Expert Q&A: Getting Started With a Weight Loss Plan
An interview with James O. Hill, PhD.
Do I really need to exercise to lose weight?
No. If you cut way back on your calories, you can lose a lot of weight
without doing a lick of exercise. But you absolutely need to exercise to keep
the weight off. I tell people that if they’re not prepared to substantially
increase their physical activity, they shouldn’t even bother trying to lose
weight. It won’t have any lasting benefit. Exercise is the key.
How much exercise should I be doing?
My recommendation is to shoot for about an hour a day. We’ve found that
people who successfully keep off lost weight tend to exercise for 60 to 90
Now, people will say, “60 to 90 minutes a day? That’s terrible!” But the
people in the National Weight Control Registry have maintained an average
weight loss of 70 pounds. I think a lot of people would say that giving up an
hour a day to keep off 70 pounds is not a bad deal.
The good news is that you can spread out the exercise throughout the entire
day. You don’t have to do it all at once. Most people still have some planned
exercise at a specific time each day. For instance, they take a walk or a bike
ride right after work every day.
You could also try using a step counter, which I think is a wonderful tool.
They give you immediate feedback and make setting goals easy. We find that
people in the National Weight Control Registry take an average of 11,000-12,000
steps a day, which works out to about five to six miles. But when you’re just
starting out, take it slowly. Work up to an hour a day slowly in 15 minute
Getting in your physical activity will never be easy. Even people who have
been doing it for years will tell you that they still have to force themselves
to get out there every day. But if you want to keep off weight, exercise has to
be a priority.
How many calories should I be eating?
To lose weight, you can go on a 1,200- or 1,400-calorie diet. Eating that
amount will work very well for weight loss. The problem is that although you
can eat 1,200 calories for a few months, you can’t eat that way forever. You
won’t be satisfied by so few calories and won’t be able to keep it up.
So I have a radical idea. I think you should eat as many calories as
you can. But the only way you can eat more calories is if you balance them with
increased exercise. The more exercise you do, the more you can eat.