Exercise Is Overrated: To Lose Weight, Eat More Butter and Less Sugar

Exercise is Overrated - To Lose Weight Eat More Butter & Less Sugar

If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of butter and heavy cream, but not so much into things like jogging (shudder) or volleyball (God forbid! I avoid all sports with objects that fly through the air.)

While I think exercise is generally a good thing, I think most people put way too much emphasis on it. I like to swim occasionally, I love gardening and going for walks, and I even lift weights now and again. I enjoy riding a bike, too.

But you are never going to catch me spending all day at the gym wearing one of those itty bitty track suits. I'd much rather be doing something else — like making Hollandaise sauce or reading a book. (Actually that's the one reason I like lifting weights — I can read while I do it.)

I found some really interesting articles on a blog I absolutely love, Whole Health Source. It's written by a scientist named Stephan, a doctoral candidate in neurobiology. But he doesn't write like a scientist. Most of his articles are very accessible and easy to read.

He has analyzed the topic of exercise and obesity in some depth and has come to some interesting conclusions. Conclusions that are in line what I have always suspected.

Let's run through some of them. I'll provide the links to his articles so you can click over and read more.

How Important Is Exercise For Weight Loss?

Not very. His findings are that exercise is not very effective for weight loss, that diet is much more important:

I think it's clear that the relationship between exercise and weight is not very tight. In my opinion, diet has a much larger influence on weight than exercise. Doing low-intensity “cardio” on a treadmill is almost totally ineffective for weight loss. Source: Exercise and Bodyfat

In that same article, he writes about traditional cultures who were, contrary to popular belief, not as active as we think. Here he quotes anthropologist Dr. John Murdoch describing the Inuit Barrow:

“They are large eaters, some of them, especially the women, eating all the time…” …during the winter the Barrow women stirred around very little, did little heavy work, and yet “inclined more to be sparse than corpulent”

Is Inactivity To Blame For Obesity?

No. In the article, Exercise Didn't Keep Us From Getting Fat, Stephan writes:

…from 1975 to 2006 is that the number of inactive people has diminished in that same time period from 50% to 24%.

So we've become more active over the past 30 years — and yet we've become fatter.

I'm certainly not blaming the obesity problem on an increase in physical activity, but I do think we can safely rule out inactivity as the reason we've gotten fatter. In my mind, this only leaves one major possible cause for the obesity epidemic: changes in diet.

If you're still not convinced, check out this post: U.S. Weight, Lifestyle and Diet Trends, 1970- 2007. He compiled statistics on U.S. weight, health and lifestyle trends, and put the data on graphs. They span the period from 1970 to 2007, during which the obesity rate doubled.

In this post, Stephan points out that “The percentage of Americans who report exercising in their spare time has actually increased since 1988 (BRFSS).” Again, we're getting more exercise but we're still getting fatter.

So What Made Us Gain Weight?

We saw an increase in carbohydrates, specifically white flour and sugar (and high fructose corn syrup). We also ate less animal fats and replaced them with vegetable oils.

Between 1970 and 1980, something changed in the U.S. that caused a massive increase in obesity and other health problems. Some combination of factors reached a critical mass that our metabolism could no longer tolerate. The three biggest changes in the American diet since 1970:

  • An increase in cereal grain consumption, particularly wheat.
  • An increase in sweetener consumption.
  • The replacement of meat and milk fat with industrial vegetable oils, with total fat intake remaining the same.

Mainstream America has done to itself what it did to native American and other indigenous cultures worldwide, with the same result.

I'm not saying you shouldn't exercise, and neither is Stephan. What I am saying (and I believe his findings corroborate my position) is that diet is much more important.

Get rid of the industrial foods, go back to a traditional diet (eat more butter, animal fats and avoid refined, processed foods like white flour, sugar and high fructose corn syrup), and you'll lose weight naturally, and keep it off — just like our ancestors did. And you won't have to spend endless hours on a treadmill.

Should you still exercise? Sure! But do something you enjoy. Go for walks or play in your garden. Don't beat yourself up because you hate going to the gym. Life is short and it should be lived to the fullest. And treadmills are not, in my opinion, a fun and rewarding activity.

Hollandaise sauce, on the other hand… I'd call that extremely fun and rewarding.

This post is a part of the Natural Cures Carnival on Hartke is Online. To read more posts about exercise, visit the Hartke Is Online blog.

Photo credit: Flickr

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

34 thoughts on “Exercise Is Overrated: To Lose Weight, Eat More Butter and Less Sugar

  1. Like our friend Mark Sisson likes to say, “Weight loss is 80% what you put in your mouth.”

    Anna’s last blog post..A New Mission

  2. Agreed! I think exercise has it’s place but there is just so much exercise can do to combat all the unhealthy and fattening things we eat. My husband has lost about 10-15 pounds since we got married about a year ago…what changed? It wasn’t exercising more. It was less eating out and drinking less Coke. Just avoiding processed & fast food helped tremendously. I wouldn’t say that we eat healthy but compared to mainstream we do a lot better. Now if I could just stop craving all that junk!

    Marsha_M’s last blog post..Reading the label

  3. I’ve actually written about this in detail before…especially regarding animal fats, butter, and heart disease:


  4. Ha ha, I hate “flying object” sports, too! Unless I have a racket to defend myself with.

    This is a great post! We all need to realize that the metabolism and hormones play a HUGE factor in weight/weight-loss, particularly the thyroid and adrenal glands. A friend of my husband has been obese for 10 years, and just tried for a month “exercising more” and “eating chicken instead of beef” and didn’t lose a single pound. Poor guy! Who wants to do that? That’s torture, and not healthy anyway. I mentioned he should have his thyroid and whatnot checked out.

    And like you said, AnnMarie, the exercise (or other activities) has to be enjoyable. This is how the body makes more DHEA to balance out cortisol, the stress hormone which can lead to a slowed thyroid and metabolism.

  5. Though I do believe exercise is important, I do agree that we often put too much emphasis on it. What we eat very important. You can exercise a lot, but if you still eat junk you won’t necessarily be more healthy.

    The way you think is very similar to what the French and Italians (and a lot of Europeans) already know — and they’re healthier, thinner, and happier than we are in many ways. You’d be hard pressed to find a French or Italian woman hitting the gym 5 days a week. Instead, they get out and walk, work in the garden, and get some general exercise, but not running on the treadmill.

    Instead, they eat a lot healthier and more whole foods than we do. They also eat less sugar, less wheat, and less industrialized vegetable oils than we do (the 3 key recent changes you mentioned to the American diet).

    Though they do eat wheat, (think Italians & their pasta – French with their bread) they do NOT each as much as we Americans do. I saw it, experienced it, and lived it. And every French & Italian person I know living in the U.S. agrees.

    They also eat real butter, real cream and real sugar — no fake stuff.

    All of this is exactly what I talk about in my Special Report and how the French & Italians stay slim. It is not by spending hours at the gym 🙂

    Dinneen – Eat Without Guilt’s last blog post..A Meal Even Your Kids Will Love – in Less Than 30 Minutes

  6. I would also much rather make something to eat or read a book than exercise! And I’m not now, nor never have been a “team sports” or “sports that require a ball of some form” type of person. Just ask my husband, he is the opposite! 🙂

    Great article, and one that I agree with!


    Sarah’s last blog post..Daybook

  7. Very interesting! But I think it’s true too. How thin I am doesn’t seem to stay very connected to how much I work out (and these days it’s not very often!). However, I do notice that I will start to have blood sugar issues if I am not active enough. Too much sitting in front of my computer I find doesn’t help blood sugar levels! But taking a brisk 15 minute walk fixes it.

    Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet’s last blog post..Nutrient Rich Snack: Dried Anchovies

  8. I love this. It takes effort at first to pay attention to what you eat, but eventually it becomes habit and you actually start tasting food for the first time!

  9. I didn’t have much success losing weight until I found an exercise that I would actually do. For me it was Jazzercise. Just the word makes me cringe it sounds so corny, so 80’s. But it’s a blast and a great workout. That said, I am not someone who would go to a gym and sit on sweaty equipment for hours. Yuck. I feel fortunate to have found a way of moving my body that is incredibly enjoyable. I walk too which gets me out in nature. Another love.

    I am not obsessing over my weight anymore. I am accepting my shape and my size, so long as I am healthy and self-healing. I am slowly converting my eating to traditional foods, but I have one big giant problem: sugar. I am a total addict. I cannot get through a day without it. Any suggestions? Cold turkey, or is there a withdrawal “program” through slow food?

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

  10. Finally, some evidence supporting my personal experience and belief! Thank you for posting! I love how I feel mentally when I’m in an exercise routine, but I have found that having a handle on my diet is really the only thing that allows me to manage my weight.

  11. OK KCAL’s in KCAL’s out – it is wonderful to eat rich raw butter and cream which I do and yes that is how traditional man ate – BUT – he did not sit in front of a computer or in traffic all day long. NOR did he run marathons. Our life styles are stress stress stress – and that can make you fat especially around the mid section. We do not get enough rest – we eat a CRAP diet and we sit in front of TV or a computer screen. All of those nonactivities increase cortisol
    And this goes for kids too

    Today Americans think more is better – but it is not. Prolonged steady state cardio actually can pack on the pounds because it stimulates cortisol.
    But weight training for changing body comp and weight loss must be done if you are going to eat that way.
    We can not keep our bones strong if we do not do some weight training – strong bones do not come in a bottle and there is no quick fix

    I suggest you read How to Eat Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek

    Linda DeFever
    CHEK Practitioner Level III
    ACE Certified Personal Trainer
    Metabolic Typing Advisor
    Volunteer Weston A. Price Chapter Leader – Wauconda, IL

  12. Hi, Linda,

    I personally enjoy doing weight training. I think I mentioned that in my article.

    And I am a big believer in the benefits of moderate, enjoyable exercise — especially weight-bearing exercise. But I think most people put too much emphasis on it.

    My point of this article was to say that we are not obese/overweight due to inactivity. Exercise has increased over the past 30 years.

    Most people think if they go to the gym more, they will lose weight. There is a thing called leptin resistance, which I’m sure you know about, that makes it very hard to lose weight unless you change your diet. I didn’t have time to get to that in this article but I will in a future post.

  13. I really love this, but my body doesnt! If I dont go to the gym, I dont loose weight….its that simple. I hardly eat carbs (except for a little sourdough) and I have cut down on my portion sizes and still nothing…but I have not gained any weight so this is a good thing. I am sure that more gardening and activities with the kids will make an impact, thanks for the reminder 🙂

  14. This makes a lot of sense.

    Since we started eating more traditionally (and lately it has been more SAD just from a new baby etc. ) My body weight has not decreased or increased, but my body looked slimmer. However, I am quite overweight and stuck at 250 since birth (4 months ago) and I am BUSY! (4 daughters ages 6yrs-4months) I might spend all day running around just doing housework and childcare. I keep thinking I’ve got to exercise more, yet, if that were true, then why am I still so fat?

    Weeding out all the bad things is quite hard, because it puts a much bigger workload on myself. I used to be very athletic and LOVED volleyball, ha,ha and LOVED weightlifting. I do miss that fit feeling and the work of team exercise and sports. It isn’t drudgery to me, but carving out the time to do it is almost impossible unless i don’t sleep.

    Hmm, lots to think about here. Have you noticed if your body has become more slim just by eating more fats?

  15. As an avid runner and former gym member, I thought going to the gym was so crucial to losing weight/maintaining weight. I was always spending so much time at the gym! I even ran the marathon last March in LA, and I think I really overdid it at that point. That said, I am just watching my diet – doing an anti-candida right now and lost 3 lbs in 10 days! As for exercise, sure, it’s totally good for you, but I have started doing things I enjoy – a SHORT run, yoga, bike riding, and hiking. I always hated the gym anyway!

  16. While I do not think weight lifting is bad, I don’t think it’s important. I take my cues from what prehistoric man would have done and from common sense. And that would have been hunting. And the women would have gathered. And then recreation, which might have been games, including probably target practice. It would have made no sense whatsoever to engage in any repetitive, energy-wasting activity. Anyone without a preconceived notion about exercise would believe that when he began feeling the burn of lactic acid build-up in the muscles, that that would been a sign that he should stop–not continue. I challenge anyone to produce a scientifically controlled study that proves that weight training is necessary to maintain bone density for those eating a high animal fat, low carb diet.

    The concept of revving up one’s heart rate IMO is misguided. I’m not talking about short spurts, such as might have occurred during hunting. Prolonged increased heart rate is telling the body there is danger, cortisol is released, insulin is released, and the result is increased stress and increased inflammation. Your million-year-old programming is telling your body that you’re being attacked by an animal. Among the effects is thickening of the blood, constricting of the vessels, and the release of endorphins. The reason is to limit bleeding and make your demise less painful. The “runner’s high” that people perceive as a reward for exercising is actually a consolation prize for dying. And you will accelerate your demise.

    I know those that have invested their careers in physical training and those who enjoy it will find any way to justify it and will think what I’ve said is nonsense. And that’s fine. But for those not so inclined, don’t worry about it. Just eat properly and go outside for a walk every now and then or just have fun.

  17. I actually enjoy running on the treadmill…or outside. After awhile, you get addicted to it. I agree that it is not really that effective for weight loss. Diet is much more important. I have began to do Mercola’s Peak 8 interval workouts and I love/hate them. 🙂

  18. Great post! Most of our problems started after the agricultural revolution. Our society places far too much emphasis on grains and sugars. When one beings to eat more animal protein, one craves more protein and green vegetables. I have been eating animal protein, lots of salads, green vegetables, and a few nuts and seeds. I have been craving butter like crazy and eating quite a bit of it. Is that alright since I am eating very few carbs and no starches?

    It is so unnatural for people to perform repetitive exercises inside. We are meant to walk outside in our bare feet and occasionally lift heavy objects. Go outside, breathe deeply and give thanks for the beauty that surrounds us.

    We should not forget the importance of water. When one is properly hydrated, one will actually start to crave animal protein. It is so interesting. I have definitely been able to prove this in the past two weeks. Thanks for the great article.

  19. I agree. The only flaw I see in these studies is that, although we may be “exercising more” in our spare time, our jobs and daily lives are much more sedentary than in the past. There is a lot of evidence on this matter. So, I’d say that exercise that is functional and built into your day will help more with weight loss than steady state cardio on a treadmill, but we shouldn’t discredit exercise, especially weight bearing exercise which would have been continuous and natural in human daily life throughout history and pre-history.

  20. you are very right there. butter is ten times more natural than vegetable oil. i dare say animal fat taken directly from the meat is an even better choice. as the pathan culture of afghanistan has been doing for centuries…they cook the meat of lambs or sheep in the very fat that surrounds it. all this propaganda regarding removing fat from chicken and fish is such utter nonsense. why not eat the whole animal along with its internal organs if you want the full benefit. of course in the past 99% of history there were no rice, wheat, milk, sugar or artificial sweetener (the worst thing on the planet since it comes from petroleum and actually causes sugar cravings). natural is normal and neutral. its what the body is designed for and not the crappy stuff you find in jars and packages. that contains preservatives that mess us the system. on the contrary fresh, all natural and raw foods do the body a lot of good and ought to be at least incorporated into ones lifestyle.

  21. Carla- I’m with you. I live in Europe and have gained weight and have insulin resistance, even though I cook and use “real” foods. Ugh. Frustrating. I do live in Germany,where it’s cold most of the year, so even though I walk a lot, it’s not as enjoyable as walking around in Italy or France, where I’ve lost weight despite the pasta and baguettes. wonder if exercise brings those endorphins perhaps that one misses in a bad weather city. Another thing is that my brothers and I were skinny as children, and my mom had homemade cake everyday. Sometimes with crisco, sometimes with butter, margarine, etc. We had Coke and Dr. Pepper. I’m sure there was corn syrup in her pecan pies. We ate fried chicken. We ate the occasional Oreo or Twinkie. Yet, we ran around and climbed trees, roller skated, swam, and did sports at school. We were in Texas. Could be the Vitamin D. I think there’s not one answer, sadly.

  22. While this article does have some decent points and the rare piece of useful info, there is a lot of misleading and pretty braindead stuff in there as well. First of all, even though this piece isn’t nearly as severe when it comes to the stupid “just eat more butter and everything will be great!” idea, it is still there, and a great many people reading it will in fact pick up that asinine message. I know that’s not the intended message here, but it comes through to many anyway. Secondly, I’d like to respond to this sentence: “Doing low-intensity “cardio” on a treadmill is almost totally ineffective for weight loss.” Really? Doing low-intensity cardio on a treadmill doesn’t help but walking and working in your GARDEN will? You can’t be serious. The fact of the matter is that the effectiveness of walking, whether it’s down the road or on a treadmill, highly varies with each person’s individual body makeup, how fast they go, how long they go and how often they do it, and there are many people who lose significant amounts of weight by walking on a treadmill. I also feel that while you do recognize that exercise can have benefit, that the title and continuous minimizing of exercise might encourage people to exercise less, which I think is a horrible thing for this country. Just my opinions!

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