Q&A: I Can’t Exercise – Will I Still Lose Weight on Paleo?


This post was written by Neely.

Here’s a quick Q&A between a Paleo Plan reader and me, just in case you have this same question…


Good evening Neely,

I recently had a couple of back operations (Nov & Dec 2012) and am not yet allowed to exercise other than walking.  I started doing the PaleoPlan with my husband a week ago and I’m wondering if my inability to exercise too much is going to have a negative impact on my weight loss with the plan.  I will be starting rehab in a couple of weeks so exercise will increase then.  Can I still expect to lose weight before then and now?


Yes, it’s certainly possible.

Plenty of people do Paleo or Primal without any exercise at all and have great success with weight loss. I can’t make any promises, of course, but I can say that what you put in your mouth is the main determining factor of weight loss, despite what you may have gleaned from watching “The Biggest Loser”. You can even gain lean muscle mass on this diet without exercising (read this success story from marksdailyapple.com to see for yourself).

Just make sure that you don’t eat too much food. No matter what “diet” you’re on, if you eat too much food, you won’t lose weight. So if you’re used to exercising a certain amount and therefore eating a certain amount, make sure you decrease your food intake appropriately. I’m not saying start counting calories, but definitely listen to your body’s hunger cues a little more closely now that you’re not working out. That may take a little getting used to, but just see how you do with a little bit less food on your plate than you’re accustomed to.

Now, I’m not encouraging people who don’t have serious injuries to just forgo the exercise when trying to lose weight. Obviously, it has plenty of benefits like building sexy muscles, giving you peace of mind, increasing your body’s sensitivity to insulin, improving blood glucose, and burning calories. It feels good to work hard, and your body is meant to be put to work. But if you just can’t get out and move your body for some reason, there’s absolutely no need to throw your hands up and give up on all attempts at being healthier. Yes, exercise would probably speed up the weight loss process, but it’s not the end all be all to losing fat.

“The Biggest Loser” is not an accurate portrayal of how real people lose weight, after all. It’s nonsense to think that most average people have the time or motivation exercise 8 hours a day in the gym. (When are they going to start showing what those people eat on the show, by the way?)

One other thing to think about is this: can you really not exercise? Or is that sprained ankle (or other relatively minor injury) just a convenient excuse to watch more TV? You could certainly sit or lie on a bench and lift some weights with a sprained ankle; you might even be able to swim. Depending on the injury, you may actually be able to do quite a bit. Ask a trainer at a gym (or google) for suggestions.

Anyway, even if you can’t exercise – for real – and you want to lose weight, give Paleo or Primal a shot and see how it goes for you, and add in exercise when you’re well enough.

Anyone else want to chime in?