Exercise Science Shocker: Regular Exercise And Diet Are The Best Ways To Lose Weight

Are you sitting down? Of course you are, that’s why you were interested in a lose-weight-quick scheme to begin with. Well, bad news. Exercise physiologists took at look at several six-week weight loss programs and determined that no, those products don’t work, and that if you want to stop looking like a “dumpling,” it’s going to take at least six months of actual effort.

Groundbreaking, we know, but it’s always good to occasionally sprinkle the sad facts with a dash of newish science.

The plan was to photograph volunteers wearing skimpy bathing suits and then randomly assign them to one of three groups: cardiovascular exercise, weight lifting or control. Six weeks later, they would be photographed again.

Their heads would be blocked out of the photos, which would be shuffled. Then the subjects and judges would rate the body in each photo on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being spectacular.

The volunteers were men, age 18 to 40 (the university’s human-subjects review board looked askance at having women photographed and rated like that). And they were sedentary. “These were people who were just sort of dumplings,” Dr. Foster said.

Results were not surprising. The subjects rated themselves more highly than anyone else rated them, and female panelists rated the subjects lower than the male subjects or panelists rated them. But, over all, the subjects’ ratings barely changed, if at all, after their exercise program. And neither did objective measures, like weight or percentage of body fat, or waist size or the size of the bicep or thigh.

So sad, but hard work is the only way to vanquish all those yummy pies we’ve eaten.

“To make a change in how you look, you are talking about a significant period of training,” Dr. Kraemer said. “In our studies it takes six months to a year.” And, he added, that is with regular strength-training workouts, using the appropriate weights and with a carefully designed individualized program. “That is what the reality is,” he said.

Fitness Isn’t an Overnight Sensation [The New York Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. chatterboxwriting says:

    I’ve been dieting and exercising for about four weeks, and this is what makes staying motivated so hard. My best guy friend is doing pretty much the same thing I am, if not less, and the pounds fall off of him. I’m doing 10 miles on the bike at a time and walking outdoors in the snow and not eating more than 1,200 calories a day and I’m lucky if I lose a pound a week! I know losing weight slowly is the best way to keep it off, but it’s hard to not want to see faster results for the considerable changes I’ve made.

    • drkkgt says:

      @chatterboxwriting: don’t go by weight only though since themuscle you gain weighs more that the same volume of fat. go by measurements of hips and waist as well. I have been exercising for the last two months and while the weight is only slowing going down, i have lost two inches off my waist and my sleeves are getting tighter. I had to start wearing a belt with my old jeans and buy the size smaller for new jeans. I was using excel to track every week although I started keeping track on Spark People. Kind of neat to see the progression, good motivator.

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      @chatterboxwriting: 1200 calories doesn’t sound nearly enough given your level of activity. If you are a woman, I have read that 1200 is the absolute minimum you shoud be eating if you are not active – and you sound active. You may be burning off a large amount of those calories and netting very few. Your body may then respond by hoarding fat as a precaution.

      There are lots of sites online that will help you determine how many calories you should be eating in order to lose weight, but still eat enough.

      • chatterboxwriting says:

        @DrGirlfriend: Thanks for the information. I’ll try to find a site with that info. I was very sedentary until recently. I just started exercising about three weeks ago, so in the beginning, I was only cutting calories. Now that I am exercising a lot, I will probably end up upping my calories to compensate for the extra exercise.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @chatterboxwriting: You can start here, plug in your data to get the USDA’s standardized recommendations for someone with your general profile:


          I really found FitDay ([www.fitday.com]) so helpful and useful that I bought it — it helps you track body measurements as well as “just” weight, and you can also track mood and things like that, so you can see where being pissy makes you eat more or whatever. (It also tracks your calories and exercise, of course.)

          You can probably find a nutritionist at a local hospital or sometimes even a well-equipped high-end gym who sees private patients and can help you put together a plan customized for you that will meet your needs while helping you lose weight. It’s not terribly expensive, and it can be REALLY helpful. You can just go once and get a plan, but a lot of people recommend four appointments spread out so you get a plan, try it out, and then can work together to adjust it to better fit your lifestyle, etc., and to help psych yourself out with your problem areas. :)

        • DrGirlfriend says:

          @chatterboxwriting: FitDay and SparkPeople were mentioned above; I use The Daily Plate for calorie tracking. I plug in my height, weight, activity level, and it tells me what I should aim for, calorie-wise.

    • Brian Johnson says:

      @chatterboxwriting: Your body without any exercise needs 1800-2000 calories a day. If you don’t get enough calories and you exercise your body will just destroy your muscle and leave fat because it thinks you are starving yourself.

      Also, it is hard to shed pounds at the beginning. But after a month or so, you should see more loss.

      And finally, don’t go by a scale. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you look the way you want.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @chatterboxwriting: I agree, you probably need more than 1200 calories/day.

      The best thing I did to help with weight management was take an intro nutrition course at the local community college. Learning all about nutrition, comprehensively and scientifically, and about the body’s use of nutrients and so forth, made it suddenly very EASY to plan a healthy food plan. (Sticking to it … not quite as easy. :) ) And made me much more immune to crazy claims, since I’m all edumucated now.

      (And I like FitDay for calorie tracking, but I’ve used and liked SparkPeople too.)

    • WBrink says:

      @chatterboxwriting: You’re doing it wrong. Would you buy a $1,000 TV without research? You’re not losing weight because you’re eating like a moron. Eat more than 1,200 calories a day.

    • cheepers says:

      @chatterboxwriting: i hate to be contradictory to everybody else here, but I’m currently also in the process of losing weight on Sparkpeople, and they recommend 1200-1550 calories for me daily, and i’ve been alternating running and cycling. it’s not that i’m starving myself either, just eating lots of lower-calorie fruits and veggies. once i hit my goal weight they recommend that i go back into a range of 1800 to 2000. anyhow, congratulations on your weight loss so far!

    • TrueBlue63 says:

      @chatterboxwriting: If you are really riding a bike for 10 miles and consuming only 1200 calories a day (counted logged calories), you ought to see a physician immediately. For people with a normal metabolism and no outstanding health issues, there is no way to gain weight or even remain the same. The math just doesn’t compute.

      I would immediately go to a weight loss doctor and get solid medical advice.

    • Saboth says:


      Here’s what I find about women. They SAY they are working as hard as the men, and yet they don’t get results (btw, I have a degree in sports management), but what REALLY happens is they go in, walk on the treadmill for a bit, do 10 reps of LIGHT weight on a few machines, then leave. They focus *far* too much on the calories they burn while at the gym, rather than conditioning their body to burn calories when NOT at the gym (meaning they try like crazy to avoid adding any muscle). If they would get over the irrational fear of building muscle, they would get far better results.

  2. 1stMarDiv says:

    I wish I could say this is bad news for snake oil products like Lipozene (I love reading the fine print in the commercial because it completely contradicts what the woman is saying), but unfortunately most people are too lazy to put forth the effort required to lose weight. Meanwhile, thin and healthy people like myself and others are forced into high health insurance premiums due to all the chunky butts out there.

    • ThinkerTDM says:

      @1stMarDiv: yeah,being overweight leads to sickle cell anemia, lung cancer, and pregnancy. Not to mention epilepsy, hypothyroidism, and falls. Lucky you “thin and healthy” people don’t have to worry about those.

      • 1stMarDiv says:


        I see what you did there…

        Obviously thin people have their problems too, and as much as I hate to digress from the post’s intent, I cannot ignore the ignorance of your reply. People who use tobacco products pay a higher premium because it is their choice to use – nobody is forcing them into this lifestyle. Obesity, on the other hand, is trickier because yes, there are people out there with overactive thyroids and other ailments which prevent them from obtaining a healthy weight. However, the primary demographic I’m referring to are those who do not eat right, choose not to exercise and blame their weight on genetics while ignoring the fact that they are unwilling to change their habits. It is these people who increase health insurance costs, because it’s a decision they’re making, just like smokers. Denial is a powerful thing indeed.

        • Katxyz says:


          Obesity is obviously linked to poorer health with a few exceptions. However, it’s annoying that many people will criticize the overweight for having exercise and diet issues that are the norm in this country. Avoiding weight gain is the only reason a lot of people believe anyone should eat healthy and exercise, and I know a lot of not overweight people are regardless flabby and get junk and never exercise. Most of these people are in college and young enough to get away with it, but still try to stick to the thin=healthy mentality. That’s the main problem with constantly equating thin and healthy, rather than healthy lifestyle choice and healthy.

        • mythago says:

          @1stMarDiv: I’m unaware of any peer-reviewed studies finding that there are health risks correlated with “who or what you blame for the fact that you are obese”. I get that you’re angry because you think the fatties are costing you money, but seriously, from the point of view of an insurance company, it doesn’t matter.

      • TrueBlue63 says:

        @ThinkerTDM: Actually fat people would reduce insurance premiums. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but the largest part of health care costs are incurred in the last 6-12 months of life, and the obese are far more likely to suffer traumatic death (fatal heart attacks, strokes, etc), thereby significantly reducing the largest part of health care costs. Of course, really morbidly obese people are prone to a cavalcade of health issues that require constant medical attention, but they represent a tiny fraction of the population.

        • mythago says:

          @TrueBlue63: This same argument is made about smokers and it’s crap. Anyone with health problems that put them at risk of premature death is also at risk of chronic and ongoing health problems, which of course cost money.

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      @1stMarDiv: It’s not the chunky butts who are pushing your premiums up. The issue is way, way more complicated than that. If you need to hate on chunky butts, you need to find a better reason.

  3. Zyzz says:

    This may seem ridiculous, but have you tried eating more? 1,200 calories is not very much, especially not for someone as active as you. I recently lost 60 pounds myself, so I suggest keeping careful track of your diet, and eating MORE calories, not fewer. If you don’t have the calories to burn, you can wreck your metabolism by slowing it down considerably.

    • 1stMarDiv says:


      You’re right. My wife has been trying to lose weight by not eating breakfast because she’s wanting to reduce her caloric intake. What I try to explain to her is that by skipping breakfast (or any meal for that matter) you are slowing your metabolic rate to a halt. It’s called breakfast for a reason, because you’re breaking your fast. Much better to have small meals throughout the day. Of course she never listens to the hubby.

      • Ragman says:

        @1stMarDiv: Being the hubby, you are NOT allowed to comment on the wifey’s weight or diet. I’m in the same boat with my wife. We can talk about almost anything, and we communicate very well, but when it comes to weight/diet, anything I say can and will be heard negatively.

        • WBrink says:

          @Ragman: That’s a pretty irrational stance, but I guess it’s perpetuated by irrational people’s behavior.

          • Ragman says:

            @WBrink: The weight issue is sensitive. The two things women seem to want to hear from men the most are “I love you” and “You’re not fat”. And not necessarily in that order.

            Wife and I had a big argument over her spending after we got married. More of me chewing her out over her shopping. We worked out a budget for her to use, and it was very successful, and haven’t had a problem since. If I EVER pulled that about weight/dieting, the next morning she’d wake me up by knocking on the car window and telling me when to show up for the marriage counseling appointment.

            • stanner says:

              @Ragman: My wife always asks the unanswerable questions like:

              “Does this dress still make me look fat?”

              The only reasonable response is to run to the garage and play with loud power tools.

      • dialing_wand says:

        @1stMarDiv: Breakfast can be a contentious issue. A lot of people eat immediatley after they wake up. Previously to our rush and constantly-busy lives, you’d get up, work a bit (in our case now work out a bit) and then eat a couple of hours after you were awake. This was the way for many years. Only the wealthy (and fat back then) could get up and eat.

        There’s a lot to it. I once got in an argument with a farmer. He was a wise old man, but I had him here. He asked me why I hadn’t gone for breakfast? It’s the most important meal of the day. I asked him to tell me how he ate most breakfast. He told me he would get out on the farm for a few hours, two or three, at 5 in the morning and have breakfast around (and he slowed down there) about 7 or 8am.

        Ahhh…. so, I’ll see you at “lunch.” I got up at 10.

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      @Zyzz: @1stMarDiv: I wasn’t purposely trying to cut so many calories; it just kind of naturally happened with the foods I have been eating. I changed my habits a lot – I never used to eat breakfast and now I do it every day. I try to mix something with protein (hard-boiled egg or scrambled egg) with a piece of fruit or a container of no sugar-added yogurt. I completely cut cookies, cake, candy (unless it’s sugar-free), ice cream, pizza, white bread, white potatoes, fried foods, etc. Lunch is usually a big salad with nuts and some low-fat mozzarella cheese for protein and dinner is broiled or baked chicken with baked yams, steamed vegetables, and a salad. Snacks are celery sticks, yogurt, or fresh fruit.

      I’m enjoying the changes very much (I find that I have fewer headaches and less trouble with my allergies), but it is DAMN expensive. I’m single, with no kids, and I am spending anywhere from $70 to $100 a week on fruit, vegetables, lean meat, and other items.

      • Etoiles says:

        @chatterboxwriting: I’m enjoying the changes very much (I find that I have fewer headaches and less trouble with my allergies), but it is DAMN expensive. I’m single, with no kids, and I am spending anywhere from $70 to $100 a week on fruit, vegetables, lean meat, and other items.

        Yeah. I think cost is honestly a big part of why there’s a health problem in America. I got a new job in April, so I can afford spinach and asparagus and whole wheat bread again, and as a result have lost 30 pounds, but there was a time when my income was just insufficient for more than 4/$1 pasta and 6/$1 Ramen, and I put back on 12 of the 30 pounds I’d previously lost. Even shopping sales and going around to different supermarkets, it’s seriously pricey to eat “right.” Ironically, it’s a little easier when you’re not single, because you can buy bigger packages without losing any to rot, so at least you get the money’s worth.

  4. madanthony says:

    I lost about 90 pounds, but it took me over two years to do it, and keeping it off has taken a fair amount of work as well. I’ve gained a few pounds back, but I’m still pretty happy with what I’ve done and where I’ve gotten. And yes, it was diet and exercise that got me there.

    me, December 2004

    me, last month

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      @madanthony: Wow, you look great! How inspiring.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @madanthony: Hey, good for you! That takes hella stick-to-it-ive-ness!

    • OwenKlient says:

      @1stMarDiv: @madanthony: Fantastic!

      I’m trying to lose roughly the same amount. I have never gone in for those “get thin quick” schemes, because losing weight really is a no brainer: eat less (but better, whole foods, natural ingredients, etc.) and exercise more. It’s not for lack of knowing how to do it, it’s the long term struggle, the daily time factor, and mild depression that make it so difficult for me and most other people. I’m still trying, but it’s hard every day.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @OwenKlient: to borrow a phrase from the CT dept. of transportation: “don’t go it alone!”

        the buddy system works – consider employing it (if you’re not already) & use each other to motivate. it’s incredible how sometimes it takes someone else to shut up that little devil in our heads.

    • ElizabethD says:


      Bravo! You should be very proud of yourself.

    • MikeB says:

      @madanthony: Congrats. I too am working on losing weight and hope that I get past my current roadblock. Just need to up the cardio for a little bit and I may reach 90 pounds. I am sitting at 76 pounds lost so far so am at my lightest since high school.

      See http://www.bouchards.net for a before and after shot.

    • AdvocatesDevil says:

      @madanthony: congrats! That’s awesome!

    • DrGirlfriend says:

      @madanthony: well done, congrats!

    • HogwartsAlum says:


      Good job, madanthony!

      You look wonderful and I bet you feel a hell of a lot better too.

      I’ve got about 50 extra pounds annoying me right now. Working on it!

  5. Brian Johnson says:

    That is about how long it took for me to lose 100 pounds. I started jogging and changing the way I ate in Nov. 2001 and in May 2002. I went from around 300 lbs. to 190 lbs. But since have added a little more muscle to get me to around 210-220 range which I think is fine considering I’m 6’2″.

    Losing weight just involves sticking with it. I hated running at first but eventually I grew to enjoy it. It gave me time alone and I knew it was beneficial to me.

    • boomersix says:

      @Brian Johnson: Exactly how I feel about running. I got to a point after awhile where I just felt like I was gliding through my runs.

      • HogwartsAlum says:


        I can’t run because of cartilage problems in my knees (ironically, figure skating doesn’t bother them) so I started walking instead, when it’s warm out. It gets easier after a while.

        I put up a 12×3 pool in my backyard, and it was great to take a good hard walk and then fall into all that lovely cool water. Sometimes I didn’t even change into my suit!

  6. Mooshie says:

    If diet pills worked, there would be no fat people in this world. It’s common sense that they didn’t work.

  7. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    “hard work is the only way to vanquish all those yummy pies we’ve eaten.”

    Lies! Pregnancy is the fastest diet I’ve ever been on!

    Throwing up everything you eat while drastically increasing your caloric needs works like MAGIC!

    …we now return you to your regularly schedule programming …

    • magic8ball says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Yeah, it works great until the morning sickness goes away. :)

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @magic8ball: I’m almost five months in and still pukin’ my guts up!

        Plus, pregnancy gave me abs of steel. Solid as a rock. (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone it’s really a uterus full of baby!)

        • floraposte says:

          @Eyebrows McGee: Now you’ve got me worrying about hyperemesis. It does tend to get underdiagnosed, especially with first pregnancies. If you’ve lost more than 5% of your pre-preg weight, get thee to another doctor who’ll treat this–it’s not good for anybody involved, and it’s not just bad morning sickness.

          • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

            @floraposte: No worries. I keep enough food down that everybody’s fine. I’m only down 5 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight at this point. (I was down 10, but that had to do with a stomach flu added on to first-trimester morning sickness.)

            My body’s just really sensitive to the hormones, apparently. But I manage to keep enough down that everybody’s happy. Except me. Because I’m the one barfing. :P At this point, though, it’s just morning and evening, so I just eat big lunches. Like three of them.

            • floraposte says:

              @Eyebrows McGee: Ah, good to hear. A non-complaining colleague went through hell last year because her initial doctor didn’t grasp how serious the situation was, so now of course we’re all on the alert whenever we hear of serious pukiness.

              • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

                @floraposte: Oh, I’m definitely not the non-complaining type, particularly when it comes to barfing of any sort! My first three months were at the high end of “rotten” to the point we (me, hubs, docs) considered intervening, but we decided to tough it out as the baby is healthy and huge (above 97th %ile!) and I started with some extra junk in my trunk in the fat stores department … and I was just finishing up finals and then had a month off, so it wasn’t particularly interfering in my work.

                Now it’s just morning-and-evening, so it sucks, but I can get plenty of calories during the daytime.

    • ElizabethD says:

      @Eyebrows McGee:

      LOL. Me: Pregnancy sickness until Month 5; *lost* 5 lbs. Month 6.5: Just when I really got my appetite back, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, went on diabetic diet and started riding my bike to work and back. By month 8.5: Had gained only 5 lbs (above where I started). At checkup the day before my water broke: Had gained 9 lbs. (all water in my legs and ankles apparently!) total since conception.

      Two weeks after delivery by C-section: Had lost 35 lbs from my weight when I got pregnant. So, yeah, the “pregnancy diet” worked great for me. :)

    • mythago says:

      @Eyebrows McGee: Not to scare you, but I found “breastfeeding a colicky baby” sheds those pounds like nobody’s business :P

    • Blueskylaw says:

      @Eyebrows McGee:

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but the fastest way to lose 150 pounds is through divorce.

  8. deep.thought says:

    AFAIK exercise doesn’t help weight loss substantially. Dr. Richard Muller at UC Berkeley said in a Physics for
    Future Presidents lecture that a full court, full time basketball game will burn the equivalent of a single can of Coke in calories. He also said that metabolism is a function of breathing, and that accordingly it is difficult to breath so much more that it makes a difference from baseline. Exercise is absolutely important to overall health, just don’t expect to lose weight because of it.

    Also, it is a common misconception that fat content in food is more or less what makes you fat. This is absolutely false! What makes you fat is an excess of calories. Excess calories are converted into fat, which is the body’s long term energy storage system. The saturated fat in food is detrimental to circulatory system health, but it will not make you fat.

    Here’s the secret: if you want to lose weight, simply reduce caloric intake. It takes just one meal a day to sustain my weight. Periodically I check my weight; if it’s increasing I eat less, decreasing I eat more, and it’s just that simple. Undoubtedly the BEST thing you can do to decrease caloric intake is stop drinking soda completely; soda is incredibly calorie dense, as are most fruit juices (those that are more like fruit flavored HFCS water).

    • OwenKlient says:

      @deep.thought: I’ve heard this theory, too, but I have serious doubts about it. The only times I’ve ever lost weight were almost always when I was exercising consistently, with or without eating less.

    • Canino says:

      @deep.thought: That is true. I weighed close enough to 250 a few years ago. Cut my caloric intake to 1700-1800/day. Lost 50 lbs. and THEN started exercising regularly to build muscle tone. Lost another 25 lbs after that, but only increased caloric intake to 2000/day.

      Funny thing is, I didn’t really change my diet that much – I just ate LESS FOOD.

      Here’s a tip – get a small plastic cup of some kind and use it as a measure when you feel hungry. Go ahead and snack, but eat no more than what will fit in the cup – maybe 12-15 crackers or something like that. If you make that your snack you’ll satisfy your hunger and not eat so much at once.

      • madanthony says:


        Part of it probably depends on metabolism, but I’ve found exercise helpful. I usually do about 90 minutes of cardio probably 5 times a week, which – if I can trust the calorie counter on the workout equipment – burns something like 1000 calories.

        That’s actually several cans of Coke. Yes, you also need to reduce calorie intake to lose weight, but it gives you a little more room to splurge every now and then (what can I say, I like food, but I also like not having to special-order my pants). Plus, there are other health benefits to exercise – building muscle, cardiovascular health, and the chance to be around cute girls in short shorts.

      • HogwartsAlum says:


        That’s a good idea. I’m going to try that. I tend to take the potato chip bag or whatever to the couch with me and keep on dipping.

    • thrid001 says:

      @deep.thought: Actually you are wrong. Your body is a machine like a car. If your car has to work harder through snow up and down hills it will burn more energy (fuel). Your body will develop muscle,which will also make you more efficient than lugging around fat. If exercise did not matter and only calories did, what would Michael Phelps or any marathon runner weigh?

      • floraposte says:

        @thrid001: And the body has evolved to keep itself surviving, so the more you cut, the more desperately it’ll hang on; it’s really not just as simple as 3500 fewer calories meaning the loss of a pound.

    • mythago says:

      @deep.thought: Muscle-building exercise DOES help you lose weight because muscle mass increases your calorie-burning.

    • TrueBlue63 says:


      All you say is true but still wrong. Weight is a numbers game, caloric intake and metabolism and exercise have to balance. Exercise increases your metabolism, so by exercising you can lose weight faster. Even at 200 calories per day that is one pound per month. 600-700 calories is a pound per week minimum.

      You don’t have to exercise to lose weight, it is just much easier when you do exercise.

  9. jamesdenver says:

    Live an active life, period. Nothing more.

    I bike to work, most days except really crummy weather and the dead of winter. I live in a neighborhood where I can walk to my Safeway and other errands. I walk or bike to meet up with friends at restaurants if close. And simply work being active into my life – without much extra thought.

    I visit the gym 2-3 a week for weights, whereas my daily life takes care of my other cardio.

    Simply put- move. Not that hard.

    I eat lasagna, pasta, and chicken – but I cook it myself so I know what goes in it. I mostly eat turkey and chicken, and when I cook I make more than needed and portion it away in tupperwares. Then I can grab one for lunch or another dinner – saving money for eating out.

    I like Wendys – but haven’t been inside a McD’s or Taco Bell in years.

    When I do eat out I get grilled stuff and request the sauce always on the side. (Many places coat grilled stuff in sugary sauces.) Brown rice, veggies, and breads in moderation.

    And skip margaritas – drink vodka. There’s my entire way of living and health plan.

  10. jamesdenver says:

    Also I eat small portions throughout the day. Yogurt in AM, banana and PB for morning snack. Prepared meal or sandwich for lunch – and I usually eat whatever I want for dinner. (and more if it’s a week where I’ve been especially active.)

    Small healthy portions throughout the day keeps you running well, and with a few glasses of water with each serving you feel plenty full.

  11. Robobot says:

    The sad thing is that while weight training helps battle the bulge, most people are so intimidated by gyms that they feel the need to slim down before even setting foot in one. All the macho men and gym rat chicks make average people feel pretty intimidated.

    I have had free gym memberships in some form since I was 12, but I have never taken much advantage of them because gyms are so unwelcoming.

    • ElizabethD says:


      IME the gyms at YMCAs are much less competitive than the big bodybuilder places, in terms of how people look.

      • Etoiles says:

        @ElizabethD: Depends what region you live in. In some places it’s all hyper-skinny 20-mile-bike-riding vegetarians who just go to the Y because they think it’ll make people who spend more money on a gym feel badly about themselves.

        (Why yes, I did have a negative experience one day.)

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @Robobot: That’s why I started taking martial arts lessons. You get a hell of a workout, but nobody gives you a hard time about not being able to do x number of pushups. As long as you’re giving it as much effort as you can, you’ll get results, and catch up to everyone else, eventually.

    • socktree says:

      @Robobot: I know what you’re talking about, but I try to set aside the 14 year old in me and remember that if these full grown adults are thinking “What a fat ass” about me in a gym – they are the one with the problem – NOT ME. Plus, the folks who seem to give those type of vibes tend to be the ones who aren’t working out, wear 5 lbs of make-up and are only there to score dates. And they can go ahead and do that – while I’m strong enough to crush their heads between my thighs. Oh yea – and my boobs are naturally this big.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @Robobot: Is it really that the people in the gym are unwelcoming? Or does the problem lie in the self esteem of the person who feels unwelcomed? Just because you “feel” people are thinking negatively of you does not mean they really are. In fact, in most cases, I’d hazard a guess these feelings have little basis in reality.

      Unless people are actually saying, to your face, “Hey, Fat Ass”, I’d let my guesses and assumptions go and learn to enjoy the gym. Stop pretending it’s a competition you can never win – it isn’t, and you shouldn’t feel bad because you’ll never look like “those people.” Be happy with yourself and your own personal progress instead.

  12. jamesdenver says:

    re: gyms. Find a neighborhood gym – not a super gym with juice bars and day care. If you’re really intimated go with a friend.

    In my experience I’ve noticed the meatheads and bodybuilders at local gyms are more welcoming and respectful to newbies and fatties than the Bally’s type places – which tend to be populated by trashy girls and arrogant jocks.

  13. chatterboxwriting says:

    @chatterboxwriting: @WBrink: Actually, I lost 14 pounds in three weeks. I didn’t say I didn’t lose any weight; I said it was coming off slowly. What an asshole.

    • CupcakeKarate says:

      @chatterboxwriting: 14 pounds is a lot! Congratulations! I also like SparkPeople. Keep plugging at it and ditto what people above said: it’s more about how your clothes fit and how you feel about the way that you look than a number on a scale.

    • floraposte says:

      @chatterboxwriting: Whoa. 14 pounds in three weeks isn’t “coming off slowly”; it’s considerably faster than generally recommended, in fact. I think the issue here may be your expectations rather than your results, and I’ll add to the chorus suggesting you touch base with a nutritionist.

    • mythago says:

      @chatterboxwriting: It SHOULD come off slowly. Sustainable weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. Any more than that and you’re probably going to gain it right back, because the weight you’re losing is water and/or muscle.

      What they said – don’t focus on pounds, because muscle weighs more than fat, and limiting calories can hurt you. Go by whether you’re eating healthy and for the right reasons (e.g., not out of boredom) and getting good exercise in, and it will take care of itself.

      • WBrink says:

        @mythago: Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat. It’s more dense than fat, and it requires calories to sustain. In fact, they’re completely different things. It’s people like you who get people like the OP confused.

        • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

          @WBrink: Ah. Obvious troll is obvious. You gave yourself away with that one. But just in case you’re really that stupid, I’ll explain. I’ll be sure to use small words, so you can understand.

          Density is a measure of mass per unit volume. Volume is the amount of space an object occupies. This means that muscle tissue, being about three times as dense as fat, would have a higher mass than the same volume (that’s the amount of space it takes up, remember?) of fat. Mass is the quantity of matter as derived from its weight. Are you still with me? Since the muscle tissue has a higher mass (due to its density) than the same volume of fat… it weighs more! Which makes you wrong AND a dick.

          ti;dr: YOU FAIL IT. LURK MOAR.

    • AlxFherMana says:

      @chatterboxwriting: Yea, Congrats!!! I know how hard it is to stay motivated. I recently started exercising daily and eating less (I don’t believe in diets, I just eat less of what I like) and I’m really trying hard to think that it’s not gonna come off in a day and that it’s gonna take time but I’m doing something and getting healthy. Keep up the good job and don’t starve yourself!! Leave yourself a day to cheat and get something fatty that you love. :)

  14. FrankenPC says:

    For me it helps to realize there is no way to “diet” consistently. I’ve had to alter every behavior that made me fat to begin with…for the rest of my life.

    Eating right and mild exercise are the equivalent of brushing and flossing. It’s hard to get into the habit, but once you do, it’s there for life. Don’t be delusional about it being temporary.

    Seriously, “Dieting” is an evil erroneous word that needs to be stricken from the dictionary.

    Also, sugars are a physically addictive chemical with an insanely short half life (really bad). I had to come to the realization I was an addict. This was also about quitting a drug habit, not dieting.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @FrankenPC: Agreed. Dieting implies a temporary deprivation of foods. It takes a complete re-thinking of how you look at food and re-evaluation of your eating habits. I used to eat stupidly bad in my 20s. Now I’m in my early 30s and trying to get rid of the results of that indulgence. And I’m kicking myself at the money I spent on Blooming Onions and Porterhouse steaks, too. >.<

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      @FrankenPC: In most cases, this is completely true. But in the case of catastrophic injury/illness, it’s really hard to come out on the other side ready to workout again.


      • FrankenPC says:

        @The_IT_Crone: Yeah, that’s an entirely different scenario. That is TOUGH! I’ve been bed ridden due to motorcycle accidents several times. But, I always healed and got back on my feet. I can’t imagine being permanently injured or ill.

  15. Repique says:

    I wonder, myself, why other people’s ratings of the bodies of strangers were involved at all. Since when is that any kind of a measurement of health? Women’s magazines aside, I thought most of us had finally reached the point where we were at least saying that no, you should get fit to get fit, that it’s not about how attractive you are and if you make it about that you’re going to end up with all sorts of disordered thinking.

    Of course six weeks isn’t going to do much for either, I’m not disputing the results, but the methodology seems really suspect. I’ve had people telling me I looked fantastic at times in my life when I was really unhealthy. We really ought to be looking primarily at the time it takes to make a positive health difference, not the time it takes for people to tell you that you look terrific. It’s possible to rush looking terrific, if not necessarily probable… I don’t think it’s possible to rush being healthier.

    • mythago says:

      @kwsventures: It always cracks me up when people think that if they have plenty of time to stroll the neighborhood or pump iron, why, doesn’t everyone?

      There’s a great Doonesbury cartoon where Jane Fonda is trying to persuade her exercise studio’s cleaning lady to sign up for exercise. When the cleaning lady explains patiently how busy her life is, “Jane” isn’t buying it because, gosh, look how busy SHE is and she finds time! The cleaning lady finally has to explain to her: you’re as busy as you WANT to be; I’m as busy as I GOT to be.

  16. kwsventures says:

    How to lose weight: Put your normal portion of food on your plate. Now, take off half of the food off the plate. Eat the remaining half. Save the other half for the next meal. Exercise: walk at least 4 to 6 miles everyday. No excuses. It is not too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, too tired or too anything. Are you mentally strong or weak? Lift weights are least 2 days per week, working your entire body. A good friend followed this plan. He went from 330 pounds to 205 pounds in 11 months.

    • Etoiles says:

      @kwsventures: Six mile walk = 90 minutes, for most people.

      Just to put out there, if I leave for work at 7:30 a.m. and get home at 6:45 p.m., by the time I have dinner and do the dishes it’s 8:00. That leaves two hours until bedtime and I’ll be damned if I spend both of them out for a walk on the dark, icy,totally unlit streets.

      Exercise? Absolutely. 30 minutes a day, at least four days a week. (It used to be six but I damaged the cartilage in my left knee and am under orders not to damage it further.) But “a six mile walk every day” isn’t really reasonable for most folks.

      • AlxFherMana says:

        @Etoiles: Yea, I agree. I find that 30 minutes daily (even Saturday and Sunday) is great for me and my schedule.

      • FrankenPC says:

        @Etoiles: Actually, you are better off if you do 3 or 4 15 minute miles broken up throughout the day.

        Eat a hearty protein and whole grain rich meal in the morning and do one mile. Your tricking you body into a mode of higher metabolism first thing in the morning.

        Then, eat throughout the day something like carrots or celery. Trim down your lunch and have a small dinner. Mix in the remaining 15 minute miles. Take a break from work for 15. It really wakes you up.

        By doing this, you keep your body elevated at a workout state. But, you are also saying to the body that you will have plenty of incoming food energy so there is no need to conserve fat resources or go into ketosis (burning your own muscles).

        • Etoiles says:

          @FrankenPC: I actually have a plan I’ve worked out with professionals; I lost 30 pounds last year so I think I’ve got myself covered.

          Also I live in urban areas so I always have to walk everywhere, several times a day. Including to work. ;)

  17. azgirl says:

    I lost 40 pounds over the past year– 1500 calories a day plus or minus, depending on activity-yoga 3 days, and elliptical 2 days.. hockey once or twice a week..low carb every day except hockey days.. like 60 grams of carbs max- and you have to do it at least 3 days in a row to lose anything.

    when I play more hockey, I dont lose much weight- do gain some muscle..

  18. Outrun1986 says:

    When the supermarket is filled with HFCS laden food, yes it is extremely hard to find something that is ACTUALLY healthy to eat. Apparently “healthy” to a super market is to stock a few hundred boxes of 100 calorie packs instead of some real food. Many cereals that are marketed as healthy are loaded with stuff that you should not be eating. Actually make that tons of food that is labeled as “healthy” or good for you, is not actually healthy or good for you.

    Eating right is very important, but also very difficult in a world that is laden with nothing but processed foods. Even harder if you don’t have a good grocery store near you.

    When your constantly bombarded with unhealthy foods wherever you go, its almost impossible to succumb to them at least a little bit. I could care less if I eat out or get something out to eat, but if my family wants to go out for someone’s birthday then I am stuck. You can’t go to someone’s house for a dinner and not eat anything, it would be extremely rude and impolite (and they would think you are weird too). You certainly cannot live in a hole for your whole life and not go over anyone’s house just because you don’t want to be stuck eating bad food, because not having any friends or family is bad for your mental health. Unfortunately eating is also social in this country, and you can’t always avoid the bad foods 24 hours a day for 365 days a year.

  19. Henry Obialisi says:


    With each week, change the 1 in week 1, to week 2, week 3, all the way to week 16. Far more effective, just takes dedication and proper eating habits.

  20. WBrink says:

    @chatterboxwriting: I’m the asshole for pointing out that you did no research and you’ve plateaued? I think the first thing I ever read about weight loss said “do not starve yourself.” THIRTY MINUTES AT A LIBRARY WOULD’VE SOLVED YOUR PROBLEM. Maybe the reason you can’t lose the weight is because you’re so helpless and hapless?

  21. worksanddays says:

    @Brian Johnson It’s not true that everyone needs 1800-2000 calories a day even without exercising. For one thing, chatterboxwriting didn’t say if they were a guy or girl.

    I am a girl, 5’3″, and when I wanted to lose weight (I’m not overweight, just wanted to be skinnier), I calculated my caloric needs — according to online calculators, I needed 1300 calories per day if I didn’t exercise, and some amount more if I were more active. But it wasn’t anywhere near 1800 calories a day. Eating 1300 calories a day and walking/ biking for an hour each day, I lost weight pretty fast, but it was hard to maintain that level of starvation while being active. So I would recommend eating more than 1200, but not 2000 calories! (Depending on the person’s sex and height)

    • mythago says:

      @worksanddays: When I was in my teens and 20s, I could just go to the gym a couple hours more a week and I’d lose weight. Now, not so much. Metabolism and age are also factors.

  22. jamesdenver says:

    re: Exercise: walk at least 4 to 6 miles everyday. No excuses. It is not too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy, too tired or too anything

    I prefer biking to walking – but that’s great advice. 4 miles is NOT that far. It takes you a few hours in the evening – the same time you’d be watching TV.

    • floraposte says:

      @jamesdenver: Unfortunately, for many of us it’s the same time we’d spend working and/or taking care of kids.

      The way that worked for you or me is not going to be the way that works for everybody. The key is to find something you actually stick with, even if it doesn’t promise the same results as something more drastic–a routine you do is always more valuable than one you don’t. And the increased activity is tremendously beneficial whether it results in weight loss or not.

      • AlxFherMana says:

        @floraposte: Agreed.

      • HogwartsAlum says:


        Oh yes. And if it’s something you like doing, not just “meh, I can do this but sometimes I have to make myself,” then it spills over. I screwed around with figure skating for several years, just for fun and it was something I always wanted to try. But recently, when I started actually testing and competing, it has motivated me to get into better shape , eat better and even quit smoking.

        You CAN skate if you’re fat and smoky, but not as well.

  23. savdavid says:

    Well, if someone is that concerned about how they look and/or what people think of their looks I wish them luck. Just remember, diet and exercise and die anyway.

  24. WBrink says:

    @homerjay wants Boston Legal back!: I’m not the one who couldn’t spend an hour researching a life-changing decision. Then again, I guess I win here because the OP is destroying all his or her muscle due to poor diet and will put the weight back on within some reasonable timeframe.

  25. jamesdenver says:

    Not everyone who eats right and exercises regularly does it for vain reasons.

    For me an hour workout is a worthwhile investment. I feel better, I have MORE energy, and rarely get sick. (When I do it’s little more than a cold.)

    When I bike to work I feel great, refreshed, and have MORE energy throughout the day than I would if I hadn’t done it.

    And barring a bus running me over those who take care of themselves will live longer – And yes – being muscular is nice too.

  26. bohemian says:

    Learn to cook, understand the nutrition of what your eating, portion control and get off your butt on a daily basis.

    I think the biggest problems are portion control and that most restaurant or processed foods are heavy in calories, fat and sugar but low in nutrition.

    Jenny Craig isn’t your answer. Learning to cook and determine what your consuming is.

  27. nycdor says:

    I’ve lost 35 pounds in three and a half months without exercise by doing the following:

    * stopped eating meat
    * drastically cut down on milk, cheese and eggs (but still eat it once or twice a week)
    * stopped drinking ANY beverage except water and the occasional kombucha tea
    * stopped eating sugar (except fruit, and a few glasses of white wine each week)
    * drastically cut down on processed foods
    * stopped eating anything that contains artificial sweeteners (diet desserts, crystal lite, etc etc)

    It’s kind of a joyless life ;) but it’s working, and fairly quickly. I don’t count calories at all. And when I reach my goal, I intend to be a bit more flexible with everything above (except meat and artificial sweeteners). I also have just this week begun exercising (but am limited due to an injury).

    This started for me after I saw a powerful and haunting documentary called Food, Inc at the Toronto Film Festival which was made in cooperation with the authors of Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It totally turned me off of most of the foods I was eating almost every day. It was an extremely powerful expose of the organizations that are supposed to keep food safe for us and whose interests they’re really looking after.

    Food Inc doesn’t have a release date yet but I do believe it has distribution (Magnolia Films). I strongly recommend the film to absolutely anyone interested in consumer issues regardless of whether or not you’re particularly interested in losing weight or changing your diet (several friends saw the movie with me and loved the movie but didn’t feel compelled like I did to change their diet so drastically).

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @nycdor: I have pretty much been turned off of processed foods as well. Its tough to even get me to eat a slice of pizza (although you can construct your own pizza at home with much better ingredients for a totally different result). The first reason is because my stomach gets really sick when I eat them, and my stomach also gets really sick when I eat grease. If your stomach gets sick because you eat a certain food its a nice quick and easy turn off. Second reason is its simply unhealthy to constantly eat processed food like most American’s do. If I ate like your typical American I would probably be sick nearly every day. Its simply not fun to be ill every day.

      Regardless of whether your doing it to lose weight, to gain energy or for some other reason, if you go from a diet of processed foods to a more natural diet you WILL feel better in more than one way.

      Its also simply amazing how much disregard other people have for what they are eating, they don’t even think twice about eating that slice of frozen pizza, corn syrup filled snack foods or going to McDonalds 3 times a week.

      • nycdor says:

        @Outrun1986: I couldn’t agree with you more. When I saw this film, I cried for a half an hour during it – out of shock and out of how horrified I was that I had basically been blind for so long. Now I buy organic as often as I can, and hardly anything that comes in a box/plastic wrapped, and it really is amazing how much better I feel.

        When I walk through a supermarket and see the aisles and aisles full of basically crap, it is amazing to me that just a few months ago that is what was sustaining me.

        I also read Skinny Bitch and though it is radical, it also inspired me a bit.

        • Outrun1986 says:

          @nycdor: Unfortunately I cannot afford to buy organic everything, but I do avoid the frozen foods and most other processed junk. Even if your not buying organic, you can still find plenty of healthy foods that have only a few ingredients and that don’t come from the frozen cases. I don’t have a co-op or farmers market so I do have to live off the grocery store, but its just about making smart decisions when you are there. I do the best I can with what I have to work with. I look at the ingredients on everything I buy to see whats actually in there. I do have a Wegmans which carries tons of more healthy foods than other grocery stores. I can’t imagine trying to eat healthy without Wegmans. The selection of food at other grocery stores is terrible, if your trying to eat healthy it would be much harder if you had to rely on Walmart for groceries because of location. Walmart carries almost nothing that is healthy (at least here) and they carry a ton of processed food.

          Gee Wegmans is the most busy grocery store in this area, I wonder why.

          Its true about the fat too, several years ago we will all duped into the fact that low fat = GOOD. We were told to eat a diet of 30 grams of fat a day if we wanted to lose weight. But a lot of reduced fat or low fat foods just replace corn syrup or HFCS with the fat. Since the body has to process the fake sugar into fat, your better off just getting the product that has fat in it. Your still getting fat either way. Low fat may be good in some cases, like drinking 1% milk instead of 2% but its not good when the fat is just replaced with corn syrup.

          My doctor recommends a diet of 60 grams of fat a day, which would have seemed outrageous 10-15 years ago when low fat was in. Its the same with low carb, everything is a dieting fad, ugh.

        • mythago says:

          @nycdor: Skinny Bitch is not “radical”. It’s an ex-model and an ex-promoter writing some extremely hostile and at times flat-out wrong shit to deliver the message: The only way for you to stop being a fat, ugly piece of shit is to go vegan. Wow, inspiring! (I particularly like the crazypants about how you shouldn’t try to lessen the pain of menstrual cramps, because that’s how your body prepares you for childbirth.)

  28. WBrink says:

    @RecordStoreToughGuy: So what weighs more- a pound of muscle or a pound of fat? Genius, I know. The failure is that FAT IS A SOURCE OF ENERGY WHILE MUSCLES MAKE LIMBS MOVE.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      @WBrink: Touche’. You win, sir. Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

      I will leave you to your trolling, then.

  29. WBrink says:

    @RecordStoreToughGuy: That college dropout-level sarcasm won’t get you anywhere. There’s a difference between trolling and being mean to people who don’t deserve anything because they’re too stupid.

  30. silverundertone says:

    ive never cared to count calories, even when i was at my worst with anorexia/drunkorexia. if im hungry, i eat something. i exercise when i want to and drink a pot of coffee a day and more alcohol than is good for me….but hey….it works for me.

    • AlxFherMana says:

      @silverundertone: I agree with the counting calories. I just think that makes people more likely to over-indulge later. But, what doesn’t work for me does work for other people. I also don’t have a set exercise schedule — I just make sure to do 30 minutes a day, no matter what time. And I eat what I like, just less of it. I feel better already and I’ve only started doing it recently.

  31. mythago says:

    @WBrink: When you have 20% body fat and you weigh 120 pounds, are you in the same physical shape, with the same amount of lean muscle mass, as if you have 5% body fat and weigh 121 pounds?

    I don’t really give a shit about your trolling, but don’t want the OP confused. Weight is a nonsense way to measure physical fitness and body composition.

  32. bananaballs says:

    Before getting diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, I lost about 30 lbs (and about 3 sizes while gaining muscle) by simply working out about 5 times a week and eating moderately. I still had fun, and would never turn down an invite for drinks or dinner. For me, a combination of spin classes and strength training classes really worked, and it took about 6 months, give or take.

    It really is a commitment, but like anything, if you do it enough, it becomes a part of your life and something you become proud of. Now that I know what led to me gaining 50 lbs over 2 years, I can’t wait to get back into that routine. It can be really rewarding to see progress. You basically just have to go and do it and not be so obsessed with the numbers. It will feel much faster if you do it that way.

  33. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    I think the moral of the story here is that if you’re trying to lose weight, don’t post about it on a blog if you respond positively to encouragement. Only post if you saw The Great Santini and wished your father was like him.

  34. P_Smith says:
  35. mac-phisto says:

    @chatterboxwriting: have you considered enlisting the help of a personal trainer? i’m no expert, but i have a friend who is (a personal trainer – not an expert; well, maybe both). an important thing he taught me is that there’s a right way to exercise & a not-so-right way. a personal trainer might be able to help fine-tune your workout regiment so that you see the results you’re looking for. it sounds like you’re doing a lot of cardio – you should consider supplementing that with some other types of workouts to increase your body’s ability to burn the fat, such as weight lifting, isometrics, yoga or other types of stretching exercises.

    as others have stated already, though – don’t focus too much on the weight. you & your friend are making real change in your lives & sticking with it. that’s its own reward. lean on each other if you start losing motivation & you’ll be fine.

    & ignore the naysayers. there’s a whole lot of people that like to drag others down b/c of their own personal issues. you’re on track for a healthier lifestyle – awesome job & good luck!

    /not an expert that wishes i had your motivation. ;)

  36. Alex Herrera says:

    kate harding must be rolling over in her sty after reading this.

  37. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:
  38. picardia says:

    I’m in the third week of my new regimen, which I refuse to call a “diet” — although eventually I will be able to up my caloric intake somewhat, I am looking at this as How I Live Now, not some temporary thing. I am eating about 1,300 calories a day, sometimes up to 1,500 on the days I am especially active, and exercising (aerobics, pilates, hiking) at least five days a week. I’ve lost 4 pounds so far, and although that doesn’t show at all, I feel better knowing there’s a little bit of progress. My goal is 30-35 pounds off for good by the end of this year.

  39. anglematic says:

    I have lost 125 pounds in the last year and whenever people ask me “How’d you do it?” and I respond with “the old-fashioned way, diet and exercise” you can just see the light go out of their eyes.

    Everyone wants the success but few are willing to put in the time and discipline to do it.

  40. Tim Pedersen says:

    Yeah alcohol intake has been an issue for me lately. I recently switched from tonic to soda and when a bartender confuses the two I get the opportunity to rail against HFCS. Good times.

    I’m also practicing the “Paleo diet” and it’s working ridiculously well. Not eating refined anything is like a game. The “win” being my having dropped close to 10lbs in a month. I’m going to be under 200 soon, the first time since 9th grade. Woot!