It has been my experience that the greatest obstacle to any exercise program is the deeply ingrained belief that you have to do a certain amount in order to make it “count”. I’m not exactly sure I can quantify what “counts”or doesn’t. It sounds like we should be able to put a number on it, but the amount remains elusive.

Obviously, you want your exercise to “count” for something.

Only you know what that something is to you. And you are the one who makes it count.

So what does your exercise really have to count for in order for it to be worth your while? And what exactly are you counting… calories, reps, miles, minutes?? And what do you want it to count towards… weight loss?

As an exercise physiologist, working for diet programs such as Duke Diet & Fitness, Pritikin and Structure House, I have done my own share of making exercise count for thousands of people seeking to lose weight – doling out “exercise prescriptions”, using the “latest research and guidelines” to support my recommendations.

After many years of working in the weight loss industry, I know only too well about calories in and calories out, and I have to come to this conclusion – it just doesn’t add up. If you want your exercise to “count” towards your weight loss – you will be very disappointed with your results.

You give up on your exercise plan. And who can blame you?

All that effort and not much to show for it.

Interesting word – “count”. We think it means that you will get the results you seek if you follow the guidelines and do what’s right. We quantify it based upon the latest research. God only knows, if you are going to go to the trouble of exercising, you better make it “count”.

I can’t begin to count the number of people I’ve worked with, who I’ve tried to help, and seen them give up on exercise, because they can’t seem to do enough to make it “count”.

All that effort, and disappointing weight loss. Calories in and calories out, caloric balance, eat less and move more, etc., etc., etc. It still doesn’t add up!

How many thousands of people have I counseled about exercise and weight management, encouraging physical activity to support their efforts, only to witness the disappointment of the almost inevitable re-gain of whatever amount of weight was lost? It was frustrating to me as an exercise physiologist. How could this not work? Everything I was taught indicated that anyone who follows the guidelines will be able to lose weight and keep it off. I believed that what I was teaching was correct so why did it not work?

Could it possibly be their fault that so many failed to keep the weight under control? Could I possibly be wrong? What is going on? Who is to blame?

I now realize that I was part of the problem. Even though I was convinced I was helping people become physically active and that it was beneficial, I was a cog in the diet industry machine. Even if it was not deliberate, even if I believed I was helping, I was perpetuating the lie that weight loss is achievable for all.

That lie helps the $65 billion diet industry continue to grow. Their prosperity depends upon the belief that thin is healthy and fat is unhealthy. The diet industry “counts” on the vulnerability of the public.

The more desperate they can make people to lose weight, the more ashamed they can make them feel about being overweight, the easier it is to convince them to spend money on the latest diet and exercise program. I’ve played my own part in perpetuating the industry and the lie – but no longer.

The numbers simply don’t support the lie. 95% of all weight loss efforts result in weight re-gain. Those are horrific odds. So someone please explain to me why weight loss is ever recommended as a treatment?

If weight loss can be sustained only 5% of the time and typically results in more weight gained in the long term – why does weight loss continue to be the sought after solution? This failure belongs to all of us.

What then, is the solution? First of all – stop believing that health is related to body size. Scientific evidence shows that your health is more closely related to your level of physical fitness. What I do know is this – focusing on weight as the measure of success in sustaining an exercise program does not work.

My goal is to encourage physical activity and as a result – physical fitness. We all continue to miss the point every time we focus on the scale. Isn’t it time we moved our bodies for some other reason than weight loss?

Those who enjoy the benefits of physical fitness simply feel better and enjoy a better quality of life than those who remain sedentary.

Move – feel better. Don’t move – feel worse. Plain and simple.

Watching the scale is an external measure that does not inspire change. Feeling better and having more energy to enjoy life – that inspires us to move our bodies. We move because we like how it makes us feel, not because we think we have to make it “count”.

What inspires you to move? What does making it “count” mean to you?

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