Why exercise DOES make you lose weight.

People tend to get angry when you tell them that excercise will not make them lose wait. I’d probably get angry too if I spend 3+ hours a day doing zumba and god knows what else to get rid of that ‘belly fat’ and someone dared suggest I may have wasted a lot of time. They will inevitably come up with the calories in- calories out fable to help explain why you’re completely out of your mind making such a claim.

But purely biologically speaking it’s true, supported by evidence too, which always holds a lot of weight in verbal discussions! (uhu) There are plenty of people doing a good job explaining the truth of it, like Gary Taubes with sciency stuff and Robb Wolf with a bit more anecdotal evidence. I’m very glad I don’t feel the least bit inclined to do the same, after all, the audience I have in mind for this blog is people who already have or will read that stuff on somebody’s elses site. The people already living Paleo (or trying to, or thinking about it) and quite familiar with its theories.

So if you’re one of those people, perhaps especially if you’re someone trying or struggling or dabbling, then I’d love to tell you why excercise DOES help you lose weight. It has absolutely nothing to do with science or biology. No, it’s all about headology! (Or psychology if you haven’t read any Terry Pratchett books.)

Thing is, the subject of weight loss (or maintaining weight) is usually accompanied by a big collection of bad feelings. Shame, fear, doubt, anxiety... Especially for those who have struggled with their weight for some time. And these are not exactly very motivating emotions. Quite the opposite. In fact, these things can cause (or reinforce) eating disordered behaviour. Which will in turn generate more negative emotions. And down the spiral goes...
In short: weight loss can be too emotionally difficult to keep you consistently motivated about your clean eating aspirations.

Another reason it is hard to be consistently motivated about weight loss is the long-termness of it. If you weigh in every week it’s easy to argue with yourself about how much that one cookie is going to hurt your goals. Don’t know about anyone else but I can pretty easily convince myself that a cookie won’t matter so much on the grand scale of things. And it probably won’t, but that’s hardly convenient when you’re trying to motivate yourself into eating cleanly.

Now let’s look at excercise. We’ll take crossfit for example and we’ll work with a bit of anecdotal ‘evidence’. Subject: my boyfriend. (From now on we’ll call him by his name, Jaap, because typing ‘bf’ makes me feel 16 years old.)
Even though Jaap is far less messed up than I am when it comes to eating, it still isn’t all that easy for him to eat clean all or most of the time. It’s that dratfull motivation thing that keeps slipping away at the worst times. Perhaps especially because he doesn’t need to lose any weight, just maintain where he’s at. Makes it even easier to convince yourself some of this or that won’t matter so much.

Just slipping this in between: Some of you will now be thinking ‘but what about your health? Longevity etc?’. While this matters a whole lot, and it’s nice to get rid of some pesky health problems (hayfever!) this is a way too long-term kind of goal to powerfully motivate a generally healthy person in his or her early twenties.

Jaap started to visit our brand new and shiny local crossfit gym in january and caught a bit of a fever. He’s competetive alright. Then I noticed his diet cleaning up. He’d tell tales of steely self-control when visiting his mother whose fridge he always plundered. He was consistently packing his ‘paleo’ lunch. Our eggs were dissapearing at a phenomal rate! And last friday instead of drinking plenty of beers at the pub with his mate, he convinced him to go to crossfit with him the next morning. (His friend lived to regret agreeing for the next 3 painfull days.)

After observing this for a while in increasing confusion, Jaap explained that it was all about his recovery. He wanted to perform better at the next workout! Did I mention he’s very competetive?

Excercise gives you a powerfull short-term motivation to eat clean. You can quite easily convince yourself that every bite of non-paleo food WILL affect your recovery and performance.
And best of all, this scenario brings a whole array of positive emotions. Excercise makes you feel proud of yourself, it makes you feel good. When you’re eating a paleo meal to help your recovery before your next kick-ass workout you’ll feel proud and perhaps excited.
A good change for those who feel all these conflicting emotions of shame and determination while eating for weight loss.

So get yourself some short-term goals for steely self-control!

Disclaimer: The picture is meant to poke fun, I'm really not saying anyone should do Zumba. It's hard to imagine wanting to do better at your next Zumba class anyway :|


Amanda said...

Thanks, I needed this reminder today.

Dana Law said...

I like your thoughts on this. I've exercised my whole life and have always told everyone that you can't lose weight that way. You have to eat real food, clean food. Still I think your idea makes sense. A least for me. I'm 55 and I've been at the same gym for almost 30 years. Though I'm doing crossfit there now.
Most people are getting bigger but I think some of us make eating right a priority because we exercise.
Thank you for your posts. You are a serious thinker about these matters.
Dana Law
San Diego, Ca

Friend of the Bear said...

Hi Naomi. This is a great post!

When I start a walking programme I very quickly realise I need plenty of protein and veg to keep my body in good nick so I can carry on with the programme. If I eat rubbish I will just end up too run down to keep walking.

So yes, walking makes me eat better.

Hope you have a great Valentine's Day!

Bearfriend xx

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ylimuuli said...

Thank you for this great post! I personally think that the idea is that exercise doesn't make you lose weight but it supports it, definetely. Still I always emphasize it shouldn't be done just weight loss orientated. If someone's exercising just to lose weight they tend to go wrong: the stress causes cortisol to rise and makes it even harder to lose weight, and many people choose some aerobic exercises which just make it worse. Even when lifting weights and doing metcons things may go wrong if the the goals are purely for the weight.

When exercise is practised for health and to keep you feeling good, you tend to be more relaxed and exercise adequately but not too much. It's easier to start to listen to your body when your head isn't obsessed with "having to go workout to not gain/lose weight" if you know what I mean. :-)

Nice post, really!

And recipes as well. I also have my food blog for paleo recipes, check it out if you like: monkeyfood.net

Congrats on the dot com!


How to lose weight fast? said...

Do you know know how brave you are Ms Dawne....going against all you are holding on to? I can't imagine the mental gymnastics you have had to do to get your head round that. I don't suppose its sitting easily, and I can quite understand the fear that you have. I remind myself daily, that my own best thinking got me where I am, and that sometimes I have to shut me up and listen instead of relying on me myself and I.I think all those that advocate you continuing with what you know are right - just add a few calories, Personallay I am sure what they are advocating is the next right thing.The difference is a yoghurt or smoothie, some fruit or a small piece of cheese, you dont have to add bulk to add calories...you dont have to eat large portions of anything, you dont need to overeat, you dont need to lose sight of moderation, or eating less losing more, you dont need to eat more bulk - just more calories. If your low calorie breakfast and lunch, is to allow you to eat a 'normal' dinner, keep it that way, do what feels right, you can still do that, but 30 calories is the same as the milk you put in a coffee - its not really a meal. You know the adage about feeding the fire to make it burn?...you are probably not even starting your metabolism until lunch time if you are only consuming 30 calories at breakfast - that is an obvious place to start. I am sure you are going to kick idea's about and I am rooting for you no end. Deep breath - Courage Mon Brave!

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Most people are getting bigger, but I think some of us do that eating is a priority right as you exercise.
Thank you for your message. You are a serious thinker on these issues.

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Anonymous said...

In paragraph one, you have "wait" instead of "weight". You might want to correct that minor error. Please forgive my mild constructive criticism, and feel free to delete this comment after the change is made. (If you care) I enjoy your content and wish you luck on your move to your own website.

Hiit said...

Great post thank you for publishing it

I love Paleo Food said...

After I exercise I feel better mentally and physically. It really makes me appreciate the mind/body connection after an exercise routine.

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Xean said...

Exercise helps burn those ugly stored fats in our body, and by having a exercise daily routine, healthy diet and self discipline helps you achieve in your goal.

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Exercise is the best way to be fit and sexy. Also, it relieves stress and boost our energy which we needed most in our daily life activities.

Lily said...

Great post! This post reminds us to do some exercise routine to avoid complications in our health. Prevention is better than cure.

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PaleoFlip said...

Great article.. and I totally agree with you. We need exercise to stay sane and positive. Our insanity when we're not exercising impacts our cortisol levels too, which in theory impacts your fat gain.

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Matthew Green said...

I wasn't really into Crossfit, but I read a lot about it lately, and I can tell it's very tempting! I guess I'll give it a try.