Ask Rocco

If you’re fat … stop exercising!

By Rocco Castellano

[Editor’s note: This the first installment of The Dayton City Paper’s NEW Health, Wellness & Fitness column, Ask Rocco, by Rocco Castellano. Castellano is a fitness personality who has been featured in print and on television, including episodes of MTV’s Made.]

So, this is the column I’m going to lead with. I’ve been a fitness professional for over 35 years and have subscribed to what most in the fitness industry call the “Diet and Exercise” solution. For years, I called fat people stupid and lazy. For the most part, I truly believed all you needed to do was “train hard” and you would burn fat. If you ate less crap, you would lose weight and, obviously, become less fat.

I can’t wait to see my email inbox after this column is published because every personal trainer, bootcamp owner and CrossFit instructor is going to slam me with hate mail. So I want to thank you in advance for that. It sucks to have to admit this, but I was wrong and I couldn’t have calculated just how wrong I was. I became clued in about 10 years ago when I was having trouble losing weight. I had changed my whole life from being a very successful personal trainer, training clients 12-15 hours a day performing a modality called “Manual Resistance” training (basically I was the machine – very few trainers today do it because it’s too exhausting a practice and most fitness trainers are lazy), to sitting on my ass in front of a computer or on the telephone for those same 12-15 hours a day. It was a total physical life change.

So, going from non-stop moving for 12-15 hours a day to sitting on my ass for 12-15 hours a day, coaching personal trainers and developing Internet fitness products, I got fat. Thirty-five pounds fat, to be exact. I was one of the top fitness personalities in the world, I knew what to do: go to the gym and get back to working out. I had become the sloth-like person I made fun of all those years. So off to the gym I went, beating every muscle into submission.

I happen to be blessed with great genetics when it comes to muscle building, but for some reason, my abs just were not coming back like they had before. At 40 years old, I knew I wasn’t over the hill just yet – actually, not by a long shot. So what gives? The harder I trained, the fatter I got – or so it looked and I felt.

So back to the books I went to do research. The problem was all the same B.S. that was taught to me was still being spewed as gospel, so I dug a little deeper and talked to some really smart people about hormones, diet, exercise and the effects these have on real fat loss. I was shocked at the ultimate result. A little over 30 pounds lost in 30 days. So what changed? Everything!

In a word: STRESS. The understanding of stress and how it affects our bodies is the main component in losing fat. It’s not about beating the snot out of yourself in the weight room, running like some gerbil on a treadmill or eating rabbit or caveman food. If you are fat, exercising could be the worst thing you could be doing. It’s amazing what we don’t know about how the lives we lead affect our bodies.

The reason “exercise” seems to work is because we have been inundated with the concept that if we exercise, we will burn fat. This may be true, but it comes at a cost. When we stress our bodies physically, we create what is called an “adrenaline state.” This seems to be a good thing, but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – literally. In an adrenaline state, we have a fight or flight response. Adrenaline is supposed to burn fat to get us out of whatever jam we may be in at the time – a quick explosion and then back to normal. The problem is, we live in a constant adrenaline state. So the brain, in its awesome desire for self-preservation, stores as much fat as it possibly can because it will need it. Now I can hear the idiots out there saying, “But if we lived in a constant adrenaline state, then we would be constantly burning fat. Ain’t that good?” Well, my little sheep being led to slaughter, no … it isn’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

Your brain tells your body to store more fat for emergencies. The brain consistently sends signals to the body (the whole body) to make sure it’s safe and we don’t die. That’s all the brain cares about, even if we, in the body that the brain controls, don’t. Most of the time, when someone is stressed beyond their threshold and then adds exercise (more stress) onto an already adrenaline-soaked body, the body begins to break down while adding fat to its storage system. Here’s where it gets tricky – stop exercising.

The first thing we want to do after we stop exercising is get eight hours of sleep. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s likely if you are in a constant adrenaline state, you are not getting enough sleep or your sleep patterns are disrupted – and your body is not able to repair itself.

Once your body knows it will be able to become less stressed and you get some sleep, the fat will not be stored any more and you will literally wake up on some days a pound, sometimes two, lighter.

If you want more information about how stress makes us fat, visit

Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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Rocco Castellano
Rocco Castellano is the author of “askROCCO Uncensored v1,” a speaker and a controversial fitness personality who has won an Emmy for his fitness training role in MTV’s Made. For more information, please visit

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