I am in a super mood this morning! I’m sitting at the local coffeehouse, sipping excellent coffee, observing the snow falling outside the window, and downloading some new workout tunes. Despite having a shorter workout this morning (35 minutes vs 55), it was a good one. An intense one. I started out with the elliptical for 25 minutes and then I finished up on the treadmill. I feel like I’m in cruise mode with my workouts–I hate to miss one, I’m up to 50-55 minutes, being more consistent with the strength training. I’m feeling more energetic, tighter, and all-around better. I used to get up feeling tired, no matter how much sleep I got. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Now that I’ve got these workouts in the bag (haha), I just have to stick in for the long haul, and eventually, I’ll get where I need to be, right?
There’s more to this equation than just exercise. A friend of mine once told me that exercising wasn’t what I struggled with, it was food. I thought she was a little nuts; after all, it wasn’t as if exercise was ever easy for me–as long as she’s known me I’ve been much bigger than the average person, and even though there were periods when I was working out consistently, making the decision to move my butt every day was a struggle at times. Some days, it still is!
A while ago, Time Magazine came out with an article that I found to be absolutely ridiculous. It was titled, “Why exercise won’t make you thin.” “Psh!” I said to myself. “These people don’t know what they’re talking about!” The basic assertion was this: They did a study of 4 groups of women who were told to exercise a certain amount of time per week with a personal trainer (72 min, 136 min, 194 min), and the fourth group was to do nothing. They were not to make any dietary changes during this time (six months). When all was said and done,
” On average, the women in all the groups, even the control group, lost weight, but the women who exercised — sweating it out with a trainer several days a week for six months — did not lose significantly more weight than the control subjects did. (The control-group women may have lost weight because they were filling out those regular health forms, which may have prompted them to consume fewer doughnuts.) Some of the women in each of the four groups actually gained weight, some more than 10 lb. each”
Now before you toss your exercise shoes in the trash, let me say this: There are a lot, and I mean a lot of things that this author didn’t address when writing this article. We’re not told what kind of activity these women were doing. We’re not given any beginning or ending body measurements. Any improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar levels or cholesterol were not discussed. We have no idea what their body fat percentage was before starting this study; It’s quite possible that the women who were working their butts off had gained muscle mass and so the scale didn’t show any “significant” loss. The number on the scale is NOT the only determining factor of fitness. Let me just say that one more time: The number on the scale is NOT the only determining factor of fitness (or health)! I’ve known people that have lost significant amounts of weight without exercising; in fact, there were weeks when I didn’t work out as often, and I’ve had a bigger loss on the scale. However, if you lose weight quickly without strength training or exercise (especially strength training!), you are also losing some muscle mass along with the fat. You may end up smaller, but not necessarily in better shape.
What the author states that I think is valid is this: Often times, when we are working out, we give ourselves carte blanche on what we eat. We’ve worked hard, so perhaps we feel entitled to splurge a little and treat ourselves. We can easily undo the calorie burn from a 50 minute workout with some sort of mocha-latte-double-whip-something-or-other. While I don’t fall into the entitlement eating trap often, I’ve certainly reasoned that way in my head once or twice.
I’ve followed the Weight watchers plan here and there over the past ten years. Although it’s been tweaked a few times since I was first introduced to it (most recently about two weeks ago), it has been a solid plan that stresses portion control and making wise choices. Nothing has ever been off limits, but you learn pretty quickly that some food items take up your daily points allowance and leave you feeling pretty hungry, while others “cost” fewer points and leave you feeling more satisfied. While I am not opposed to the occasional brownie or biscotti, I do understand that some things are simply better suited to fuel my body than others. For those of us who have had an emotional relationship with food, it takes some effort to think of it as fuel and not a friend. After all, how many of us have turned to food for reasons other than hunger? (This is the struggle to which my friend was referring, certainly. That’s a whole other post.)
I’ve gotten away from watching what I’m eating. I don’t think, “Oh, I’ve exercised, I’m gonna go wild!” but I haven’t been paying close attention to what I’m eating like I have in times past when I was meticulous about measuring food and writing things down. I’m not aiming for perfection in eating; I just need to make some better choices and keep track of things. I think that will really help me to make more progress. Lately my goal has been to eat more veggies and watch the portion sizes of everything else. Not to eat only what is quick, but to really choose what would be best for my body. I titled this post “balance”, but as I think about it, I suppose it should have been named differently. Honestly, as much as I wish it weren’t so, what goes into my body is incredibly important, for so many reasons. For me to be successful in this endeavor, I need to pay more attention to that aspect of the weight loss equation.
(link to the Time magazine article: http://tiny.cc/tuc2y )