Clearing Up The Confusion Around Exercise and Weight Loss

Exercise for real people with real lives. That’s the goal, right? But first, you have to break down the role exercise is playing in your weight loss.

Actually, I have a feeling exercise is not currently fulfilling its best role and you probably don’t even realize it.

The major problem is that too many women are using exercise to lose weight and yet, statistics show that exercise alone will not give you the healthy weight loss you seek.

But this idea isn’t your fault. For a long time, the philosophy was eat less, move more. The flaw in this formula is that you do have to eat a little bit more when you workout.

What tends to happen to many women is they overeat. For example, the brain on exercise alone says this, “Oh, I’ve been good. I can have the lemon loaf and latte with my friend at Starbucks!” Or “I put so much time into that workout class, I can treat myself to this…”

This is the biggest way women get stuck in exercise purgatory.

You under assume how much you put in and over assume how much you burned in exercise.

So, how can you create an exercise plan that gives you the results you seek? Let’s break it down.

Exercise Isn’t For Weight Loss

Exercise is not a good vehicle for weight loss. You may have to reread this a few times but I assure you that I mean what I say (or what I type rather).

The reason for this is most women tend to rely on exercise and never nail the nutrition aspect. If you don’t have the nutrition in place, here’s what happens…

Exercise is the first thing to go when work happens, kids get sick, you get sick or injured, travel, etc. Without the nutrition component, you’ve lost your coping mechanism and it’s easy to see the weight creep back on and all negative feelings with it.

You start to think that the exercise was pointless, so why did you do it in the first place. Maybe you blame the exercise and decide it’s just not for you – and none of this is true. You have to reframe exercise’s role in your life.

Exercise is what you do to honor your body. It’s for your strength, improving your cardiovascular fitness, overall health, and wellbeing – but it’s not for weight loss.

Research tells us that exercise is the best way to help with weight maintenance meaning that someone who has incorporated exercise already is way more likely to stay at their ideal weight once they reach it.

This means that while nailing your nutrition, you need to build an exercise plan alongside it. What’s that look like?

Know Your Numbers

Strength or resistance training needs to be a priority on your list.  

Muscle engagement is so critically important for women. It improves immune function, keeps your faculties fresh, staves off osteoporosis, and even helps you remain independent for a longer period of your life because you are continuing to actively engage your muscles.

How much exercise do you need?

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week.

This could mean you split this up into 10 tiny chunks a day, or 30 minutes every few days. The specifics are up to you.

Additionally, you need 2 times where you work out all the muscles in your body – you could do legs and arms on a day; back and chest on another, for example. Or you could take a class.

Point is, you have to start.

Exercise is planned, intentional, and structured. Active living is parking farther away in the Costco parking lot and walking or using the stairs instead of the elevator.  You need a healthy balance of both.

Now, this can be overwhelming. That’s why – just like with healthy eating – (and nearly every single other thing you will be successful at ) you need to create goals and a solid, consistent plan with small steps.

The Power of Just 5%

How many times have you walked into the gym and wondered what to do or wandered around hoping to create inspiration? (My hand is raised on that one many, many times!)

This is because so many women don’t create small, attainable goals for themselves. They attempt the all or nothing mentality (even in their exercise) and it doesn’t work.

Did you know that just a 5% shift can make all the difference?

In fact, if you did decide to go from 0 to 100, you run the risk of injury or becoming so sore, you can’t continue or stay consistent.

5% shift looks like this…

If you have an activity tracker and are trying to reach the 10,000 steps a day goal, that can be daunting, right? If your steps are low, try just a small increase – from 2,000 steps to 3,000.

This is actually an excellent way to help use the data on your health and weight loss for good. Don’t look at your facts (number on the scale, low steps on the tracker) and unleash the litany of verbal abuse. Instead, use the info to move forward and get on with your plan.

When you want to fit exercise into a busy life, you have to prioritize it. If you let it be the last thing on your list, you’re probably not going to do it.

You have to decide what time works best for you. When in your day can you make the commitment? Are you a first thing in the morning person? Is it your lunch break? Maybe it’s after work?

Are you great with accountability? Then, maybe you need a class a few times a week that you show up for or enlist a workout buddy like a friend, your kids, or partner.

If you don’t have time to get an hour in – that’s ok. Remember, it’s not all or nothing. It’s not, “If I don’t have an hour to sweat then what’s the point…”

Something is better than nothing. The more consistently you do something, the better it will become for you.

It all comes down to are you willing to show up for yourself?

Choosing Your Something

You have to be honest with what you need to show up for yourself. There is no shame to have that planned accountability or to have that set schedule for yourself.

Often, you may have the best intentions, make the actions to get to the class or go to the gym but you feel intimidated so you don’t go back.

Listen, everyone is just hoping they can get through that workout class themselves. No one is thinking about you or any other person in that class or at the gym. In those situations, people are focused on them.

Don’t let that be the thing that holds you back from your something. Decide that one thing you are going to do and then add on the consistency.

Fact: weight loss has become this complicated billions of dollars business. Let’s get back to the basics. You start to say and feel better stuff about yourself.

Ask yourself this: what is the one thing I can do to shift your activity level by just 5%?

When you feel better about yourself, you are more able to be more present and focused. This makes you better at your job, a better partner, friend, mother, etc.

What currently getting in the way for you?

Is it time, motivation; not sure what to do, you don’t like exercise? Pop your answer in the comments.

I’m serious on this because if I know what your barriers are, I can help you bust through them.

(Even it was that horrible experience in phys ed. as a kid and it’s still creeping in.)

I got you. Let’s create an exercise plan you can feel good about.

Make exercise something you LOVE to do. Click below to get instant access to my *free* ebook now.

About the Author:

Jennifer coaches busy, successful women with imperfect lives who want to look and feel amazing from the inside out. With her tried-and-proven weight loss method—ENERGY to Thrive™—Jennifer takes the fascinating science of physiological transformation and breaks it down into six empowering steps.


  1. Krista December 6, 2018 at 6:30 am - Reply

    I have started walking for atleast 150 mins per week. I find I’m getting faster and not so tired. I would like to j corporate some resistance training with weights or bands what do you suggest? I’m obese activity is a new thing for me but I want to incorporate resistance training. I have no chronic conditions or muskoskeltal problems 🌻

    • Jennifer Powter March 27, 2019 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Hey Krista – oh my gosh, my apologies for the delay in replying to you!!! So, my best advice is to start with basic body weight movements. It’s amazing how much resistance our own body creates for us!! Things like squats, lunges, hip raises, box push ups, etc. Your body will be a little bit sore, which is normal and should be expected – the goal is to not be TOO sore after a workout so that you want to do it again 🙂

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