You can’t escape it. Maintaining weight, losing weight or sculpting down your size has everything to do with both diet AND exercise. Either/both determine how fast it can happen and how long the results will last.
Sound pretty stark? Sorry, but it is. There are no magic pills, no potions, and no tricks to tell you about. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met and worked with who got on a great exercise regimen only to gain weight back quickly once they stopped exercising – whether that was because they stopped their workouts, had surgery, or were ill for a while. It’s as simple (and as complex) as calories in/out and exercise continued/abandoned.
Unless you’re one of those lucky people whose metabolism is unusually fast, most of us naturally add pounds to our frames with each succeeding decade because what once was a calorie-burning machine has now become a calorie bank. When we exercise and move around more, we eat to fuel that activity. But the moment that activity lessens, we are so used to eating a certain way, we don’t stop, thinking everything will just even itself out. Sorry folks. That just doesn’t happen.
One of my clients told me she used to admire a woman who lived down the street from her who was a runner. “She was almost constantly in running shorts,” she said. “I envied how toned and slender she was and lamented my own lack of discipline where exercise was concerned.” Then the neighbor adopted a child, stopped running and everything changed. “I visited her house about 6 months later and I didn’t recognize her,” she told me. So I explained to her how this woman had gotten used to eating for her former activity level and never made the necessary adjustments.
When we want to maintain our weight/size, the rule of thumb is to take in the same number of calories we expend, but few of us know what those numbers are. Devices like Fitbits and Apple watches can tell us how many steps we’ve taken, but there is no exact science to this calculation.
So I try to recommend that people consider everything they eat to be like taking medication. Scrutinize it. Think about it. Don’t eat mindlessly and don’t eat to be social. Eat to fuel your activity level -- no more and no less. I often see ladies come into the gym who work exceedingly hard, whether they’re my clients or those of other trainers. Over time I see their biceps grow, their bellies shrink, and their legs tone up. I even see how fat melts off their backs. But I can always tell which ones realize that getting fit and reducing size is 80% diet and 20% exercise, and which ones probably make the excuse to sit down and eat what everyone else around them is eating. The process for the latter group takes much longer than for the others who “get” how all this works and stay the course.
So what is the common denominator in all this? YOU. Not your trainer whose goal it is to reach your fitness goals. Not your mother or your spouse, who might buy your food, prepare it and serve it or for whom you do the same. Just because someone else can eat 2,000 calories a day and stay slender doesn’t mean you can. Another of my clients told me recently that her goal was to get to a certain (healthy) goal weight not just because she thinks that’s a reasonable size for someone her height and age, but because if she gets there and has to suddenly stop exercising for some reason, she has some “slop room” to adjust her food intake. Makes sense to me.
If you want to talk to me about eating and exercise, I am always happy to take the time for you. But you have to be honest with me. We can’t be talking about how you barely eat anything but nothing changes. Eating too little is a crime and so is eating too much or eating the wrong foods. Yes, you’ll be building muscle, which weighs more than fat, but to see a major difference take place in as short a period of time as possible, you have to have a balance and sometimes you have to document that effort until it becomes automatic.
So will you gain weight if you stop exercising? Yes, if you don’t adjust your food intake. It’s a fact and it’s not going away. Good habits are golden, though. And I’m here to help.