Exercise & Weight Loss

Can You Lose Weight Without Exercising? (The Answer Might Surprise You!)

I'm going to tell you something that might shock you. Ready?

You do not have to workout to lose weight.

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Wait....what?? I'm a personal trainer telling you that you do not have to workout to lose weight??

Yep, that is EXACTLY what I am saying. You do not have to workout to lose weight.

I know this might be shocking because so many of us have been taught to associate weight loss with exercise.

In fact, when we want to lose weight it's often the first solution we turn to. Many people's first thought when they want to lose weight is "I better start working out".

It almost never works.

Especially as women, we have been drilled with the idea that we must workout to burn calories so that we lose weight. It's so deeply ingrained in us that some clients actually get defensive when I tell them they don't have to workout.

But it's true. Weight loss is truly about diet & regulating hormones. It's not about sweat equity.

In fact, it's not uncommon to see people GAIN weight when they start working out. I've seen people train for marathons & gain weight. I've seen people train for triathlons and gain weight. I've seen people join Cross Fit and gain weight. I've seen people lift weights and gain weight.

Working out does not equal weight loss.

"But...it helps, right?"

Sometimes. But probably not for reasons most people think. It's not because you are "burning off" your food.

In fact, sometimes working out at the beginning of a weight loss journey can do more harm than good: 

  • It can cause you to feel overwhelmed. (It's helpful to focus on one thing at a time.)
  • It can cause a disruption in your hormones so you feel hungrier. (This will go away once you get your diet on track and regulate your hormones but it takes some time.)
  • It can cause you to feel you need to eat more to "fuel your workout" or to "refuel" after. (Often this is not necessary.)
  • It can cause you to justify eating certain things, or eating more of certain things, because you worked out. (I worked out today so it's totally fine to eat this box of cookies.)

This can all can lead to confusion and unwanted results.

"So....don't workout then?".

I love to workout. I do it a lot. But not to lose weight or burn calories.

I do it because it's fun.

I do it because it makes me feel strong.

I do it because I like to feel healthy.

I do it as an example for my daughters.

I do it to tone & have muscle definition.

I do it to help prevent osteoporosis.

I do it as a way to socialize.

I do it as a way to have some time to myself.

I do it for therapy.

I do it because I can.

So, if your main goal is weight loss, here is what I recommend in the beginning of your journey:

  1. Workout only if you want to. Exercise because it makes you feel happy, strong & healthy.
  2. If you are already working out you can keep doing what you are doing or even take it down a notch as you adjust to a new diet protocol. Don't try to do more. It will most likely backfire.
  3. If you are not working out already it's totally fine. Give yourself some time to just focus on the diet part and when your ready, see recommendation #1.

Do NOT:

  1. Workout to punish yourself.
  2. Workout to burn calories.
  3. Workout because you "messed up" your eating protocol.
  4. Workout because you think you "should".

If it's overwhelming at first allow yourself to just do what you can, when you can without any pressure. Walking and light yoga are great options when you are first getting started. (Here is a website that has some great free yoga workouts for beginners: Do Yoga With Me. Another great, free resource is Fitness Blender. They have many beginner workout options.) 

As you lose the weight, re-calibrate your hormones, increase energy and start to feel better you can increase your workouts based on your fitness/physique goals & what feels right for you.

There is no magic workout. I say this all the time to my clients. The best workouts are the ones that you will actually do. So, have fun with this, take the pressure of "have to" off the table and decide what your reasons for working out are.

Still not convinced? Check out this great video called The Science Is In: Exercise Is Not The Best Way To Lose Weight.