Oct 13, 2021
THE SKINNY ON EXERCISE FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Hello ladies. I would like to start out by saying that this article is in no way intended to discourage you from exercising. As members of BGR, we are all seeking to be our healthiest selves, and exercise is a big part of that effort. However, those who depend on it as their main weight loss tool might want to re-think that strategy. Make no mistake about it, regular exercise offers many benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:
- Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management if many diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, some types of cancer and joint problems. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week goes a long way toward keeping us healthy.
- Exercise lifts mood. Ever heard of runner’s high? Believe me, it is real! I like to think of it as a natural antidepressant.
- Exercise improves your energy level, promotes better sleep and improves your overall sense of well being.
- Exercise can be a great tool to help prevent regaining weight after weight loss.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that exercise ALONE is not a very good weight loss tool. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come in requesting to have their thyroid function tested because they have been diligently exercising and running but unable to see the numbers on the scale go down. I have even had this happen to fitness instructors! In a recent year in which I trained for and competed 14 half marathons, I managed to gain almost 15 lbs! I used to jokingly say that I ran so that I could eat! The truth of the matter is that you cannot outrun your fork with exercise alone.
Here is the skinny on exercising for weight loss.
Let’s say you burn 700 calories in a 1 hour spin class. Later that day you go out with your girls to a birthday celebration. Surely it should be ok to have a margarita or two after that hard workout, right? Actually those two drinks alone will replace those calories before you even order dinner. It will be as if you never worked out at all. Another factor is that such high sugar drinks only make you crave more sweets and the loss of inhibition from the alcohol makes you more likely to eat even more!
Exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of our energy expenditure in a given day. If the workout has been particularly strenuous, it is likely to cause us to decrease our activity for the rest of the day because we are so tired. The other factor that makes strenuous exercise ineffective for weight loss is that it makes us hungrier!!! Extreme exercise like marathon running also acts as a stressor on your body, increasing cortisol levels which stimulates the appetite. Lastly, the body tends to adapt to our level of activity over time. Ironically, the fitter you become the less energy is expended to do the same level of exercise. Your body is fighting against you to sabotage your efforts if exercise is you all that you are doing to try to get to a healthy weight.
The best way to fight back is with a dietary approach which avoids or eliminates the sugar, simple starches processed foods and the junk food that got us overweight in the first place. Given those broad guidelines, the way of eating that you choose is less important than your willingness to stick with it permanently. So start your weight loss journey with a way of eating that you can stick with for the rest of your life.
It is well documented that only about 10% of people who have lost weight have kept it off for at least 2 years. Those individuals have been studied to find out how they did it. Most of them lost weight by initially restricting their caloric intake in some fashion and exercising moderately. The secret to their success is that they continued to do BOTH over the long run. We have to keep in mind that as we get smaller, our Basic Metabolic Rate (the calories we burn at rest) decreases by at least 100 calories for every 10 pounds we lose. That means that if you lost down from 200 lbs to 150, you cannot go back to eating the types and amounts of food it took to keep you at 200! This is key to weight regain. This is where continuing to exercise once we have lost weight becomes important. Moderate daily exercise helps to keep the metabolism from slowing down while you adjust to living in your smaller body. If you go back to eating the way you used to eat, you will eventually look the way you used to look. Most experts agree that you must think of healthy eating as a lifestyle and not a temporary fix or diet.
Successful lifetime weight management is not one size fits all. Those who are successful at keeping weight off long term have found a way to manage their eating in a way that allows them to enjoy healthy foods over the highly processed, high carbohydrate, unhealthy fats and salty foods that made them overweight in the first place. They also continue to exercise at least moderately most days of the week. They also reverse small gains quickly by going back to their healthy eating pattern if they gain a few pounds. It is those who are willing to adopt this as a forever lifestyle who ultimately win in the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
Yvonne Moore, MD
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 NLT
By Yvonne Moore, MD, MA, FACOG/Instagram: ymoore4health
This native Memphian is a board-certified OB/GYN who has been in private practice in Memphis since 1984. Dr. Moore is passionate about the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of her patients and her community. She enjoys writing and is the author of her own blog about healthy living that you can read at: Ymoore4health.com. She also acts as a health coach to the Dreamgirls Healthier You Support group. She joined Black Girls Run in 2013 and is a member of the Sassy Seniors group. As a member of Black Girls Rock the 50 States, she recently completed her quest to complete a Half Marathon in every state with the Portland Half Marathon on October 3rd. She is an avid sports fan and is an enthusiastic interval runner. She is a perennial St. Jude Hero, raising funds for St. Jude Children’s research hospital.