From my experience as a fitness instructor, spinning instructor, and moderate weight lifter, the way to most efficiently lose weight and keep it off is NOT to do cardio five times a week. The way to lose weight and to keep it off is to develop your thin mentality:
Eat in response to hunger.
Do not eat in the absence of hunger.
Here is why this is more effective:
A small snack (300 calories) can fuel me for a good 30 minutes of intense cardio. So if I run 3 miles on a treadmill, and I eat one 300 calorie snack to give me energy, I am back to square one in terms of calorie burning.
Believe me, back when I was a dieter I would use exercise as a way to allow myself to eat more. It took me a while to realize that the more cardio I did, the hungrier I was and the more food I would want. So I was caught in a cycle where I used exercise to burn more calories, but that exercise made it harder for me to not eat. So again, I would end up back at square one.
With my thin mentality firmly in place, this is how exercise and eating are related:
- I do not use exercise to eat more. I eat when I am hungry, period, without thinking about past or future exercise.
- I do less cardio than I used to. On average, I play doubles tennis twice a week, do very moderate weight lifting once a week and yoga two times a week. Now that is plenty of activity, but for you diet mentality people out there, I know that you are saying, geez, no grueling treadmill? No long runs? And the answer is no. And I am in better shape because I understand that cardio doesn’t build muscle like moderate weight lifting. I don’t eat “preventatively” and I don’t waste time slamming my joints doing extra cardio so I can eat an extra 300 calories.
- I enjoy my exercise more. All these activities are all things that I ENJOY. And if I feel too tired one day, I don’t push myself. I listen to my body and respect that my body’s signals are valid. Just last week I didn’t feel up to lifting weights. And the next day, I had a full blown cold. So my smart body was trying to tell me to lay off because I would need my strength. This isn’t magic. This is a healthy person with a thin mentality listening to her body. I trust myself. I know that I am not just trying to get out of exercise.
So as you are developing thin mentality, please learn to trust your body and:
- Do not use exercise as a punishment for over eating.
- Do not use eating as a reward for working out
- Do not eat preventatively. If you are hungry, eat. If you are worried about getting hungry and not being able to eat, pack a small snack. No big deal.
- Realize that you probably need less food than you think, but this isn’t scary when you understand that you never have to ignore hunger. Dieting has made you fear this.
And also, more globally speaking, remember how lucky we are to have food available. Let’s stop making eating and weight loss a huge negative stressor in our lives. I have escaped this. It is beautiful. I want this for all of you too.
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