Why I Hate Articles That Tell You How to Burn Fat
They use poor assumptions and give the wrong message about exercise
There are so many benefits of exercise that I’m not even going to start listing them here. There are also a multitude of experts (and some not-so-experts) writing articles telling you how to exercise to ‘burn’ fat and lose weight. But I think it’s a potentially dangerous message. Here’s why.
First, I disagree with the underlying assumption that the reason to do exercise is to achieve a better body (whatever that means). It encourages the belief that if our body fat percentage is too high there is something wrong with us (there isn’t) and it turns exercise into a chore: another tiresome thing you need to do to have a perfect life. What’s wrong with just doing exercise because it feels good? We’re so conditioned by the idea that exercise is something we need to do, we stop noticing that it’s something we might want to do, for the sheer joy of it.
And while we’re on this topic, I’m also not a big fan of the word exercise itself. I prefer ‘activities’, ‘sports’ or even ‘games’. That’s right, it’s supposed to be fun. Calling it exercise makes it sound like unwanted homework.
Second is the next underlying assumption, that we all need to burn fat. I’m well aware that we have an obesity epidemic and that being overweight is linked to a multitude of health issues. But obesity is a multi-faceted issue and simply giving people so-called fat-burning exercises is not going to solve it. Moreover, it suggests that being overweight is an individual problem rooted in a lack of self-control rather than a complex societal and environmental issue. In any case, losing weight is a poor long-term motivator to exercise (or be active!) as the changes may be disappointing. Or, if you achieve your target weight, what then? Do you stop? Job done.
As an aside, I’m wary too of anything that links building muscle to achieve an ideal body aesthetic. It plays on our insecurities and can promote unhealthy or even dangerous actions. Maintaining or improving strength is great and useful in many ways but doesn’t need to be linked to achieving a particular body shape.
Third, with so many other benefits to being regularly active (note, I didn’t say ‘exercise’), why are so many articles devoted to the topics of burning fat or getting ripped? Presumably it’s because that’s what people worry about most and therefore these generate the most views. I’m sure the writers genuinely want to share their experiences and what’s worked for them, and to help other people. It’s well-meant and no doubt helpful to some.
However, I think there’s a better way. You will benefit most from exercise (I used that word again) when you do it frequently, consistently, and throughout your life. I simply can’t see burning fat as a powerful enough life-long motivator to staying active. My advice instead is to find an activity you love and look forward to doing, and don’t worry if it’s burning fat or giving you killer abs. Do something for the intrinsic joy of taking part. Surely it’s better to be active and happy than to torture yourself with exercises you don’t like to try to achieve an impossible idealized body size and shape.