Even If You Don’t Exercise. Even If You Can’t.
Exercise is great. It’s very good for you. But is it absolutely necessary in order to lose weight and get healthy? Let me challenge your concepts.
The Plant2Health way of eating, that is – unprocessed (or minimally processed) whole plant foods, without any oils, is so powerful that you can start eating this way, lose weight naturally, get your body back into balance and health, and all without breaking a sweat.
Heresy? Have I gone insane? No, quite the contrary. Although in many people’s minds getting healthy and losing weight are inexplicably tied to exercising, and while exercising is healthy and recommended, you can easily get healthy without starting an exercise regimen. How do I know? Because I did it myself.
Back in June of 2017 I started learning about health, nutrition and how whole food plant based nutrition is the ultimate way to eat, resulting in vibrant health, normal weight and maximum longevity, as shown by populations eating healthy whole plant foods. I changed my diet and kept tweaking it until I got it right, largely thanks to my mentor and role model, Dr. John McDougall. I am also certified in Dr. McDougall’s starch solution.
I continued through my health journey and in the process lost 37KG, or 81 lbs, all without exercise. I did walk around (I have dogs so not much choice there), but that’s pretty much it.
So is it possible to lose weight, get healthy and reach the best control of your health, maximizing your longevity – without exercising? My answer is a resounding YES. I’m even going to go out on a limb and recommend that course of action – with a little asterisk at the end.
Before we go on, it’s imperative that I clarify one point – let it never be said that Dan from Plant2Health ever said you shouldn’t exercise, and that I somehow discourage people from exercising. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Exercise is extremely healthy and I recommend that everyone create a lifelong habit of exercising, it would be incredibly beneficial to the vast majority of human beings. What I am saying is that it’s not necessary in order to get healthy and lose weight. The power of whole food plant based no oil nutrition is so strong, that changing your diet will have a tremendous effect on your health and longevity. The weight (pun intended) of nutrition in the health and longevity equation is much much greater than that of exercise – yes, what you eat matters most is one of my mantras, and it’s true – you can exercise profusely and still be unhealthy (not as unhealthy as a person who eats poorly and doesn’t exercise, but you can still easily drop dead of a heart attack). But you can’t outrun a bad diet. You can’t eat junk and animal products and expect that your exercise will protect you and make you slim and healthy.
Now I will admit to some exceptions – some people who exercise in the extreme levels (endurance athletes, professional bodybuilders and others who spend many hours exercising) – may be very skinny or massive and muscular, and yet – they will be unhealthy on the inside, which is misleading because it’s not visible. Your cardiovascular system is extremely sensitive to what you eat, and eating unhealthy foods will damage it over time, making you susceptible to a variety of diseases, from erectile dysfunction in men to hypertension to coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the western world.
So what do I recommend then? Easy: start out with the one big change that is the foundation of health and longevity. Change your diet, make it the best possible one – exclude animals products from your plate, ditch the processed junk, skip the oil and eat healthy legumes, whole grains, vegetables, root vegetables, fruits and (if appropriate for your particular circumstances) small quantities of nuts and seeds. Keep it unprocessed or minimally processed, and you’re set for life – a long, active, healthy life.
After giving yourself somewhere between a year to three years to settle in to your new eating habits, lose any unnecessary weight, and get comfortable and used to this way of eating, you’ll be at a much stronger position to consider an exercise routine.
So you are recommending exercise after all? YES, absolutely. Exercise is very beneficial for your health and well being, improves your cardiovascular heath, helps manage stress and improve mood, and improves your cognitive health. I believe that adopting an exercise routine you can stick to is very important, and becomes critical as you age. Research shows that elderly people who exercise regularly enjoy better health and suffer from less injuries and other debilitating conditions. Losing muscle mass (sarcopenia) is typical as we age, and it is the reason many people suffer as they age, become less mobile, fall more and are more prone to break bones – the most important factor in bone strength is the pressure applied to the bones by your muscles – so if you keep active and maintain muscle mass throughout old age you won’t suffer the typical woes associated with being old.
This is not unusual, it’s only unusual in our society and culture in recent years. When Older people use their muscles regularly, they are mobile, independent and active. This of course is possible only if you eat right, which enables you to be free of chronic disease and other ailments we typically associate with old age, making regular exercise somewhere between hard to impossible.
What do I do, personally? Well about a year back I started doing calisthenics as my exercise routine, and have been doing aerobic exercise as well – I exercise regularly, three times a week, spending around 6 to 8 hours a week working up a sweat. This way I get the benefit of resistance training and building muscle mass, as well as cardiovascular health. It’s hard, but I enjoy the challenge and feel satisfaction when I improve and manage to control my body that much better. I recommend calisthenics because it’s very low cost, you can easily do most of it at home, no gym membership needed, and you enjoy a sense of autonomy and control over your body.
But, some of you may ask, what if I WANT to add an exercise routine to the diet change? Well, if you want to, you’re welcome to do so, and more power to you. I do think that for most people it’s better to start with changing what you eat and getting into the habit of eating right and feeling better before starting an exercise routine, simply because I don’t want it to overwhelm you, to the point that you feel that dealing with all that – diet and exercise – feels too much, and you end up dropping it all, which would be an awful shame. But if you’re the kind of person who would benefit from going all in and taking up both the diet change and the exercise, I salute you. You’re a better person than me!