Sustaining Weight Loss (Part 2)

In my last blog, I gave some information on how to lose weight in a sustainable way. I chose to talk about nutrition choices first because that is by far the most important part of weight loss. However, there is a second component to a healthy lifestyle: exercise.

*Quick Note - anything underlined in this article will link to my source for the statement(s) closest to it. It opens in a new tab or window (depending on your settings) so you don't lose your place here. On the internet, anything can be fake, so do your own research, but I don't think I've said anything controversial here.

Why Exercise Helps

The reason diet is the most important part of weight loss is simple. An orange contains (roughly) enough energy (calories) for a man to walk a mile. One orange. Let that sink in. Luckily, you burn calories simply by existing because your brain and other organs need energy to do their daily functions. How many calories you burn this way depends on your gender (sorry girls, you burn fewer all else being equal), your age, your current weight, and a few other things. But, if you exercise regularly, even though it's a small component, you will help yourself stay in caloric deficit until you find the weight you are satisfied with.

Importantly, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins do wonderful things. Have you ever been angry and punched a punching bag until the punching bag hurt? While this behavior probably is not the healthiest thing given its link to heart attacks, I bet you felt better afterward. Regular exercise lowers your blood pressure, it relieves stress (which can also lower your blood pressure), and those endorphins can help relieve depression. This works in part by reducing stress hormones in your body (like cortisol). Other than make you feel like a stallion (or filly), guess what that does? It can help you lose weight. This is because cortisol, while being an important fight or flight hormone, has been linked to obesity. When you are constantly under stress or duress, your body is releasing it excessively.

Exercise also helps tone muscles. Whether it's the slow twitch muscles of a cardio workout or the fast twitch muscles of a HIIT or plyometric session, your muscles will consume oxygen and help you burn more calories throughout the day. As a side note, a good rule of thumb is simply 5 calories burned per liter of oxygen consumed. Since oxygen is a primary fuel source for your body, the more you work, the more you burn. Another side note, teh calorie read on your treadmill (or bike or whatever other machine) is probably overestimating your caloric burn (sorry). The biggest eye popper of that linked article is the worst offender of those studied was off by ... you ready? ... 93 PERCENT!!! Imagine trying to lose weight and eating 93% too many calories. Epic fail.

Which Exercise Should You Do?

So, what types of exercise should you do? Goodness knows, enough money been made off people by claiming "THIS EXERCISE IS THE GREATEST EVER AND THE ONLY ONE YOU SHOULD EVER DO!" I refuse to do that to you. Here is my opinion. Try different things until you find a few that fit your lifestyle and personality and are sufficiently different enough to give you good cross training of your musculoskeletal system.

What do I mean by this? Two things.

1) Whatever exercise you will do consistently - that's the best one for you. Period. If it's taking a daily walk with your family or by yourself, if it's running in the park, doing pushups in your living room, doing P90X in your basement - whatever it is that gets you motivated to move, do it. Also note that this may change over time. What once motivated you may not in a few years. Find something else!

2) The caveat is, make sure you are mixing it up enough that you aren't going to give yourself an overuse injury or an oddly shaped body (no judgement - maybe that's what you're after - just a warning). Have you seen the guy in the gym with chicken legs and biceps the size of your torso? Or take a look at most long distant runners - incredible runners but they may or may not be able to lift your suitcase into the overhead bin on an airplane. Of course, some make their living running so why would they add weight to their arms? But I'm guessing you don't get hundreds of thousands of dollars to exclusively workout one part of your body so mix it up and work every system in your body.

A concrete example of what I'm talking about:

Run through the park on Monday. Make a conscientious effort to take the stairs everywhere Tuesday. Walk with your family after work on Wednesday. A tough Aerial Yoga Session on Thursday. Pushups, planks, and other core work on Friday. An easy yoga and meditation session Saturday. Relax and rest on Sunday.

Final Word

That doesn't have to be your schedule, and that's the point. There are infinitely many ways to do it. Just get up, get moving, and enjoy the journey! If you need help getting started, call or email me and we'll figure it out together.

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