People are always surprised when I tell them I lost 50 lbs. without exercising. Turns out, as a woman, I probably had the best strategy.
Controlling my diet took all of my effort and resolve. Adding on any type of exercise, which I despised, was too much for me. I’d been to Weight Watchers twice – after college and after my first son’s birth. Now I had to lose the weight from my second pregnancy. Truth is, after giving birth and breastfeeding for a year, I’d gained another ten pounds When I tried to lose it on my own, I gained even more.
After discovering I was officially obese, I dragged myself to Weight Watchers. I sat at meetings for weeks without making any changes in my life. Eventually I beat back the internal conflict and convinced myself to do one thing. Just one diet change. After a while the small steps worked, but it took three years to lose all the weight.
While struggling to control my diet, I never attempted any physical activity. During the weight loss years, I would walk a bit. I tried the 10,000 steps per day with a pedometer but didn’t have the time. Since I had loved prenatal yoga, I would practice yoga with videos at least three times per week to obtain a state of well-being and good mental health. The walking and yoga weren’t really exercise and these activities were never intended for weight loss.
In Gretchen Reynolds recent article, Weighing the Evidence on Exercise, she backs up my method of avoiding strenuous workouts during weight loss. Up until now, scientists weren’t really sure how exercise affects metabolism and appetite but studies are starting to put the pieces together:
Barry Braun, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in the American College of Sports Medicine’s February newsletter: The deficit in calories can result from cutting back your food intake or from increasing your energy output — the amount of exercise you complete — or both.
“The body aims for homeostasis,” Braun says. It likes to remain at whatever weight it’s used to. So even small changes in energy balance can produce rapid changes in certain hormones associated with appetite, particularly acylated ghrelin, which is known to increase the desire for food, as well as insulin and leptin, hormones that affect how the body burns fuel.
So when we change our diet for weight loss, our body signals eating more. We have to fight the urge to eat. It’s worse for women.
Female bodies, inspired almost certainly “by a biological need to maintain energy stores for reproduction,” Braun says, fight hard to hold on to every ounce of fat. Exercise for many women (and for some men) increases the desire to eat.
People end up consuming more calories when they exercise. You shouldn’t set yourself up to have to fight off an even stronger desire to eat. Take it from my experience, it’s better to change your eating habits permanently without burning the calories with exercise.
Tomorrow: Weight And Exercising: Part II – Exercise Is Mandatory To Keep Off The Weight