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The best way to lose weight from exercise is not to burn calories, it's to cure chronic stress

Calories or stress which is more important for weight

When you want to lose weight, trying to burn more calories than you take in can be stressful, especially when you have large amounts of weight to lose. It becomes even more stressful when your body's ability to move and burn more calories is limited by pain.  What is the best way to lose weight through exercise, burning calories or curing stress?

What stress does to your weight

When your body is in the stress state, energy goes into fighting, fleeing, or freezing against a threat. When you are stuck in a stress state, your body does not get the signal the threat is over and it's time to put energy into being healthy. In this threat defense state, your body thinks weight loss is the last thing you need. That extra fuel could come in very handy if there is a famine or you have to move a long distance to find food.  


Since the stress state is your body ready to move, the way to get your physiology out of a stress state is to move in a way that does not feel like a threat, but feels safe and supportive. Brain-based approaches to stress like setting boundaries, counting to ten, and taking a deep breath start the physiologic shift back to the well state, but your body is still ready to move. That tension is telling your subconscious brain there is still a problem.  

The two-step cure for chronic stress and thus weight loss, is to be aware of the stress state when it’s been triggered, and then clear it with mindful, science-based movement.  

The best way to lose weight from exercise

The bottom line is stress is ultimately more important than calories when it comes to weight loss. 

  1. Stay mindful when exercising so you can listen to your body and make sure you are using it to get out of a stress state.

  2. Move well, based on movement-science principles so exercise has the best chance to reduce, rather than add to, tension.

  3. Stay in a pain-free range so exercise is an anti-inflammatory, rather than adding to inflammation from stressors in daily life.  

  4. Connect what you do for exercise to improve strength, mobility, and stamina to what matters most to you in life. Rather than focus on the numbers on the scale (which go up and down based on many factors), focus on how you want to feel and function.

Stay aware of the hyper-focus on calorie- and fat-burning benefits of exercise and on what that does to your stress levels. 

Learn more about how to start well so you stay well at Exercising Well.  

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