Thanks to technology, information about how many calories you burn with exercise can be right at your fingertips. Burning calories can feel motivating, especially when you see how many calories are in certain foods. Yikes! I ate 1000 calories last night and only burned 400 in my workout!!! I better get to the gym today to burn that off!
And so it goes. Those little numbers keep us moving, pushing to burn off what we ate. We play this numbers game in hopes of someday winning at weight loss. Well, if it makes us move, what’s the problem?
Here are some of them.
Stuck in “never enough”. It takes only a few seconds to consume the calories it would take you an hour to burn off. This numbers game can keep us feeling like we could never do enough exercise.
Unreliable. The calories burned during exercise is a rough estimate. It even changes day to day for the same exercise. It’s like trying to balance your checkbook with a rough estimate of your expenses—how would that work? We put way too much stock in the equation of calories in, calories out. The calories out part is just not accurate enough to make it work for weight loss.
We miss out. The estimated calories burned per minute during stretching and strength training are much lower than for cardio. It seems smarter to do cardio because you can get a better return on your time investment. Yet stretching can make you feel better and strength training can make you function better (not to mention it increases metabolism much more than cardio does).
Drains the enjoyment. When the goal is to burn as many calories as possible with the limited time you have, enjoying exercise is not the goal. If enjoying exercise sounds like an oxymoron to you, this is a BIG red flag that it’s time to exercise for reasons other than calorie burning.
As humans, we are just not motivated by concepts. We are motivated by how we feel. Playing the numbers game, living in the state of “never enough” can leave us feeling exhausted, frustrated, and discouraged. These are not feelings that sustain your motivation to keep exercising.
The biggest irony here is that when exercise leaves you feeling worse, you are moving in the opposite direction of the reason you probably want to lose weight in the first place—to feel better, have more energy, be comfortable in your skin, be free to enjoy life a bit more.
Want to stay motivated to exercise to help you lose weight? Don’t exercise for weight loss! Cover up the calories burned number. Ignore the programs touting maximum calorie burning. Block the articles about tricking your body into burning more calories (e.g., muscle confusion). Quit the calorie burning game once and for all.
Instead, exercise to feel better and function better, now and each day going forward. You will discover more sustainable motivation and be more likely to win what you ultimately want from weight loss.