Debunking Time Magazine’s “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”

By Mike Howard

983-db fat guy exercising.jpg

TIME Magazine dropped a bomb shell article last week called, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin“. This piece has ignited discussions and debates in blogospheres, talk shows and water coolers alike. I’m hoping to accomplish 2 goals with this entry:

  1. Briefly explain why this fluff piece belongs in a magazine that features Jon and Kate (whoever they are), Octomom, and the stars from that literary-turned-box-office disaster, “Twilight.”
  2. Set the record straight about exercise and fat loss once and for all (for now, anyway).

In my mind there are a handful of crucial pitfalls the media tend to fall victim to when reporting on matters of health/fitness/nutrition:

  1. The use of anecdotal evidence to support claims.
  2. The haphazard use of blanket statements and universal qualifiers.
  3. Keeping things vague in order to support said claims.
  4. Eliminating the nuisance of fact checking.

In summary, the article essentially claims that exercise won’t help you lose weight, and may in fact be responsible for people GAINING weight. Hmmm… The author, John Cloud (ooh the irony in that surname) goes on an anecdotally-based tirade, side-stepping contradictory evidence and common sense on route to his perplexing hypothesis.

Instead of droning on about the shortcomings of this article, I’m going to dole out some point-form bits about exercise and fat loss, hopefully undoing some of the misinformation that John “head in the” Cloud has created.

Exercise and Fat Loss: The Facts!

  • Everybody should exercise for the health benefits first and foremost – there is no debate here – exercise is good for you. (In fairness, this is touched on in the article).
  • Exercise in the absence of healthy eating and calorie control will not be very effective for fat loss.
  • The term “exercise” is extremely broad in its definition, and hence we need to specify what kind of “exercise” we are talking about in order to draw a conclusion about its efficacy. I think we can all agree that there is a pretty substantial difference between walking on a treadmill at 2.3 mph, and doing barbell complexes and HIIT (high intensity interval training). This is where John Cloud looks to have graduated from the Gary Taubes school of ambiguity.
  • Type (resistance vs. cardio), duration, intensity, frequency – these all have varying impacts on muscle tissue development, hormonal response, calorie expenditure, and henceforth the ability to burn fat.
  • The familiar rhetoric that “overweight people eat no more, or exercise no less, than thin people” needs to be scrutinized, as obese people tend to underreport food intake, and over report physical activity.
  • In the meta-analyses (compilation of studies) regarding exercise and weight loss, exercise typically has a “modest” effect on weight loss. Again, it’s not going to do much in the absence of dietary change. Please note that “modest” does not mean “useless” or “counterproductive” or “a waste of time”.
  • On studies that have a diet only, exercise only, and exercise plus diet groups, the exercise plus diet groups (with scant exception) come out on top when it comes to weight/fat loss. Diet only, almost always beats out exercise only.
  • One very well conducted 12 week study by Kramer et. al., which included both aerobic, strength training, and a dietary control, showed the following results. Fat mass losses – diet only: 6.7kg, diet/cardio: 7kg, diet/cardio/resistance: 10kg. Most noteworthy – the D+C+R group lost almost no lean tissue whatsoever, whereas the diet only group lost almost 3kg worth of lean tissue.
  • Putting on and saving muscle tissue will have a lasting impact on your body’s ability to lose fat. Plus you will look much better.
  • Exercise becomes more important once you have lost the weight. Exercise should be a central strategy in preventing a re-gain.
  • Pertaining to the above, the National Weight Loss Registry (which tracks those who have lost and kept off at least 30 lbs), shows that high levels of physical activity are a primary predictor of success.

What About Exercise and Hunger?

Does exercise cause people to eat more? Before we even get into the science, let’s apply a little common sense here. Going to Starbucks for an oat fudge bar, and a caramel macchiato after you walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes WON’T GET YOU ANYWHERE.

Many people are under the delusion that they can eat more if they are active. Again, these people don’t tend to lose fat. Dietary restraint is needed whether you are exercising a bit, a lot, or not at all. People who get this don’t deliberately sabotage their efforts by indulging in sugar/fat/salt bombs. And guess what? They see results.

Insofar as exercise compelling us to eat more and crave junk? Not very convincing when you comb the literature. In fact, there are a great deal of studies that show exercise DOES NOT make you hungrier, and/or lead to eating above and beyond what you’ve burned.

Of course, there are those who are more susceptible to overeating in response to exercise (the so-termed “overcompensators”), and women in particular have more of a tendency towards this. But again, it comes down to a little restraint and common sense.

Moreover, research has also shown that athletes and lean people experience more of an increased appetite in response to exercise than do overweight individuals.

And further still, timing also has a lot to do with hunger and exercise as well. Another dose of… you guessed it, common sense! Don’t go too long without eating before you exercise or you will be very hungry afterwards. Genius.

There are references below demonstrating that exercise does not cause overeating, but here is a quote from a noted researcher on the subject, C. Alan Titchenal:

Energy intake in humans is generally increased or unchanged in response to exercise. When energy intake increases in response to exercise it is usually below energy expenditure, resulting in negative energy balance and loss of bodyweight and fat. Thus, if energy intake is expressed relative to energy expenditure, appetite is usually reduced by exercise.”

Don’t Jump

I think this sort of issue needs to be addressed, as it only serves to inundate the public with half-truths and mistruths. I’ve scanned a few discussion boards on the topic and a typical response will read something like this:

OMGTHISISSOFREAKINGTRU! I werkout like all teh tyme and I’m not loosing any wait. I think I’ll just do teh master clenz and stop going to teh gym FTW.”

I’m all in favour of questioning conventional wisdom, but you must look at the totality of the evidence and adjust to your specific situation.

Next up: How to properly maximize exercise in a fat loss plan.


  1. Franz MJ, VanWormer JJ, Crain AL, Boucher JL, Histon T, Caplan W, Bowman JD, Pronk NP. Weight-loss outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of weight-loss clinical trials with a minimum 1-year follow-up. J Am Diet Assoc 107:1755 -1767, 2007
  2. McGuire, M.T., Wing, R.R., Klem, M.L., Lang, W. and Hill, J.O. (1999). What predicts weight regain in a group of successful weight losers? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(2), 177-185.
  3. Blundell JE, cross talk between physical activity and appetite control: does physical activity stimulate appetite? Proc Nutr Soc, 62, 651-661. 2003
  4. Donahoo WT, Variability in energy expenditure and its components. Curr Op Clin Nutr Metab. 7: 599-605. 2004.
  5. Titchenal A., Exercise and Food Intake: what is the relationship? Sports Med, 6: 135-145. 1988
  6. Yoshioka M, Impact of high-intensity exercise on energy expenditure, lipid oxidation and body fatness. Int J Obes. 25, 332-339. 2001
  7. King NA, et al, Individual variability following 12 weeks of supervised exercise: Identification and characterization of compensation for exercise-induced weight loss. Int J Obes, 32, 177-184, 2008.
  8. King NA, effects of exercise on appetite control: Implications for energy balance. Med Sci Sport Exer, 29(8): 1076-1089. 1997
  9. King, NA, The relationship between physical activity and food intake. 57: 77-84. 1998.
  10. Lluch A, Exercise enhances palatability of food, but does not increase food consumption, in lean restrained females. Int J Obes, 21: supp a129.Melzer K., effects of physical activity on food intake. Clin Nutr, 24: 885-895. 2005
  11. Slentz CA. Effects of the amount of exercise on body weight, body composition, and measures of central obesity. Arch Intern Med. 164: 31-39. 2004
  12. Ballard TP, Melby CL, Camus H, Cianciulli M, Pitts J, Schmidt S, Hickey MS. Effect of resistance exercise, with or without carbohydrate supplementation, on plasma ghrelin concentrations and postexercise hunger and food intake. Metabolism. 2009 Jun 2.
  13. Dermott M, McDaniel JL, Weiss EP, Tomazic TJ, Mattfeldt-Beman M J Nutr Elder. Is physical activity associated with appetite? A survey of long-term care residents. 2009 Jan-Mar;28(1):72-80.


  1. Cynthia

    Bottom line:
    A person can lose body fat which results in weight loss by doing the following consistently and making this their life style eating change:
    1. Reduce portion sizes. Use a food scale and be cognizant of how many ounces one is eating
    2. Reduce carb intake. One carb per day, or per meal…weighed on food scale
    3. Reduce the amount of starchy foods. I.e. beans, bananas, butternut squash, cartotsthese are carbs
    4. Reduce sugar intake. Start reading food labels to see how much carb and sugar is in foods
    5. Eat lean meats
    6 drink at least 50 oz of water a day. ( flavor it with a zero calorie sweetner if needed)
    7. Eat low glycemix fruits such as blue berries or strawberries. Reduce eating foods like watermelon, popcorn…make these a limited treat
    8. Google food glycemix indexes to see what foods, (fruits, veggies, snacks raise glycemix index the least).
    9. Eat plenty of greens, spinach, collards but still measure portion
    10. For muscle tone, walk vigorously pumping the arms 3x a week. Ecervise is good for muscle tone only…not weight loss

    Note*:People in the fitness industry don’t want people to know that exercise is not effective for fat loss. It is good for muscle tone and conditioning. The average person is not going to be working out vigorously enough for exercise to make a difference anyway. Most of us aren’t like athletes whose kob is to work out in order to do their sports profession. They eat upwards 5000 calories a day. But if they no longer worked out and kept eating like that, they would gain weight. Tbe body craves fuel to work at that rate.
    Reconditioning the body takes time. The yime article is right. Exercise won’t make you thin. The fitness community knows this but have built their bread and butter convincing the public differently. I lost 20 lbs by following the steps outlined above and exercise played no role in fat loss wjich tesulted in weight loss. In order to lose body fat, one must turn the body into a fat burning machine and you do this by depriving it of excess glucose…tjis is NOT done thru exercise, but by consistently following the steps outlined above. Try it…you’ll see.

  2. Elizabeth Cornell

    I think nobody knows why one person can feel satisfied after eating one sandwich and another can feel starved after eating three, or why on same days we are just hungrier than others without really having changed any of our eating habits.
    And on that note, unless we can find and root out the cause of excessive hunger, despite the proliferation self-appointed, self-serving diet gurus, the success rate for sustained weight loss will remain the same as it has always been – 3%.

  3. John

    Hi, I am 55 and have been exercising all of my life.I have swam ,hill walked and cycled,I am 6ft and weigh 11.5 stone which I have been all of my life.I have always ate good natural food with the exception of the once a fortnight beer up and curry with some friends.I currently am still doing 20 miles cycling a day and every other day swim one mile,I have excellent muscle tone and very flexible for my age.The body is not made to be laid out on the couch, infront of the telly or PC every day,we have “Stone Age” bodies that need to be moved and used,without this we are bound to get fat ,it is not rocket science!!! Basically it takes time to burn of the excesses that have probably taken years of abuse to put on,come on guys and girls ,lets be realistic ,it’s going to take the same time to get rid of it ,with consistanty and effort!!!

  4. Amelia

    Thanks for such a thorough look at this issue Mike – I was really impressed by the level of research used to back up a view I have held for years.

    Everyone is different, but I think having a good awareness of the relationship between exercise and food leads to a healthier, fitter person. Obviously junk food is NOT going to help, but how hard is it to pack a bit of fruit and protein (eg banana+yogurt) as a post-workout snack instead of stopping by a fast food joint?

    • John

      Hi Amelia
      Love your posts,keep them coming! I think that people dont like the taste of natural food because their brains are addicted to the sugar,salt and fat, which triggers of good sensations in the brain.Yogurt and Banana would be ideal ,but most people have lost the taste for natural food because the brain has adapted to junk food high?

    • Elizabeth Cornell

      but how hard is it to pack a bit of fruit and protein (eg banana+yogurt) as a post-workout snack instead of stopping by a fast food joint? – VERY!!!
      There’s a reason why the success rate is 3%
      Exercise DOES increase appetite. If you use up fuel in your car, you are going to need to replace it for the car to continue to function.

      • carl

        i think Elizabeth and Dan have some good points.

  5. Dan

    I think all of your points are pretty much rebutted by much sound evidence.
    First of all, calorie counting in my experience is an extremely effective means of losing weight. Numerous studies have shown keeping an account of one’s calories is one of the most effective means of losing weight.
    Carbohydrates are clearly needed to engage in exercise, and that is why persons like Gary Taubes oppose exercise. It might very well be the case that when a person attempts to engage in rigorous exercise while consuming no carbohydrates, that the body may crave carbohydrates and thus that is why Gary Taubes says exercise stimulates hunger. If a person consumed an adequate level of carbohydrates to fuel the exercise, then they won’t excessively crave food. Severe Carbohydrate or calorie for that matter, restriction is not a good idea if a person is going to engage in rigorous exercise.
    If carbohydrates, and not fats make a person fat, then why are persons in Japan have a much lower rate of obesity than persons in America, who consume much more fat? The Japanese consume a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. Numerous studies show that Vegans and Vegetarians, who naturally consume less fat and usually more Carbohydrates than meat eaters, have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, as well as cancer. The Inuit, even before Western influence, had hardening of the arteries, and of course, they mainly consume the meat based diet that you think is conducive to health and thinness.
    If the high fat diet is SO conducive to weight reduction, then why did Robert Atkins have a body mass index of 26 before he? There are reports that he even much heavier than this before he died. I lost 100 pounds doing exactly the opposite of everything you say is conducive to weight loss, i.e. counting calories, exercising, eating less meat fat, not restricting complex carbs, and the like and my body mass index at 21.5 is much lower than Robert Atkins’ was. My cholesterol levels have also improved considerably as well. I don’t agree with Cloud or Howard that diet is more important than exercise, but I do believe counting calories and exercise are very effective tools for lasting weight loss.

    • Elizabeth Cornell

      Unless you are practicing for the iron man competition, the standard recommendation of 20-30 minutes of exercise per day is
      virtually useless when it comes to losing weight. Just do the math.

      • Dan

        You may never read this, since this is such an old post, but I actually agree with you completely. Most studies have the exercisers ONLY doing the recommended amount of 150 minutes of exercise a week. At this level, of course there will only be modest weight loss- I never lost much weight at this level of exercise, unless I also restricted my calories as well. Mike doesn’t point this low level of exercise out in almost all the research when he stated that exercise only brings modest results. Exercise should be at least 420 minutes a week, or an hour and up a day for it to be effective for weight loss. It should also be heart pumping as well- so leisurely walks at even an hour a day are not that effective. One also has to be careful about increasing caloric intake while trying to exercise one’s weight off. Running an hour everyday would be helpful. At first, when I was losing weight, I only did about this much. I now maintain my 95-100 pound weight loss bicycling about 2 hours a day- I had to increase my exercise at times once I got used to the level I was doing. When my doctor suggested exercise for weight loss, he used the example of training for a triathlon for the level of exercise to be effective.

  6. Steve


    Mike, I would like to say I really disagree with some parts of your article (as well as the Time article) and actually had the same reaction as the poster who claimed you bashed the Time article, but then basically turned around and agreed with its premise.

    It is a lie that weight gain is a simple result of the ratio between calories in and calories out. Both articles and almost all discussion here seem to be based, even if unconsciously, on this faulty but popular misconception.

    The point of the Time article is that diet is the primary determiner for losing weight. You clearly do not disagree with that. Having said that, the Time article isn’t a good explanation of why this is true.

    There are many issues at stake here.

    1) First, the Time article is about losing weight. But in neither article does the author go out of his way to make a distinction between losing fat weight and losing muscle weight. That aside, all talk of other reasons why exercise is healthy is irrelevant/superfluous to a critique of the article, since it doesn’t attempt to address those benefits. In fact, you’re much more likely to gain weight from some forms of exercise (e.g. anaerobic) than you are to lose it from any form!

    2) There is no actual discussion of diet here, even though the mutual conclusion that has been reached is that diet is the number 1 factor in losing weight. Carbohydrates, protein, and fat are not metabolized in the same way, and to a degree dependent on activity are unequal candidates for energy production vs. fat storage. Despite the “scientific” assignations of caloric values per gram of each, biological processes of digestion differ based on the food. It is easily demonstrable that you can lose FAT weight eating as much protein and fat as you like (you quickly become satiated with these foods and so there is less likelihood overeating), provided it is of high quality, and that you restrict carbohydrate intake. This has been exploited very much by those who understand it throughout this past century and is nothing new. Furthermore, compounds within in macronutrient group are not even metabolized the same as other compounds in the same group. E.g.: Sucrose and HFCS are not metabolized in the same way that glucose is. Lauric acid isn’t metabolizd in the same way that trans fats are. Ratios between compounds is often more important in weight loss than the sheer amount of the compounds.

    3) Most studies cited are flawed because they are subjective, rely on subjects reporting information they could not possibly accurately measure or rememeber (even if they were honest). The information they do probide isn’t subject to rigid scrutiny. There are no controls on or specific information about the other activities that go on in these people’s lives, other than what is being asked to be reported. Resting caloric expenditure differs from person to person, based on numerous factors which can’t possibly all be known and computed, including, prominently, one’s diet! A detailed catalogue of what all subjects ate at all times isn’t available. Again, there is no distinction made between real food and fake food, good food and bad food. People overeat because their body is not getting something that it wants a certain amount of. This could be minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes, or even bacteria–all things that are more and more deficient in ALL of our diets, for reasons of economics and convience.

    Here’s a question–if calories in/calories out were all there was to it, how could you account for sugar ingested that is then broken down by bacteria in one person with healthy gut flora, vs. sugar ingested by someone that was just on strong antibiotics and has almost no gut flora? You can’t measure this at this point, so calorie counting is pointless! How can you measure how many calories it took for you brain to write this article? Good luck!

  7. Dan

    I am now down to 182 (my highest weight was 255). I could not have done it without exercise. Exercise can be a major component, along with moderate diet, preferably by counting calories and adequate water intake to losing weight. I take exception to Lori just saying exercise won’t ‘make YOU thin.’ She should merely state it won’t make ME thin. I have known many persons, male and female who were greatly helped to lose weight by exercise. Granted, most people cannot lose weight by exercise if they don’t practice ANY dietary restraint, but exercise does NOT make any dietary restraint impossible. In fact, the study that Cloud cited CANNOT be used to show that exercise makes dietary restraint impossible since the subjects were expressly told NOT to restrain their diets at all. If they were told to do this and it was shown that the persons doing the most exercise could not restrain their diet, then Cloud could make a statement like that. Mike Howard was being much more consistent with the literature in stating that exercise does not necessarily make persons eat themselves into a calorie surplus than Cloud was when he stated that exercise inexorably leads to weight gain. I find Cloud annoying because he stated things that don’t work for me. For instance, I do have a job where I stand up all day and move- I don’t have a sit down job. However, this stand up job alone has not been much help in losing weight. Contrary to what John Cloud stated, I HAVE to do vigorous exercise to lose weight- moving around all day is not enough. Running IS better than walking for weight loss for me. Cloud claimed that walking is better than running. Contrary to Cloud, I find that I actually move LESS when I don’t engage in vigorous exercise- I actually feel much more tired and sluggish when I don’t engage in regular vigorous exercise. And what I put in my mouth (more fiber, vegetables and less sugar) effects my hunger more than if I exercise. Sometimes I feel hungrier on the days I cannot exercise because of rain than on the days I do. Having followed Cloud’s ideas (diet and non-vigorous exercise) for some years and not losing weight and then breaking his notions by engaging in more vigorous exercise and losing weight makes me think he is misleading the public, much of whom could be greatly helped by increasing the duration and intensity of their exercise.

  8. Lori

    Well, you wrote a very long article. Nice work. I believe any thing we believe we can back up. Period. ANYTHING. So with this in mind. For myself, no, exercise will not ‘make you thin.’ It is a great lifestyle choice though. I feel better when I am active. I believe firmly that yoga is a killer workout that lifted my rear end and firmed my abs when nothing else did. But as for my weight. That is due to my food choices, and beliefs. Hey, I also believe it ALL starts in the mind. No amount of anything will work, if you truly believe you are fat and unhealthy. You will simply create it repeatedly. Sorry, I’m really not trying to be obtuse…Also, articles are generally meant to annoy us. I think they do it on purpose.

  9. Michelle

    “OMGTHISISSOFREAKINGTRU! I werkout like all teh tyme and I’m not loosing any wait. I think I’ll just do teh master clenz and stop going to teh gym FTW.”

    Made me lol… then I cried because people like that are permitted internet access. Great article. 🙂

  10. Anonymous

    I think the eating issue, post work out, or overeating due to exercise has a lot to do with where you are physically.

    A high-level athlete who has always been active and is in good physical condition, who decides to start an intensive training program for a marathon or triathalon, will obviously begin to take in more calories. This person already has a high metabolism and has little to no fat to burn and is beginning a really intense training regiment. It’s the sudden change in intensity paired with the lack of stored resources that requires the increase in caloric intake. But keep in mind that this food would likely be very healthy and the athlete would be aware of what they’re eating.

    Compare this to someone who is overweight and begins an exercise routine for weight loss. This individual likely has stored energy resources (fat) and has no need for increased caloric intake. Initially there may be a feeling of hunger or exhaustion (which some people associate with the need to eat), but this is simply a response to the shock your body goes through when you begin to exercise. If a steady healthy diet is maintained, then that “hunger”, or uncomfortable feeling, will go away shortly after your body adjusts to the new demands that are being put on it.

    The first scenario, or one similar, is the best explination for why people have this misconception that exercise causes this increased appetite or that active people eat so much more. Of course, highly competive individuals consume more. Michael Phelps is not on a 2000 calorie diet!

  11. Dan

    As a postscript, I said previously my weight was 206 and falling. It is now down to 192, mostly thanks to exercise, plus now doing a food diary- eating as I said previously 2000 calories a day. I think the “hunger” that Cloud claimed that exercise causes is mostly in the mind- it is in no way physiological. I think Cloud’s problem is that he didn’t enjoy exercising and therefore he felt the need to reward himself. If someone does an exercise that one enjoys, like I do biking, then one doesn’t have to exert as much self control and therefore this can be used in improving one’s diet, which as I said, doesn’t have to be quite as restricted in calories if one exercises. It still has to be balanced and healthy, however.

  12. Mina

    “Why should your very overweight person create more work down the line?”

    The reason: FOCUS.

  13. running easy

    I too think the time article is right on the money. I see nothing here that “Debunks” the Time article. I lost about 60 pounds over 4 years ago. I lost the weight on a 1200-1500 calorie diet. After the losing the weight I started exercising. I increased duration and slowly started start jogging. Eventually running 5 marathons. Actually, since starting the exercise 4 years ago I haven’t lost any more weight. I do lift weights regularly and I have lost bodyfat, but weight has not gone down. Like the person who wrote the Time article I too would like to lose the last 20 pounds of stubborn fat I have, but I have trouble doing it while exercising intensely. In fact, I have come to believe that while training for a marathon it is almost impossible to lose weight. The body craves calories following the long (or intense) bouts of exercise. I am still trying to find the right balance… I am not sure there is a “one size fits all” solution. However, the solution certainly lies in a mix of healthy diet and exercise. Diet without exercise makes “skinny fat” people and exercise without diet makes “fit but fat” people.

  14. joe henry

    My thoughts:

    I read the Times article and loved/hated it.

    I think there was a lot of truth to it but, to paraphrase; “Exercise makes you fat” is a bit uh sensational. Unfortunately the exercise gurus (e.g., “Body by Jake” … I wonder what Richard Simmons had to say? 🙂 simply deny the premise rather than building, in a positive way, on the article’s basic premises.

    If you just skim the article you may come to the erroneous conclusion that exercise is a waste of time but if you really read the article you will glean cautionary nuggets that will make your efforts more effective.

    Going from memory:

    “Exercise stimulates your appetite”; When you first start I think that is true. There is both a spike in appetite and a tendancy to “reward” yourself for your efforts. To know that up front allows one to better cope. “Reward” yourself with an apple or one of those 100 calorie protein shakes.

    “Exercise makes you lazy”; Again, when you first start you are tired and may want to “veg out” in your easy chair in deference to your normal, calorie burning, activities. 1st, knowing that upfront you might “force” yourself to maintain your normal activities. 2nd, I usually suggest that you break into exercise gradually so that you’re not so exhausted. 3rd, the phenonenum is tempory and as you become acclimated to an exercise routine you often have more, not less, energy after a workout.

    “Exercise doesn’t burn enough calories to make a difference”; I must admit that, after “an eternity” on a machine, it is a bit frustrating to see that I’ve only burned off 3 light beers. On the other hand it is 300 calories that I normally wouldn’t have used. And Mr. Cloud ignores the “after burn”, that is you burn calories at a slightly elevated rate for another half hour or so after your workout. Or, if you were lifting weights, then the extra calories you burn during the body’s “muscle maintenance” phase.

    In a “doctor cleared” body losing weight simply demands input be less than output. Diet is “less input”. Exercise is “more output”. Diet, by itself, will work but exercise can, should, and will help. Work both sides of the equation.

    I think there is an interesting parallel to be drawn with regard to some of the political discussions. John Cloud has selectively taken facts to make his point while “Body by Jake” selectively dismisses Mr. Cloud’s facts to make his counter point. I wish sorting out Left vs. Right was so easy.

  15. Gmoney


    Are you insane? You clearly missed the point of this blog if you are accusing the author of the same misleading info that Time magazine has circulated. John Cloud does not substantiate his argument and leaves many of his facts unsupported. The author of this blog attempts to list known facts and provides statements based on his knowledge of those facts.

  16. Dan

    I think one flaw in the Time article is that most studies that show that exercise does not aid weight loss studied people who only exercised AT MOST 4 hours a week. I find that for me to lose weight, I have to exercise vigorously at least 6 hours a week. I bet very few people can lose much weight on exercise if they only do it up to 4 hours a week. Some people who exercise quite a bit can find that the exercise actually becomes more important than diet. However, I would still watch much restaurant food, a meal at which can sometimes exceed 2000 calories. This can take a long time to burn off.

  17. Dan

    I have been over 200 pounds this whole decade. I have been as high as 255. The lowest that I could ever get by mostly diet was about 227. Recently, I have started to ride a bicycle to work, which is about 5.5 miles from where I live. I am now down to 206 and still falling. I am almost 49, so my weight loss has been slow. I make sure that I ride everyday. I also try very hard not to reward myself for exercising. I also try to ride vigorously, and up some hills for at least an hour total each day. I really don’t find that exercise causes me to overeat, but I am very cognizant of the kinds of foods that can cause me to eat more, such as sweets, fast foods, refined foods, etc. I try to eat vegetables and fibrous food, so that the exercise does not cause me to overeat. I find for myself, that I can increase my calories from what it would take for me to lose weight if I was not exercising, that is, I can consume about 2000 calories a day, if I exercise vigorously everyday vs. 1500 if I don’t exercise, or only sporadically exercise. REGULAR, vs. sporadic exercise has been a godsend for my weight loss. I also don’t agree with the Time article that BLAMES exercise for weight gain. I don’t think it is a good idea to go on a starvation diet when exercising vigorously, and maybe people who attempt doing this end up eating too much. I think moderate eating, combined with regular exercise is the way to go. I also find that I must exercise at least 5 days a week at least an hour, for exercise to make a difference in my weight loss. Reading these comments really demonstrates that everyone is different and what works for one person won’t work for another.

    • Rebecca J

      Dan, this was v useful for me – I have also just started cycling to work, about the same distance as you. I’m only slightly younger than you, and overweight. My appetite for carbs has soared since starting to cycle daily – particularly towards the end of the week – so it was useful to have your tips on veg and fibrous foods. Thanks again, Rebecca

  18. Katie

    Why should your very overweight person create more work down the line? Might as well exercise to maintain or build muscle now while working up to the point when cardio is more possible. Resistance training is better for joints if you have a lot of weight on them. Worrying about muscle later is counterproductive.

  19. Yuji Tai

    I really enjoyed the Time article, and the comments here. Now everybody seems to settle down, so I would like to say my opinion.

    Weight Problem is actually really simple, so the problem is JUST that you consume more than you burn the calories, that leading the people FAT.

    It does not matter how you define the exercise, such as moderate, vigorous, whatever. Exercise is one aspect of energy expenditure. In my opinion, it is nonsense to bring the discussions over whether the exercise causes strong appetite or not.

    Both food restriction and exercise cause appetite, so It is not important which causes stronger one. You should talk about how you can deal with the appetite, so the problem is that you go in fast food restaurants to eat up greasy flies and sugar sweetened smoothies after exercise.

    I am really sorry for the people in the US, because you are living in the middle of junk food environment, so it is hard for the average Americans who are unconcerned about their eating habits to come through this situation.

    There are depressing mood through out the people who tried to exercise as hard as possible for a long time…

    I guess that Mr. Cloud thought so, and one idea came into his mind that lots people were thinking the same way, ‘Why I could not get rid of the fat around my berry? so, exercise should be blamed for creating appetite.’ then, he was qualified to write an article on Time magazine, and he could have created the sensation by his article.

    When I read the Time article, I felt that way. As my excuse, I have a stereotyped idea about the nationality of the american: The american people love debating and being the center of attention.

    So, I do not know who is Mr. John Cloud, but I thought that he made a success to write the sensational article for his high profile.

    His chosen topic is OPPOSED to the accepted assumption. So People love the different type of ideas when they have already tired of hearing the same thing many a time that could not change anything…

    I said that Weight Problem is very simple, but it has lots of aspects that influence the condition, so exercise is just one of them and it is really important to promote overall health condition. I’m really sorry for the obese people who stopped exercise after reading this article.

    Stop searching for the excuse that you can not lose weight! Exercise is not problem. Your food culture is culprit. Don’t you think that McDonald CEO is eating own burgers everyday? I doubt it. He must eat healthy foods.

    This is JUST my OPINION. EVERYBODY has different opinion.

    PS. Sorry for my bad english, english is my second language.

  20. Ben

    Someone who is very overweight needs to worry about losing weight. Being 100 pounds overweight is a huge problem. Losing muscle as you go from 100 pounds overweight to normal weight is only a small to medium problem. You can get muscle back.

    Losing weight is a huge problem and distracting people with “you’ll lose muscle if you don’t do it exactly the right way so don’t even bother trying any other way” is counterproductive. Losing weight is hard enough. Stop telling people they have to achieve perfection in the method they choose. Maybe they want to just avoid getting diabetes rather than becoming a marathon runner — at least to start with.

  21. Renee

    When I don’t exercise, I gain weight. I might not lose weight from exercising, but without a doubt I gain it when I stop. I also feel better with exercise, my mind is sharper and skin healthier.
    This comment “The familiar rhetoric that “overweight people eat no more, or exercise no less, than thin people” needs to be scrutinized, as obese people tend to underreport food intake, and over report physical activity” annoyed me with it’s massive overgeneralization. But overgeneralizations are nothing new when it comes to weight and body types.

  22. bARBARA Bartocci

    Exercise by itself will not take off weight, but exercise coupled with wise food choices certainly makes a difference for me. When I was unable to exercise because of a bum knee (now replaced) I put on 22 pounds. Not all because of lack of exercise–I fell back into sugar-eating habits—but when I exercise I feel energized and this motivates me to practice better food choices.

  23. Trish

    Pardon me – I should have said that I put on “FAT”, not “weight”, with excess consumption and inactivity. I find that after regular weight bearing exercise, I now weigh the same as I did after I had my 4th child 28 years ago, BUT am slimmer and more toned.

  24. Trish

    I didn’t see any comments on “dehydration”. “Dehydration” is sometimes mistaken for “hunger” – ie, being dehydrated can make you feel as if you are hungry when you are actually thirsty; so sometimes after an exhaustive workout (whether in the gym or out running etc), people could actually be dehydrated, rather than hungry. They should try drinking water before eating, and wait a short while to determine whether or not they were actually hungry for food, or hungry for WATER!! I find that if I eat the wrong things (LOVE date loaf for instance) and am inactive, I put on weight. I now regularly do 5-10 minutes cardio then 20-30 minutess weight bearing exercise 4-5 days/wk, before starting an active day, eat good food 6 times daily, drink plenty of water, and am very healthy and happy. I have done this mostly for about 45 of my 60 years. I have found during this time that the things that cause the biggest problem are: excess sugar consumption (eg the date slice etc!), fried and over-processed foods, and inactivity.

  25. Ernesto

    I was salivating at the thought of writing something on my own blog regarding the TIME article. I no longer have that desire after reading this post. Mike touched on many of the thoughts I experienced after reading John Cloud’s piece. Great job Mike!

    I remember while reading the TIME article, I couldn’t help but think of that guy that comes into the gym, doesn’t warm-up, and immediately starts hammering out curls with bad form. Or that gal that does the same thing while hammering out leg presses on the machine. It made me think the article was talking about the people in the gym who clearly lack any type of direction.

    I agree with bijou, I think timing your workouts is the way to go. But to me, planning your workouts around your meals is more important. I can’t imagine not re-fueling my body for upwards of two hours after I workout. If you were a pilot, would you fly a plane without knowing what course you were going to take or without having a “blueprint” that will ensure your safety while taking off and landing? (Probably a bad analogy since planes do crash). But I’m hoping you see my point.

    Eating every few hours and planning your nutrition, in advance so you don’t guess where your next meal comes from, would significantly reduce the chances of binge eating after a workout.