Is the core part of your health plan to use fitness for weight loss? Then you’re making one of the most common mistakes. In this article, I’m going to explain exactly why using fitness for weight loss as the primary strategy is a big mistake and what you can do instead to get the results you’re really after.

The world of fitness, nutrition, losing weight and reaching other goals is so daunting at times that it’s problematic. Countless people quit and fail because there’s too much to do and too much to think about.

That’s why my Reboot protocol is heavy on letting people off the hook and getting back to basics and core principles.

Here’s the problem: “Diet and exercise” go hand in hand.

If you ask for health, weight loss, and fitness advice, someone is bound to blurt out, “diet and exercise!” 

For diet, most people try the old, tired, “eat whatever you want, just less of it” approach. And then they turn their attention toward exercise.

Exercise is super popular because it makes people feel like they’re making a lot of progress. Even the fitspiration posters confirm this…

sweat is your fat crying - fitness for weight loss
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Unfortunately, fitness is less effective for weight loss than you might think.

Does that mean it’s not important? No. It’s absolutely important. But putting too much stock in it is extremely problematic and is a point of failure for a lot of people.

It’s also important to understand that while exercise and fitness is important, traditional exercise is not needed. I boldly make the following statement every chance I get: you can get and keep a body and life you love without ever doing a workout you hate.

Using fitness for weight loss is a bad idea for most people.

Gyms love to torture you. Trainers love to torture you. The weight loss shows on tv are all about torture. For what?

Culture continues to deliver the message, “no pain, no gain.” And we continue to listen.

This is why most people have a poor relationship with exercise. Instead of seeing movement as vital nutrition for both your body and brain, most people see exercise as a means to an end.

The accepted narrative is that using fitness for weight loss is “what successful people do.”

This is why you always hear talk about discipline and willpower. Most people who are using fitness for weight loss have to force themselves to “stay compliant.”

This is a terrible way to relate to exercise and it quickly becomes a vicious cycle. There’s an obesity epidemic precisely because people think that being fit and healthy requires misery.

If you can’t heal your relationship with exercise and switch from the fitness for weight loss paradigm to the fitness for nourishment paradigm, you’ll continue to be inconsistent.

Success hinges on you embracing and eventually craving healthy, functional movement.

Recommended: If you enjoy fitness and feel like your diet is on point, but you’re still not reaching your goals, read our article, “How to Lose Body Fat: 11 Reasons You’re Struggling.

Want sustainable weight loss? Accept that 70-80% of your body composition is determined by what you eat.

This is the fact no gym in the world will tell you and I understand why. When you have the facts, there’s really no need for the gym.

But what’s the first thing everyone does when January rolls around? They join a gym. Or a boot camp. Or CrossFit. Or a kickboxing program. Or [Insert name of exercise program here].

Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.

Fitness. Fitness. Fitness.

Why? Because fitness is sexy. That’s how it’s sold to you.

Sure, fitness is often painful, but it’s nothing compared to the ongoing pain of dieting. That’s why people are much more inclined to embrace workouts than all the boring, unfulfilling meal plans the legacy fitness and dieting industry wants to give them.

I’m not telling you this to suggest that you get focused on dieting more than working out, though. Let’s get that straight. I don’t want you to be dieting. I also don’t want you to be doing workouts you hate.

When I say “diet is 70 – 80% of your results,” I’m talking about the foods you eat. Not a “Diet,” but a “diet.” Get it?

Now get this: When your diet is on point you don’t have to heavily restrict your choices, count calories, track macros, adhere to meal plans, or follow any of the conventional dieting tactics.

You also don’t have to exercise yourself daily until you have a near-death experience.

When you commit to a real food diet, Pillar #1 in our philosophy, 70-80% of your results will be achieved through that commitment alone.

Why Hazda hunter-gatherers are important to understanding why fitness for weight loss isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

The health industry keeps telling us that modern humans are fat because they’re sedentary. We sit around all day in offices and in front of the television and don’t get enough exercise.

See, it’s all your fault again, you lazy SOB.

But a recent study on Hazda hunter-gatherers showed that contrary to popular belief, us fat, lazy, modern humans expend an almost identical amount of calories going about our daily lives as hunter-gatherers do/did. In some cases, we may even expend more.

This wouldn’t be a very important study if hunter-gatherers were known for their obesity rates and neolithic health problems, but they’re not. So, it must be something other than calorie expenditure that’s causing our problems.

The calorie expenditure isn’t different, but the diet and lifestyle absolutely is. In fact, the diet of hunter-gatherers is almost completely the opposite of the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Something tells me that if you let Hunter Gatherers continue living exactly as they’re living, but fed them a steady diet of McDonalds and TV dinners, they’d fatten up in a hurry.

They get plenty of exercise and movement, but without the diet piece they’ll surely plump right up.

How’s that heaping spoonful of fitness industry chicanery taste?

Exercise is 30% or less of your body composition.

If you’re dozens or hundreds of pounds overweight, you have very little reason to engage in traditional exercise. You can get down to a healthy weight through nutrition and general movement and activity alone.

Again, I’m not implying that exercise is worthless. It does have benefits; lots of them. It just shouldn’t be your main focus.

There’s another reason people make it the main focus, though. And this is important because this narrative is a false God of the legacy fitness and dieting industry…

Thermodynamics.

As the story goes, exercise is important because you have to increase caloric expenditure for the calories-in, calories-out formula to work better.

Weight loss is simple, you know. Just create large calorie deficits!

As Time Magazine writes, it’s the calories stupid.

That article, and the calories-in, calories-out narrative in general, is unhelpful. Success is about what you eat and not how much. And exercise plays a much smaller role than we’re led to believe.

Like your parents, teachers, and government, Time magazine and the rest of the mainstream media have failed you again.

Doesn’t everyone want six pack abs? You already have them, they’re just covered up by a layer of fat. No amount of sit ups or other “core” exercises are going to reveal those abs until you lose the weight. And what’s most important to losing the weight? Not exercise, nutrition.

I’m not saying that core exercises are bogus, they certainly aren’t. I’m just pleading with you to address the nutrition first and foremost. When you get down to a weight where your abs are starting to show, hit those core exercises and help bring them out.

But that’s not how 99% of people go about it. We’ve all seen that poor guy who is 50 pounds overweight, pounding out sit ups on a yoga mat.

Stop doing that.

Can you expedite weight loss through exercise? Sure. I’m not arguing against that. But, focusing on exercise even a little more than you should leads to higher failure rates.

My argument is that you can’t expedite weight loss if you quit. I don’t want you to fail, so I feel it’s my responsibility to clear up the misconceptions.

If you have an aversion to exercise right now, you need to know that you can still reach your goals. If you don’t have a lot of time to invest in exercise and fitness, you need to know that you can still reach your goals.

I get people 80% of the way with the least amount of friction and then I address the other stuff to get them the final 20% of results. It’s a game plan that works wonders.

So to be clear: I’m not anti-exercise, I’m pro-efficiency. It’s 20-30%, okay? Let’s spend most of our time on the other 70-80%.

Shift your exercise paradigm. Not all exercise is healthy, much less beneficial.

Another problem with all this fitness for weight loss stuff centers around the types of exercise and workouts people are choosing to do.

It’s not just that most people hate their workouts, it’s that their workouts often cross into the realm of being physically destructive.

Let me be clear, chronic cardio is not healthy exercise.

Let’s use distance running as an example. The human body is not designed to run long distances, especially in shoes.

To add to the problem, most people have horrible running form (and running “gear”) that destroys their joints.

Other chronic cardio-based programs degrade long-term health, cause massive amounts of inflammation, and can leave you immunocompromised.

Chronic exercise can lead to chronically high cortisol levels, resulting in weight gain and insulin resistance.

How is that helpful?

Instead of citing the law of thermodynamics, trainers and gyms should be citing the law of diminishing returns because the majority of their clients aren’t exercising too little, they’re exercising too much.

Almost any “exercise” (besides walking), can potentially become considered “chronic” if you’re not careful.

I would argue that doing CrossFit five days per week is chronic exercise.

Running daily, or for distances greater than five miles more than 4 times per week, is chronic. Distance swimming, triathlete training, excessive weight lifting, or 45-minute-long bootcamp classes day in and day out – all chronic.

There are smarter, healthier ways to exercise.

Unless you’re training for competition, my argument is that you can get the body you’ve always dreamed of with three or less days of exercise per week. And with each session lasting 25 minutes or less. And with none of your workouts being repetitive, boring, or even miserable.

This isn’t a “too good to be true,” paradigm. It’s a common sense paradigm. When you understand the psychology of human behavior, you understand that it’s not just possible to design an intrinsically motivated daily fitness practice, it’s imperative.

Start thinking about nutrition as giving you the body you always wanted and exercise as making that body stronger, more agile, more flexible, and more useful while massively improving your quality of life.

Fitness for weight loss or Photoshop for weight loss?

One last thing, and this has to do with fitness models and bodybuilders.

All of the magazines that you pass by in the grocery store featuring men and women with washboard abs and sexy toned bodies are lying to you.

If you’re fairly close to the body you want, just dehydrate yourself and oil up and you’ll look pretty close to them because that’s exactly what they do. If you want to look exactly like them, throw in a little Photoshop.

There’s a good chance that people with giant muscles are cheating with growth hormones or steroids. The human body just isn’t designed to get that big, nor does being that big help you in any way.

Fit and trim with healthy muscle tone is what makes you a highly skilled predator.  When is the last time you saw a cheetah or lion with gigantic, bulging muscles?

It’s not useful. Watch people with gigantic muscles fight. They gas out faster than leaner, healthier fighters.

I will say that once you’ve gotten to your goal weight and you want to seriously sculpt your body or moderately increase muscle size, you’re probably going to have to invest time in lengthier and harder exercise regimens. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

Rebooted Body is about permanently sustainable results, not results that constantly take time and work to maintain. That’s why we say our Total Body Reboot program shows you how to look great and feel great for the rest of your life without obsession, perfectionism, or the misery of dieting.

Keep Reading: Don’t miss our pillar article, 11 Reasons Why You’re Struggling to Lose Body Fat (And What to Do Differently).

Comments

  • ok. i need to do this.

  • Jason says:

    Super true about the Fitness Models etc… It isn’t realistic… I know too many people still comparing themselves to the craziness found on television, in magazines, etc… It is depressing to know how many people let that bring them down in their own lives!!!

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Absolutely! I wish I could jump in and save everyone. Alas, my only option is to put this information out into the world and then wait for people to come around.

  • Julianna says:

    Great article! Thanks for this very helpful information!

  • Cynic says:

    How is you selling your “Rebooted Body” plan any different from the gyms, diet companies, pharmaceutical or food industry that you so lambaste for their desire to sell their product or solution?

    • April says:

      Kevin does not sell – he educates and freely gives info. He has a program you may wish to purchase if you want more specialized/personalized help and the encouragement of a coach, but it is not required if to be on his email list, not required for you to hear his podcasts or required to watch the videos he put out on YouTube, or read his articles or use the data on his website. Honestly I’ve never run across anyone who believes so strongly in what he’s offering that he gives it away for free the way Kevin does.

  • danielle says:

    i love your blog, i just discovered. it’s no frills and to the point, and i happen to love your response to ‘cynic’ .. what a CHODE

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Thank you Danielle 🙂 — Yes, I’m very direct and no-fluff. Sometimes people don’t like that, but it’s me, so that’s what they get!

  • danielle says:

    You’re response was perfect, very ‘zen-like’ and yoda-master-esque. I applaud, and will continue to faithfully follow this blog as I battle my own sweet tooth demons. You are awesome, everyone else can suck it.

  • Rita says:

    Hi Kevin:

    I currently do HIT (Body By Science style) once a week, sprint twice a week, and walk 2 days a week. How do I get closer to my ideal shape without becoming “chronic” or exposing myself to injury or fatigue? Many thanks!

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Hi Rita,

      Changing body composition — after you’ve changed diet — is mostly about heavy resistance training. But, without many additional details it’s hard to give you any suggestions.

      • Rita says:

        Thanks for your attention, Kevin. I basically just need to lose about 5-10 pounds (not based on the scale, but based on my thighs/butt). My diet is modified paleo, with a few re-feeds. I work at a brewery, so staying away from that deliciously free elixir is pretty difficult. Any advice is appreciated!

  • Angela says:

    I love you blogs! I was introduced to you by the recent Women’s Health Summit.
    I have changed my diet, going Paleo now, and the pounds have just dropped off! I do sprint/walk every other day, a do a small weight routine for 8 minutes on the days I don’t walk/sprint. I also am a fan of rebounding for about 5 minutes every morning.
    I’ve lost almost 25 pounds in 3 months! I feel wonderful from no sugar, carbs or processed foods. The increase in my fat intake has my skin and hair looking great!
    Keep up the good work and info!

  • Alan says:

    So Kevin – I am pretty much on a High Fat Low Carb diet now, and am flipping in and out of ketosis. I notice with 40-70 mins of exercise, my ketone count increases quite a lot. I would deduce that exercise significantly helps to use up fat for energy, which is a serious motivator for me. That aside – I usually enjoy going to gym, and with your DWYL today, I enjoy some form of exercise daily if not at gym. Do you think that being a bit of a ‘gym rat’ is excessive in this case? My exercises are quite varied, and include cardio, swimming and weights depending on how I feel on the day. I would not like to do longer term damage to my body, but am highly motivated to lose more fat. When not doing much exercise, I slip right out of ketosis.

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Hey Alan, I wouldn’t worry too much about staying in ketosis. It’s not necessary for fat loss and requires too much obsessiveness. Just keep up with the real food and activity levels and you’ll get there!

  • jeff says:

    Exercise 20%, diet 80% “grosso modo”…?
    Hmm, I get the idea BUT it all depends where you are coming from, genetics, muscle memory etc.

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Weight loss and health are certainly complex topics. There are a lot of variables to account for. But the fact that I’ve watched countless men and women radically change their body composition almost purely through diet alone confirms that it’s the most significant factor by far. Each person’s diet to exercise ratio will be different, sure, but I think the truth remains: using fitness for weight loss as the primary strategy is a recipe for burnout.

  • Mauri says:

    nice article and I agree pretty much with everything , just a few comments..
    I´m a bodybuilder myself and we know diet it´s key , especially in contest prep. Not sure if 80%..or 70%..or 90% but it´s key.
    For the average person that just want´s to drop fat excercise helps, but again nutrition it´s key
    Nowadays more people want to look like real atheletes , and just being slim it´s not enough , they want sculpted bodies like fitness models have, for that goal diet it´s key! BUT excercise plays a big role. No ripped muscle will show with the perfect nutrition plan , diet olone. So to achieve that kind of physique you must train you aa”%$ off

    • Kevin Michael Geary says:

      Correct, for the magazine body you have to “train your ass off” as you put it. This is a truth that I try to convey to people as much as possible. I work with everyday men and women who might *want* to look like that, but don’t have anywhere near the time or desire to do what it takes to achieve it. I’ve chosen to focus 100% on practical, sustainable approaches that moms, dads, CEOs, firefighters, nurses, office workers, etc. can use to get a body and life they love without the misery of dieting and killing themselves with exercise they don’t really enjoy or look forward to.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Gina says:

    Hi Kevin, I’ve been on strict Paleo + dairy (so Primal?) for 4 months now, seeing an integrative medicine doctor and Paleo-friendly nutritionist/naturopath, both of whom are of enormous help to me. I’ve also started with a personal trainer 3x a week doing mostly resistance exercise. After testing (early on), I learned that I have severe adrenal fatigue in addition to sleep apnoea (using CPAP since January) and fatty liver. I’m told I need to heal my gut before I’ll see any real results, but I keep seeing people’s comments about losing so much weight, the pounds dropping off, etc etc. Am I the only one who is not finding the weight falling off?

    • Kevin Geary says:

      Hi Gina,

      There’s a LOT more to the story than food. There could be any number of things going on. Because everyone is so different and facing such a wide variety of challenges, the only way I can offer personalized guidance is through Total Body Reboot.

  • Beth says:

    Awesome info. It’s plausible and lines up with other info I’ve read. Most importantly it aligns with my own experience. Thanks!

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