The Exercise And Weight Loss Myth

I have recently been reading and answering weight loss and exercise questions on Quora, and I felt compelled to write this post. Several questions there ask something along the lines of:

“What exercises can I do to lose weight or to reduce my tummy?”

Lose weight

Lose weight

These questions are so many that they show that many people still believe that the key to weight loss is exercise. This is not true. The key to weight loss is changing your food habits. I have deliberately said ‘food habits’ and not ‘diet’ because many people think that ‘diet’ is something unusual that you do only for a while, and then you stop.

I will not go into many details in this post, (you can read this post that compares calories from food and calories used in exercise) but if you want to lose weight (or lose fat), then you need to change your eating habits. You probably need to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume (especially sugary drinks such as juices and sodas). You probably need to eat more vegetables and protein and healthy fat. Yes, you need to eat healthy fat to feel fuller for longer and not get hungry and crave carbohydrates. I say ‘probably’ because I do not know your current food habits and your specific circumstances, but this advice usually applies to many people.

Exercise is good, and exercise can help you lose weight, but the bulk of weight loss is by changing your eating habits.

Belly fat

Belly fat

About losing belly fat in particular, if you want to reduce your belly fat, you need to lose fat from your whole body, mainly by changing your eating habits. Again, exercise is good, and exercise can help you lose fat, but the bulk of fat loss is by changing your eating habits. Doing situps is not very useful for losing belly fat. If you want to exercise for fat loss, and you are physically able to, then go for intense exercise, like jumping rope or sprinting. If not, you can simply walk or jog for the health of your heart and lungs, not necessarily for fat loss.



Once more, the key to fat loss is changing your eating habits.

Can You Eat Pizza And Lose Weight?

At the beginning of a new year, many people make resolutions, and one common one is to lose weight. This new year has gotten a little old and I should have posted this earlier, but you can always start losing weight at any time.

Now, when many people think of losing weight, they think of joining a gym or starting some exercise program. While exercise indeed can help one lose weight, it is much more effective to lose weight by changing what you eat, so that you consume less calories than you have been consuming before.

As you probably already know, when you eat and drink more calories than your body needs, your body stores the excess calories as fat. This is what leads to weight gain (fat gain, to be precise).

Sometimes, people eat some food that they know has a lot of calories and they feel guilty and want to burn it off through exercise. How easy is it to burn off excess calories through exercise?

Let us look at a simplified example, using a man named Tom. Tom is a 154-pound man who is 5′ 10″.

Pizza Slice

Pizza Slice

According to, four slices of Garlic Parmesan (12″), Chicken, Bacon, Tomato pizza has 880 calories.

There is a common claim that one pound of fat is about 3,500 calories. This claim is disputed by some, but in this post, to we will assume that this is true.

If Tom’s body needs 2,600 calories a day of nourishing food to maintain his current weight, if he eats well and takes in that 2,600 calories a day, he will not gain weight.

If he decides to treat himself to one pizza a week (8 slices) as described above, in addition to his usual food, and does not exercise, he will gain 1,760 calories per week. If one pound of fat is 3,500 calories, then Tom will gain half a pound of weight per week.



To burn off four slices of the pizza through jogging, Tom would need to jog for about one and a half hours.
If Tom continues to eat one pizza a week, but decides to jog for 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, (totaling one and a half hours per week), he will now burn off 880 calories (half of the pizza) and he will now gain 880 calories (the other half of the pizza) a week. So he will now gain 1 pound of weight every 4 weeks, despite jogging 3 times per week. In other words, Tom will be gaining calories faster than he can jog them off.

If Tom decides to stop eating the one pizza per week (but he continues with his earlier healthy diet), and continues jogging 3 times a week, he will now start losing 880 calories a week or 1 pound every 4 weeks.

The above example is a simplified illustration only. The figures may not be exact, and other factors will come into play (such as Tom’s body adapting to his new exercise habit), but the point is, it is much easier to lose weight by reducing the number of calories consumed, than by exercising while taking in more calories than you need. So, if you want to lose weight, it is more effective to change what you eat than to sign up at the gym.

Images from


Small Steps To Weight Loss

Small Steps To Weight Loss

A friend recently completed a two-week detox programme. the kind where you take only vegetable and fruit juices. I personally do not think it is necessary to do that, but at least it showed some determination to take some action about her health. She wanted to know what she should do next, with regard to achieving a healthy weight.

This is what I emailed her, with some slight editing. You may find it useful for yourself or for a friend:

Congratulations on the completion of the detox programme!

So now, what next?

Let us start with the hard part (for most people) – food.
1) Plan your meals. Decide beforehand what you will eat, to avoid just eating whatever is available.
Your plan should cater for the following points:

2) Whatever quantities you have been eating of the following foods (and similar ones) cut that in half:
Bread and other wheat products e.g. chapati, cakes and maandazi, potatoes, rice.
Replace these with green vegetables and with meat (beef, chicken, fish) and eggs
(You can eat the whole egg – that means including the yolk)
Have vegetables with every meal.
Drink water before every meal.

3) Work towards eliminating soda, juice (yes, juice), squash from your diet.
Replace these with water, and with actual fruits. The greater the variety, the better.
And with some nuts – macadamia, groundnuts, cashew.

In summary,
1) Plan your meals
2) Drink water before every meal
3) Have vegetables with every meal
4) Cut carbohydrate intake in half
5) Eat protein
6) Have some fruits and nuts

Image courtesy of vorakorn/


Now, the easy part:
Get a good pair of walking shoes.
Get out and walk at a pace of 100 steps a minute or faster.
Yes, carry a timer/phone, walk and count your steps for a minute, adjust your pace if necessary.
Do this 3 times a week or more if you can.

Week 1 – Monday, Wednesday, Friday (or whichever days work for you)
100 steps a minute, for 10 minutes each day
So, 5 minutes going, turn, 5 minutes back

Week 2 – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
100 steps a minute, for 15 minutes each day
8 minutes going, 8 minutes back

Week 3 – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
100 steps a minute, for 20 minutes each day
10 minutes going, 10 minutes back

Week 4 – Monday, Wednesday, Friday
100 steps a minute, for 30 minutes each day
15 minutes going, 15 minutes back

After 4 weeks, we can review and plan the next steps.

Please weigh yourself each week, and record your weight, so that you can track your progress.
I will not ask you for the figures, so do not feel shy 🙂

All the best!

Some links for you

How To Lose Weight

How To Lose Weight

Image courtesy of maya/

This article should actually be called ‘How To Lose Fat.’ Your body weight includes the weight of your muscles, and you generally do not want to lose muscle. I used the phrase ‘lose weight’ because that is what most people say when they talk about losing body fat.
If you want to simply lose any weight from your body, then that is fairly straight-forward. Just eat less and less, and your weight will drop. However, you will also probably become unhealthy if you eat less nutrients than your body needs.
Losing fat, on the other hand, is slightly more challenging, but the steps are also quite well known: Eat less, exercise more.
I will phrase that slighly differently and say, eat less and move more.

Eat Less
If you have some additional body fat, then it means your body converted some of the food you ate to fat and stored it for later use. It means you ate food that got converted into energy that the body did not need at the time, so it got stored. It is the same concept that animals use when they hibernate. They eat lots of food, it is stored as fat, and their bodies use these stores to keep their bodies functioning while the animals are asleep and not hunting and eating, during the winter period. The problem with humans is that we eat food, it is stored as fat, but we do not stop eating and hibernate. We just keep on eating more food, and more gets stored. So the goal is to not eat so much that some has to be stored, but eat only as much as our bodies need.

It is important to state that what you eat is perhaps more important than how much you eat. To put it simply, eat less carbohydrates (these are usually white foods – bread, rice, potatoes, pasta) and eat more green vegetables and also more proteins – eggs, meat, beans.

Move More
I replaced the word ‘exercise’ with ‘move’, so that we do not get stuck thinking we can only benefit by blocking out some time in our schedule, changing into exercise clothes and then doing some specific exercises. Doing all that is good, but the whole point of exercise is to burn calories and strengthen and build muscle. We burn some calories whenever we move. Such movement can be walking to the shop, gardening, dancing, mowing the lawn, carrying our shopping into the house and so on. All that is movement that burns calories. If you want to lose weight, then you want to burn some of the calories that have been stored earlier. Moving more gives your body a reason to burn up these calories. Of course, this will only work if you are also eating just enough for your needs. If you eat more than you need, then the calories burnt by moving more will only be replaced by the excess food you eat.

So, move more: walk more, take the stairs, start an exercise program, take up a sport. If you want to really accelerate your fat loss, then you could look into high intensity interval training.

So plan how you will eat less and how you will move more, and the fat will come off. This is a very summarised article on this subject, but it addresses the basic concepts of fat loss.