Without fail, all of my clients lose weight without even trying to lose weight, and without any formal exercise besides walking and some light cardio or aerobics a few times per week.
Question: Do you think you need to exercise every day to “be healthy”? Are you fixated on the outcome of losing weight? Do you value quick weight loss over learning, adopting, training, and mastering an entire new life-skill (“being healthy”)?
I’m here to discuss your relationship with food and the process toward mastery, as opposed to chasing desired outcomes (i.e—losing weight, looking good, feeling good, etc.)—all of which will happen if we construct a lifestyle and mindset that support success.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for a while, then you already know my stance: “Dieting” is fundamentally at odds with learning and is the explicit reason why you haven’t been successful achieving or maintaining health and happiness.
Regarding diet and exercise and everything else the media pushes at you…
Your goal should not be to lose as much weight as quickly as possible; your goal should be to master your diet. Exhausting yourself to death at the gym confuses your bodily needs and, paradoxically, will make you fat.
1. Don’t confuse your goals
Your goal is NOT to lose as much weight as possible, as quickly as possible. The goal is to master your diet and learn the process by which you learn this vital new life skill.
That means, ultimately, mastering yourself. Learning your triggers, training new habits, investing your time and deep focus on taking back control and healing your relationship with food.
You will lose weight as a result of your committing to the process. After you master your diet, you will be in an informed and empowered place to strategically add more physical exertion to your load – if it’s even necessary at all.
2. 80% of your body composition will be determined by your diet
Yes, exercise is important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but the vast majority of your results will come from how you eat. If given the ultimatum, you should 100/100 times focus on mastering your diet BEFORE adding a bunch of exercise to your plate.
3. Exercise is an additive behavior
For the sake of efficiency, it’s easier to rein in your diet and make incremental changes than to spend surplus time at the gym to “make up” for bad eating.
4. Burnout: AVOID IT
Far too often, novices will start their journey towards health by throwing themselves “all in” and adding 3-5 days of exercise per week right out of the gate, while also attempting to learn how to actually implement this new diet thing they’re trying out for the first time.
If you have significant weight to lose, how likely is it that you will burn yourself out? Very likely. If you haven’t exercised in a while, how likely is it that you will burn yourself out? Very likely.
Don’t do that!
5. Incremental, iterative progress
It’s far less sexy but infinitely more effective to start your evolution with low barriers to entry that you can hit consistently, dominate, and then improve upon.
For example: Walking.
Go for a 20-30min walk five days per week for 3 weeks before you even consider formal exercise. If you can do that, then you’re ready to add one day of resistance training or intensive cardio. Maintain that for three weeks and then add a 2nd day of intensive exercise.
You’ll arrive at the same destination you ultimately desire with the aggressive approach, but the difference is that you ultimately LEARN how to do it. You learn how to embody this new lifestyle. Most importantly, you learn to focus on your diet first, repair your relationship with food, and understand your body’s needs first, before throwing yourself into the ringer.
6. You don’t have to “earn it”
You don’t have to “earn” your health. Do you have to concentrate and focus and spend time with it? Yes, of course. But you can work WITH, instead of against your body. You don’t have to deplete yourself of all energy to lose weight, you don’t have to exercise for hours on end trying to ‘burn off fat.’ Killing yourself for hours in the gym or doing cardio is an utter waste of time. Let me repeat: it’s an utter waste of time.
Unless you are an athlete then you don’t need to be training for multiples of hours per week. Unless you want sub 10% body fat as a man and 20% as a woman, you don’t need to spend more than an hour or two per week, total. And it doesn’t have to be that hard.
7. Exercise to feel good, not “burn fat”
Take the long-game, invest in mastering your diet with the intent of making yourself feel good…not to “burn fat.” “Burning fat” is a marketing term that doesn’t mean anything!
I have no problem with exercise. In fact I encourage it.
That said, killing yourself for the sake of expediency will backfire. There’s a very clear point of diminishing returns, and there’s a threshold of effectiveness, which, if crossed, will undo our work aimed at mastery and learning.
Burning yourself out will increase your metabolism which will make you want to eat more. Which is at direct odds with what we’re trying to accomplish here: mastering your diet and building a new lifestyle. We’re trying to gain control in a slow progression, so let’s not confuse objectives.