Exercise is not the solution to weight loss

By Tony Vassallo

“Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” — Unknown
Exercise is not the solution to weight loss

Many men seem to think the answer to weight loss is by sweating it off in the gym. Nope – weight loss happens solely in the kitchen. We gained our weight by the fork, we lose it by the fork. While we may have been able to outrun our forks in our twenties, we certainly can’t as we get older.


As for the 80/20 rule (80% diet, 20% exercise): Weight loss is 100% what we put into our mouths and the thoughts that go with it. Don’t get me wrong – exercise is very beneficial for overall physical and mental health. But weight loss is about eating differently, not eating less. What I mean by that is consuming whole food in the least processed form possible at proper intervals. At MODA, we call it J.E.R.F, “Just Eat Real Food.” Learn more here


“Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” — Unknown

The Exercise Paradox,” a fascinating article in Scientific American, studies how the human engine burns calories to help to explain why physical activity does little to control weight. It explains that “conventional wisdom holds that physically active people burn more calories than less active people do. But studies show that traditional hunter-gatherers, who lead physically hard lives, burn the same number of calories as people with access to modern conveniences.” The summary of this captivating read on exercise and weight management is “exercise to stay healthy and vital; focus on diet to look after your weight.” I couldn’t agree more with this; that was the case in my weight loss journey losing 130 pounds that I have maintained for a decade.

Dr. Kevin Hall, PHd of National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a foremost expert on the subject of exercise and weight loss. He says: “The evidence has been accumulating for years that exercise, while great for health, isn’t actually all that important for weight loss.” Read the full article here. If you don’t have time to read the article, check out a great five-minute video by VOX: “The science is in: Exercise isn’t the best way to lose weight.”


My good friend Mike MacKinnon, certified personal trainer of Fitin20 and part of the MODA Network group of accredited weight loss professionals, does a great explanation here. Here are a few aphorisms regarding exercise that Mike shared in his presentation, The Myth about Exercise:

  • Muscle burns significantly more calories than fat does.

  • Crunches and situps are good for reducing my midsection.

  • A good weight loss program is 20% about eating, and 80% about exercise.


Men who are obese or morbidly obese doing intense activity such as jogging or running are also at risk from the extreme pressure they are putting on already overstressed joints. When a man uses exercise to lose weight he gets hungrier and eats more, usually indulging in unhealthy foods, saying to himself: “I deserve it.” This form of purging is referred to as exercise bulimia, people who over-exercise to burn calories.


Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s “Cut the Waist Weight Loss Challenge” was futile because most of the emphasis was on exercise over diet. When I lost 130 pounds in 16 months, the only exercise I did for the first year was going for a walk. At first, it was a 15-minute walk around the block and over time I progressed to a good 60 minutes of brisk walking. At the time, I thought the exercise burn was contributing to my weight loss success. What it was doing was helping me mentally so I could physically feel much better. As I was losing weight it became much easier to walk further as time passed. This in turn gave me more weight loss motivation to stick with it.


Exercise plays a more significant role towards weight maintenance then it does weight loss. As I began to level off, I started various forms of cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking, hiking, cycling, stair climbing and some pretty basic resistance training. Ideally some form of stretching would have been a good idea. Now that I was no longer lugging around 130 pounds, I had lots of extra energy and looked for new challenges. I must admit I was never particularly fond of resistance training and within a few of years it was hit or miss.


I continued to do cardio activities like climbing the CN tower three times (my best time was 17:24) and cycling 500 km of the west coast Pacific Highway in southern California in late 2014.

Former Obese Male cycling 500 km of the west coast Pacific Highway in southern California
Tony Vassallo cycling 500 km of the west coast Pacific Highway in southern California

However, since I was doing less and less resistance, it was hard to keep up with the cardio. My body was adapting to my new weight (or “set point”), hence the importance of a fitness plan that included cardio, resistance and stretching. While researching weight loss success stories for the documentary I produced, Follow Me, I discovered that those who were doing physical activity were maintaining their weight more easily than those who were not. I have found the same when I’m being physically active; I’m more efficient with my food intake, clothes fit better, I feel better, sleep better and, overall, it’s easier to keep the weight off.


The National Control Registry, a long-running database of people who have kept weight off for more than five years, reports that “90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.” It also states that “94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking” while losing their weight.


Keep in mind as a 300-pound morbidly obese guy, lugging 100+ pounds of extra weight is a form of exercise, though not one I recommend. Of the 130 pounds of weight I lost some was muscle, no doubt about that. Many personal trainers will suggest resistance training during weight loss so that does not happen. That’s hogwash: trying to lose an excess amount of fat and build or maintain muscle at the same time is next to impossible. Even weight training guru Tom Venuto preaches “focus on the fat (losing weight) then build the muscle” in his New York Times Best Seller Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.


In closing, many authentic weight loss gurus, wellness professionals, medical doctors, personal trainers, dieticians, nutritionists and clinicians advise a similar message as it relates to exercise: find something you enjoy doing whether it be walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, dancing and perhaps it’s even housework, just keep doing it. Exercise aids towards maintaining weight loss. And of course eat well, or as we like to say at MODA Nation: J.E.R.F. Just Eat Real Food!



BY Tony Vassallo

Founder or MODA for Men & The Real Food Revival Movement c/o MODA Nutrition Inc.

In 2010, Tony was 37 years old, morbidly obese, with a host of medical issues: Type II diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, gout, joint pain, constant indigestion and acid reflux. Simple tasks like putting on socks, climbing a flight of stairs, fitting into an airplane seat or restaurant booth and getting out of bed were big challenges for him. Every afternoon, he would have a sugar crash, leaving him with little energy to get through the rest of the day. He was always sweaty and tired. He began avoiding the outdoors and eventually just avoiding life

He lost 130 pounds in 2010-11 and has kept it off ever since. When he changed his lifestyle, the many medical issues he suffered—all of them—vanished.

Learn More at MODAforMen or at his recipe blog JustEatRealFood

Contact Tony: Tony@ModaNutrition.con


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