Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight?

Published on Oct 06, 2011

*this article has been updated on the 10/12/12 - nutrition facts for fillet-o-fish and peri peri chicken salad.

Many people I know often say this to me: I exercise regularly, sometimes even more than those people in the gym. So why am I not losing weight?

*Drum roll*

Ta dah! Are you ready to hear the truth?

THE SAD BUT REAL TRUTH IS...

Exercise does NOT equate to weight loss.


Wait a minute... Are you serious?? How can it be? Even Agent G in her How I lost 8 kg article said she lost weight through exercise. Eh eh eh... are you both contradicting yourselves?

OK don't get so worked up, keep your thoughts in and let me explain by going back to the very basics of weight loss.

In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Simple as that... Really? Do you know how much calories you consume in a day? And how much calories do you expend in a day? Weight loss from a negative calorie diet is not as easy as it sounds.

Imagine that you really really want to lose weight.


To do that, the first thing you do is... go for an imaginary 30 mins jog (-190 cal).

After the jog you grab a can of 100 plus isotonic drink (after all TV commercials advertise that we should replenish the salts we lose from exercising). Guess what, that little can of thirst quencher, that’s +89 cal, half of what you just burnt. Drink two cans and you might have burn more calories if you stayed home and watched the latest episode of the Running Man.

How much calories was in the fillet-o-fish you ate for lunch? (+351 cal)[3]

A typical cup of bubble tea with pearls and milk from Gong Cha has about (+340 cal)[4].

A small serving of peri peri chicken salad from sumo salads? (+113 cal)[5].

A pork floss bun (+389 cal)[6]; slightly more than a cup of bubble tea.

Thinking of losing that extra flab? Considering each gram of fat has about 9 calories[7], a kilogram of fat would equate to 9,000 calories or approximately running for 24 hours.

Uh... now you know why I say exercise does not equal to weight loss?

According to research done by Kendrin Sonneville, RD, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health[8] has shown that children who exercised the most ate back all the calories they burned. Your body will naturally compensate for the sudden stresses of exercise and release hormones that signal that to you that you are hungry.

When losing weight, your body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes and your body would typically release more hunger hormones and this effect can carry on for years as indicated by research published in The New England Journal of Medicine by Joseph Proietto a physician at the University of Melbourne[9].

Life’s a bitch, sound like the more I exercise, the more hungry I get.

And to add oil to fire, my body seems to constantly want to gain back those extra fat!

Todd Miller, professor in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University helps put this into perspective, “People don’t understand that it is very difficult to exercise enough to lose weight. If that is why you are doing it, you are going to fail”.

Exercise does not make you lose weight, having negative calories makes you lose weight. If exercise was the secret, there would be no fat people in gyms.

So what is the major takeaway?


One: Look at your current habits  (do you snack a lot?) and identify where you want to be. Depending on how strict you want to be you might want to consider keeping a food diary[10]. What is your daily calorie usage and intake? Do you want to get fit or do you want to lose weight?

Two: Be aware of your calorie intake and reduce the calorie calories intake. this will be hard and will require a change in your eating habits. Habits die hard, don't expect it to be easy. Start with a moderate level of exercise, and slowly refine your routine over the weeks; have fun experiment. If you are not hungry after gym, don't eat, eat when your hungry. Feel like snacking? Drink water.

Three: Make it part of your lifestyle, you won’t lose weight overnight and don’t expect your friends and colleagues to notice any difference within the next 4 months. People who see you day in and day out are unlikely to realize your gradual weight loss. The best way? That jeans which used to be tight, is now a little looser. Your pants won’t lie to you.

[1] http://www.ynaija.com/opinion-exercise-the-news-you-dont-want-to-hear/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Availability_heuristic

[3] http://www.mcdonalds.com.sg/eatsmart_nutriinfo.html

[4] http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/calories/gong-cha-singapore-earl-grey-milk-tea-30-sugar-no-pearls-32902825

[5] http://www.sumosalad.com/pdf/nutrition/leafy-salads.pdf

[6] http://www.healthguru.sg/learn-about-food/nutrition-info-calories-in-singapore-buns/

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_energy

[8] http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/eating-help/control-cravings/control-your-post-workout-appetite/

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.html

[10] http://weightloss.about.com/od/eatsmart/qt/ttfooddiary.htm

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