To Lose Weight, I’ve Stopped Exercising

June 17, 2015 | By | Comments (15)


Last week, a friend posted a meme on Facebook that read, “If you went to the gym and forgot to check in, did it really happen?” If I checked in every time I went to the gym, my friends would all block me from their news feeds. I’ve been a regular gym-goer, averaging five workouts each week, for the last year.

That is, until this month. I’ve hit a very stubborn weight-loss plateau. I wrote earlier this year that I was going to take my mind off the number on my scale and instead just focus on my healthy-eating and gym-going routine. Thirty to 60 minutes of exercise each day and 1,400 to 1,500 calories per day. That’s it.

Well, turns out that didn’t work as well as I had thought. I slipped a few pounds down after my no-scale month, but they came back on. And I’ve not budged since. (Thankfully I’ve not increased either.) So, here I am again, facing a decision. I need to get going on my weight-loss goals, but I don’t know what to do to get there. I’ve increased exercise intensity. No dice. I’ve tried new fitness routines to give my muscles a surprise. Nothing. I’ve even taken to working out in the evening rather than morning (because someone told me that worked for them). No change.

Then, over the weekend, I realized something I had been doing that I’m fairly certain is responsible for my plateau: I’m exercising.

My four to five exercise sessions each week, while great for my heart health and mental clarity, are actually working against my weight loss.


Forget the gym! Portion control will reign supreme for me as I try to move my weight-loss goals forward.

Here’s why I suspect that: When I work out, I kick up my metabolism. I’m working out first thing in the morning, so I’m hungry all day after an a.m. gym session and frequently graze on the available snacks at the office. Then, there’s the bad habit I have of eating over my calorie goal because, well, “I did go to the gym today.” Sure, I exercised, and I burned more calories. But have I been burning enough to really eat so much over my goal? Calorie estimates from fitness trackers are notoriously way off, so am I really gaining any calories in my everyday treadmill walk? I suspect not. All of that adds up, and maybe that’s the problem: I need to focus more on my food, less on my foot movement.

Now, before you think I’ve fallen off my rocker, I’m not saying this is right for everyone. It’s just, as I read in a New York Times story on Monday, I might not be wrong. Studies show, time and time again, that sedentary people are no more likely to gain excess weight than physically active people when they’re both eating a calorie-structured diet. In other words, exercise isn’t as important as eating less.

Before you think I’m shunning the gym and stowing my tennis shoes for good, let me clarify this one thing. I’m not going to stop being active. The link between physical exercise and heart health, as well as the reduction of a whole host of other diseases and physical ailments, is too strong for me to say there is no space for exercise and movement in my life. So I’m still going to take my good, healthy walks around the office. I’ll still stroll my neighborhood at night, and on the weekends, when I have several hours of free time, I’m probably going to put in a good sweat session at the gym. But every other day, I’m going to focus on food first. When I have a healthier relationship with my energy intake, maybe then I can get the results I’m seeking.

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    July 27, 2016 at 12:58 am
  2. Shannon Paige

    This seems helpful- thank you! I have a habit of treating myself because I have worked out too, which really- defeats the purpose =/

    May 17, 2016 at 6:02 pm
  3. Larry

    Awareness, dialog and action are key elements to living a balanced healthful life. Just as we celebrate individual differences we understand there are many ways to sustain quality living. It is from insightful narratives like this, that one can begin and sustain the journey of self awareness to good health.

    October 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm
  4. Annie

    I think the message here is important. Don’t “treat” yourself because you have exercised. Keep to your calorie count or whatever regime you are following. Make sure you get a balance of what your body requires ur protein, carbs etc. Add exercise in and it will fall off. I don’t like to use scales. I prefer to feel it as my clothes get bigger 😀. Happy, healthy eating.

    October 18, 2015 at 9:35 am
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    […] To Lose Weight, I’ve Stopped Exercising […]

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  7. Louise

    Hi there just wondering how you got on? I’m having exactly the same problem but I’m afraid to stop exercising in case I gain weight!

    August 28, 2015 at 7:01 am
  8. Mel

    I actually really enjoyed this article. I can totally relate because I do the same thing, especially after a hard workout… I eat extra because I feel so hungry but go overboard. I’m really going to try taking it easier on the work-outs, and being more conscious of my food intake. Thank you!!

    July 13, 2015 at 11:48 pm
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  11. Allan

    A wonderful article, thanks very much for sharing and I am sure there are many (myself included) who can relate. The need for exercise although important is too often given precedence over a positive nutrition lifestyle. A very high intensity exercise regime is required to achieve that same results as a well thought out, balanced positive nutrition plan.

    June 23, 2015 at 2:37 pm
  12. jenniferlandrews

    Even if you are not losing weight while exercising, there is likley truth to the argument that you are losing fat and gaining muscle! I’ve stayed the same weight for 6 months, but progressively increased exercise, especially running. I am down a size (at least), and am much slimmer and stronger.

    June 19, 2015 at 9:47 am
  13. Lisa

    Weight loss is definitely 80% food and 20% exercise…but for me…working out gives me a bit more leeway with how much I can eat…I use My Fitness Pal to monitor my calorie intake and my calories burned….may not work for everyone, but it keeps me accountable and in control!

    June 18, 2015 at 8:29 pm
  14. Sabrina

    I couldn’t agree more, I was a gym rat. We’re talking up to 3hrs a day, 6 to 7 days a week. I even worked with a sports nutritionist to help me achieve my goals. Yet without starving myself or cutting carbs completely I didn’t lose weight, I maintained, barely, and with so much hard work. It felt almost wasted. Then after some changes in my life I got more interested in nutrition than exercise. After getting in to juicing, I decided to go on a grocery store ban. I only shopped at farmers markets but I put no limits on how much I ate. I even enjoyed locally made all natural ice cream, and often! Within a month pounds just dropped off and I hadn’t exercised at all. I did more research and kept it up for 3 months and the results were unbelievable. I am now a 100% confident food, REAL food is the key to weight control and health. I agree staying active is also important for health but for weight it’s eating food grown from the earth that our bodies were designed to eat. Check out the blog I kept!

    June 18, 2015 at 7:06 pm
  15. Lately I have… | Jacqueline Poehlman

    […] this very concept.  Or else I need some new workout […]

    June 17, 2015 at 7:47 pm

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