How Exercising Less Helped Me Lose Weight

Written by Jamie Mendell

For years when I was battling with my weight, I followed so much outside guidance telling me how to to lose weight. I followed exercise plans in diet books, bought promising workout equipment from TV ads, and forced myself to run because I thought it would make me skinny.

The result of all this was that I gained more weight and spent even more time at the gym. I went to Boot Camp-style gym classes, got personal trainers, and tried to commit myself to half marathons. (I always quit about a month in.)

Nothing was working, and I couldn’t help but think that there was something really wrong with me. Why couldn’t I stick with anything? I was not a quitter in any other area of my life, but I was struggling so much with this.

It wasn’t until I started to totally overhaul the way I approached both exercise and my diet that I had success in losing weight and maintaining an extremely healthy lifestyle.

I realized that I had been exercising the way I thought I should, but not in a way that truly made me happy. I was running because I thought it would make me skinny, but not because I truly enjoyed it. I got a personal trainer because I was desperate for weight loss, even though I didn’t enjoy the sessions.

The problem is that when we exercise in a way that we don’t enjoy, we put our bodies in a constant state of stress. And when we are in that state of stress, our bodies hold on to weight. Exercise that we don’t enjoy also makes us miserable, which in turn causes us to overeat to avoid the bad feelings.

Instead, if we find exercise that makes us feel rejuvenated and that’s truly fun for us, we're in a state of pleasure and ease, which makes it easier for our bodies to release the extra weight. And a bonus: we don’t need food to make us feel better because we aren’t dreading our workouts.

To move from a place of rigid forced exercise to a place of truly falling back in love with moving my body, I asked myself these questions:

  • What type of movement makes me light up?
  • What type of movement do I actually look forward to?
  • How often do I like to work out?
  • What time of day do I have the most energy to workout?
  • How much variety do I need?

I finally learned to stop working out in a way that I thought I should and to start working out in a way that was right for me. The weight finally came off, I now love moving my body and I find living a sustainable healthy lifestyle to be easy.

Here are some ideas that helped me figure out my own way of exercising in order to feel fit, healthy and happy:

1. Ask yourself what kind of exercise you truly LOVE.

Get really honest with yourself. Do you love running? Dancing? Yoga? What lights you up and makes you happy?

2. Accept what you don’t like to do.

I used to wish that I was one of those people who just loved running races. But I’m really not, at least not now. I’ve tried, and I just can’t get into it. Once I accepted this, I was able to find so much joy in other forms of movement.

3. Take the pressure off of exercising every single day.

Give yourself some time to ask your body how often you feel like working out. This may sound crazy, but if you actually back off, your body will let you know when it wants to move.

4. Let exercise ebb and flow.

Rather than committing to a particular form of exercise a specific number of times a week, recognize that some weeks you may feel like doing intense exercise every day and other weeks you may feel like just waking up and going on morning walks. Let it vary.

5. Keep things interesting.

Variety is truly the spice of life, so keep a focus on always making sure your exercise options aren’t getting stale. You may move in and out of exercise phases, loving spinning for a while, but then move into yoga for a couple of months. For me, I like a little bit of a few things all the time.

6. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Falling in the trap of comparison can take the joy out of your own experience when exercising. Just do your own thing and push yourself in a way that feels true to you. Run slow, use lighter weights, do some crazy sport that nobody else likes. Just be you.

7. Test out Intuitive Exercise.

Block off an hour to be active one day and don’t go into it with a plan. When the time comes, just move your body in whatever way feels right, listening to your inner guide. Skip, shake your booty, stretch, run. Do a little bit of everything. This connects you to your intuition and your innate desire to move.

Check out more of Jamie at and download her free class on how to end binge eating.

And are you ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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