“Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” – Analyzing This Time Magazine Article

I am going to dissect a recent Time magazine article called, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”.

I do agree with parts of this article, but think a lot of this is bogus. The author simply isn’t taking a strategic approach to exercise and seems to be complaining for his lack of results.

That being said, I do agree with a few of his points. Let’s dig in!

why exercise won't make you thin

[While staying lean and losing body fat is largely about diet, you can magnify the effects of a good diet with the right types of exercise. Note: The photo above is a good example of eating smaller portions of your favorite foods.]

A Brief Overview of the Article in Time Magazine

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

Some of the Problems With the Article and Studies He Cites

It is a pretty well written article and could sway someone who doesn’t know better, which is why I felt compelled to address it on my blog.

The biggest flaw in the article is his notion that exercise gives you no choice but to over-eat.

There are certain types of exercise that increase cravings and I talk about them in this post (Cardio Compensation), but how you act upon those cravings is entirely up to you. This reminds me of a study that claims that diet soda makes you fat (because people who drink diet soda tend to eat bigger portions of food)…another misleading study.

It is the food that makes you fat, not the diet soda or exercise!

“Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?”

This is a quote from the article and John explains that he typically eats more on exercise days than on days where he doesn’t exercise. He then goes on to show that exercise stimulates hunger.

He also quotes Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity…”If you’re more physically active, you’re going to get hungry and eat more.” Unfortunately people will just take Gortmaker’s word as gospel because the guy is at Harvard…so he must be correct…right?

This is complete non-sense if you ask me.

…But I Do Agree That Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

Like I recently stated in Vacation Body Blueprint and several times on this site…it is mainly diet that dictates your ability to lose fat. You can create a much stronger calorie deficit with diet than you can with exercise. Exercise only “works its magic” when someone is dieting properly.

Once you create the perfect storm with diet…then exercise can help in a major way.

Common Mistakes When It Comes to Exercise and Fat Loss

Many people reward themselves after working out. They figure that since they workout they can “get away” with eating more. Other people will exercise more to “make up” for eating too much.

Brad Pilon calls this Fighting More With More over on his blog…and like he says…it doesn’t work! Other big mistakes…eating more “to repair damaged muscles”…eating more to get enough protein to build muscle…eating more to insure that you get the post-workout meal…eating more to have energy for the workout, etc.

You get the idea. It never pays to “eat more” if you want to lose fat!

Diet ‘As If’ You Aren’t Going to Exercise

The quickest way to lose weight quickly is to diet as if you weren’t going to exercise at all…but then make sure and exercise! Don’t compensate or change you diet at all, even if the workouts get tough…even if you are sore.

Your mind will play tricks and justify this extra food…”since my muscle are sore they ‘need’ extra nutrition to heal”…don’t let your mind justify eating more food.

If you increase your calories as you increase your activity level, you are just spinning your wheels.

Note: If you don’t get the chance to read that post called “Cardio Compensation” I will summarize it in a couple of sentences. Studies have shown that prolonged steady state cardio is what increases food cravings.

Recent studies have shown that Interval Training actually reduces the appetite.

So stick with the intense intervals most of the time (bodyweight circuits, HIIT, kettlebell circuits, etc.)…mixed with low intensity activities like walking.

67 thoughts on ““Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” – Analyzing This Time Magazine Article”

  1. 80 diet 20 exercise. The times article is rubbish in my opinion regardless how well it’s written. To loose weight there needs to be a calorie defecit and if the bloke is chucking on weight then there obviously isn’t one. He m,ight be exerciseing like a mad man but judgeing by his comment i would say that his diet is out of whack no matter what he says. diet is 100% spot on weight will be lost without exercise however u want to maintain some strength training of some form to still hold onto musclemass and a little cardio for the heart will work wonders too. Majority is diet.

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  3. I agree with your main criticism of the Time magazine article. Your exercise success depends on what exercises you do.

  4. I really like the idea of “Diet ‘As Is’ You Aren’t Going to Exercise” — seems like a very logical way to avoid compensating for exercising with eating, or vice-versa. I know this is a problem I’ve struggled with. I’m always hungry, and that only gets worse when I work out, so it’s very easy to convince myself I “deserve” it or something. But if I can manage to truly separate eating and exercising in my mind (and then follow-through on doing both appropriately), I may finally see some results!

  5. I rememeber reading this article in time magazine. And it kinda pissed me off. Because (maybe you covered this more in depth in your article. I skimmed it – whoops 😛 ) they seemed to say “People don’t lose weight while working out” “What? Why?” “Because after working out they eat a bunch of crappy food like pastries” “Oh. Well. Then it’s not really the working out problem…is it?”

  6. Another great article thanks Rusty! I am going to repeat myself here. I am not an expert as some of you are clearly sports professionals, but I do know that weight and fitness do not go hand in hand. Someone who is physically fit can sometime weigh a lot more than some of the same size and build who is not physical fit. So what. It is the fitness and health of the individual that is important. Not the actual weight of the person.

  7. I know why most people do hate the Time article. But I just want to point out…as a person who has been a long distance runner daily for five years…that I truly can only attribute my fitness to exercise. My weight has stayed the same as the length and power in my runs increases, while I’ve stayed on the same diet. In fact, when I took a few weeks off, I lost a lot of weight! (not muscle either…my stomach became lean, my arms as well!)

    Some people do have the dedication and time to make exercise such a huge part of their lives. But there are now many studies supporting intensity, such as 3 minutes of sprinting in a week versus a week’s worth of cardio, for being more fit and lean. Exercise IS actually a fairly new craze, and I know many large people who exercise, and many thin people who don’t.

    I’m not suggesting exercise won’t burn calories, but I am starting to truly believe (after also being a compulsive exerciser, I might add) that it’s not the key to weight at all. Also, you should never restrict too many calories if you DO exercise. This will lead to quite the unfortunate circumstance when you find you don’t have time to exercise, AND you’re eating less than you want to. Never do this, trust me, because the mental hell that comes with it is … well… hell.

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