Feeling the burn…or not (Part 2)

You may have seen the statistic from the National Weight Control Registry that, on average, people who lose weight and keep it off exercise 60 to 90 minutes a day. While I was recovering from surgery, I was at about 30 minutes a day (45 minutes on some days). Pre-surgery, I was at about 2 hours a day, about half moderate-to-vigorous, the rest slower-paced.

In the hospital, I had little appetite. Back at home, I had a huge appetite for several days, then it tapered off to less than what it was pre-surgery. I suspect my body was screaming for nutrition initially as it began to regenerate the blood it lost during surgery. Then, I think it realized it was expending less energy through movement, so it didn’t need as much energy coming in.

This is the way our bodies are designed to work, only most of us:

  • Have become out-of-touch with true hunger signals
  • Don’t have a firm grasp of reasonable portion sizes, so we take too much food, then eat it simply because it’s in front of us
  • Eat for many, many reasons that have nothing to do with nourishing the body (emotions, socializing, boredom, cravings, etc.)

When I noticed this decrease in appetite, I honored it. Over the last month, there have been many nights where, after eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon snack (each when I was truly hungry…not merely because it was “lunchtime”), I was not hungry for a full meal at dinner. So I ate a light, healthy snack. Nutrition in, hunger abated, and no “blech” feeling from eating too much. And, as I mentioned yesterday, no weight gain. If that’s not a win-win, then I don’t know what is.

Weight loss gurus will argue about whether calorie restriction, increased exercise, or a combination of both is the key to weight loss. Research on the subject has shown success with each of these methods. I think that’s great, because it means that you, as someone who at the very least probably doesn’t want to gain weight, has options. Here’s my two cents:

  • I don’t endorse no exercise, as the body is meant to move. Even if you have always been skinny as a rail, you need to exercise to be truly optimally healthy.
  • I caution about overestimating how many calories exercise burns, as one pastry can wipe out in a few minutes what it took you an hour (or more) to burn off.
  • I believe from both personal experience and perusal of various research papers that exercise alone is not enough for weight loss or weight maintenance, but it makes both of these things easier.

As I gingerly ease back into something approximating my former exercise routine, I will hit the 90 minute mark each day, slightly more on the weekends. I start my morning with 30-60 minutes of yoga, or yoga and dance. Three days a week, I do a full-body weight workout (Turbulence Training), including 15-20 minutes of stationary bike interval training. On the other days, I go for a 4-mile power walk. This routine makes me feel good, provides variety, and the dance portion gives me a creative outlet. And I do some of my best thinking when I’m walking.

So even though I’ve learned that I don’t need to exercise this much in order to maintain my weight, I’m choosing to exercise this much because I like it. And I am ever mindful of the fact that I sit a lot. When I’m working, when I’m studying…but NOT when I’m watching TV, because I don’t watch TV. I would rather spend that time exercising so that I look good, feel good and live a longer, healthier life. And counteract some of that sitting. Beside, TV rots your brain, and there’s nothing good on, anway.

Up next: When being a transformer is just no fun