Exercise Doesn’t Often Help Weight Loss Print

CTV News LogoExposing the biggest lie the fitness industry refuses to acknowledge

If you had a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and have joined hundreds of people sweating at the gym only to find a few months in you haven’t lost a pound you are not alone.

Adding more exercise can improve your overall health and cardiovascular fitness, but you may be surprised to learn it may do little to drop the number on the scale.

Does exercise really not help weight loss?

A 2011 article published in the American Journal of Medicine reviewed 14 trials and 1,847 patients, and found that moderately intense exercise programs of six months only resulted in a 1.6-kilogram weight loss and 2.12-centimetre decrease in waist circumference. Similar programs of a year didn’t offer much difference (1.7-kg and 1.95cm decrease).

You can’t burn off a bad diet!

scale with measuring tapeResearch over the years consistently shows that although you can lose small amounts of weight by initiating an exercise program, much bigger weight-loss results come from nutrition changes. Weight loss research clearly shows NUTRITION TRUMPS EXERCISE. Even better, using a combination of reducing your calorie intake and adding exercise can offer slightly better weight-loss results than nutrition alone.

What about the exceptions?

So if exercise alone isn’t the best strategy to lose weight, you might wonder how someone you know has lost plenty of weight simply by exercising more. One theory is that this has more to do with the influence exercise has on reducing your intake (calories in) than the calories burned during exercise (calories out).

A 2011 article in the Journal of Obesity suggested that metabolic, hormonal and psychological changes are involved. Exercise can help improve your overall mood and stress response, which can help you tackle emotional eating and regulate how much you eat. Physical activity also helps combat depression and sleep issues, which in recent years have been linked to higher risk of obesity.

Also, while exercise alone may do little to help you lose extra pounds, research shows that exercise is one of the best ways to prevent weight gain and also to maintain weight loss over the long run. Long term exercise (especially strength training) can help build more muscle which increases the metabolism and helps prevent the age related decline in our metabolic rate (the rate we burn energy).

Where should I start?

As obesity expert, Yoni Freedhoff, often reminds people, “most weight loss happens in the kitchen, not in the gym.” I couldn’t agree more.

If you have a large amount of weight to lose, you could begin a new eating plan as well as a new fitness regime at the same time – but I would encourage you to start with one or the other.

It’s very challenging to successfully start and maintain both areas of change, especially when you are living a real life with big family and work commitments. Go easy on yourself and commit to one major lifestyle change at a time.

Start with your nutrition first, since the research shows you can begin seeing faster changes on the scale, which can be more motivating to continue on your journey to better health.

Once you see the changes in your body from improved nutrition, it can be psychologically as well as physically easier to get going on a healthy exercise plan for life.

What is the best nutrition tip for weight loss?

When it comes to nutrition for weight loss there are broadly two things to consider:

#1 Could I make changes to the TYPE of foods that I eat?

Take a good look at your pantry, fridge and plates of food. If a dietitian was visiting your kitchen, eating lunch with you at work, or sat down at your table at supper what might they suggest? Since we often eat whatever is convenient start by managing your environment (what you stash in your cupboards, cars and at work). A good place to start is thinking about having a supper plate with half a plate veggies, one-quarter plate grains/starches and one-quarter plate protein. Remember you don’t need to be perfect but really take a hard look and consider what you could change with a bit better planning and focus. Also consider which of your favorite treats chosen for fun such as sweets and savory are really worth it?

#2 Could I make changes to the AMOUNT of food that I eat?

If you are generally a healthy eater and make good choices, chances are you could benefit from shifting your portion sizes. Think about switching to smaller plates and bowls as well as taller slimmer glasses for high calorie beverages. Purchase hard to manage foods in the smallest size packages possible and just at the time of purchase. Research shows when we have more we eat more.

Also consider working with a Registered Dietitian, the nutrition experts for one-on-one nutrition counselling. This is the best way to receive custom feedback about additional changes that you could make to your current plan based on your own unique health needs and preferences. Check your employer health benefits and health spending accounts since many of them cover the services of a Registered Dietitian.

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About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
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Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
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Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
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I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
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“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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