Exercise: Not Too Much, Not Too Little

Making the decision to change your health habits is easy. Most of us do it over and over, but COMMITTING to the health habits, well that’s the struggle, isn’t it?

This week we talked about exercise–the rewards of exercise, as well as the challenges to exercise. If losing weight and keeping it off is your goal, you’ll have to make peace with exercise. This means you must do some soul searching to discover which types of activities you will benefit from and stick with. Exercise is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight.

In my professional opinion, exercise is overplayed as a method to lose weight.  Exercise truly has remarkable health benefits, but the bulk of attention initially should be given to nutrition, habits and behavior change strategies.

My simple formula for weight loss is this:

  • Cut calories–the exact number can be determined using predictive equations, but we take it a step further and use the Korr Reevue Metabolic analyzer to determine your exact kilocalorie needs for weight loss (or maintenance if that’s your goal).
  • Use a simple meal plan, either using whole foods, meal replacements, or a mixture of both. Short term nutrition goals for weight loss are specific and a structured plan helps. Ironically, less variety and options helps.
  • Moderate intensity exercise with an emphasis on building or maintaining lean muscle tissue.
  • Dig deep and identify what your TRUE goals are regarding weight loss. Weight loss requires a tremendous amount of persistent effort and it’s crucial to get clear about WHY you want it. It’s ok to be flexible and adapt goals along the way.
  • Build support. You may need to limit time spent with some people, and you certainly need to find new health buddies to support and encourage your health behaviors.
  • Commit to meeting with your health coach on a regular basis, and especially long-term
  • Understand that weight loss isn’t about a diet. It’s about a thorough lifestyle change that affects body, soul, mind and spirit.

Moderate exercise is my recommendation during the calorie cutting phase. Denying oneself of pleasurable food does not come naturally to most Americans and so the initial focus is on adjusting the nutrition for that individual. Cutting calories is essential for weight loss, but this doesn’t mean a person has to be starved.  There’s a proper way to cut calories that ensures the person feels satisfied.  Much fine-tuning is required to provide a personalized approach to weight loss.  Remember:  no one diet is right for every person.

At some point in the weight loss journey, a person will start to plateau. This is the proper time to consider increasing exercise intensity, or amount, or both. A trainer or a supportive fitness environment can help tremendously at this stage, but I recommend they continue to follow up with their nutrition coach.  At this stage, we may do metabolic testing again to ensure their calorie needs are on target. Monthly body composition testing ensures the person is losing fat, and not precious muscle.

Exercise is key in maintaining a healthy weight, but exercise should not be used in a disordered way to make up for lack of appropriate nutrition. I love the many facets of nutrition, but when it comes to weight loss, the number one challenge for people is to eat the appropriate amount of calories for their needs. The proper formula for weight loss will vary some with each client, but practice, patience and the right support is key.  Nutrition and Exercise should compliment each other and there should be an element of balance for both. This does not mean that exercise should always be easy, but it means the person should balance nutrition with the proper amount and type of exercise, while also managing stress and getting adequate sleep. Do these 4 things well and success is yours!

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About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Weight Loss Coach specializing in lifestyle transformation