When people ask me how I lost weight, I am very aware that I often lose them at the word “exercise.” I have heard every variation of the litany I practiced for sixty years.
“I can’t exercise.”
“I won’t exercise.”
“I hate exercise.”
These statements are sometimes accompanied by the reasons: physical immobility or disability, no time, no place. I’m pretty familiar with all of them.
Here is a question: do you have to exercise to lose weight? The answer to that question is straightforward: No. You do not. You can lose weight by diet alone. People do it all the time. So, you can keep your exercise-free lifestyle and still go down a few sizes.
Do you have to exercise to lose weight? No, you do not.
Before you stop reading and start looking for a new diet to follow, though, there is another question you should be asking yourself: What is your goal in losing weight? That’s something to really think about. Asked another way, if your life could really change for the better, what would it look like? If being at a lower weight is part of that, it is likely not the whole answer.
If your life could really change for the better, what would it look like?
Being thin doesn’t make you strong. It doesn’t drop years off your chronological age. It doesn’t allow you to do more things with your family or make you happy. It doesn’t change who you are inside and it doesn’t erase the emotional baggage you carry as a result of being fat.
Here is the big “but.” (Yes, a rather pitiful pun.) If you know you should lose weight and exercise, but you just can’t get started because you hate exercise so much, start with dietary changes alone. It’s what I did. I didn’t put exercise on the table until six months after I started my lifestyle change. Whatever change you make needs to work for you.
I started to exercise because I got weak, and I got scared that I was actually more disabled than I had been. I did it to get back to my baseline, which was not great to begin with. However, I absolutely did not believe that my exercising could make me strong because I knew how bad my joints were. That doesn’t just disappear.
I also started to exercise because I had gotten invested in what I was doing to change my life. I was following a meal plan I could live with and enjoy. I was working through the emotional issues and hidden “truths” inside me that had worn down my spirit. I was determined not to be one of the 95% of dieters who regain their weight. I wanted to finally get to that 5%.
You can be stronger than you are now. You can be in less pain.
I can tell you a truth that no one told me. You can be stronger than you are now. You can be in significantly less pain from arthritis. You can build endurance and become more active, and you can do that without feeling out of breath and exhausted.
Losing weight is one-dimensional. Changing your lifestyle and becoming stronger changes your life. It instills both pride and confidence, and it lets you know that this time, this time is different from anything you’ve done before.
I’ve written that it took me three months to overcome my hatred of exercise. That’s a ballpark, because the change was gradual, a slow lessening of my categorizing it as torture. There are times I still don’t like it or don’t want to do it. What always changes my mind, though, is that my five day-a-week, fifty-minute routine gives back so much more than it takes. It gives me a sense of purpose and confidence, an astronomically improved quality of life, a zest for living that I don’t remember feeling since I was a kid.
Perhaps thinking about what you really want, what a new, better life would be like will help you pause and consider what you are willing to do to get there. Because you can.