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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Times Article

Did anyone read the Times article in the August 17, 2009 edition?

As I left for vacation I dutifully packed my running clothes and shoes. Usually I'll get in 1-2 days of running during a trip and since we were transversing the country by hotel this year, I figured I might get a couple of gym days.

So I thought.

As I was leaving the house my mom shoved the Times magazine mentioned above and told me to read the cover page article.

The article is worth a read if you can get your hands on edition. If you can't and you would still like to read it, contact me and I'll see what I can do.

The basic premise was that exercise is actually not that useful in the battle to lose weight. Although it has other health benefits, when it comes to losing weight, it's based on what you put in your mouth, not what you sweat off in the gym.

How do you feel about that? What's your gut reaction?

I wanted to get up and shout hallelujah. (I didn't as I was currently travelling at 75+mph down a Wyoming highway trying to think how I could possible bring a prong horn home so I could see if it's as tasty as it is cute. Because I'm going on the premise now that the cuter the animal, the more tasty it must be). Finally something I've suspected but never heard said. I've never lost weight through exercise. Not a pound. Not through 3 (4?) marathons. Not when running regularly or running sporadically. In fact, my weight loss/gain seemed totally unrelated to my exercise in general.

I used to think that the weight loss/fitness equation was 50% getting the exercise and 50% eating right. It turns out that this equation looks more like 20% exercise and 80% what goes in my mouth.

In fact, the article says that exercise may make it more difficult to lose weight in two ways. Exercise can stimulates hunger. Also, studies have shown that when you exercise, you tend to compensate by moving less during the rest of the day. I know this is certainly true for me. If I've been running in the mornings, I'm more likely to drive across the business complex I work in rather than walk because I've already "done the right thing".

In summary, the article believes your best bet for health and weight control is to control your eating and do low intensity movement all day. Exercise is still important for the reduction in other health related issues, but isn't necessarily the cure all for obesity.

So how has this changed my overall outlook?

I've always eaten fairly well, but recently, due to Tamera's (see her blog on the right - Night Farm) recent article series have attacked my food choices with renewed vigor. I'm always surprised how absolutely fabulous I feel after cutting out all carbs except those found in whole grains and fruit. Although I don't agree 100% with everything in her articles, I think I've nailed down my "working food philosophy" pretty good. So with that taken care of, moving onto exercise.

I run because I enjoy it. Sometimes I get into the rut of thinking I should run further and faster because I don't "look" like a runner and maybe I will if I just.... (which is completely fallacious thinking because if I don't look like a runner with several marathons under my belt, I probably never will). Invariably within a couple of months I'm not running at all. Lately I've been keeping my runs moderate: 3-4 miles a day. Surprise! I'm still running consistently. What this article confirmed for me was that it is enough that I enjoy running. I don't have to worry about weight gain or loss through running because that isn't the point of running. Those things are solved by what I put into my mouth. I run for my mental health, for balance, and for the way it makes me feel. Nothing more.

So how did this idea relate to "real life"?

The morning after reading the article, I had planned on going to the hotel gym and putting in 30-40 minutes. As I was laying in bed in the morning I contemplated my motivation for going to gym.

Did I enjoy going to gym? No. Was I going because I thought I was going to get fat because of all the peanut brittle I ate in the care yesterday? Yes. Was the gym workout really going to matter? No. If I exercised would I subconsciously be giving myself permission to reward myself with food for the rest of the day? Maybe.

So I didn't get up. I slept in. And ate sensibly. And then, after reaching my destination, I went for a delightful 4 mile run in the sand buttes of Fort Robinson. It was absolutely wonderful.

Moving Forward
So here's my plan in light of this information. Eat as best I can. Run or hike or whatever because I love it. Incorporate as much every day movement as I can. Continue some strength training (pilates and exercise ball) because it's good for me. I love Tamera's motto: eat for leanness, exercise for strength.



  1. I have been lifting weights for almost exactly five months. And I don't mean pink dumbbells - I can squat about 135 and deadlift 220. I eat pretty clean, I lift 3-4 times a week, and I ride about 5 days a week.

    I have gained four pounds in that time.

    I look better - I've definitely lost fat and gained muscle - but mainly I do all of this because I feel so much better when I do. I'm about to go try sprints up the foothills behind our apartment (thanks for inspiring me, Tamara) because I bet I'll feel awesome, and because the dog can run with me.

    Interesting that we compensate by eating crappier after we work out. I'll try to keep that in mind!

  2. Unfortunately for me, I tend to gain ~5 pounds when in marathon training. I'm definately more fit and trim, clothes fit better etc. and the weight comes off after the marathon. I think it's definately a case for me that I'm eating more because I'm more hungry.

    A friend just e-mailed and said he does lose weight when he ran marathons. Maybe he watches his food better than me?

  3. "He" - maybe it's a hormonal thing? Not like women get a free pass cause we're girls, tee-hee, but sex hormones are strange and powerful things. Just a thought.

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  5. It does seem like women/men process weight and weight gain/loss differently. My boyfriend seems to process calories in a completely different way than I do. Haven't seen any studies that specifically spell out any differences or different reccomendations based on gender for weight. It does seem like women need a miniscule amount of calories per day compared to men. Random thoughts here. No real point (obviously).

  6. I kinda feel like it depends on the person.just about everything that looks good goes into my mouth, from chedder popcorn to razberries. I believe that I stay skinny because I move around a lot (I don't stick to one type of excersise nor do I do anything on a regular basis), at home, on rides, at work, pretty much all day long everyday. I come from a family with women who gain weight easily, but I stay pretty skinny.

    I also believe it depends on HOW you eat. I am a grazer, I hate eating large meals, I like to eat small amounts all day long.

    Anyway, I have no real proof that excersise keeps me slim, but I do feel that it plays an importaint part. But then I have never tried to lose weight before.

  7. i heard about the article... and as always methinks we're an experiment of one... i happen to be a type a and love the feeling of riding/running.. i'd go nuts not doing it...

    like JB i'm a grazer too.. never eat or rarely eat large meals... all the above being said... the best diet is .. .push yourself away from the table :)

    happy trails all

  8. I was going to comment...but since I have two Rice Krispies treat wrappers to throw in the trash, I'm gonna just let this one go. *sigh*


  9. thanks for posting this; deff something to think about


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