We No Longer Need to Exercise to Control Our Weight???

Has anyone read the article titled in the Oct 1 issue of New York Magazine (unfortunately I don’t have a link to the article) titled “Why Most of Us Believe That Exercise Makes Us Thinner- And Why They Are Wrong” by Gary Taubes (here is more info on Gary Taubes) According to Mr. Taubes, we do not need to exercise in order to lose weight or prevent weight gain. On the contrary, he says, exercise can make you gain weight. So throw out your running shoes and cancel your gym membership. Yipee – more time for city girls to shop and party!

Mr.Taubes cites numerous studies that supposedly prove exercise plays no role in losing or maintaining weight … however something just doesn’t sound right with this theory. He agrees that exercise has health benefits, however it just doesn’t play a role in weight control.

Here is what I agree with re: the article: 
1. Often times, exercise does make us hungrier. I am actually working with several people who will be running the NYC marathon in 11/07 who have gained weight in the past few months while training. Heavy training can really increase your appetite. You would think that with all the calories you have burned while running, you would be able to eat significantly more food. However, many people overcompensate for the increased exercise by eating more than they burn off (they are actually eating more than they think).

2. I personally can attest to this. I normally exercise at least 5 days a week (was training for triathalons 2 years ago). However last year when I couldn’t exercise much at all due to multiple injuries, I lost about 8 pounds. Part of this was due to muscle loss from not exercising. My appetite was also greatly decreased. Now that I am working out again, my appetite is back and I regained the 8 pounds within a few months.

3. Many people feel they are entitled to grab an extra piece of bread or second helping of food because they are exercising. For example, an average woman might burn 100 calories per mile of running. So let’s say she ran 4 miles and burned 400 calories. The energy bar she had prior to exercise and the banana and yogurt she had for a snack after her run totally negates the calories she burned off in her run – but of course she still received the health benefits from running. Keep in mind that exercise can cause you to build muscle and lose body fat. This initially can cause you to gain weight on the scale – or at least experience a slower weight loss. However you should at least see a difference in the way your clothes fit. So if you are exercising on a regular basis and don’t see any changes at all in your body, you will need to scrutinize your diet as you may be consuming more calories than you think. CALL ME for a Nutrition Consultation!

What I don’t agree with
1. While I don’t have “studies” on hand to back up what I am saying, I have 25 years experience working with people trying to lose weight. While many people are able to lose weight without exercise – at least initially – there often comes a time when a plateau occurs. Exercise can help to break this plateau.

2. The majority of people, especially those people with slow metabolisms and/or menopausal women, need to exercise to lose weight, and even more importantly, to maintain the weight loss. Take a look at the study done by the National Control Registry . It has been following over 5000 people who have lost over 50 pounds and kept it off for 5 years or more. Successful long-term weight loss maintainers share common behavioral strategies, including eating a diet low in fat, frequent self-monitoring of body weight and food intake, and high levels of regular physical activity.

3. The majority of lean people you see walking around likely exercise on a regular basis.

4. I have had clients on moderately low calorie diets who were having great difficulty losing weight (especially my clients with PCOS). Once we added in regular exercise, the weight loss increased.

As we all know, exercise has numerous health benefits, including decreasing risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis, lowering blood pressure, providing stress management, etc. From an aesthetic point of view, exercise also makes us look more toned and attractive. What is more appealing – a normal weight “doughy” man or a toned athletic appearing man? Some thin women look great in clothes, but a totally different story in a bathing suit. A women who is a few pounds overweight yet toned from exercise, in my opinion, looks much more attractive than the thin flabby woman.

So bottom line, I know some of you out there are looking for an excuse not to exercise. Do not let the article in the NY Magazine add fuel to the fire!

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