Exercise leads to Weight Loss – Motivation and Planning

Today’s story is part 4 of 5 explaining, against some recent sensationalist headlines, why exercise does lead to weight loss.


I have already described that there are various physiological and psychological adaptations to exercise, which vary from person to person, but can actually lead to weight gain after exercise. These compensatory responses to exercise include metabolic adaptations, changes in appetite, reward and compliance.


I then described 3 principles, which when mastered by my weight loss clients, will lead to weight loss; exercise duration, intensity and frequency. But why do some people learn this mastery, while others flounder? Let’s have a look at some of the psychological factors that will help you to exercise, which in turn will lead to weight loss.


Motivation is a major player here. It is the inner drive that will get someone to wake from a blissful sleep at 6am, so that they get a gym workout in before getting to work. Motivation is also the key that will make someone buy an exercise DVD, and use it 3 times a week.


Motivation is based on the pleasure principle. It is the thing that drives you away from something painful, like feeling fat, clothes that are too tight or the belief that your size stops you from meeting people. Motivation is also about moving towards something pleasurable, like a more toned body, running your first 10Km race or feeling that you are thin and attractive. For some of us motivation will be a drive away from pain, while for others motivation is a drive towards something pleasurable. Take a moment now and ask yourself, what would drive and motivate me to exercise?


My job as a weight loss coach and mentor is to help people acknowledge their pain, which is the easy part, because most people come in to see me and tell me ‘I’m fat and I need to lose weight,’ and then to slowly shift their thinking style to a more positive perspective where they choose to exercise because of the healthy benefits it will give them. This means a shift towards the positive goals of exercise that will give them pleasure, like improved health, more energy, improved self-esteem and of course reaching their target weight.


Planning is the next skill that all successful exercisers use to their benefit. How many times have you had the intention of going to the gym tomorrow, and when tomorrow came you were too busy or you just simply didn’t feel like it? Planning, or the art of writing down a small objective within a specific timeframe, will help you achieve your exercise goals. I get my clients to list look at the week ahead and tell me to list the days and times that they intend to exercise, and what sort of exercise they will do at this given time, like a run from home, a gym class, or a lunchtime weights workout. Next I ask them to tell me what could possibly get in the way of them actually doing what they have planned to do. Common problems are I didn’t have enough time, something came up and that they were simply too tired. I then work with them to create new ways of thinking if these excuse triggers come up. Ina way, I help them plan to think differently, which allows them to do the exercise they have also planned. The benefits compound into a positive spiral, as the endorphins from exercise make you feel good, self-esteem has lifted for having achieved a planned activity and that strange thing of ‘feeling thinner’ kicks in and works magically at many different levels.


So learning new psychological skills will help you exercise regularly. Asking yourself what motivates you to exercise is the start point, and frame your answers in the positive pleasurable benefits that exercise will give you. The next step is planning how and when you will exercise, and think through how you will overcome any excuses that may get in the way. Once you are using these skills, then the mastery of the 3 principles of exercise – duration, intensity and frequency – will flow. For sure, your exercise will lead to weight loss.


In the final part of this series of articles about exercise and weight loss I will look at what specific exercise will help you lose weight faster, and keep it off for life.