Flippant, I was, when I was younger, when I said the way to reduce your weight is to simply eat less. In a way I was right, but in my naivety I did not know the complexity of the problem. Age has a way of providing more wisdom to the problem. It turns out that I am not alone, as the percentage of obese people in the Western world is now alarming and rising. This is a big problem that needs to be solved.
As you reduce your caloric input, your body’s metabolism slows down, and fights your weight loss. As you exercise you build up a stronger need to eat, and might negate the measly calorie deficit you just burned off. As anyone over 40 knows, the body likes homeostasis and refuses to change. Once you put on excess fat the body fights to retain it, as if it is fighting for its/your life. Though this is your body, there is a built-in mechanism to self-protect. Thankfully there is new research that might shed more light on the problem, if it cannot solve it.
As a side note, note that excess fat is really bad for you. Not only can it cause blockages of arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes, besides energy fat stores all sorts of hormones and toxins which you really don’t need. Fat does not discriminate. We are all best without excesses of this indiscriminate storage mechanism.
This article is one of many that has delved deeply into the difficulty and futility of dieting. Though specifically dealing with exercise and its effects on losing weight (not very much), there are many other golden nuggets of knowledge.
To be sure, you cannot exercise enough in the day to significantly burn off calories and lose weight. An hour of cardio can be negated with a single slice of pizza. Nearly 60-80% of your daily caloric burning is metabolism, and only 20% can be from exercise. We also can’t regulate our metabolism, as this is not under our control. In fact, there may be an upper limit to caloric expenditure through exercise, called “the constrained model”, after which the body eases up and preserves calories. In other words, the more you do does not necessarily correlate to the more calories you burn. The body is a lot smarter than that. There’s a law of diminishing returns at work.
This is all interesting and points out what we don’t know. But what do we know from long-term weight loss successes includes:
- weekly weighting on a scale
- restrict caloric intake
- restrict high fat foods
- pay attention to portion size
- daily exercise
Exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, but not help you reduce your weight.
If it was so easy, most of us would not have a weight problem. Understanding the mechanisms at work will go far in finding a solution. We move forward.
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