and the people I know who have lost weight and kept it off did the same thing. They worked out consistently and ate a healthy, calorie appropriate diet. As a side note, I also know people who have lost weight without exercise because of physical limitations but I cannot think of a single person who ate whatever they wanted and lost weight simply because they exercised. (I’m sure there are people out there, but I’ve never personally met them.)
I exercised because it made me stronger, helped me burn calories, and improved my health. I did not exercise just to lose weight because I knew that the 200 to 250 calories I was burning each day by taking a walk were terrific, but not enough to help me drop a substantial amount of weight.
What do you think? Is exercise enough to really lose weight and keep it off or is it one component of a healthy lifestyle that includes being at a healthy weight? Diane