Twilight zone

Exercise.  I’ve mused about this before and I will likely continue.  I think I will start calling it the exercise and weight loss quandary.  Quandary – a state of perplexity… I am perplexed.  I feel like I am in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I dedicated a lot of time and effort to exercise in an attempt to lose weight.  Five years of personal training 3 – 4 times per week.  My gym even presented me with a medal and certificate for my dedication.  It collects dusts in a drawer, forgotten.  Like many, I joined the gym to lose weight.  I got stronger, absolutely, and fitter.  But weight loss was minimal.

I recently read the book Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes.  And in it he presents the evidence (or lack thereof) for exercise as an effective weight loss tool.  He notes that in 2007 the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recommended thirty minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity five days per week to maintain and promote health.  Sounds like great advice and it may well be.  But that recommendation says nothing about weight loss – it is to maintain and promote health.

In the same guidelines, they go on to say “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures.”  Again, this says nothing about weight loss – it refers to not gaining.  They then go on to conclude “So far, the data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.”  Umm… NOT compelling?

Somehow, these recommendations supported with not compelling data have morphed into the Move More part of the Eat Less/Move More weight loss gospel.  And that gospel has been indoctrinated into society for more than 50 years.  Suggest otherwise and you are politely dismissed.

I absolutely believe exercise is crucial for our long term health and well being.  But I no longer believe exercise is helpful for weight loss.  If we want to live a long and vibrant life, we must exercise.

So, though I stopped exercising for weight loss several years ago, about 5 months ago I started up again.  I now consistently cycle 30 – 40 minutes daily (I get my heart rate to around 140 and keep it there for 30 minutes – I break a sweat for sure!) and at the start of the New Year/New Decade, I added Active Isolated Strengthening – a form of therapeutic muscle strengthening (more on that some other blog) to help me correct some muscle imbalances.  And most annoyingly, I gained weight.  Only 5 pounds but hey, I am a weight loss coach… what’s this about?

Truthfully it is absolutely fine that I gained weight.  My eating patterns have not changed – the only difference has been the addition of exercise.  And as I just said, exercise is crucial for our long term health and well being.    And our long term health and well being is so much more important than some number dictated by a cheap bathroom scale!

What’s the quandary?  People look at me like I have square eyes when I tell them the Eat Less/Move More weight loss gospel is wrong.  People look at me with disbelief when I tell them exercise does not work for weight loss.  People think I am crazy when I suggest they should increase the amount of fat they eat.  People smile politely when I tell them I routinely fast 16 -18 hours daily.

Of course, they do.  The experts have been telling us for 50 years to eat less and move more.  For 50 years the experts have been telling us to limit the amount of fat in our diet.  For 50 years the experts have been telling us to eat 5 – 6 (or more) small meals and snacks throughout the day. For 50 years we listened to the experts.  And for 50 years we have been getting fatter and fatter.

Maybe the experts got it wrong.  Maybe it’s time to question the advice we have been following.

Twilight zone…

Something worth questioning/pondering.

Have a wonderful week!
Dr Karen