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The Daily Beet: Tips, Advice and Stories

How To Workout When You Are Overweight

A post by E2 team member, Natala

I was 11 years old when I started to gain weight (A LOT of weight), this was also the time that I started attempts at exercising. Let’s just be honest here. I was young, overweight and already a very awkward nerdy type who spent my free time playing my violin and finding pictures of dead classical composers to put in my room (no New Kids on the Block for this teen!). I was already a weird kid. However, being a weird kid and “Sweating to the Oldies” with Richard Simmons (side note – Richard once sent me a letter and included a photo of himself chained to a fork) or going to a Jazzer-size class with my Mother and her friends? I was destined to be uncool, and to feel really awkward about working out. I once wore an all purple sweat suit to a workout class for overweight teens, I looked like a giant grape, not my best fashion choice. I was kind of fearless about all of it though, even though I was obese I tried out for the basketball team, the volleyball team and then in High School I signed up for an advanced gym class, this confused my guidance counselor a lot.

Since then I have made many attempts to find the perfect workout for me and have failed over and over again. It wasn’t until I read “The Pleasure Trap” by Doug Lisle that I realized one of our primary survival mechanisms is to conserve energy. So, unless I’m being chased in the woods by a lion, why the heck would I run?!

When I started my plant-strong journey I tipped the scales at well over 400 pounds. Needless to say, moving was a little harder for me, and even though I have lost over 200 pounds so far, moving is still hard in some situations.

I have had my share of injuries over the past few years. I am ambitious, I want to be able to run, or go for a long hike, or do a cross fit session without any trouble. However, I found out the hard way that it is an absolute MUST that you start with a solid foundation when it comes to moving and becoming active.

One of the common misconceptions is that you need to workout a ton in order to lose weight. When you are starting out, your weight loss will mostly come from the way you are eating, it won’t come from trying to get in a 2-3 hour workout every day. This is not to say that moving is not important, but you do not need to do 2 hour workouts to do something great for your body, start with 30 minutes, and feel free to stay there as long as you like.

Your best bet is to start slow. Start by walking and doing some simple balance and strength exercises. Try some of these workouts that Rip has on our exercise and stretching page.

In addition, try getting in 30 minutes of walking every day, or some other kind of movement (bike, swimming). As things improve with your health, try doing some more exercise that includes impact, impact is what builds strong bones (NOT MILK!).

As Jack LaLanne  used to say “Food is king, exercise is queen”. We are not saying that exercise is not important, but we want to see you change your diet, and get your diet completely plant-strong before you start worrying about what kind of exercise is best for you.

Lastly, find something you enjoy doing! You don’t have to go to a gym, go for a walk or lift weights. Just find something you enjoy, and do it a few times a week. Take a dance class, play a sport, go hiking, start geocaching, get a hula hoop! Heck, maybe you love “Sweating the the Oldies”, whatever works for you! Get creative when it comes to how you move.

What are some of your favorite ways to exercise? Do you have any tips for other E2ers just starting out?

About the author

Engine 2 Team
The Engine 2 Team is dedicated to helping you become plant-strong! Each of us are on the plant-strong journey right along side of you!
  • http://www.JoynessSparkles.blogspot.com Joyness Sparkles

    I used to work out because I loved it (I too am not the coolest person out there). However, due to a back injury, about the most I can do now is walk at a leisurly pace and not for very long.

    As encouragement…whenever you feel like you don’t want to work out, do it for those of us that really want to, but are unable to run, do crunches, lift weights, etc. It may not seem like fun at the time, but we live vicariously through others able to do what we cannot, such as “feel the burn.”

    Congratulations on your weight loss! We will keep cheering you on and hope to hear more of your journey!

  • Mary

    Can you please write more? I love when you write and I love that you are “One of us” ! You know what it is like, and I love the visual of the giant grape.
    I really need to start walking everday – good to know I don’t have to be a gym hound!

  • Sheile

    I totally sweated to the oldies! And I really would love to see that photo of Richard Simmons! :)

    I just walk my dog every day – I love it, I love my dog and that’s all I need.

  • Raven Hannah

    I used to be active and fit, though I’ve always been what is described as “thick”, however my aim was always to be healthy . . . not model thin. I was happy and content with who I was and my level of health. Then came the car accident and my world got turned upside down. I couldn’t do anything for months . . . not even go for a walk. . . . as I could barely move and it took me thirty minutes just to get dressed for physical therapy. I missed my daily walks, which were my time to relieve stress and connect with nature, however I had a brain injury, so my balance was off and my equilibrium failed me more often than not. The risk of falling and injuring myself further was just too great, though I did wipe out several times just doing routine stuff. It’s funny now, however it certainly wasn’t funny then, knowing that I could aggravate my neck injury and wind up paralyzed. One of the frustrating side-effects of all this was the weight gain. :(

    Finally, after months of chiropractic treatments, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, acupuncture and a bazillion other types of treatment, I wasn’t seeing the improvement I wanted or needed, so I bought a small Pilates machine to do some stretching and strength building at home and I purchased some walking poles to give me stability when I want to go for a walk. I’m not back to where I want or need to be, however I decided to take matters into my own hands, or I would be spending thousands of dollars on routine treatments that were not going to get me back to optimal health.

    Thankfully, I’ve always followed a plant-based diet, so transitioning to a few more restrictions to get this weight off wasn’t that much of a stretch. I’m determined to get myself back to some semblance of good health and vibrancy, though I still have a ways to go, however I knew going forward that the journey would be somewhat long and very uncertain. Yes, there are days I want to throw in the proverbial towel, and that’s okay. I allow myself to have those days and I try not to beat myself up about not being ‘perfect’. Good health, happiness and the strength to keep going are my main goals. I’m still here for a reason and I am willing to work at this for the rest of my life! Never give up, as you never know what is on the other side of that seemingly closed door!! ♥

  • Donna

    When I started working out, I was in extremely bad shape – I wasn’t just overweight, I was also in really poor cardiovascular health, so walking up a flight of stairs was so overwhelming I frequently had to stop halfway to catch my breath. My partner bought me a used Wii Fit Plus and I love it!! It saved me money on a gym membership, along with the embarrassment of working out in public. I started small – 15 minutes a day doing really easy exercises. I gradually worked up to 30-45 minutes a day of more intense exercise. I really recommend a gaming system with a workout game for beginners – it is very effective and allows you to go at your own pace. Good luck everyone!

  • Kelly

    I went plant strong last summer and lost about 15 pounds. This helped me to actually walk into a gym again. I started out slow, just using the treadmill (most of the other machines intimidated me). Then, I took a couple of classes and am now hooked! I love the feeling of self worth that working out gives you as well as how your body changes. I’m just at the beginning of getting healthy but am liking the journey. I feel the same as Natala, find something you enjoy doing and keep it up. Slow and steady!

  • http://www.plantbasedadventures.com Ami Mackey

    I started by walking on the treadmill. I did so at a pace that was impossible to break a sweat. I did it in the basement gym of our apartment building when no one was in there but me. The Valentine’s Day happened. Bill had forgotten to get me a card, or anything. I got him his FitBit pedometer. He felt terrible. So at 8pm on Valentine’s Day he took me to the mall and told me to pick something. I wanted a sport watch. We looked in Champs at something I thought was a watch, it turned out to be for the Nike+ shoes. It tracks your run distance, speed, time etc. Bill got really excited at this – as he loved his FitBit. Next thing you know, I had bionic shoes, complete with gps locator! Yay! – um I think. Wait, I hate running?! So the next day I set up the shoes to synch with my iPhone and the Nike+ app. There was a feature that let’s you synch the app to your facebook. Ah HA!!! Accountability enters the picture! If I walked at a snails pace on the treadmill, EVERYBODY would know. I would set it up to tell the world! I couldn’t lie to myself any longer. I knew I could try harder. I could walk faster. I might even jog a little. I just hated the idea of it. That was February 15th, 2012. I have now run over 140km since then! It’s fun to see my times or push for more distance. Wait fun? Yeah, fun! I figured out that I was afraid of failure. Afraid the people at the gym would see me. Afraid I wouldn’t be ABLE to do it. I found the thing that worked for me. It was to publicly broadcast my fitness routine. Because if I wasn’t trying hard, all my friends would know. I have several friends who are now doing the nike+ running stuff too because of me! You can set goals for yourself and Lance Armstrong even tells you in your headphones when you have run more or faster than ever before. Pretty nifty stuff. I feel like a rock star when I get a message from Lance. Corny…yeah..but it works!! -Former fitness hater turned runner.

  • http://thriftyveggiemama.com Jamie

    I really like the Jillian Michaels DVD’s because they are a great workout in only 25 minutes. I have 3 kids at home with me all day so find it hard to fit in a good workout but my 5 year old loves to do these with me. Now that the weather is nicer we are spending a lot of time outside running around and taking walks too.
    Just get up off the couch and do something, anything. Even for just 10 minutes a couple times a day. It will get easier. Just like eating a plant strong diet becomes easier.

  • Diana

    Thanks Natalie for your inspiration. I am 80 lbs overweight and am struggling to put together consecutive days of plant strong eating and exercise. I really appreciate your sharing and wonder if you have struggled at all in your journey with staying on track with the best food choices. I enjoy riding my bike and haven’t been motivated lately to go after my work day. This article has motivated me to commit to take a bike ride tomorrow. Please keep writing these articles – they are so inspiring to me!

  • Katie

    I totally agree you do not need to spend hours at a gym. Just get up and get moving. Start your goal small, like 15 min. Odds are once your up and moving it will turn to 30. Also you don’t have to do it all at once. Do two 15 min intervals or 3 ten min exercise spurts. I also agree, to lose weight it is 90% diet 10% exercise.

  • Kellly

    Please tell me you are going to the NY Farms 2 Forks weekend! I really love when you write, and love hearing from someone that is going through what I am going through. I am overweight, and sometimes I don’t think peeople in the the healthy plant-based world really get it at all, I mean the being overweight part. I really love them all, but they have never been obese, so hearing from you is really great. Keep inspiring us Natala!

  • Mary

    I LOVE swimming. I have a lot of knee problems, and swimming has saved my life!
    Thanks for making me laugh today, you have a great sense of humor about your struggles, must be good for your soul! I hope to meet you someday!

  • Lilly

    I started out in the mid 400s and walking wasn’t an option due to bad knees. I found swimming laps and doing suspended aqua-exercising to be really helpful. I wear resistance gloves for the first half a mile and during aqua-aerobics and use water weights. I can now touch down in the pool more and am no longer using a walker to get around on land, just a cane. I use the wheelchair less at work and can walk longer distances without a cane. I highly recommend water workouts to anyone with severe weight or mobility issues. There are also chair-dancing and other seated workout programs you can do if walking or bike riding aren’t an option, as they weren’t for me. I’ve still got 150 pounds to lose, but I expect to be able to walk up and down stairs,go on hikes and ride a bike again someday. I may have replaced knees – we shall see – but I’ll be moving on land. Not running, but moving – including dancing, for sure!