People often ask, "Why do I have to exercise? Can't I just eat less to lose weight?"
I asked fitness expert Caroline Duncan, BS, CFI, CPT about this. Her response? Of course you can lose weight without exercising if you drop your food intake enough. But that victory comes with a big price tag: your health. Losing weight that way is equivalent to starving yourself. You lose water (which you can and must replace) and bone (hard to replace), and you cause an electrolyte imbalance that makes it impossible for your body to maintain important functions in your heart, muscles, nerves, kidneys, and so on. When you lose weight without exercising, you're not building the muscle mass you need to power your body's everyday movements and boost your metabolism.
The human body is truly unique in that it has internal built-in mechanisms in which it communicates on an intracellular level to function and respond to specific needs. For example, during times of dehydration, the brain signals to the cells and kidneys to conserve water. While thirst becomes evident, the kidneys conserve water and the energy level slows. During weight loss, the brain communicates to the body organs and other cells by sending messages as if to say, "Hang on to every ounce of water, fat, and other valuable nutrients" as it senses that "famine" is about to take place.
For some individuals, it is the first few pounds that are the lardest to lose. Afterwards, the body adjusts and adapts by slowlty responding to the change. The human body takes on a mental and physiologic preparedness in times of stress whether it's from weight loss, illness, or body assault such as surgery or traumatic injuries.
While the human body was meant to move, not everyone enjoys exercising. Exercising as we know it comes in different forms; it can be strenuous or not. The most important message is to do something active daily - without exercise, muscle atrophy occurs. Think of exercise like brushing your teeth. If you don't brush, plaque forms on your teeth, and if you eat and don't move your body, plaque forms in your arteries. Find something you like to do - walk the dog, do body stretches while watching television, or simply walk around in the house. You don't have to belong to a gym to move your body or become active. The combination of proper nutrition and movement of the body will make you stronger. It's the small, subtle changes that can make a significant difference.
The take-home message? As Caroline says, to date, there is no man-made, engineered machine that can replicate the uniqueness of the human body. You only get one body in this lifetime. If you take care of it, feeding and exercising it well, it will help you accomplish all your goals, not just in weight loss but in every part of your life.