There are many misconceptions about weight loss. As a Holistic Nutritionist I’ve heard them all. Many are based on a hope and a prayer of ditching the excess weight at a rapid clip. But, there’s one that I hear so often and is so commonly believed, I decided to blog about it.


The Biggest Weight Loss Misconception


What is the #1 weight loss mistake that people make? It’s joining a gym on January 1st as a weight loss strategy. Most people mistakenly believe that sweating is the key to weight loss.


Many of us make New Year’s resolutions every January. I’ll bet you can guess the most frequently made resolution. In 2017, the #1 resolution, made by 21.4%, was to lose weight and eat a healthier diet. Since 71% of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, I’m confident that the weight loss goal will remain on top in 2018.


While I applaud a desire for self-improvement and agree that the beginning of a new calendar year seems a fitting time to do some self-examination, the reality is that most people strive for too much too quick and end up disappointed. Statistics show that 80% of people who begin the new year with a flurry of optimism fail by February.



Weight Loss New Year’s Resolutioners



In my years of experience going to a gym, I’ve become well acquainted with the New Year’s Resolutioners. They make their appearance in early January and typically sign up for a package with a personal trainer. They hope that the forced commitment of expensive pre-paid workout instruction will give them a good base they can sustainable year-round.


But, the running joke among the in-crowd is that they’ll all wash out by February 15th. In the meantime, these gym newbies struggle through killer workouts that I’d never even attempt. Then they brag about how they couldn’t even walk the next day. While they wear that incapacity as a badge of honor, I interpret it as the first step on the road to gym burnout. Once the novelty of feeling sore wears off, their enthusiasm for exhausting exercises begins to wane. Either that, or they sustain an injury and have a handy excuse to retreat from the gym.



Working Out Will Not Burn Enough Calories for Weight Loss



There is another, even more important reason that inflicting a strict gym regime on yourself will not achieve your weight loss goal. Study after study proves that exercise is not the key to weight loss. In fact, the proven weight loss formula is 80% diet, 20% exercise. Or, as I like to say: “It’s 80% the jaw muscle.”


According to Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and director of the weight management program at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, the reason dieting is so much more effective than exercise is because it takes “a ton of activity to create a 500 to 700 calorie deficit through working out. Essentially, you’d need to run seven to 10 miles a day to lose one pound a week. The average person can’t keep this up, especially without increasing their caloric intake.” Dr. Lofton reports: “I see this in patients all the time. People think, ‘If I run the marathon or start going to boot camp, I’m going to lose weight’ but they’re often disappointed when they don’t.”



Calorie Burn from Exercise


Here are some examples of calorie burn from USDA for a 154 lb. man:


MODERATE physical activities: In 30 minutes

Hiking 185
Light gardening/ yard work 165
Golf (walking and carrying clubs) 165
Bicycling (less than 10 mph) 145
Walking (3.5 mph) 140
Weight training (general light workout) 110

VIGOROUS physical activities: In 30 minutes

Running/ jogging (5 mph) 295
Bicycling (more than 10 mph) 295
Swimming (slow freestyle laps) 255
Aerobics 240
Walking (4.5 mph) 230
Weight lifting (vigorous effort) 220
Basketball (vigorous) 220


Unfortunately, you won’t achieve weight loss any faster by using cardio machines in the gym. A dirty little secret is that the machine-generated calorie burn numbers are quite exaggerated. Most studies show that the machines embellish the number of calories burned by 10-15%. The elliptical, a gym favorite, overestimates calorie burn by as much as 42%.



The Jaw Muscle is the Key to Weight Loss


I’m not advising against working out. It’s the magic pill as far as health is concerned. But, if you’re carrying around too much weight you need to control your food intake. Most people who are overweight are eating too much food. Resist the pull of trendy diets that eliminate nutritious food groups and bite the bullet and change your eating habits. This is no easy feat in our food-centric society, but it can be done with planning and accountability.


Resolve to eat real food in reasonable portions in the new year!