I just dont have time to run or go to the gym the way Id like to. Im in a demanding semester at grad school and I barely have time to breathe. If I take a semester off from the gym and just try to walk as much as I can as a part of my day, will I get fat? I am afraid to stop working out four times a week
I could hear the fear and frustration in my clients voice. I assured her she could exercise less and not gain weight. In fact, I generally separate exercise from weight management, particularly with women. Exercise has little impact on a womans weight. Exercise, in fact, often increases a womans appetite so she wants to eat more after a workout.
If you are fearful of taking time off from exercise, whether for grad school, injuries, or other reasons that limit your time to exercise, fear not. You may lose fitness, but you need not gain fatness. The trick is to eat mindfully, according to hunger -- not according to boredom. The mindless eating that accompanies boredom and loneliness contributes to fat gain.
If you listen to your body and eat when you are hungry, then stop when you are content, you can maintain weight, even without exercise. (Just look at the number of people in a hospital who lose weight even without exercise; they create a calorie deficit that is essential to lose undesired body fat.) I told my client to eat when she was hungry, stop when she was content, and trust that her body could regulate the proper intake without micro-management of diet and exercise. She just needed to trust this process. Easier said than done!