Let’s Rebrand Exercise: great for health, horrible for healthy weight loss

Have you noticed I have gone through a rebrand?

I didn’t only change up my color scheme.

I’ve always helped people change their lives, improve their health and become more fit. The difference: I’m using all of my tools, appropriately.

Exercise is only one tool. And not a very effective one for weight loss.

Now, I’m working on my personal brand. Personal branding is the practice of marketing yourself and your career as a brand.

I started to reposition my business, Mispibo Fitness, in 2013 after I began to notice a few trends in my client’s assessments:

  • Most people wanted to lose weight (about 80%)
  • A few clients inquired about nutrition (about 20%)
  • Even though most people didn’t intend to get stronger, they did, and they enjoyed it.
  • The clients I saw the least (or never saw) lost the most weight (and got the strongest)


Must Ask Diet Questions for Effective Weight Loss

What was going on here?

At this point, I’d been personal training and running boot camps for seven years. I knew a lot about designing and coaching exercise.

Up until this point, I was the one doing all of the training. Now, I had a staff. I was training my trainers. My job was troubleshooting. The success of each trainer was up to me. I was responsible for making sure all of my clients got results.

We measured (weight, girth, and body fat) for accountability:

  • Personal training clients weighed in before sessions
  • Personal training clients were measured every two weeks.
  • Group training clients were offered assessments monthly

When the measurements weren’t trending down I’d:

  • Ask the trainer, “Is [the client] showing up?”
  • Ask the client, “Are you doing your cardio? (Done on their own)
  • Tell the client, “Tell me about your eating.”

More than 80 percent of the time, the client was making their scheduled appointments and completing cardio on their own. The only aspect left over was nutrition.

That’s when I decided to focus on nutrition.

Over the next four years, I all but stopped personal training and boot camps.

Today, I coach clients (online) because while exercise is great for health, it’s not a very useful tool for weight loss. And most people hire a personal trainer to lose weight.

The rebranding was not easy, but it was time. The numbers were adding up, and it did not make sense to keep doing what didn’t work.

Like many of you, I was brainwashed by the brand of exercise.

It’s a subtle process that you don’t even realize. One day a name, term, symbol, design or combination of one or more sticks in your psyche.

After all, the primary goal of any brand is to develop an identity in the mind of consumers.

The brand of exercise is very effective weight loss tool.

Well, my brand is my promise to my clients.

For MISPIBO Fitness to deliver, I had to rebrand:

  • Fitness is both exercise and nutrition.
  • Exercise is great for your health (not for weight loss).
  • Nutrition is ideal for weight management (but won’t make you fit).
  • Mindset is everything and can be adjusted with coaching.

The brand of exercise has the identity of being a very effective weight loss tool. Scientifically speaking, exercise is one of the worst tools used to lose weight.

Let me say it more plainly: exercise is not useful for weight loss.

It’s time to rebrand exercise and stop promising people unrealistic results.

Must Ask Diet Questions for Effective Weight Loss

What Is Exercise Great For Then?

Fitness has two main components: exercise and nutrition. Again exercise is awesome for your health. But nutrition is better for weight loss (I’ll go into this more later).

Another point I want to make clear: regardless of how much you weigh, exercise is good for your mind and body.

Even though exercise leads to nominal weight loss, a Cochrane Review of the best-available research found that people who exercise more (and did not change their diets) saw these health benefits:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced triglycerides
  • Decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk of stroke
  • Reduced risk of heart attack

Studies have also shown people who exercise have a lower the risk of developing diseases that impair cognition like Alzheimer’s and dementia. And they score better on cognitive ability tests.

That’s just a sampling of few benefits that have been scientifically proven in regards to exercise.

Exercise has also been shown to help manage weight when used with watching calorie intake.

As I said, exercise is great for your health. It could be called a “wonder drug” for health.

Now, let’s look into why exercise is not effective against weight loss.

Moving More Will Not Help You Lose More

This is a fact that goes either underappreciated or ignored about exercise: the calories burned during a workout only account for a small amount of your total energy expenditure.

What’s energy expenditure?

It’s how much energy (or calories) a person needs to perform physical functions like breathing, circulating blood, digesting food, and any physical movement. Your total energy expenditure (TDEE) is the total amount of calories you burn daily.

Your total energy expenditure has three main components:

  1. Basal metabolic rate (or the energy used during basic functions at rest)
  2. The energy used to break down food
  3. The energy used in physical activity

Most of your energy is used for your basal metabolic rate, which you have very little control over. Obesity researcher Alexxai Kravitz has said, “It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure. Food accounts for about 10 percent.”

This leaves physical activity at 10-30 percent of the calories you burn every day. By physical activity, I mean all movements like walking, fidgeting, and exercising.

So what?

Food accounts for 100 percent of the energy your body consumes, but exercise burns less that 10 to 30 percent of it.

You can not “work off” the food you eat at the gym or on a run.

You Don’t Actually Lose Much Weight When You Exercise

Do you know the old 3,500 calorie rule? Well, there’s a more realistic estimation of fat loss. Mathematician and obesity researcher Kevin Hall designed this model. He used the National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner to show why adding an exercise program will most likely not lead to significant weight loss.

Hypothetically, if a 200-pound man started to run for 60 minutes at medium intensity four times a week, keeping his nutrition the same, he’d lose five pounds in 30 days.

You may be thinking, “I’d love to lose five pounds in a month,” or “That’s it? Sign me up.” Wait, I’m not done yet.

Hall said, “If this person decided to increase food intake or relax more to recover from the added exercise, then even less weight would be lost.”

Your body is not a machine. I don’t care what that Instagram model’s t-shirt says.

If you are overweight or obese and you want to lose weight, it’s going to take a tremendous amount of effort, time and willpower to see any real changes through exercise alone.

  • You will eat more (because you are exercising).
  • You will rest more (because you are are exercising).
  • You will lose less than five pounds a month (if you only start exercising).

It’s Understated: Exercise Can Sabotage Weight Loss Efforts

Have you ever noticed your hunger increases when you start to work out? How much we move and how much we eat is directly correlated. As one amount goes up, so does the other.

A 2009 study showed that participants ate more food after exercise. There are two reasons for this:

  1. They thought they burned off a lot of calories
  2. The were hungrier

In 2012, a review of studies discovered that overall people overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise and ate more when exercising.

You work hard on that machine for an hour, and that work can be erased with five minutes of eating afterward,” Hall says.

Yes, one slice of pizza could reverse the effects of one hour of exercising. So could a latte for breakfast or an order of fries for lunch.

Other evidence suggests a slowing down effect after a workout. Meaning, our body counteracts the energy expended in the gym by using less energy on non-gym activities. Without noticing, people might nap more, use the elevator instead, or fidget less.

These unconscious adjustments are called “compensatory behaviors” and are made after working out to offset energy burned.

Exercise Need a Rebranding

Yoni Freedhoff is a doctor who specializes in obesity. He’s called for a rebranding of how we think about exercise. I agree with him.

The benefits of exercise are amazing! It’s just not that helpful when weight loss is the goal.

By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly, though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to shortchange the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long-term weight management.” – Yoni Freedhoff

The science is clear. The evidence is growing.

Exercise is great for your health. Exercise is not ideal for weight loss.

So if you are only adding a few adding a couple more hours of activity a week to your routine – don’t expect much.

As fitness professionals, it’s our job to be educated on the most up to date science in our industry. While most personal trainers focus on proper movement (type, amount, etc.), it’s time to stop teaching our clients that the lack of exercise is responsible for the obesity problem.

Diet, specifically the over consumption of low-quality foods and the lack of access to high-quality foods, is the biggest reason people are overweight or obese.

Now, whether you are working with a trainer or not, you’ve got the hard cold facts. How you choose to start or continue to manage your weight is up to you.

You can’t say that you didn’t know.

Before your next meal, use this cheat sheet to make sure you’re eating for weight loss.
Must Ask Diet Questions for Effective Weight Loss

50% Complete

Subscribe to my weekly health and fitness newsletter

I share elite mental strategies you can use to eat, move, and breath better

Receive weekly strategies. Unsubscribe anytime.