How to lose weight when I hate everything associated with it?

I’ve had the most awful time all my life trying to get into exercise and dieting. I’m a 30 year old Londoner who likes nothing better than reading, writing, and sitting in front of my PC. My wife is quite active and does running, yoga and other things, and knows a thing or two about nutrition, but while we love each other a lot, on this area we are just chalk and cheese.

I’ve been overweight, in various degrees, since my teenage years. I’ve never, ever enjoyed sport in any way, shape or form: watching it or participating in it. All the gym teachers were knuckledraggers, and the sporty types were generally the school bullies. So I’ve never associated exercise, however light, with anything positive.

So I have tried fencing, swimming, gym, running, hockey, badminton, Wii (yeah I know, desperate), and swing dancing, nothing of which keeps my attention for long. I yearn to just go home, sit down, and do research for my book. Anything else just feels, in my mind, like a sheer waste of my life.

Same with food. My parents are fairly old-school and saw food as something to be thrown at you, so I acquired a large appetite and a powerful sweet tooth. Even today, my willpower when it comes to both portion size and diet is atrocious. It’s almost as if I sleepwalk into indulgence and only after the fact do I realise what I’ve done. I’m the main food preparer in our house as I’m home from work first, so there’s a clear problem. When it comes to dieting, my eyes just glaze over at any discussion of the subject. I simply have no interest or patience in micromanaging my life in this way.

The wife has tried to motivate me in many ways to take part in what she does, or just nudge me to try other things, because she’s (quite rightly) concerned about my heart and the risk of diabetes. Thing is, I entirely agree with her, that my lifestyle will take me to an early grave. But it’s easier said than done.

I am normally a cheery, amicable person, but I can say with confidence that exercise and dieting are the two things most likely to get me into a stormy, gloomy depression. God, even just thinking about it makes me feel down, and it’s a struggle right now not to feel like having a lie-down to recover. The whole matter just envelopes me in a cloud of negativity and failure.

And it’s nobody’s fault but mine, I know. I am definitely the largest person among my friends, who are generally much better at exercise and diet management than I - several vegetarians, runners, fencers and ballet dancers among them. But despite them being awesome, smart, genuine people and good friends, my brain cannot stop associating exercisers with - not to put too fine a point on it - arseholes. Of course they aren’t like that, but when exercising I just feel like I’m becoming like the gym knuckledraggers at school. It’s entirely irrational - a phobia, even, perhaps - but there it is.

I accompany my wife every weekend to the park to watch her run, and the people she hangs out with are also perfectly nice people. But once I hear them start talking about ‘personal bests’ and achievement targets I have to walk way, the whole thing is just upsetting and I feel like throwing fists around.

On that, I think one of the problems is that my idea of what constitutes an achievement is different from everyone else’s. Other people brag about how far they’ve run, or a new route they’ve tried, or a new pose they achieved…I simply can’t see any of them as an accomplishment, something to be proud of. I’m not trying to crap on anybody’s parade, as I respect what they consider an achievement, but I can’t relate to it at all when it comes to exercise. Of all things this has to change, but I have no idea how to do it.

God, I sound like such a jerk! I’ve tried asking my doctors for advice and they’re no help. The NHS doesn’t offer any kind of mental support for this kind of thing, and I don’t have anywhere near the money for a private counsellor.

So, honestly, do you think there’s any hope for me?

What got me to exercise was a couch-to-5-k program. Like you, I had all kinds of negative associations with working out. But a couch-to-5-k has enough small, reachable, well-paced goals that it held my interest. Basically anyone can do it, and it gives you a strong sense of forward progress. There are all kinds of ways to do it, but my personal favorite is the augmented reality app Zombies 5K. Try committing to those ten weeks, and see if it takes hold.

As for diet, why would you need to micromanage? Diet doesn’t have to be about micromanaging. It’s a pretty macro thing. Do you have any obvious tripping points (things like soda, or snacking in front of the TV, or drinking too much beer). Start with the low hanging fruit, and go from there.

Have you tried walking combined with something interesting like listening to audiobooks? Is there something like that which is just so desirable that you would really want to walk (outside or on a treadmill) to experience it? I’m suggesting walking because it’s lower-impact than running, and so it’s easier to start doing for longer periods.

One thing I enjoy very much is the smartphone app called “Zombies, Run!” It’s like having bits of an audiobook (in which you are the silent protagonist) about how some unidentified part of England is coping with the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, interspersed with songs from your phone’s music collection. It has fabulous writing and voice acting. Plus it works for people who walk or run, and can use GPS or accelerometer to track your distance.

Edit: “Zombies 5K” is a different app by the same makers, with a supplemental story.

It sounds like you need a real motivator.

So far, I see that your motivation is that your wife is (rightly) concerned about your health. You don’t say that YOU are concerned about your health, though. Start dwelling on the consequences of being in poor physial shape and see if you are more motivated to shape up.

Despite what you might think about people who exercise, hardly any recreational runners act like that. Sure, every once in a while you’ll come across a “recreational” runner who is still trying to re-live the glory days of high school track. But overall, I think you’d find people supportive and non-judgemental. Have you considered walking while your wife runs at the park? That would be a great time to include some jogging intervals or doing the couch-to-5k that **even sven **suggested.

I hesisted to include this, but how is your relationship with your wife? I always feel like it’s unfair when one partner is healthy and in shape and the other is not, especially if the one who is not is continually letting themself go. So improve yourself out of respect for her. And to give her a reason not to cheat.

Something which helps me is forcing myself to savor the food rather than gobbling it. By making myself go slower, I give my blood sugar time to rise: that’s one of the two things which tell the body “I’m full”. I’m a lot less likely to go for seconds that way. Another thing is eating if I’m hungry and not eating if I’m not: it took years to train some of my relatives on “when I say I don’t want cake/dessert/fruit/seconds it means exactly ‘no with a side of fuck you’”, but by now even my brother’s mother in law gets it.

I was also the token fatty at school- the one who would put more effort into dodging any kind of sports that just doing the damn cross-country run in the first place would have been, and I kept that attitude up until a few years ago.

I’m not saying I’m now fabulously fit 'n healthy, I’m not, but a few years ago I found a form of exercise that, to me, doesn’t really feel like one, and I’ve dropped a few dress sizes since. I doubt you’d be into what I took up (hoop dance), but why not try a few more less conventional ‘sports’ or active hobbies, and see if one suits you? It does get easier when you start feeling fitter, and I’m way more likely now to just decide to walk somewhere a few miles away rather than drive or bus it- and more likely to eat healthy now, as I don’t want to lose the fitness I’ve gained.

Something with a good social scene might help you stick at it, or not, depending on your personality, but some way or another you need to make yourself want to do it, or it just won’t stick. Good luck!

I’m sorry, I’m afraid not. You’re not ready. If/when you truly want this, you’ll do it. Until then, just continue living your life and set your goals for fitness and weight loss to tiny, manageable for you, increments.

Totally agree with this.

You need to find healthier food that you enjoy eating. Buy that. Have it in the house. Make a point of eating it first. Give yourself time to digest before you reach for dessert. You shouldn’t feel like you are eating diet food. But if you eat healthier food that tastes good (yes, it exists) then you won’t have as much room for the junk.
As for exercise, something is better than nothing. If you can find a hobby that involves moving, then it becomes about the hobby not about the exercise.

Like geochaching or walking the dog… Something where the primary objective is not excerise, but you have to move to do it.


My suggestions:

Don’t try to be something you are not - you don’t need to go to the gym to lose wight, or learn a sport, or anything else you aren’t gong to stick with.

  1. you need to know how fat you are and how much you want to lose
  2. you need to know how much you are consuming per day in calories (or kilo joules or whatever they use over there)
  3. you need to cut back on these on a daily basis and keep track of it
  4. do something like walking - and activity you can do until you are old, doesn’t cost much, and you can do almost anywhere. I second the suggestion of trying to find a podcast or whatever. Set a Daily goal of 30 minutes a day walking. Do not worry how many calories you are burning. It doesn’t matter. Most of the weight lose is going to come from eating less.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to lose more than 1 pound a week. I’ve had trouble when I try to lose too much more than that. It sucks - cause it may take you a long time, but most people can lose a pound a week without feeling too deprived.

Is your wife interested in helping achieve your goals?

Don’t exercise. Don’t diet. YOu will not ever keep weight off and get into a healthier frame of mind if you do. There is hope for you, but absolutely nothing is going to change until you want it to, and mean it.
As mentioned above, try audio books and go for a walk when the weather permits. Start with small manageable goals. For example, make a resolution to yourself to not eat past 8 pm Mon-Fri. If you feel the urge to chow down, drink a glass of water instead, slowly. When Saturday rollls around indulge to your heart’s content.
By making small incremental changes you won’t feel the need to “cheat” or feel an abject failure because you snarfed down that deep fried Mars bar on Tues.
I’ve started doing this and have lost close to 15kg (33 lbs) by stopping the boredom eating and drinking more water. I went to nerdfitness for motivation and it really helped me get started on the path to eating better and living a more healthy lifestyle.
Good luck, and let us know things work out.

One big problem for me was that I sometimes snack when I’m bored. It’s like, there’s really nothing on tv, I have nothing to read – oh hey, we have Cheetos! I’ve largely cut that habit. I allow myself one snack in the evening, and eat it slowly.

Another bad habit I had was skipping meals – I wouldn’t feel like eating lunch, and I’d end up gorging later.

Don’t totally give up your favorite stuff – just eat smaller amounts. Or you could simply give up something else that day. Also gum. Chew gum.

I’ve managed to lose almost 20 pounds, since summer. I’m 5’2, and I went from 150 to 132. The only sucky thing is now I have to buy new clothes.

Good luck.

There are parts of the OP I could have written when I was at my heaviest. Eventually, it was probably shame that pushed me into doing something positive about my weight. First I started with the exercise; walking, while listening to favorite music or great audiobooks, and making the trips longer as I built up my endurance. A year or two later I added calorie counting to keep track of how much I ate.


I sympathize, I was in a pretty similar situation a few years ago.

Was always into “intellectual” pursuits, never cared about watching, participating in or following sports. I was a bit overweight in high school, and grew moreso during and after college.

I found exercise incredibly boring and tedious, and despite several on-and-off attempts to start an exercise routine, always gave up after a week or so because it was too boring, too miserable, too tiring. I have a job that is entirely mental, sometimes tedious itself, and fairly stressful, and I just didn’t have the additional mental energy to force myself to exercise, or diet.

I was never tremendously obese - I think I got up to almost 250 pounds and 6’2" at age 23 - but was definitely getting there. All my professional goals and personal interests/hobbies were mental: I wanted to learn to do X, achieve Y, study Z, and I just didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about taking care of myself.

What changed for me this year was the realization that, especially once you get older, mental health is directly related to physical health. Even when you’re young, being in peak physical shape improves your mental abilities, but as you age, the amount of cognitive decline you experience is very highly correlated with your physical fitness (or lack thereof). I’m not talking about when you’re 80 years old or something, but as early as age 35 or 40. I don’t really care about being in great physical shape when I get older, but I definitely care about staying sharp mentally, and I realized you can’t separate the two.

Additionally, I grew tired of seeing people in public who were total morons, assholes and losers but yet were in much better shape than me. This had always bothered me on some level, but I usually justified it by thinking to myself “Well, I’m smarter and more successful than they are.”

At some point, some little part of my brain said “If you’re so fucking smart, why are you so fat? If some knuckle-dragging, meat-head jock can eat right and get in good shape, why can’t you?”

And that became motivation enough for me to start and stick with an exercise and diet program, and keep it up for more than just the 1-2 weeks I had done previously. It was miserable and unpleasant, but I kept at it.

And the funny thing is: once I got over that initial hump, the first 2-3 weeks which were unpleasant and miserable - I started to like it. Today, I look forward to exercising every day, I do everything I can to arrange my schedule around the workouts, and I get pissed off if I have to miss one. Yes, I know that’s what everyone says, and I always thought it was bullshit, or just some kind of weird mental thing that only happened to “fitness people”, but it’s true. And trust me, if it’s true for me, it will be true for you too.

Once you get past the first few weeks when your body is unused to exercise of any kind and constantly complaining, it will get easier, and you’ll like it.

The problem is, at the beginning, you have to be motivated enough to just suck it up and do it. I can’t tell if you’re at that point yet. There is no magic formula, no words of wisdom anyone can provide, no explanation. You just have to want it. If you don’t want it, it won’t happen.

If you’re happy being overweight and unhealthy, then stay that way. If you’re not, do something about it. Simple as that.

Don’t think about other people, or why they exercise. This is an entirely selfish decision. It is about your health, your life. Even if you don’t like it, even if you find it boring, even if you don’t care about being physically fit: exercise and staying in shape is necessary for your mental and cognitive health.

Regarding diet, by the way, the key realization for me was that I was addicted to unhealthy food, mostly sugar and simple carbohydrates, in the same way that drug users get addicted. I had always prided myself on never smoking, never even being interested in trying illegal drugs, and never drinking much - but I realized that the same urges that lead people to get into drugs were what were causing me to overeat and eat unhealthy foods. It’s just that being addicted to sugar and carbohydrates is socially acceptable, and being addicted to heroin is not - but in all other respects, they are very similar. It was that realization that gave me the willpower to seriously change my diet. Whenever I’m in a grocery store or a restaurant and I want to order something unhealthy, I just imagine a junkie shooting up in some back alley somewhere.

I would suggest focusing on your diet first. Exercise is a good idea for general health (you will probably live longer and better if you are active), but it is not a very effective way to lose weight for most people. I do work out regularly, myself, but I think of it as being for the sake of fitness rather than thinness.
One reason why exercise doesn’t work for weight loss is because you have to work out pretty hard to burn, say, 300 calories but it’s a lot easier to just not eat those 300 calories in the first place.
Many people also tend to eat more after exercising (either because the exercise made them hungry or because they feel like they earned a reward by working out).

I also would suggest that you do some research into weight loss surgery. The reality is that most obese people are unable to maintain a weight loss. You can argue all day about why they can’t, or if it is a moral failing they can’t, but the statistics are clear: The vast majority of people who try to lose significant amount of weight by diet or exercise alone end up regaining the weight.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to diet and work out. Some people do find that they can make lifestyle changes to sustain a weight loss. However, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it - that may just be a sign that you are one of the many people out there who would do better with weight loss surgery.

I’m like you in that I think exercise is just ridiculous. Basically, if you think running is clever I think you’re retarded. I can’t really help it, it just seems like a stupid, pointless waste of time that people are proud of. Ridiculous. You could’ve read a book, but you chose to run in a circle?! Like a dog? Well done. Phhsh.

So I need exercise that has a point: the bicycle. It gets me from A to B, it’s more practical to get through traffic, it’s better for the environment, none of the annoyance of the tube, it’s cheaper. Win win win.

Or a dog. Gotta walk the dog. (Only if you want a dog and would walk take it for long walks every day.)

Personally I also like yoga, because it just doesn’t have that “stupid” element, to me. I think it’s the non-competitive side to it that I like. It’s still pointless though, so your mileage may vary.

This is correct. Exercise is great and it has many health benefits but diet will go much further towards losing weight. Make changes in the way you approach food - don’t go on a diet. Learn about how to make good choices and once you start seeing results it will be easier to follow through.

I also think adding exercise helps your mental state and there are clear health benefits, but those aren’t as important when it comes to losing weight.

For those that are saying they don’t understand the point or pride in the exercise goal, you are missing the brain chemistry component of the whole thing. It really genuinely does alter my mood for several hours. I can be feeling kind of meh and then after running a few miles I’m all smiles.