Here’s a few basic dieting and exercise truths that anyone who wants to lose weight should know. Some of them go counter to traditional wisdom or current dieting hype, but the facts support them. Read them all, and then reconsider how you want to diet next time (after your current diet fails).

  1. Dieting Sucks.

    This is a big one that no one really wants to admit. Everyone wants to hear that there’s an easy way to lose weight, which works out great for everyone who’s selling the latest “lose 30 pounds in 15 minutes” fad diet. There’s an entire industry built to sell the idea that there are easy ways to lose weight. Losing weight is hard, though. It’s hard work.

    You will feel deprived, because you are, by definition, depriving yourself when you are on a diet. You are denying yourself that 400 Calorie muffin. You’re skipping the extra helping of mashed potatoes. You are depriving yourself of food, either in quantity or variety, and it’s hard to do that, especially at first. Don’t expect it to be easy. You have to decide if dieting is worth it to you, and if so, commit to working through the difficulty, rather than looking for a nonexistent easy route.

  2. You will be hungry.

    This is the primary reason that dieting sucks. I know, you read all about some new diet in Redbook that promises to allow you to lose weight without being hungry. News flash. You will not lose weight if you aren’t hungry. I know, it goes counter to everything the diet books have told you, but then, those diet books didn’t work, either.

    In order to lose weight, you will have to eat less. That’s the basic rule of dieting. You must consume fewer calories than you use. Guess what happens when you eat less than you burn: You get hungry. It’s basic physiology. Don’t try to fight it. Accept it, and prepare for it. The best any particular diet can hope to do is minimize hunger, not eliminate it.

  3. Exercise is an inefficient way to lose weight.

    Don’t try to tell yourself otherwise. Certainly, exercise is a wonderful thing to add to your health regimen, but it’s not going to do much as far as weight loss. When you see that snickers bar in the vending machine, don’t give in. I know, you think you can just run a little further and make up the calories. However, you would have to run an extra 2.5 miles, almost 30 minutes, to burn off the 280 Calories found in one Snickers bar (assuming a 150 pound person, running 5.5 mph).

    If you want to have an occassional treat, your best bet isn’t to try to exercise it away, but to eat less for your meals. Instead of trying to run an extra 2.5 miles just so you can eat a Snickers, trim 100 Calories off each of your other meals for the day.

  4. Situps will not slim your belly.

    It sometimes seems like this is common knowledge, but based on all the ab exercisers that still pop up on television commercials, it must not be. Targetted exercises will build muscle, but they will not burn fat in a targeted manner. Situps won’t slim your abdomen any better than bicep curls will slim your arms. Growing the muscle will actually cause an overall mass increase.

    If you want to lose fat on your stomach, you have to lose weight all over. 100 crunches a day won’t help as much as cutting 300 Calories per day.

  5. “Diets” do not work.

    Fad diets all rely on denying yourself something. Fat, carbohydrates, food diversity, etc. This leads to a feeling of deprivation, and the associated high failure rate. The latest diet you read about doesn’t have a high success rate, no matter what they claim. Most diets do work in the lab, where the participants are prepared for the harsh reality of the diet. In the real world, very few people are successful long term with dieting. Many people give up on their diets because they have the silly notion that it will be easier this time, with this new diet, and then it isn’t.

    Diets further set people up for failure by making them give up so much. Low carb: no breads. Low fat: no bacon. Fad diet: give up everything except, e.g., grapefruit or soup. I know a guy who’s put himself on a tortilla diet. He’s going to eat nothing but tortillas. How long do you think that will last?

    Denying yourself the ability to eat from massive portions of the food universe is just setting yourself up for frustration and defeat. Don’t give up fat, or carbohydrates, or anything else. Just eat less food overall. Yes, you’re still denying yourself calories, but that’s a deprivation you’re going to have to live with if you want to lose weight. You don’t have to live with lots of other artificial deprivations.

    Most days for lunch, I eat a turkey wrap with bacon and cheese. It’s only 330 calories. I feel less deprived eating that 330 calories sandwich than I would eating a 600 calorie sandwich with just turkey, because I’m allowing myself cheese and bacon.

  6. Packaged foods are not your enemy.

    Diet “gurus” have told us that to lose weight, we have stay away from packaged foods. We can’t eat frozen pizza and lasagna, for example. On the contrary, eating packaged foods makes it very easy to eat the correct number of calories. It’s printed right there on the package. There’s no estimating calorie content in that chicken breast, or wondering if a cup of chopped zucchini means big chops or little.

    The brand of frozen pizza I generally buy has 1200 calories in one pizza. “Oh my God,” you’re screaming. “You’ll never lose weight eating that kind of stuff!” Well, I don’t eat the whole damned pizza. Just because what you bought has too many calories doesn’t mean you have to consume them all. I generally eat 3 slices of frozen pizza, and save the rest for later. 3 slices (out of 8 total) works out to only 450 calories, a pretty small meal.

    Eating fresh foods, rather than packaged foods, might (or might not) be better for you, but that has little if anything to do with actual weight loss.

  7. You are not “genetically predisposed” to being fat.

    Unless you have some funky mutation, you don’t have any genetic predisposition, so don’t try to blame it on that. Widespread obesity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Do you think you just suddenly developed the “fat” gene that your grandparents and great grandparents didn’t have? You just learned bad eating habits, and you’re more sedentary than your ancestors. Even if you were predisposed to wanting to eat more, you don’t have to eat more.

    You also don’t have a “low metabolism.” Unless you’ve actually been tested to determine your basal metabolic rate, you have no reason to say that your metabolism is any lower than normal. It’s well established that people who are overweight actually have higher metabolisms. They have higher metabolisms because supporting that extra weight requires fuel. Nonetheless, metabolism differences do exist, and it’s possible that some people might have a slightly higher metabolism than you. All that means is their food expenses are higher. A lower metabolism doesn’t mean you gain weight easier. It means you simply need fewer calories. If you need fewer calories than Joe, then eat fewer calories than Joe. If you are overweight, it has nothing to do with your metabolism, and everything to do with you overeating.

    If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Your “predispositions” are irrelevant. Your metabolism isn’t to blame. Every excuse you give yourself for why you are currently overweight is just an excuse to stay overweight.

If you’ve really decided to lose weight, bravo. I wish you good luck. Keep the previous info in mind, and prepare yourself for the journey. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. And a healthier body is definitely worth having.

56 Comments on “7 Horrible Truths About Dieting and Exercise”

  1. Matt Says:

    Finally the word is getting out that exercise is only marginally important to overall health and inconsequential regarding weight loss. Just b/c some people enjoy exercise doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone.

    I think that there is no genetic propensity towards high or low metabolism. That’s a red herring. The real propensity is eating for comfort. Some people eat whenever they feel bad or have a problem. It’s as good a distraction as overworking or some drug and it’ll harm you in the long wrong like all distractions. The genes dictate what distraction you naturally gravitate towards – this metabolism stuff is silly.

  2. Joe Stankowski Says:

    ok… I just discovered your blog and you’ve piqued my interest with this post. you make some fair arguments, some of which I’d agree with. do you also have a SOLUTION in mind? like it or not, people “want” to lose weight.

    referring to your previous post, “8 practical steps…”, I’d challenge your adivce to “work your ass off”. Working harder at something that won’t work won’t make it work better (say that 3x real fast!)

    Maybe the ‘solution’ is to change the frame of reference from which we measure success?

    I even argue that THERE IS NO OBESITY PROBLEM. Too much weight is simply a SYMPTOM of doing too much of the wrong thing. (or to put it differently, not doing enough of the RIGHT things).

    Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoy your blog. Thanks for providing this food-for-thought. :-)

    -JS-

  3. Andy Says:

    could I get a list of your sources consulted on these matters that are assumed to be proven facts

  4. Derek Park Says:

    Joe, I unfortunately don’t have a perfect solution. The simple fact of the matter is that losing weight requires eating less, and I don’t know of any method, short of medication, that makes that a pleasant process. If people really want to lose weight, they will have to decide that it’s worth the unpleasantness. Maintaining a lower weight isn’t unpleasant, but actually losing weight is.

    As far as working harder goes, you’re right that working harder the wrong way won’t net much change. That’s why step 4 is to break the goal into easier pieces. Doing that helps to build an effective path. Step 8, reevaluation, is also supposed to help with the right path. If you’re working toward a goal and not getting anywhere, it’s necessary to reevaluate and plot a new direction.

    I’m glad you enjoy the blog.

    —-

    Andy, you might try here. Seriously, most of what I’ve got here is either logically obvious (exercise is inefficient, packaged foods can be good), or fairly accepted (targeted exercises are ineffective, “diets” don’t work).

  5. seleena Says:

    You might try “here” is hilarious, and that’s all I have to say about that.

  6. Zigzo WebLinks Baby Says:

    “You are not “genetically predisposed” to being fat.”

    Exactly! You are fat because you eat and live like a fatty! Sounds bad but it’s something people need to understand before making excuses.

    I’m fat and it’s because i just ate a tv dinner @ midnight, not because i have bad genes.

  7. undergroundman Says:

    You guys who think there is no genetic predisposition towards obesity are crazy. There is well-established science linking the two. (I myself am a scrawny little guy who can’t put on ten pounds to save his life.)

    Metabolism is strongly affected by how much muscle mass you have on your body. Therefore, putting on muscle can help you to lose weight.

  8. Derek Park Says:

    Widespread obesity is a recent problem. It’s fairly well established that obesity is not, for the most part, a genetic problem. Obesity has skyrocketed as people have become more sedentary and switched to high-sugar, high-fat foods. The idea that a suddenly widespread problem is primarily genetic in nature makes no sense, unless 65% of all Americans now how this genetic problem.

    Metabolism and obesity are separate issues. Low metabolism is only a problem if you’re eating the same number of calories as someone with a high metabolism, and in that case, the real problem is that you are eating too much.

  9. Michael Brown Says:

    My favored “eating plan” (let’s not say “diet”) is the No S Diet: no snacks, seconds, sweets, or sugar except on days beginning with “S.” Reinhard runs a good forum were people who like the idea support each other. You also might enjoy reading his “manifesto” on how he created it.

    I like it because it doesn’t require me to buy special foods, it’s easy to remember wherever I am (home, cafeteria) and I don’t need to carry one of those calorie counter books with me.

    http://www.nosdiet.com

  10. Dietingindeedsucks Says:

    Preventing obesity is much easier than losing fat. If you’ve been overweight since your childhood, you may blame your parents (if it’s their fault). But if you lack self-control and choose to overeat, be prepared to face the punishment for gluttony. :)

  11. TT Says:

    You obviously haven’t heard of the Shangri La Diet

  12. mike Says:

    you misspelled nonexistent. feel free to delete this comment; i would have emailed you but your contact page said leave a comment instead.

  13. Derek Park Says:

    Fixed. Thanks, Mike.

  14. Brad T Says:

    1. Dieting probably does suck, but changing your way of eating works out much better because you become accustomed to it, and you can even allow yourself some occasional dietary “sins”.

    2. You DO NOT have to be hungry if you eat the right kinds of food.

    3. I’ve heard stories where exercise helps if it doesn’t result in eating more or stem from eating more.

    4. You’re actually right about this one.

    5. The temporary nature of dieting is the problem. That’s why you must permanently change your way of eating which does work to help people lose weight.

    6. Packaged foods don’t necessarily have to be bad, but most of them contain junk that contributes to people being overweight (it’ll take too long to go into all of that).

    7. Actually, it’s not amazing that some Americans are overweight, what’s amazing is that some of them ARE NOT overweight when most of them are eating the standard American diet with lots of junk food and fast food.

    Other Things to Consider:

    One factor that’s been proven to result in lower body weights is fidgeting. Some people have a genetic tendency to keep limbs moving while not working or traveling, and one can burn up to 800 calories a day doing this.

    This hasn’t been settled yet, but it’s possible that not all calories are created equal. Cultures who consume more meat and dairy products have been shown to have bigger people than the ones that do not eat as much meat and dairy. Of course this might simply tie into the greater amount of calories in meat and dairy foods, but possibly not. I’m looking forward to finding out whether this is true or not. It’s also possible that the amount of hunger suppression per calorie is not equal.

    There has been some research into a virus that might be responsible for some people being overweight, but it’s not very developed research yet as far as I know.

    Some people have problems with the hormones/chemicals that signal being full and as a result will overeat because of this.

    Finally, some people are suffering from binge eating disorder which is like any other addiction, and they will consume food even when they’re not hungry.

  15. Derek Park Says:

    Brad:
    1. Changing the way you eat is fine and dandy as long as you don’t start cutting out major food groups. Most people don’t survive on that kind of diet for long.

    2. If you’re not hungry, you’re not running a calorie deficit, which means you won’t lose weight. It’s near impossible to lose any significant amount of weight without putting up with some very real hunger (or taking drugs of some kind).

    3. Exercise is a good thing, but it doesn’t do much for weight loss. Few people are willing to run 21 miles a week, and that’s what it takes to equal 300 calories per day. It’s just not effective.

    5. I agree with you. Changing how you eat is vital. The most important part of that is changing how much you eat.

    6. I’ve never seen anything conclusive that indicates that common food ingredients are bad. The only real problem with packaged food is that it’s generally a larger portion than most people need.

    7. The people who aren’t overweight don’t eat as much. I agree that it’s a bit strange that some people have managed to hold onto good eating habits while so many others have not, though.

    You’re talking about NEAT. I’m not sure it can’t have an 800 Calorie per day impact (at least not the “fidget factor”), but it can certainly have an effect. However, just like metabolism, it’s effect only matters if you’re not eating the right amount. If Joe burns 400 Calories more than you each day because of his NEAT, then you should be eating 400 calories less than Joe each day. If you’re eating more than you burn, you’re going to put on weight.

    Nonequal Calories is certainly a possibility, but I doubt it’s a huge factor. In any event, if milk counted for 1.1 times as much as soy, and you prefer milk to soy, it just means you need to consume a bit less.

    Everyone’s always looking for reasons that people are overweight, but the fact of the matter is, most people are overweight because they just eat too much. For most people, it’s not about hormone problems, any genetic predispositions, a hypothetical virus, or even what they eat. It’s about how much they eat.

  16. Chase Says:

    The person who wrote this is an idiot. I recommend listening to his advice only if you are fat and want to stay that way, and need plenty of excuses.

    If you really want to lose weight go to http://www.johnstonefitness.com

    My responses to each question:

    1. No shit?
    2. Depends, lift weights and eat correctly and you can eat more than enough to keep yourself reasonably full. The one caveat to this, is that you should be doing cardio in the morning on an empty stomach.

    3. Exercise is the ONLY effective way to lose weight. I’m not talking about cardio, or running miles everyday. If you are an overweight male, go start lifting 3 times a week and doing some fast walking on a treadmill for 45 minutes 3 times a week off the days that you aren’t weight lifting. If you are 30+ lbs over weight, you will drop 10 of it in 2 weeks. News flash: if you don’t exercise, you won’t lose weight and you won’t lose fat. Go to http://www.Bodybuilding.com to learn about exercising effectively. When I started my program 2 years ago, I dropped about 10 lbs in just my first week of doing an effective program. That’s not healthy, but I dropped that much because I found out, as many do who are overweight and start dropping the pounds, that most people who are fat UNDER EAT, but eat the wrong types of food.

    4. Duh.

    5. Diets don’t work, lifestyle changes do. Change your life, get off your fat ass, and start eating enough food to keep your metabolism running at a peak rate. The pounds will practically bleed off you until you reach about 15% body fat. Do it, I challenge you. Eat perfect and work out 6 days a week for 2 weeks, and you will lose a fuck load of weight and your energy will triple.

    6. The reason people tell you to stay away from things like frozen pizza is because for their caloric content , they contain relatively little nutritional value. Nothing wrong with the majority of pre-packaged food. Just not the stuff that is complete shit. And you can still eat the complete shit stuff, you just have to be sparing.

    7. I don’t subscribe to the notion that you are pre-disposed to being fat. So I guess I agree with you here.

    I suggest anyone who wants to lose weight go to http://www.johnstonefitness.com

    The site is a completely free community with a lot of people who are trying to make big changes in their lives. They are very supportive people and there are dozens of members who have completely transformed their bodies.

  17. Paul Says:

    I have to disagree. People are so sedentary nowadays that they have no meaning of what exercise really is. 50-100 miles a week on my bicycle over the summer months is worth 30lbs weight loss to me – even as I eat *more*, and certainly never go hungry. You may say it’s impractical and people won’t do it, but that’s not the point. Exercise in sufficient quantity and quality greatly increases your metabolism; for losing weight, there is no comparison.

  18. Sarah Says:

    My boyfriend’s father invented a diet that he is writing a book about now. In this diet you can eat whatever you want, but you can’t have meals- you just eat a 100 calorie snack every hour. One of the big problems with diets is that when you eat less, your body goes into starvation mode and retains more fat. The idea of this diet is to keep giving your body food so it never goes into starvation mode. It sounds a little nutty, but the guy’s a biochemist and he’s done some research and talked to a doctor. Theoretically, with this diet you would never feel hungry. I think you are wrong about hunger- your brain sends a hunger signal in response to lots of things, one of which is a calorie deficit. But it can also send it when you see food or when its a time of day you usually eat. I don’t think a calorie deficit has to necessarily trigger a hunger response. For example, if you eat a greater volume of food, like a bunch of vegetables, it can make you feel physically full on fewer calories.

  19. Barbara Says:

    love your blog! I totally agree with you about dieting since I’ve accomplished losing weight (50 lbs) and it re

  20. Barbara Says:

    oops, didn’t mean to do that above….as I was saying it required one thing: take in less calories than you use up. I ate less and did exercise because the exercising made me feel good and my muscles got firmer.

    You’re funny AND smart!

  21. jeff Says:

    while some of the things you say are true the idea that exercise has no real benefits is simply wrong. I am a nurse and I will tell you that exercise has numerous benefits including weight loss. when you cut your calories without exercise your body will burn protein stripped from the muscles. even if you don’t want to get more muscular strength training will dramatically slow the loss of muscle tissue. and people with a higher proportion of fat to muscle are going to have a lower metabolism. it is a fact not an opinion that muscle burns calories even at rest. fat, being very little more than storage burn almost none.I just want to know your profession and education that you feel comfortable giving this advice

  22. Derek Park Says:

    Chase:

    2. “Reasonably full” is pretty vague, don’t you think? If you burn a bunch of calories through exercise, and don’t replace them, you’re going to be hungry. Any if you do replace the calories, you won’t lose any weight.

    If you’re exercising hard enough, it might take your mind off of being hungry, just as being very busy on a project makes it easy to forget entire meals, but it’s not going actually to stop you from being hungry. It just distracts you.

    If you start an exercise regimen to burn 10% more calories per day, but also add 10% more calories to your diet, you’re unlikely to see any significant weight changes. (More likely water loss than anything else.)

    As far as running on an empty stomach, there are some people who advocate that, and some who completely disagree. Some studies have shown an advantage to empty-stomach running, while others have shown no significant effect either way. Still others have shown that fatigue sets in sooner on an empty stomach, and so overall, most people burn fewer calories that way. There’s no consensus on which is better.

    I personally never exercise on an empty stomach because it makes my bloodsugar plummet and I get shaky and sick.

    3. No, no it’s not. Exercise is great, but for most people, the amount of exercise necessary to really lose weight is just too high. It’s easier to diet for most people. Again, compare running 2.5 miles a day versus eating 300 fewer calories a day. The second is easier.

    You say that exercise is the only way to lose weight, and then talk about lifting weights (specifically saying not cardio). Basically, you seem to be saying that losing weight requires bodybuilding. That’s completely false. Your idea seems to completely exclude the possibility that women can lose weight.

    Also, most overweight people do not undereat. That makes no sense. If they were eating too little, they would be running a calorie deficit.

    You lose weight by burning more calories than you consume. If you exercise enough to create a calorie deficit, then you will lose weight. However, it’s harder to exercise to create the calorie deficit than it is to eat less to create the deficit. (And you’ll be hungry, either way.)

    5. You’re not really disagreeing with me here. I agree that it’s a lifestyle change. Whether you change your lifestyle to include a lot more exercise, or less food, you have to make a real change.

    And again, I think exercise is wonderful. But it should be a supplement to a proper diet, not a replacement.

    6. Nutritional value in food? I’m sick of hearing people talk about the nutritional value of food as if it’s independent of caloric content. The real nutritional value of any food is the calories. You need calories to live, even more than you need iron. You will die without calories. Vitamins and minerals are necessary, but so are calories. Eating pizza isn’t bad for you in moderation any more than bean sprouts are.

    Dean Karnazes eats Hawaiian pizza while he’s running marathons.

    You know, Chase, it’s kind of sad that you assume I’m an idiot just because I disagree with you. That says a lot about you.

  23. Derek Park Says:

    Paul, yes, in sufficient quantity, exercise will cause you to lose weight. Anyone who disputes that is an idiot. But it takes a lot of exercise (compared to modern habits) to offset relatively small calorie excesses.

    Certainly, exercise is a great way to lose weight, but it’s naive to believe that modern lifestyle is going to drastically change in a manner than encourages significant exercise. It’s more realistic to target the other end of the equation, where change is easier (and a lot less time-demanding).

    The fact that massive exercise is impractical and people won’t do it is exactly the point. You’re trying to argue away human nature.

  24. Derek Park Says:

    Sarah, I agree that the sensation of hunger is more complex than *just* calorie deficit, but I’m not writing a book here. It’s a short article. In general, calorie deficit and hunger are quite linked.

    As far as feeling full with low calories, than can help to some extent, but it’s also entirely possible to be full and still be hungry, which is one of the reasons it’s so easy to overeat. If you shove food down quickly, you can easily put away more food than you need before your body realizes it. I’m also pretty sure if you were hungry, and filled up on two pounds of celery, you could still be hungry when you were finished.

    I agree than keeping a full stomach can help, but it is by no means a complete fix.

  25. Matt Says:

    So in essence, you are saying that as long as I sit on my couch, watch TV, and don’t eat Snickers, I will lose weight?

    Now, in those terms doesn’t that seem completely insane? Yes, it does.

    A person can sit around and eat as healthy as they want, the fact is, if they are just sitting there and eating the whole time, as healthy as it is, they aren’t going to lose weight. Well, they might lose some weight, but it will be an incredibly slow process and will have minimal results.

    No doctor with any legitimate degree is going to tell a person to eat smarter but not exercise. You have to do both in conjunction with one another.

    I guess in that sense, you aren’t really wrong, but I think you are leading people astray by telling them that exercise is marginally beneficial.

  26. Derek Park Says:

    Jeff, I never said exercise has no benefits. It has lots of benefits. It’s just not efficient for losing weight.

    As far as the protein thing, when you run a calorie deficit, whether exercise is involved or not, your body is going to strip some protein from your muscles at first. That’s just a part of the process. Early on, it’s easier for the body to grab fuel from the muscles than from fat, so that’s what it does at first. Exercising may help to minimize that, but it won’t eliminate it.

    In any event, your body won’t continue to strip protein from your muscles indefinitely just because you’re dieting. If your diet were extremely low protein, it might be more of a problem, but if you’re eating a reasonable diet, muscle loss isn’t a serious issue. If long-term diets caused long-term muscle loss, then everyone who’s ever lost a significant amount of weight without strength-training would be completely atrophied, which is not the case. Lots of people lose weight without strength training (or even cardio).

    As far as my education, I’m a computer scientist. I don’t need to have an education in health sciences to be able to speak about dieting, anymore than you should need a degree in computer science to discuss programming. Knowledge is not dependent on a degree. (And sadly, a degree is often not dependent on knowledge.)

    Arguments should be able to stand on their own. If my points were wrong, they wouldn’t be so just because I don’t have a degree. If my arguments are incorrect, it should be possible to disprove them without any appeal to authority.

  27. Derek Park Says:

    Matt, are you saying that if I get off the couch and run a few miles a week, I can eat ten thousand calories a day and still lose weight?

    Now, in those terms doesn’t that seem completely insane? Yes, it does.

    Okay, now can we stop the ridiculous straw man attacks?

    The only prerequisite to weight loss is a calorie deficit. It doesn’t matter how that calorie deficit is achieved. If dropping a snickers bar from your daily routine gives you a 300 calorie deficit, then yes, you will lose weight. Why wouldn’t you?

    There’s nothing magic about the body. When running a calorie deficit, it simply cannot maintain its weight. You can be bed-ridden and lose weight as long as you run a calorie deficit.

    No doctor is going to tell you to eat better but not exercise? Okay. I’ll agree that any good doctor will recommend exercise. But good doctors will recommend that for people who don’t need to lose weight, too.

    Moderate exercise is good for health. No one disputes that. But just because it’s good for health doesn’t mean it’s efficient for weight loss. No decent doctor would recommend the use of stimulants* to help lose weight, either, even though they can certainly help weight loss. Doctors are concerned about health, which is not the same thing as weight loss.

    * Excluding possible extreme cases.

  28. robin Says:

    Fatties are fat because they sit all the time instead of using the calories that the take in for meaningful endeavors.. in short (and fat)this is the reasons we will soon be taken over by the Chinese and Mexicans who know what a days work looks like, and dont care to do it. Wake up America and get busy, or learn a new lanquage

  29. Sandy Says:

    Hi Derek,

    I enjoyed your article, funny and to the point. Let me just say that Dean Karnazes, if he is the extreme athlete I’m thinking of, only eats pizza while he is running marathons. He also consumes eclairs, ice cream and other high calorie quick energy foods but only while competing, on an everyday basis he eats a pretty lean calorie restricted diet. I read an article about him in Wired a few months ago.

  30. Chase Says:

    Derek,

    Reasonably full is not very vague. It means full enough to be satisfying the needs of your body without stuffing your face. Hence, reasonably full.

    “If you start an exercise regimen to burn 10% more calories per day, but also add 10% more calories to your diet, you’re unlikely to see any significant weight changes. (More likely water loss than anything else.)”

    Your logic is flawed. You assume that you need to do exercise equal to your extra caloric intake and that you then need to replace whatever you burn with new food. You fail to take into account the biggest factor in burning calories: metabolism. Doing any sort of exercise (especially those specifically designed to build muscle) increases your metabolism exponentially. So, if you do some cardio for 45 minutes one day, you burn say 500 calories. The rest of the day, and into the night your metabolism is now heightened due to that exercise. Now, building the muscle kicks in from all that great work with your body and legs. Building muscle = calorie burns, having more muscle = more calories burned. In other words, your exercise increases the calories you burn exponentially. You sit on your ass all day reading the internet, your metabolism never has a reason to kick into high gear. Now is that to say that you can’t lose weight just by eating a deficit of calories? Not at all, however it is a slippery slope, as unless you are reasonably active you will have to continue cutting calories every time your metabolism slows down to keep up with your decreasing caloric intake. It’s called our starvation mechanism.

    Your concept of being hungry to replace used calories is also a fallacy. What matters is your overall caloric intake throughout the day stays high enough to fuel your body and keep your metabolism high. Why do you think all the dieticians out there tell you to eat 6 meals a day? It’s because eating more frequently keeps you burning calories throughout the day instead of shutting your metabolism down (i.e. making you hungry) because you don’t have what your body needs. Then you get hungry, overeat and most of that caloric intake goes unused and gets stored as fat cells.

    “3. No, no it’s not. Exercise is great, but for most people, the amount of exercise necessary to really lose weight is just too high. It’s easier to diet for most people. Again, compare running 2.5 miles a day versus eating 300 fewer calories a day. The second is easier.”

    That’s why most people are lazy and fat. It isn’t that bad. Most people would just rather watch tv and eat cheesy poofs than do something active.

    “You say that exercise is the only way to lose weight, and then talk about lifting weights (specifically saying not cardio). Basically, you seem to be saying that losing weight requires bodybuilding. That’s completely false. Your idea seems to completely exclude the possibility that women can lose weight.”

    It isn’t the only way to lose weight. But it is the only effective way to lose it and keep it off. Some people are able to lose all their extra weight through large caloric deficits and then transform that into an effective lifestyle change. But that’s like what 2%?

    Bodybuilding, not necessarily. Developing some new muscle? Absolutely. Building new muscle is absolutely the BEST way to lose weight. It isn’t even close. You do it in conjunction with cardio and eat clean, you will lose weight fast. Like I said before, it will bleed off of you. You will feel it coming off and you will feel the fat be slowly replaced with muscle. It doesn’t take long either. I speak from experience here.

    I only mentioned males because that’s what I’m familiar with. Women can also use weight lifting as an effective tool for weight loss. However, I’m not sure as to what their most effective options are for that, so I declined to elaborate.

    “Also, most overweight people do not undereat. That makes no sense. If they were eating too little, they would be running a calorie deficit.”

    I’ll reiterate then. They under eat compared to what a normal, healthy person of their weight should be eating. And this isn’t the case with every overweight person. But I do find that this is the case with a large % of people who are merely overweight between 10-30 lbs.

    “Dean Karnazes eats Hawaiian pizza while he’s running marathons.”

    Yes, clearly extreme athletes should be compared to overweight people in their eating habits in ALL cases. Good work here Derek. Top Notch. rofl.

    That being said, they are eating the wrong foods and eating too much at one sitting. They also don’t have an effective metabolism due to completely sedentary lifestyle.

    “Nutritional value in food? I’m sick of hearing people talk about the nutritional value of food as if it’s independent of caloric content. The real nutritional value of any food is the calories. You need calories to live, even more than you need iron. You will die without calories. Vitamins and minerals are necessary, but so are calories. Eating pizza isn’t bad for you in moderation any more than bean sprouts are.”

    ‘bad for you’ is relative. as long as you are getting all the other nutrients you need from elsewhere, nothing is bad for you, so long as it isn’t poisonous.
    Problem is, and any doctor would back me up on this, is that despite eating a large amount, most obese people lack vital nutrients, despite sometimes eating 5,000 calories a day.

    I don’t assume your an idiot, I declared it. You are as guilty of spreading false information as pill peddlers on late night infomercials. It is pretty clear you don’t really have any idea about what you are talking about, despite having generally good intentions. I guess that makes you a good natured idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

  31. Jake Says:

    Good article, and I agree with it: cutting through all the hype and buzz everything comes down to keeping a caloric deficit to loose weight. Fat is essentially stored energy, measured in calories, and using more calories in a day than you put into your body means your body must use it’s stored energy to keep up.

    Some clarifications I would like to make: Exercise is more beneficial they stated in your original post. Granted, for most people its easier to not eat junk food than exercise. But exercising has more benefits than just extra calories burned. For people with a sedentary lifestyle, exercising activates their body to burn calories more efficiently. Your body responds to its environment: if you don’t eat all day then have one large meal, you body will store more of that food as fat rather than let it pass through your system; as you exercise/exert yourself on a daily/weekly basis your body becomes accustomed to burning calories faster and will adjust to do so.

    If someone simply starves themselves they will loose weight, yes.

    If that same person ate less and moved around (to the point that they at least work up a sweat – not to lose water weight, but as a marker of when your body is actually having to work) they will loose the same weight faster and more efficiently.

  32. Ron Says:

    I agree with these generally except #6 If its packaged the its likely processed and automatically junk food.

  33. Derek Park Says:

    Sandy, you’re right. Karnazes only eats that stuff when he’s running. However, I wasn’t saying that everyone should eat like Karnazes or consume 9000 calories a day (as he does when running). My point was that those foods will not kill you. They’re generally bad because of the high calories, but if you only eat enough, as opposed to gorging, there’s no problem with them.

  34. Derek Park Says:

    Chase:

    The comment about being full was intended to differentiate between the physical feeling of a full stomach and hunger (or the lack thereof). They are not the same, though they are (obviously) related.

    You fail to take into account the biggest factor in burning calories: metabolism. Doing any sort of exercise (especially those specifically designed to build muscle) increases your metabolism exponentially.

    The biggest factor in burning calories is not metabolism. A guy with a naturally slow metabolism working as a package loader is going to burn more calories than a guy with a fast metabolism who sits at a desk all day.

    Also, the kind of increase you’re talking about is most definitely not exponential.

    And not everyone wants to build muscle. Some people would rather be slim than bulky.

    I feel it’s worth pointing out here that the Mayo clinic doctors don’t buy into the metabolism myth:

    “Our patients have told us for years that they have low metabolism, and as caregivers, we have never quite understood what that means — until today,” — Dr. Levine

    That quote from Dr. Levine is from an article where he discusses Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). It’s not about basal metabolic rate or changes thereof. It’s about expending calories through activity. People who are more active don’t really have a higher metabolism, they are just more active.

    And yes, you can burn calories by being more active. Or you can eat fewer calories.

    Now is that to say that you can’t lose weight just by eating a deficit of calories? Not at all, however it is a slippery slope, as unless you are reasonably active you will have to continue cutting calories every time your metabolism slows down to keep up with your decreasing caloric intake. It’s called our starvation mechanism.

    Your basal metabolic rate will dip whenever you enter into a caloric deficit. It doesn’t matter how you enter that caloric deficit. Yes, it’s a starvation protection, but it comes into play anytime you start “starving”, whether it’s a result of diet or exercise (or both).

    And your basal metabolic rate cannot continue to slide downward. Your body has needs it has to meet. Metabolism can’t slip to nothing. It makes no sense.

    Your concept of being hungry to replace used calories is also a fallacy. What matters is your overall caloric intake throughout the day stays high enough to fuel your body and keep your metabolism high. Why do you think all the dieticians out there tell you to eat 6 meals a day? It’s because eating more frequently keeps you burning calories throughout the day instead of shutting your metabolism down (i.e. making you hungry) because you don’t have what your body needs. Then you get hungry, overeat and most of that caloric intake goes unused and gets stored as fat cells.

    You’re not even disagreeing with what I said. Read your own comment again. It doesn’t at all disprove what I said about hunger and caloric intake. It supports it.

    I said that hunger is a response to the body’s need for more calories. You said, “What matters is your overall caloric intake throughout the day stays high enough to fuel your body and keep your metabolism high.” Exactly. If your overall caloric intake isn’t high enough to support your body, you get hungry. If you want to argue, maybe you should stick to the points that you actually don’t agree with.

    As far as metabolism, I’m not going into that again. And as far as the 6 meals a day thing, it’s very debated whether that has any useful effect.

    That’s why most people are lazy and fat. It isn’t that bad. Most people would just rather watch tv and eat cheesy poofs than do something active.

    Okay. So you’re not disagreeing. You’re just complaining.

    It isn’t the only way to lose weight. But it is the only effective way to lose it and keep it off.

    No, it’s not. Exercise is one way to keep the weight off. The other is to eat less. It’s basic biology. Burn the calories you eat, or eat the calories you burn. The net effect is the same.

    Bodybuilding, not necessarily. Developing some new muscle? Absolutely. Building new muscle is absolutely the BEST way to lose weight. It isn’t even close. You do it in conjunction with cardio and eat clean, you will lose weight fast. Like I said before, it will bleed off of you. You will feel it coming off and you will feel the fat be slowly replaced with muscle. It doesn’t take long either. I speak from experience here.

    I agree that building muscle helps. So does cardiovascular exercise. I don’t disagree with this, and I never said I did. All I said is that most people are not willing to put in the time to lose weight through exercise, because it’s just not very efficient. It’s time consuming, and most people just don’t do it. It’s generally easier to diet, if for no other reason than it doesn’t take extra time. I recommend both, but diet alone will cause weight loss.

    As far as losing weight fast, anything over around 2 pounds a week is generally considered unhealthy, and shouldn’t be done without consulting a doctor. I don’t advocate any kind of “fast” weight loss, because that’s the kind of mentality that leads to crash diets and other unhealthy behavior.

    I’ll reiterate then. They under eat compared to what a normal, healthy person of their weight should be eating. And this isn’t the case with every overweight person. But I do find that this is the case with a large % of people who are merely overweight between 10-30 lbs.

    I don’t understand your logic here. You seem to think there’s some ideal caloric intake for every weight, but that’s not the case. Caloric intake should be balanced with caloric expenditure. There’s no “perfect” caloric intake for everyone of a specific weight. Some people are more sedentary, and some are more active. (And then some are extremely sedentary or extremely active.)

    Yes, clearly extreme athletes should be compared to overweight people in their eating habits in ALL cases. Good work here Derek. Top Notch. rofl.

    That being said, they are eating the wrong foods and eating too much at one sitting. They also don’t have an effective metabolism due to completely sedentary lifestyle.

    Yeah, roflmao. It’s so funny when you exaggerate what I say instead of actually addressing it.

    The point about Karnazes isn’t that everyone should eat like that. It was that there’s nothing wrong with those foods in moderation. Good job ignoring the real point.

    ‘bad for you’ is relative. as long as you are getting all the other nutrients you need from elsewhere, nothing is bad for you, so long as it isn’t poisonous.

    That was exactly my point, which would have been obvious if you’d used a little critical thinking instead of pretending that I was advocating the Karnazes Diet.

    Problem is, and any doctor would back me up on this, is that despite eating a large amount, most obese people lack vital nutrients, despite sometimes eating 5,000 calories a day.

    This is not true. Vitamin deficiencies are extremely rare in the developed world. Show me some evidence that deficiencies are common in obese people.

    I don’t assume your an idiot, I declared it. You are as guilty of spreading false information as pill peddlers on late night infomercials. It is pretty clear you don’t really have any idea about what you are talking about, despite having generally good intentions. I guess that makes you a good natured idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

    I recommend eating the right number of calories. How does that make me guilty of spreading false information? How does that put me on the same level as peddling diet pills.

    There’s two parts to the weight equation. There’s caloric intake, and caloric expense. It makes no sense to argue that only one side can be usefully addressed.

    It’s well known that most people are unwilling to follow a stringent exercise regimen (just as they are generally unwilling to follow a stringent diet). I argue that it’s easier to fix the intake side than it is to fix the expense side. You might disagree, but no stretch of logic can say that dieting won’t work. You’ve completely left the realm of reality when you say that exercise is necessary for weight loss.

    I’m sorry that you get your health information from the mass media and fitness magazines. That you would push the latest 6-meals-a-day fad diet as fact or claim that deficiencies are common in overweight people is enough to show me that your information sources are unreliable. Some basic research and critical thought would serve you much better.

  35. Derek Park Says:

    Jake, I agree 100 percent that exercise is beneficial. I encourage everyone to exercise. It’s just not efficient for weight loss. But as far as overall health goes, exercise is wonderful. Yes, exercise can certainly help with weight loss, but for many people, it’s just more efficient to concentrate on intake. This is especially true for people who massively overeat. It would be extremely difficult to exercise enough to offset a 750 calorie/day surplus (which sadly, some people have).

    Ron, I don’t get most of my calories from packaged food, but I certainly get a decent chunk. I think the biggest problem with junk food is that it makes it easier to overeat (because they are generally so calorie dense). However, if you pay attention to the nutrition information, I think they can be used to good advantage.

  36. Paul Says:

    “The fact that massive exercise is impractical and people won’t do it is exactly the point. You’re trying to argue away human nature.”

    No, I’m trying to disagree with you on what human nature is. We are not designed for a sedentary lifestyle, every bit as much as we are not designed to be able to easily psychologically tolerate going hungry. Why pile one affront to our nature on top of another?

  37. Derek Park Says:

    We are not designed for a sedentary lifestyle, but it’s certainly in our nature to avoid work. It’s also against our nature to intentionally go hungry. I can’t disagree with that. However, I think that for most people, it’s easier to diet than exercise. The quantity of exercise necessary to offset a significant calorie imbalance can be very high (to the point not only of unpleasantness, but sometimes to the point of impracticality).

  38. Paul Says:

    Well I suppose. Personally, I just find it easier to run or cycle an hour a day to keep my weight in check than to be hungry all the time, it’s really much more pleasant. Being hungry messes with you, changes you, stresses you out. I get aggressive. I’ve never thought it was a good thing or even tolerable to do deliberately, but I guess everyone’s different.

    I do disagree with you about offsetting calorie balance though. A lot of things happen when you transition to fitness, including an increase your base metabolism and better appetite regulation. Regular exercise is worth quite a bit more to weight loss than just the calories you expend during workouts.

  39. Derek Park Says:

    Paul, you should only be hungry while losing weight, which is the case whether you’re exercising or dieting. Once you’ve lost the weight, maintaining a constant weight should not leave you constantly hungry. It should put you back into a normal slightly-hungry/satiated cycle.

    As far as exercise increasing basal metabolism rate, I don’t think there’s much evidence to back that up. I’ve never seen anyone point to actual studies which show that the effect is significant. I gave a quote from above where a mayo clinic doctor basically said that he really never used to understand what his patients meant about low metabolism. Now he says that he understands that “low metabolism” to most people simply means less active (especially non-exercise activity).

    And again, if you actually did increase your metabolism through exercise, you’d also cause your level of hunger to increase (due to the higher calorie deficit). It wouldn’t be free weight loss.

  40. jeff Says:

    the longer you are on a restricted calorie diet the greater the effect on muscle tissue. yes people end up with significantly greater muscle wasting when there is no resistance training. this is not my opinion this is backed by numerous studies. and as far as not being efficient, exercise raises the metabolism and counteracts to a large degree the decline of the metabolism due to restricted calories. you are right that a person doesn’t have to have a degree to speak on a subject but I would give greater credence to someone who has a more in depth knowledge like my friends who are exercise physiologists, nutritionist, and doctors. I wouldn’t care about your opinions if you weren’t trying to present them to others as facts. I let myself get out of shape and returned to the gym after a three year layoff, didn’t diet, and have burned off over 40 lbs. exercise works. my message to my fellow readers, consult someone who knows their facts not trying to convince you of their opinions.

  41. Derek Park Says:

    Jeff:

    Let me restate this, again, for the millionth time:

    I know exercise works for weight loss. I never said it doesn’t. It’s just not efficient.

    If you exercise without dieting, it takes a ton of work to lose the weight, because if you don’t change your diet, you’ll still be eating too much. However, you can diet without exercising and lose the weight fairly easily. You can lose two pounds a week with dieting alone, which is the maximum that medical professionals recommend for general cases.

    As far as muscle loss, please direct me to some of these numerous studies. I seriously want to see them if they exist. I haven’t seen anything scientific that shows significant muscle loss from dieting. Everyone says it’s true, but without studies backing it up, it’s a baseless claim.

    If you (or someone else) can direct me to some studies which show that exercise is necessary to prevent significant muscle loss, then I’ll concede the point (assuming of course that there aren’t also studies showing exactly the opposite). However, that won’t change the fact that exercise is inefficient for weight loss. It will just mean that dieting should be paired with exercise for overall health (which is something I already recommend).

  42. Alex Says:

    Excercise is actually extremely efficient. If you excercise consistantly for a few weeks you get to the point where your metabolism is higher, your appetite is smaller, and you can basically eat anything you want and still lose weight. Not to mention, you look better and it lowers your chances of getting sick. This page is extremely flawed in that it leaves out information, and use other information found on GOOGLE to support what this person wants to say. Also, there are some things, like Pthalsemia, which can be passed on genetically and lower your metabolism. The reason while most people believe excercise doesn’t work to lose weight is because they don’t get enough cardiovascular excercise in. However, when they do get enough, they quit after a week because they don’t lose as much weight as expected or even gain a little. However, usually when you start cardio it is normal to gain a little weight or just not lose any at first. However, when you keep it up for a couple to a few weeks, you will gradually lose weight, and at one point you will even just drop about ten pounds within a week. Then, your body will start becoming healthier. This is because your body MUST adapt to be able to continue rigorously excercising.

    Encouraging people to just eat less is incredibly dumb. People should be encouraged to eat right and excercise. Then the body will take care of itself. And you should NEVER discourage people to excercise. This is possibly the worst health reference ever created. Because of you, I think I’m going to take “health” off of my stumble interests.

  43. Derek Park Says:

    UGH.

    >> Excercise is actually extremely efficient. If you
    >> excercise consistantly for a few weeks you get to
    >> the point where your metabolism is higher, your
    >> appetite is smaller, and you can basically eat
    >> anything you want and still lose weight.

    Alex, exercise is not efficient. Running 2.5 miles to make up for eating 300 calories is extremely time consuming. 30 minutes to work off 3 minutes of eating is not efficient.

    I’ve yet to see studies which show that exercise raises metabolism significantly (excluding significant muscle building, which is definitely not for everyone). It’s one of those things everyone says, and no one seems to have seen real studies. Point me to actual data if you’ve got it, or make a real argument. Don’t just spout what you’ve heard as if merely repeating it makes it true.

    >> Also, there are some things, like Pthalsemia, which
    >> can be passed on genetically and lower your
    >> metabolism.

    As far as genetic abnormalities causing low metabolism: Ugh. Ugh. UGH. No one disputes that there are certain medical conditions can cause numerous health problems. To 99.99% of the population, those medical conditions are nonexistent, and it makes no sense to bring them up. If you have a health problem, go to the doctor, don’t complain to me.

    >> The reason while most people believe excercise
    >> doesn’t work to lose weight is because they don’t
    >> get enough cardiovascular excercise in.

    This is exactly why I don’t believe the people who swear exercise is key. You don’t even agree with each other. You think people need more cardio, while others think people need more weight training. If you can’t even agree on what kind of basic exercise is best for weight loss, why should anyone believe you when you say exercise is even necessary?

    Nonetheless, exercise is still not efficient, for reasons I’ve already pointed out.

    >> However, when you keep it up for a couple to a
    >> few weeks, you will gradually lose weight, and at
    >> one point you will even just drop about ten pounds
    >> within a week. Then, your body will start becoming
    >> healthier.

    If you keep dieting, you’ll also lose weight.

    And as far as losing ten pounds in a week, this is unhealthy. Ridiculous claims like that are part of what make people give up so easily on diet and exercise. People think it’s not working for them because they only lost 10 pounds this month, and you’re telling them they should eventually be losing that much in one week.

    >> Encouraging people to just eat less is incredibly
    >> dumb. People should be encouraged to eat right and
    >> excercise. Then the body will take care of itself.

    Telling people to eat less is exactly what people need, because people are eating too much.

    >> And you should NEVER discourage people to excercise.

    I never did discourage people from exercising, which would have been abundantly clear if you’d bothered to actually read what I wrote.

    >> This is possibly the worst health reference ever
    >> created. Because of you, I think I’m going to take
    >> “health” off of my stumble interests.

    Oh, cry me a freaking river. If you can’t handle reading a viewpoint different from your own, you have some serious issues.

  44. Brian Says:

    IMHO, I would have to agree with Derek. Dieting sucks and its hard.

    Exercise gives a very small payback when you look at in terms of calories in a snickers bar compared to how long you have to exercise to burn it off.

    However, taking a walk or something other than sitting on your butt BEFORE you crack open the Ben and Jerry’s helps cut the edge once you return to the fridge.

    Also, packaged food does have the all the nutrition info right on the package and you don’t have to eat the whole thing. However, packaged food can sometimes have more calories than a salad, or a bunch of broccoli. This is where the the decisions come in. Ask yourself, do I want two cups of broccoli, or do I want two tablespoons of peanut butter?

    Lastly, as mentioned by Derek, cutting your calorie intake by 300 calories is a good thing. The hard part is making sure that you have actually cut it day after day, after day. For me, I must monitor each and every meal and snack to make sure I have stayed within my daily allotment. If I do not monitor it, then I go over and this in itself makes the dieting take longer.

    Good luck to everyone and hang in there!
    Brian

  45. Alex Says:

    >>I’ve yet to see studies which show that exercise raises metabolism significantly (excluding significant muscle building, which is definitely not for everyone).

    I agree with the argument that types of exercise will increase your metabolism after your workout. Derek, you have been arguing that cardio is only good for energy expenditure during the actual workout (which is fairly accurate). You also argue that not everybody wants to building large amounts of muscle so ‘bodybuilding’ is not for them. That is fair. However, exercise cannot be divided simply into ‘cardio; or bodybuilding. The best exercises for weight loss improve heart function and endurance but also increase muscle mass(most people will not exercise enough to actually ‘bodybuild’) and thus increase metabolism. High intensity interval training is such a modality.

    Trembblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard C. (1994). Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metablism, Metabolism. 43(7): 814-818.

    You are right that fat loss requires your body to use more calories that it ingests. However, this is obviously not simply a balance of intake versus exercise. It is well known that transitioning from a three meal diet to an equal calorie 5-6 meal diet wil result in weight loss. Energy is expended by the gut to digest this more frequent intake. This will also not increase your hunger.

    I agree with your general principle that short term dieting is not beneficial in the long run and that 30 minutes of daily cardio is not sufficient for fat loss. However, you make too many broad assumptions! Fat loss can be obtained with a change in your diet(diet = your nutrition pattern) in combination with exercise (resistance training with an increase in heart rate).

  46. Derek Park Says:

    Alex, do you by any chance have a link to the actual article you mentioned? I can’t seem to find it, and it seems like an interesting read.

    You are correct that there are different levels of exercise than just the two extremes. And I can believe that high intensity training would be more beneficial for weight loss than aerobic exercise. I wouldn’t call this a metabolism increase without some compelling evidence, though. If you exercise and the body has to do repair work, it will burn calories during the repair. However, that doesn’t necessarily imply an actual increase in metabolism, anymore than getting a fever implies an increase in metabolism. (I’m considering longer-term metabolism here. You could argue than muscle repair and a fever both increase your metabolism today, while they’re occurring, but when your muscles are repaired and your fever is gone tomorrow, I’d expect the measured metabolism would return to prior levels.)

    I will, however, concede that I can see how high-intensity training could cause the appearance of increased metabolism, even if actual metabolism remains constant. And I agree that if that’s the case, it’s basically just as good.

    And seriously, if you read this comment, and you know where I can get a copy of that article, let me know.

  47. Sam Says:

    A doctor’s comments in an except from this article pretty much roundly debunk #3, “Exercise is an inefficient way to lose weight.” http://www.abc.net.au/rn/healthreport/stories/2007/1969924.htm

    The question is why does exercise work in obesity? Because it burns calories? That’s ridiculous. Twenty minutes of jogging is one chocolate chip cookie, I mean you can’t do it. One Big Mac requires three hours of vigorous exercise to work that off, that’s not the reason that exercise is important, exercise is important for [...] reasons exclusive of the fact that it burns calories.

    The first is it increases skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity, in other words it makes your muscle more insulin sensitive, therefore your pancreas can make less, therefore your levels can drop, therefore there’s less insulin in your blood to shunt sugar to fat. That’s probably the main reason that exercise is important and I’m totally for it.

    The second reason that exercise is important is because it’s the single best treatment to get your cortisol down. Cortisol is your stress hormone, it’s the hormone that goes up when you are mega-stressed, it’s the hormone that basically causes visceral fat deposition which is the bad fat and it has been tied to the metabolic syndrome. So by getting your cortisol down you’re actually reducing the amount of fat deposited and it also reduces food intake. People think that somehow exercise increases food intake, it does not, it reduces food intake.

  48. livingdeath Says:

    This conversation is making me hungry. But mainly I am sicking of reading that walking/running/jogging burns about 100 calories a mile — or roughly 600-700 cals per hour of cardio. That is a very misleading statement because it fails to mention that you burn about half that amount even when you’re just sitting. Any significant calorie expenditure from exercise must take into account resting, basal metabolism. So if the readout on the treadmill machine says you burned 300 calories, you have really only burned about 150 more calories than if you had spent your workout time watching tv. This underscores how inefficient exercise is at creating a calorie deficit. To compensate for that 280 calorie Snickers, you’d have to run for about *five* miles, NOT two-and-a-half as stated by the ill-informed person above.

    And to the person who thinks exercise is necessary to lose weight, yes, if you sit on the couch all day you WILL lose weight IF you are eating fewer calories than you expend. It is a very simple matter of calories in versus calories out. And from a weight loss standpoint it doesnt’ matter if you create your calorie deficit by diet, exercise, or a combination of the two. It’s the equation that matters. Why is that so damn hard to understand? Yes, of course it’s healthier to exercise than to be sedentary, but it is NOT, by itself, an efficient was to create a calorie deficit. To lose a pound a week you need a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day. To achieve that by exercise alone you’d have to run about 10 (not 5) miles a day. Isn’t it a lot easier to achieve the same calorie deficit by running 3 miles a day and cutting your food intake by 350 calories? It’s calories in vs. calories out. It’s basic physics. No escaping that truth.

    Now suppose you’re willing to accept a very slow and gradual weight loss. That could be achieved by exercise without caloric restriction. But most people want to see a loss of one or two pounds a week and running 10 miles is not acceptable.

    As for the claims of weight loss or gain in amounts such as 10 pounds a week, that is preposterous. The human body cannot gain or lose that much tissue that quickly. Most of that weight is water.

  49. Jay Says:

    I went from 210 to 170 in about a year which is slow and gradual, but effective as I haven’t gained the weight back even when I eat crap sometimes. I didn’t go hungry; I cut out a whole lot of sugars — soda mainly — and drank plenty of water.

    I also cut corners on food. If I want bacon or burgers, I eat turkey bacon or burgers. If I want dairy, I get 2% milk and cheese. If I want chocolate, I get the darkest chocolate. If I want bread, I get whole wheat. You see where I’m going with this?

    Also, lean proteins and an electric grill can be your best friend. Sure, it dries out your food, but you can compensate with an array of spices and low-fat sauces such as vinegar.

    My point is that you can consume less calories without starving yourself.

  50. TGHB Says:

    I commend you for stating that the only efficient way of losing weight is through a caloric intake reduction. I think many of the readers of this article are misunderstanding the word “efficient” or refuse to look up its definition. I believe it can be conveyed much easier by saying, “it takes less effort to not eat than it does to exercise.” That statement out of context can certainly be misleading, but within this context I believe it can help to illustrate your point.

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that in our nursing home facilities, all residents are given a physician ordered “diet” upon admission. The order can also change when a resident’s nutritional needs change. The diet ordered for residents who need to lose weight are exclusively calorie reduction diets. No physician has ever ordered a fad diet for a resident, such as a cabbage soup diet or carrot stick diet. The reasons for this are those type of diets have proven to be unhealthy and do not work.

    A well-balanced diet that incorporates sufficient quantities of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, and vitamins and minerals are by far the most common diets ordered by our physicians. Even for morbidly obese residents. The only time a physician will write an order for a diet that excludes one of the aforementioned items is when the consumption of said item is devastating to a resident’s health and would do more harm than good. These are rare occasions. Even our residents who suffer from diabetic conditions are not prohibited from consuming limited levels of carbohydrates/sugars.

  51. Steve Fickler Says:

    Need proof that less calories are the answer to weight loss, not excercize? Look at the pictures of the people in the concentration camps in WWII. I don’t think those folks spent alot of time on the treadmill. And I also think they had a rather limited caloric intake. These people had NO physical strength.
    On the other hand, take a 150 lb., 5’9″ man eating 8,000 calories a day and never gaining an ounce. That was a lumber-jack in 1900 in the forests of Califoria. Their stamina and strength was legendary.
    Its just EASIER to excercize MODERATELY and limit your intake than try Auschwitz or the Redwoods.
    Diets??? I’ve yet to meet someone who did the cereal diet (the one with “K” in it)and DIDN’T lose weight.
    The only caveat is they STAYED on the diet.
    People glance at me (5’9″, 150, 30 inch waist and LOOK healthy)and ask, “Why are YOU on a diet?”
    I always answer the same, “Why do you think I look this way?”
    And, yes, Drill Sgt., I can still drop and give you 50, even if I’m 63 years old.

  52. James Says:

    I have to disagree with the You Will Be Hungry part. You can lose weight without starving yourself and eating high protein, low carb meals to go along with exercising. P90x, with its shortcomings, puts a nutrition plan in place that allows for you to workout with being hungry, keeping your metabolism up

  53. Dan Says:

    For twenty years I tried the “diet is more important than exercise” method. It did NOT work. My weight stayed over 200 for years using this method this article suggests. Once I started to exercise by riding my bike everyday, I really started to lose weight. I kept my calories moderate, but I didn’t need to cut them nearly as much as I would if I wasn’t exercising. Bicycling is also something I can keep up with, since it serves a dual purpose as a transportation source. My weight is now the lowest it has been since high school (1160), and I credit rejecting the bunk that says we can’t out exercise what we eat. During holiday seasons in the past when I took your advice and tried to diet away holiday excesses, but I would usually gain twenty pounds. Before I lost weight, I did try running regularly during one holiday season and I only gained 5 pounds. A year ago during the holiday season, I biked everyday and LOST 10 pounds during the holiday season, even though I overindulged a few days during it. This holiday season, I have overindulged, but have not gained an ounce, mainly because I exercise. Exercise is a VERY efficient way to lose weight and a great way to maintain weight. Since I exercise regularly, I seem to practically be immune from weight regain, even if I overindulge at times. A person just needs to find something they enjoy. The statement, “If you want to have an occassional treat, your best bet isn’t to try to exercise it away, but to eat less for your meals,” is not right. If a person bicycles or runs for an hour everyday, they can easily burn more than 500 calories each time and therefore they can burn off TWO Snickers bars. If they are trying to lose weight, they can eat one Snickers bar and still be 300 calories ahead in a calorie deficit than they would be if they didn’t exercise. However, I think exercise can be combined with cutting back on other foods if one overindulges a bit.

  54. Dan Says:

    I made a typo and meant to say I now weigh 160, down from my high weight of 255. Sam quoted Robert Lustig about burning off Big Macs and it is not true that it takes three hours to burn one off. A person can easily burn one off within an hour of serious running, cycling, or swimming. Maybe what you said about exercise is true if you are talking about the amount of exercise that most people are willing to do. I ride my bike AT LEAST 7 hours a week- most people aren’t willing to do that much. One has to fit exercise within one’s lifestyle- such as turning something one already does into exercise. I bike as a transportation source. Someone else can ride a treadmill while they watch TV. There are even treadmills one can use at work. I really don’t think it is as easy as you say to cut calories- it really puts a crimp in one’s lifestyle. If a person exercises at least an hour everyday, they can eat more normally- maybe not ravenously everyday, but they don’t have to spend nearly as much time worrying about eating too much. I also find I don’t gain weight nearly as easily as I once did, even if I at times eat ravenously. Also, I do write down every bite that I consume, and from doing this I have discovered how many calories I can eat and maintain my weight. I can eat 3400 calories and maintain my weight of 160 at 6 foot. I lost my weight at any calorie level below 3000. At this 3400 calorie level, I can eat a very satisfying diet. I never would have gotten down to this weight if I had taken your diet alone approach, nor if I did would I be able to eat 3400 calories a day and not regain weight.

  55. Dan Says:

    Maybe you are not reading this anymore. I would say it is very helpful to count calories. How exercise helps is that IF a person does some calorie control, they can do a calculated increase in calories and still lose weight, or eat the same weight loss number and lose weight faster. Few people can lose weight by exercise without *any* dietary restraint, but exercise lessens the severity of the restraint necessary. Exercise also helps in maintenance, because at a lower weight, a person naturally burns fewer calories than when they were heavier and therefore regular, intense exercise can enable the person to eat a more equivalent number of calories they ate when they were heavy, that is, assuming at the higher weight they were less active than they are at the lower weight. Of course the extra calories one eats from exercise should be healthy, but having this cushion makes weight regain less likely.

  56. Dan Says:

    I know you are not reading this anymore, but anyone who reads this hopefully will gain understanding and reject the ideas that you promulgate that unfortunately too many people believe.
    Here are some quotes of you which make unsubstantiated points, for instance this doozy,

    “You think people need more cardio, while others think people need more weight training. If you can’t even agree on what kind of basic exercise is best for weight loss, why should anyone believe you when you say exercise is even necessary?”
    > Have you *never* read any diet blog online and seen how *much* disagreement there is over what diet works and what does not? There is FAR more disagreement between the “low carb” and “low fat” camps than there could *ever* be over cardio vs strength. There are many who don’t even think that calories matter, but rather carbs or whether the food is processed or not. By the same token, we can’t say which diets work if the “Paleo” does not agree with “Vegan.” Most people agree that cardio is better for fat loss, while resistance is better for muscle gain. There are literally diets “wars” but there are no “wars” within the exercise camp.

    Nonetheless, exercise is still not efficient, for reasons I’ve already pointed out.

    >> However, when you keep it up for a couple to a
    >> few weeks, you will gradually lose weight, and at
    >> one point you will even just drop about ten pounds
    >> within a week. Then, your body will start becoming
    >> healthier.

    If you keep dieting, you’ll also lose weight.

    > when you keep dieting without exercise, you have to keep lowering the number of calories you ingest, because dieting slows metabolism. A rigorous exercise program slowly increases the amount one can eat and not gain weight. I have slowly been able to increase the number of calories that I can eat and not regain weight. That is why I also count calories- I want to be careful in increasing them. At least 95% of the people who take the just dieting approach regain their weight because their metabolism has been slowed down by the dieting and therefore they regain weight very easily. Over 90% of the persons in the National Weight Loss Registry who have successfully kept off their weight made exercise a priority from the start of their weight loss process and they also continue exercising throughout their maintenance period.

    >> Encouraging people to just eat less is incredibly
    >> dumb. People should be encouraged to eat right and
    >> excercise. Then the body will take care of itself.

    Telling people to eat less is exactly what people need, because people are eating too much.
    >That depends. I was not eating that much before I lost my weight. Actually, people CAN lose weight without eating less and exercising more. The trick is just not to eat more because one exercises. My metabolism had slowed down and therefore just eating less would make my metabolism slow down even more. People who gain weight very easily are not at all helped by the approach you suggest. A person with a slow metabolism should be more encouraged to exercise more, not eat less, but certainly more sensibly. Studies DO show that intense exercise that really raises the heartrate does increase calorie burn after the exercise is performed. Men burn more calories than women because men have more muscle mass. Younger people have more muscle mass than older persons, therefore they can eat more. Therefore, increasing one’s muscle mass DOES raise one’s metabolic rate.

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