If You Have One Hour Per Day To Spend on Losing Weight, How Should You Spend It?

June 17, 2015   22 Comments

I know it sounds a bit silly to have only one hour per day on something like losing weight but I want you to think about it for a minute.

Eating Less vs Exercising More

You might:

  • Work out at the gym
  • Go for a walk
  • Check out the local farmer’s market
  • Cook a healthy meal

Life is full of trade offs. If I take the time for a Zumba class, I might have to microwave a burrito when I get home because I ran out of time to make dinner. Unfortunately, if you want to lose weight, the Zumba class isn’t as important as fixing yourself a healthy meal.

For example, taking a walk for an hour will burn about 300 calories. Or you could simply not eat a donut. Which is easier? For me - not eating the donut is far easier than finding the time to walk for an hour.

Also, after you exercise, have you ever noticed that you get hungry? I am far hungrier if I go the gym than if I don’t. In September, I had an injury and I had to rest to recover and I dropped a few pounds. How annoying is that?

Scientific studies have shown that there are huge benefits to exercise (such as curing depression) but weight loss isn’t one of them.

From the New York Times:

To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More:

Far too many people ... can manage to find an hour or more in their day to drive to the gym, exercise and then clean up afterward — but complain that there’s just no time to cook or prepare a healthful, home-cooked meal.

I hope that for you, it isn’t a choice whether you have time for making a meal or working out. But, many of us spend our days running around, making our kids lunches, driving them to soccer practice, answering e-mails from our phones, baking the cupcakes for the school party, running to be on time to a meeting, cleaning up dog vomit, creating the spreadsheet, answering the client's phone call..............(fill in the blank with what you did today)

We don’t look at the minutes of the day and say, “What is the best way to spend them to drop this weight?” But, we do tend to overestimate the benefits of exercise for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

The upside here is that if you didn’t make it to the gym but managed to make yourself a lovely, healthy meal – you did alright.

My advice is to make healthy cooking a habit that is incorporated into every day without thinking about it - then you can add the Zumba class.

How do you prioritize your time around getting healthy?

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 22 )

Very good reasonable thinking.

Yay Snack Girl!! Truth and great advice for all to acknowledge..although lean muscle mass burns calories while we sleep, at least 2/3 of the battle of the bulge is fought over the food choices we make..thanks for spreading the word!!!

This is so very true!!! The first time I joined Weight Watchers, I lost 30 pounds--NO exercise--just by changing my eating habits. My boss at that time said there was no way I could lose weight without working out, but I proved him wrong!

Excellent article. I have recently made a firm decision to prioritise my time for making sure I have healthy, low calorie meals prepared for lunches and dinners during the week. Sure, I may miss a workout or two because I'm cooking, but my time pressures are so many that something had to give. Weight is dropping off much more reliably now, because I'm actively avoiding all those times I am exhausted and don't have time to cook.

Since joining Weight Watchers I have lost 50 pounds with little to no exercise. I say little as I changed a few habits (stairs instead of elevators or escalators, walking instead of driving). But for the most part it was really the meals. Changing up the way you eat really does make a huge difference. Easy on the salt, use oils and fats sparingly, bump up the herbs and spices, use stuff with lots of flavour... I love to cook ^_^ But for exercise, I do it while I game online. In between battles or taking a flight path from one place to another, I hop on the elliptical and pedal away until I land or have to do something. Little tips and tricks here and there help ^_^

so true! I have always been active and overweight. Joining WW and making my food instead of picking up fast food or TV dinners has helped me more to lose 75 lbs and counting! I love the great ideas you provide, and have made eating healthy and cooking so much more fun! And FUN is important!


Wow! I started a weight loss Journey 2years ago and lost 50 pounds, and now that I am at maintenance for me, across the last year I gained about 7-10 back as of April, and now headed back down. So I work out and summer is easier, BUT I am totally convinced Diet and Sleep are the 2 biggest factors to maintaining weight. I actually came to this realization in the last week! and man is this article timely and excellent, this is one of your best and most provocative. So I would like to know your opinion on counting daily calories, once you reach your goal, should you do it periodically say for a few weeks as a checkpoint? Any way, thank you! Yoiur are inspirational.

I've never taken an hour out of my day and thought about how I would lose weight. It's always "I'm going to lose weight" or "I need to lose weight". Then it's "I'll start tomorrow" I do think it's important to make healthy meals. I try hard to do that, but my husband is a meat a potato guy. That's how he grew up and anything to strange and out of his comfort zone he won't touch. I just need to get tough with him. Just like I did my kids. This has given me lots of "food for thought"

While I agree with this article in terms of the weight-loss aspect, be careful in promoting the more sedentary lifestyle. Diet is key to losing weight, and most of us do not have an hour a day to dedicate to exercise. But besides mental benefits, exercise provides massive cardiovascular, pulmonary, skeletal, and joint health benefits, just to name a few. Most of us should and can fit at least 10-20 minutes into each day to reap those as well. I feel so much better when I move just a little every day, and its important to demonstrate that to our children as well.

One of my favorite quotes is "Six-pack abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym!"

Although I understand and agree with the premise, exercise has changed my life. I went from 240 pounds to 170 pounds (as of this morning) by counting calories, eating real food, and moving more. I know the two are vital for me to be healthy - when I skimp on either, I feel unbalanced.

Lisa, you were a big part of this transition. When I started my transformation 20 months ago, I read and re-read "SG to the Rescue" and used the recipes and shopping tips to help get my diet under control. One of the best things I read in your book was that exercise did not (1) have to happen in gym, (2) take hours, or (3) suck! After reading about your experience with just starting by walking 5 minutes a day, I started by dancing ten minutes a day. I gradually found out what I like (Zumba and kettlebell) and what I don't like (jogging/running). Now I do what makes me feel good, not what a gym rat tells me. I don't pay a dime for classes, thanks to YouTube, and I even got my husband to join me. The benefits are amazing. Last week I hiked all over Utah with my super-fit sister-in-law and didn't have to ask her to "wait up" so I could catch my breath. It was one of the best vacations I ever had. I could not have done this a year ago. Thanks for always making me think, Lisa, and for always teaching me something new every time I read your blog. Love you Snack Girl!

I shared the original article with a few friends when it first came out. But then I gave it some serious thought. Exercising has so many health benefits: stress reduction, diabetes prevention, heart health, cancer prevention etc. I say it's a delicate balance of eating right and taking time to exercise. Hit the Zumba class and do food prep before for a healthy meal afterwards!

I think your advice re: making healthy cooking a priority is spot-on. Eating real food, not processed, actually gives me more energy to feel like going for that hour walk. Planning and weekend preparation are the key for me - cooking and dividing into portions so I've got a bunch of options in the fridge and freezer is really helpful.

I recently started making my salads and oatmeal in wide-mouth mason jars and it works wonderful!! I make them on Sunday for the ENTIRE week!! Give it a try and maybe you'll find the time to go to Zumba... :)

Excellent article! Very thoughtful and inspiring! I needed that today!

I think people make losing weight way too complicated. I love to exercise, but I don't do it for weight loss, I do it for my heart and the way it makes me feel.

I don't like counting anything so programs like WW and MFP are not for me. But I do make healthy swaps and simply EAT LESS and I have lose 35 lbs since having my third child. It takes longer (my third is almost 2 lol) but I'm fine with that.

Thanks for recognizing that some of us don't have the time for exercise, instead of shaming us. ;) I do spend a lot of time cooking healthy meals, working a full time job, that sometimes requires me to work after hours, and running around. Only so many hours in the day.

Excellent article! I see that some still don't truly understand what you're saying. When lack of time, choose the healthy meal over exercise. The meal's benefits are more lasting. If time, do both. I too had injuries recently but was able to drop 7 pounds because of conscious healthy meals. I used portion control as I knew my inactivity meant I would burn fewer calories.

I get the point you are trying to get across, SG. And athough I agree that eating healthy and getting enough sleep are paramount to losing and maintaining weight, I have to give a shout out to exercise as well. Why choose one over the other? Exercise makes me sleep so much better than when I did not get any exercise. And eating healthy makes exercising much easier. I try to do all three.

Maybe I am in the minority, but I do not find it hard or time sucking to eat healthy meals. And it is never in my radar to "save time" by eating fast food. It is just as fast to whip up a healthy sandwich as it is to go through a drive through.

As for exercising, it took me awhile to realize that when I told myself I didn't have enough time to exercise--I was not having any trouble using the time I did have watching tv or surfing the Web. Now, it is also much preferable to me to go out and ride my bike for a half hour than it is to watch a sitcom. And you can get the whole family to join in!

If you just adjust your thinking a bit, you can find time for all of it. I did.

Absolutely! My personal trainer himself told me what I eat is 75% of the healthy picture. I take exercise now that I enjoy, and treat it as my 'me time' rather than stressing about how many calories I've burned. I do it to relax and give my mind a rest from daily stress x

@Lauren: Yes I feel similar to you. Priority-setting is my no. 1 priority and not to be selfish, I'm at the top of my list. Without a healthy happy me no one benefits. If there isn't enough time for a healthy walk And a healthy meal, I'd tell myself "enough! what can I do differently?" Been there did that. Lots of ways to readjust our days. There's no shame in finding ourselves in a pickle and shifting our priorities. In fact, its liberating and empowering! Love change! And the [from snack girl may 6] is another great idea. Thanks Lisa!

My latest enjoyable quote from Joel Salatin:

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