I’m sorry I drive you to sighs. I don’t recall arguing with you. I try not to argue, I try to just present what I’ve found.
Anyway, here are some citations.
Exercise never leads to as much weight loss as people predict: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3771367/
Why? Because people don’t exercise as much as they think, and the little they do prompts their appetites and they allow themselves to eat more.
People typically overestimate the number of calories they’ve burned through exercise by about 30%, but when they go to their next meal, they’re willing to eat a little more, based on what they believe they’ve burned off. Plus, they’re hungrier because of the exercise.
Meanwhile, here’s a systematic review of studies which compared diet-only and exercise-only to combined diet-and-exercise: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25257365
Key take-aways: “weight loss is similar in the short-term for diet-only and [combined diet-and-exercise]…” In other words, for the first three to six months, as long as you diet, you’ll lose weight, whether or not you exercise. The diet works by itself, and adding exercise does not improve the result… “but in the longer-term weight loss is increased when diet and physical activity are combined…” in the longer term, exercise helps a lot. It helps you keep the weight off that you’ve lost in those first few months, even while continued dieting helps you continue to lose weight.
Perhaps you hadn’t restricted them as much as you thought. It’s very well-established that reducing calories works. In fact, I just read a study looking into the effectiveness of obesity drugs versus diet versus exercise for maintaining weight loss. It was a review of 20 studies… and in all 20 studies, the initial weight loss was successfully done by via diet alone (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3862452/)
But those are controlled studies with strict diets. It’s easy to go on a diet on your own and eat more than you think. We’re all notoriously bad at estimating our intakes! Lisa Young from NYU recently did a great study asking actual dieticians to estimate the calorie breakdown of some common meals, and the results were revealing:
In Ms. Young’s study, most of the dietitians accurately estimated the calorie and fat content of a glass of milk: the average was within five calories of the actual calorie content. But when asked to estimate the fat and calories in a hamburger and onions rings, the average estimate was 863 calories and 44 grams of fat. The actual content was 1,550 calories and 101 grams of fat.
The dietitians estimated that the tuna salad sandwich provided 374 calories and 18 grams of fat, but the sandwich contained 720 calories and 43 grams of fat.
The porterhouse steak dinner in Ms. Young’s study contained 1,860 calories and 125 grams of fat, but the dietitians on average estimated 1,239 calories and 64 grams of fat.
Ms. Young’s lasagna contained 960 calories and 53 grams of fat; the average of estimates by the dietitians was 694 calories and 35 grams of fat. The Caesar salad contained 660 calories and 46 grams of fat. Here again, the dietitians were on the low side: the average of their estimates was 439 calories and 24 grams of fat.
This study is old - from 1997 - but it’s been replicated. And even when dietitians are reminded of the study, their estimates when they look at a meal are very, very varied. Non-dietitians can expect to do worse, not better. This is why most people who diet but fail to lose weight probably didn’t diet nearly as hard as they thought.
Personally, I’ve done well on weight loss just from dieting, but only when I’m actively measuring my food, or doing soylent (where measuring becomes trivially simple). I’ve also had great results when doing a very, very harsh calorie reduction (reducing calories by 50% or more - so much that, even with personal bias and error, I’m still down sharply on total intake.)
My diets are always more effective when I’m not exercising, in part because when I exercise more, I have a greater appetite, which makes it harder to diet. It’s also partly because the exercise tends to push the body towards an anabolic state - and it’s hard to lose fat (a catabolic action) while in an anabolic state. Also, exercise which is more intense than a fairly low threshold tends to push the muscles out of fat-burning and into carb-burning. That’s not bad, per se, but if your goal is to burn body fat, pushing your muscles out of fat-burning mode isn’t the best plan.
Of course, there’s never a point where I’ve stopped going for walks. As you say,
Also, I have dogs, and they demand it! But when people talk about adding exercise for weight loss, they usually don’t mean going for walks. They usually mean something more intense, like taking up rowing. That’s literally what @antimann77 said, he was going to “add rowing to get some weight loss going.”
But I guess I agree with you; walking is a good adjunct to a diet for weight loss. But I think more intensive exercise is best held off for a few months; focusing time and energy on getting the calorie intake under control is a lot more effective in the beginning, and is a valuable skill to develop.
Good luck, everyone! Keep at it!