How do you lose weight? Let me give you the short answer, and summary to all diets and programs that work: be in a hypo-caloric state. It means to burn more calories than you consume. That’s it. And to help with that, you need to eat less and move more. Again, simple. However, what if you’re seriously overweight (or dare I say, fat)? Where do you start? Where do you get exercise motivation from? What should you avoid doing first?
Both these things can become a real challenge if you’re addicted to food and carry lots of excess weight, especially the second one.
Moving more or exercising can be really daunting if your size makes it hard for you to move about freely and confidently.
So what do you do?
If you’re fat, but want to exercise more, what can you do?
That’s what this post will focus on.
Let’s talk about exercise motivation first.
But to do that, let’s talk facts first.
If you want to get the most out of exercise as a fat person (someone who carries a lot of extra weight), you need to lose as much of that weight first as you can.
Doing exercising while really overweight won’t just feel crap and be really hard to enjoy, it will most likely leave you with more aches, pains and injuries than you can cope with.
And in the long run, THAT will kill your exercise motivation faster than anything.
“Wait, what!? Lose the weight first? I thought I needed to do exercise to do that!”
Well, no. You don’t.
And in my experience, as an ex-fat person, you shouldn’t.
I’ll explain later.
For now, realise that even though it makes sense on all logical levels that exercise is your key to weight loss salvation, it actually does very little in that regard on its own.
For example, take the research conducted by Donnelly et al. that was published in 1991.
69 obese women were put on an extreme 520 Calorie per day diet.
These women were then divided into 4 groups
- Group 1 did not exercise
- Group 2 did endurance exercise for 60 minutes 4 days per week.
- Group 3 did strength training 4 days per week
- Group 4 did strength training AND endurance exercise 4 days per week
At the end of the 90 days, all 4 groups lost a huge amount of bodyweight, averaging over 18kg of weight loss!
The interesting finding was that there were no differences between the four groups in terms of the amount of weight or body fat that was lost.
This is despite the massive amounts of exercising that group 4 was doing every single week!
This same conclusion has been found over and over again in published research.
This is also one of the biggest reasons why I hate shows like “The Biggest Loser” when they take a group of fat people and put them through gruelling exercises (plus a healthy diet) to see who can walk away at the end as the biggest loser.
The part I hate is the fact that a huge percentage of those people never really get truly motivated by a healthy lifestyle, and once they leave the show or its over, they go back to their old ways.
Not everyone, but many do.
This could all be prevented by conditioning people to actually like exercising, and the way you do that is starting with the fat loss first, which does NOT require a freaking boot camp every day!
Start with food! Lose some weight first.
THEN you start getting into exercise, which the rest of this post is about.
OK, now that I got that rant out of the way, let’s continue talking about exercise motivation.
Here’s another fact,
Exercising more requires the desire to do so.
And let me be honest with you here, if you’re someone who’s struggling with his/her weight at the moment, chances are you are more motivated by poor food choices than health, including exercise.
I know this sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.
Now, immediately some people will say this is not true.
They will argue that we are all victims of a food industry that’s making it very hard to eat healthily very easy to stay addicted to bad quality food, and I will be the first to agree with them.
Making good food choices today can be hard.
I would say that probably about 90% of what you can buy in any general store is not overly great nutrition.
A big percentage is also addictive.
Also, they will blame slow metabolism.
And some studies will back this up.
Yet, when you read between the lines and see what everyone with so-called slow metabolism put in their mouths, it ain’t the same as what lean people do.
This was true for me big time.
Initially, I fought this but eventually faced the music.
For example, the lean me when hungry have a protein shake with plant-based protein powder, frozen fruit, a small scoop of peanut butter, some Good Green Stuff powder, and almond milk.
Around 250-300 calories total.
It keeps me full and feeds my body.
Conversely, the old fat me when hungry (and most of the time I confused cravings with hunger) would have a bag of potato chips and with some coffee (with milk and two teaspoons of raw sugar).
Calorie total (plus minus) around 1,260 calories.
BUT, I will be “hungry” again soon after which will lead to making a peanut butter and jam sandwich.
That’s another 480 calories plus.
So within the scope of a few short hours I was at 1700 calories plus which is more than half my required daily calorie consumption.
None of it is filling or with much nutritional value.
So no, there are a few subtle things we need to consider before we claim and blame certain things that take the focus away from ME.
Now, obviously I’m not saying YOU are the source of your problem, but I am saying YOU are key to turning this around.
But you need to be smarter about this.
And more patient.
Stupid shows like the TBL creates an unrealistic situation and set people, and their bodies, up for failure.
A fat mind will always keep creating a fat body.
You can force the body into leanness, but if your old mind is still running the show, guess what that baby’s gonna do once the cameras turn off!?
One better approach is to use what some call, the Contrasting Effect.
It basically looks at the exceptions rather than the rule.
In the personal development world, there is a saying that “success leaves clues.”
If you want to achieve a certain result, you have to find those clues and asked the question,
“what is the difference that makes the difference.”
You leave no stone undisturbed and build on the success clues you find.
If you take a country like America (for example), according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
More than one-third (35.7 percent) of adults are considered to be obese.
More than 1 in 20 (6.3 percent) have extreme obesity.
Almost 3 in 4 men (74 percent) are considered to be overweight or obese.
The statistic is that the average American adult is about 20 pounds heavier today than in the 90s.
One can easily use this information as a basis for arguing that being overweight is a pandemic (which it is I think) and that people are fighting a much bigger fight than just eating healthily and exercising.
They are fighting multi-billion dollar companies and an industry that is designed to keep us addicted to food and consequently makes us fat and seriously unhealthy.
All of this might have some truth to it, but as I said earlier, one should look for the exception and not the rule in this case.
What I mean by this is, even though the statistics are dire, there are still adults (just sticking to grown-ups for now) in a country like America (comparing apples with apples) who are not overweight, fat or obese.
In fact, they are super healthy, fit and lean.
What I’ve learned is that before you can change any result, you have to take responsibility for YOURSELF.
There will always be things that we don’t control, like our environment, but there are also things that we do control.
For example, in this context, lean and fat people make vastly different choices even when they are in exactly the same environment.
They have to, how else do you explain the difference in results?
This brings me back to exercise motivation.
Right now you are either fat or lean, unhealthy or healthy, because of this motivation- factor.
Yes, you are facing a cruel, money hungry food industry, but that won’t change anytime soon.
If you are going to base your weight loss strategy on waiting for the environment to get with your program, you will be waiting a long time.
You have to find a different way.
Here is the first thing you absolutely need to understand,
IT STARTS WITH YOU.
Until you can accept the truth, which is you have a choice in some of this, nothing will change for you.
5 years ago I was 30kg (60 Lbs+ overweight) and even though I talked a good game when it came to health and fitness, food was FAR more important to me.
Actually, it wasn’t about the food at all, but rather how eating good tasting food and drinking too much (usually with mates) made me feel.
It felt good.
That’s the real thing I was after.
And it kept me imprisoned.
But then things changed.
Some of you know my story, but if you don’t, here is the short version.
I discovered I was literally eating myself into a possible heart attack in the nearby future and had to make some serious changes.
Fortunately, I did.
I managed to lose about 30 kg, change my health naturally, became fit and became a world-ranked masters sprinter.
I’m in better shape now (the late 30s) than I was throughout my 20s and mid-30s.
But it all started with the same thing I’ve been hammering so far in this post – my motivation changed.
I became more motivated by health than by the short lived feel good feelings food provided me.
If you want to change your results, if you’re a fat bloke (or gal) like I was, then you have to become honest about the truth – YOUR truth – as well as what motivates you right now.
Once you have that, you can then begin looking for a way to shift from that to a new truth and motivation.
So, with all that pretext, the question now becomes how do you increase your motivation to exercise more if you’re a fat person (like I was)?
Well, the first thing is of course (like I’ve been saying), is to tap into exercise motivation on a grand scale.
DISCLAIMER: Of course, it’s especially important to talk with your doctor before beginning any workout routine if you’re significantly overweight or if you’ve been sedentary for a long time!
Once you’ve done that, you need to find some exercise activity that you can enjoy doing.
This is a crucial thing.
One of the first, perhaps biggest, mistakes I see really overweight people make when they are trying to get back into exercising, is by hitting the pavement jogging.
It blows my mind when I see this.
I have no doubt that jogging could be a good exercise under some circumstance, even though I’m not convinced.
There are much better forms of exercise in my opinion, but whatever blows your bubble.
Here’s the thing though, if you’re somebody that’s 30 kg overweight, and you haven’t done exercise in a long time (or maybe just on and off),
how much impact do you reckon your joints, ligaments, feet and muscles are taking by jogging right out of the gate?
Here’s what I know from experience.
When I was at my fattest (and heaviest), I still enjoyed playing touch rugby.
The problem was I could only play for a couple of minutes at a time because my joints, lower back and feet would give in long before my fitness would (the little bit I had).
And even though I loved playing touch rugby, I didn’t enjoy playing the game as much as I remembered from playing in my early 20s.
In fact, whenever I got home after a game, my wife just shook her head as I moaned and complained about all the aches and pains while trying to soothe them with multiple ice packs.
It wasn’t fun at all.
Fast forward a couple of years, now minus the 30 kg weight, and I’m a completely different player on the field.
I’m lighter, more agile, faster, and definitely fitter.
But the best thing of all, no injuries.
Even though I’m older.
Part of increasing your exercise motivation is finding something that is effective but enjoyable.
If it’s not enjoyable, due to injuries or too much aggravation, you will not continue that activity.
As human beings, we do anything we can to avoid pain or even just uncomfortable situations.
How long do you think the average person will keep putting themselves through pain when trying to lose weight?
I know for a fact, not that many.
“Where is my proof, ” you ask?
Well, just look around you.
How many examples of people that are lean and fit do you actually see?
Because that’s what it takes.
Losing weight and being lean and fit are not the same things either.
But that’s a topic for another conversation.
Right now we are only talking about getting you motivated to exercise more.
Getting to that next level of fitness and leanness is something for a later stage.
So, if you want to increase your exercise motivation, find something that you enjoy doing.
And here’s the really good news,
once you start looking, you’re likely to find a range of activities you can enjoy whatever your physical condition.
Let’s now look at some exercise motivation tips (why you should exercise) and also some actual exercise (workouts) options.
Exercise Motivation Tips
Choose the right classes.
Many gyms and exercise studios now offer courses for specific groups, including groups for those who are overweight.
If your current facilities don’t offer this kind of program, ask them about starting one.
You can feel good knowing that your efforts may encourage the people around you to become more active.
It’s especially gratifying if you can instil healthy habits in your children while they’re young.
Burn calories faster.
You actually have at least one advantage over smaller people.
You burn up more energy doing the exact same number of push-ups because of your larger body size.
Celebrate dramatic changes.
It’s difficult to tell if a person loses a single cm off their waist, but big weight losses are obvious.
Take pleasure in watching your measurements change.
Accept compliments from others graciously but feel super proud on the inside.
YOU are doing this.
Set intermediate goals.
It can be overwhelming to dwell on your final target weight.
Establish incremental milestones and reward yourself for reaching them.
Just don’t do what I used to do when I rewarded myself with the biggest burger I could find every time I lost a few kilos.
That defeats the purpose.
Improve your health.
Looking good in a bikini is nice, but there are more important things in life.
Working out helps to get many medical conditions under control, including diabetes and high blood pressure.
It could also extend your life and give you more time with your loved ones.
This became my biggest driver for exercise.
Focus on your best assets.
Start loving your body now.
I’ve learned that feelings of disgust or even disappointment in yourself, are not conducive to your journey towards health.
It’s almost like they create inner resistance.
You have to find a way to love your body as it is right now.
You might not like what you’re seeing in the mirror, and that’s okay but, you still have to love YOU, and part of you is your body.
So find something about your body that you DO like.
Maybe you have good calf muscles, or nice cheekbones, or beautiful hair.
Let’s now look at some actual workout ideas that could be more enjoyable and fitting for someone who is still very overweight.
Go for a walk.
Walking is free, effective, and safe for most people.
Start out with small distances and work your way up.
Some experts rate walking as one of the best exercises a person can do, even when you’re in shape.
If you’re scoffing at this idea, I challenge you to put on a 20 kg weighted vest (unless you are overweight already) and walk up against any decent hill you can find.
You won’t be smirking for very long.
Exercise in a chair.
Chair exercises are great for seniors who have lost a lot of their mobility and will work for you too.
Chair exercises are great for accommodating a variety of physical conditions.
Browse online to find moves for every part of your body.
My wife recently got into swimming and absolutely loves it. In fact, she’s now slightly addicted to it.
I’m not sure if it’s the chlorine or what, but it seems to work. Water makes exercising fun, is a great workout, and it’s easy on your joints.
If you don’t have a local swimming pool or aquatics center, check if any of your local hotels sell in-town memberships that let you use the pool as much as you want.
If you live at the coast and have access to the the ocean or an estuary, that’s also a good option if it’s safe.
Just make sure it is safe.
Ride a bike.
Similarly, cycling let you exercise sitting down.
With a stationary bike you can stick to your routine regardless of the weather.
Cycling is also a low-impact form of exercise, that will give you a great workout.
The cool thing about cycling is that it’s scalable.
What I mean by that is, if you using a stationary bike it will most likely have various resistance settings.
If you’re cycling outside, you can lengthen or change your routs as your fitness increases.
Sign up for low impact aerobics.
For more variety, try an aerobics class designed to keep your feet on the ground.
You’ll get your heart rate up without any jumping around.
Hop on exercise machines.
Book a trial session at a nearby gym.
Sample their elliptical machines and other equipment.
When you find something you like, you can buy a version to use at home or sign up for a membership.
Train for strength.
Remember that resistance training contributes the most to losing weight.
You’ll build up your muscle mass so that you burn more calories.
As a bonus, you’ll also look more toned.
Doing free weights is a simple way of resistance training.
It’s also low-impact and you can work your way up as you get stronger.
I would highly recommend following a well workout program, as well as considering hiring a personal trainer for the first month or so.
It’s important that you learn proper form when doing certain exercises with free weights, to prevent injury and maximise the result you get from the exercises.
Modify Pilates and yoga poses.
The physical and mental health benefits of Pilates and yoga can help you shape up and resist emotional eating.
Work with an instructor who will recommend the best poses for your needs.
What I’ve learned on my own weight loss journey, is that where you start is not as important as the goal you’re working towards.
But I’ve also learned that even this goal isn’t as important as the reason(s) why you’re going after that goal.
It is the WHY that makes or breaks our progress in the end.
You have to find within yourself reasons that will motivate you most.
I can’t help you with those reasons. It is up to you to find them, because we are all different.
I will leave you with this though,
Until you change something you do every day, nothing will change.
Just make a start today. And tomorrow, you do it all over again.
String enough days together, and before you know it and improved version of you will be staring back at you in the mirror.
If you want a way of life that is effective for weight loss and has been practiced for thousands of years, long before crap like The Biggest Loser, then check this out.
It might save your life.