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Paige Waehner

Exercise and weight loss lesson of the week: It's easier to prevent weight gain than it is to lose weight

By May 2, 2012

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As exercise and weight loss goals go, most of us have never entertained the goal of preventing weight gain. Somehow, saying "I want to prevent weight gain," just doesn't have the same resonance as, "I want to lose weight!"

But, for some of us, that's exactly the goal we need to have.

Think about the difference in these goals for a moment and the amount of work required for each:

  • Preventing weight gain requires about 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. That could be a 10 minute walk in the morning and a 15 minute walk later in the day, a basic strength program a couple of times each week or some combination of that. And, keep in mind, that's all without changing your diet at all (providing you don't eat more than you're currently eating).
  • Losing weight requires about 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week, working at a more vigorous intensity and with a combination of strength training and cardio workouts. Again, this is without changing your diet at all, so keep in mind that eating fewer calories does increase your weight loss chances.

The difference between these two goals is pretty big - With the weight loss goal, we get to lose weight and losing weight makes us happy. The problem? We often have a hard time doing the amount of exercise required to lose that weight so we end up giving up and, sometimes, gaining even more weight in the process.

With the weight gain prevention goal, we get to avoid gaining more weight. That? Doesn't sound like much fun, does it? Maybe preventing weight gain isn't as sexy as losing weight but here's something to think about if you're struggling to lose weight: Finding a way to stop gaining more weight puts you in a powerful position to start losing it for good.

The truth is, it's hard to lose weight. Every pound you put on is twice as hard to get off, our bodies are just made that way. So, every time you gain a pound, that's a pound on top of what you already want to lose. You've just made it harder on yourself and, if you're already struggling, you've compounded the problem.

So, what's easier? To follow an exercise program we can't stick to or choose a more accessible route that, if nothing else, keeps us moving and keeps our weight in check as we practice this whole healthy lifestyle process?

That's a question to ask yourself if you're on the weight loss roller coaster. Is there another way? What do you think? Is it a good idea to rethink weight loss goals if they aren't working for you? Is preventing weight gain a worthy goal to have? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

May 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm
(1) Ivik says:

While brief, but incisive,this is one of the best commentaries and advice on weight-loss/weight-gain in relation to diet and exercise — strength, cardio, combo of the two — that I have ever read..

May 4, 2012 at 6:48 am
(2) Cathy says:

I recently interviewed an 81-year-old man who bikes for 6-8 hours A DAY on his e-bike to prevent weight gain. I think it all depends on your level of motivation. His dedication is something to strive toward for sure.

I try to both lose weight and prevent further gain.

May 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm
(3) Hilary says:

I agree–this is a topic that should be discussed more. Thanks for the inspiring article. I am tackling my lifelong “just a little overweight” condition this year with the help of a nutritionist and a therapist. Halfway to my goal now, but this topic of keeping it off this time is heavy on my mind. I’m really glad to have this information. Thank you Paige!

May 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm
(4) Judy Atkinson says:

I quit smoking a year ago and I have put on weight right in my stomach. I need help to get it off.

May 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm
(5) Louise says:

To prevent weight gain, get yourself a decent scale and weigh yourself EVERY day as soon as you get up. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to weigh yourself once a week. Sure, you will fluctuate several pounds in a day or two but to avoid weight gain, you MUST know you are gaining! Don’t get hysterical if you gain even two pounds in a day, but if that gain does not disappear over several days later, you’ll know to cut back the FOOD, PLUS exercise more intensively. I gained once when I was not paying attention to the scale and was horrified at what it said——never again. Taking it off was no fun.

May 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm
(6) Elaine says:

If I had used this strategy 25 years ago and just tried not to gain anymore to what I had I would be 50-75# lighter than I am now!!
Instead it seemed as soon as I put myself in “weight loss” mode I played mind games with myself and actulally over the years gained weight!! probably “going off the wagon mentality”.
I’ve lost 22 pounds which I’ve kept off for 3 years, but this winter…took a more laissez faire attitude and the pounds have started to go back on. It’s keeping vigilant with the no weight gain/exercise that kept me from sliding for those 3 years…so I need to keep thinking of success is maintaining that weight loss and perhaps taking a stint at losing again.

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