Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin
Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin
A recent poll suggests Americans are woefully ignorant when it comes to the dangers of being overweight and obese.
To be fair, most respondents were aware that all that extra weight can make you a prime candidate for diabetes and heart disease — and rightfully so, as both are top killers of Americans these days. But when it came to other consequences of carrying around too much weight, many of us have a lot to learn...
According to the poll, which was conducted by the Associated Press:
- Just 7% of people knew obesity is associated with an increased cancer risk (refined carbohydrates, the same foods that make you fat, are also the preferred energy source for cancer cells)...
- A mere 15% understood that it can cause arthritis (our joints aren't used to all that extra weight on our frame)...
- Also "low on the list" of known consequences: infertility, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and strokes.
Even with these dangerous consequences in mind, America continues to get fatter and fatter — and it seems as if they're starting to give up:
"About 20 percent of adults report they are on a diet, down from a peak of 31 percent in 1991 according to NPD’s National Eating Trends® food and beverage market research. Women are leading the decline in dieting. In the past ten years, the percentage of women on a diet has dropped by about 10 points. In 1992, 34 percent of women told NPD they were on a diet; and in 2012, 23 percent of women reported being on a diet. “Our data suggests that dieters are giving up on diets more quickly than in the past. In 2004, 66 percent of all dieters said they were on a diet for at least 6 months. In 2012, that number dropped to 62 percent. Perhaps people are not seeing results quickly enough”. — The NPD Group
Time and time again, you hear doctors and nutritionists blame weight gain on a lack of self control. It's considered "common sense" that people put on pounds as a result of lacking the will power to eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet.
Fortunately for your health, this "common sense" is common crap.
Now, I'm not going to to go into all the details of why most fats aren't bad for you. You can read more on that here.
But I will break it down for you: Low-fat, low-calorie diets have been shown to be much less effective than "regular" diets, which contain considerably more fat than what the USDA and many misinformed medical professionals tell us to consume.
Consider that since the 1980s, the government and those same organizations have been preaching about the evils of fat... and Americans have responded: On average we're eating 10 grams less fat than we were in the 1970s, according to a recent research report by the USDA's Economic Research Service...
Yet the rates of obesity continue to skyrocket to record levels.
Could it be that doctors and nutritionists are actually making things worse by telling us to eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet?
Yes. Plain and simple. Because low-fat and low-calorie diets are starving you body.
When you starve your body, not only does it make you more lethargic and less likely to exercise (you simply don't have the energy), but your body responds by getting even hungrier, which is what leads most people to binge and fall off the diet bandwagon. The temptation to eat sugary, high-calorie cookies in the office lounge and stop exercising becomes irresistible because the body will do whatever it can to get the energy it needs to function.
Studies conducted by the National Institute of Health, Tufts University, Harvard, and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have all concluded that weight loss from low-calorie diets is "modest and transient at best" — in other words: "temporary," according to health journalist Gary Taubes.
Want to know something else? Any doctor who tells you that exercise alone will reverse your obesity is full of it.
In 2007 the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine (the world's premier fitness organization) released a joint statement on current research and concluded:
"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. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling."
If the data hasn't been found to support the hypothesis after decades of exercise research (in fact, there is more evidence against it than for it), I doubt it'll ever be found.
That makes sense when you understand that the man who came up with this hypothesis, Jean Mayer, not only has no background in medicine (he's a chemist), but he has never treated an obese or overweight person in his entire scientific career.
The reason exercise won't help you lose weight is the same reason under-eating is ineffective: Your body has natural mechanisms to make sure you get the energy you need to function. When you work out, your body responds by making you hungry (I'm sure you've experienced "working up an appetite" after going on a long walk or doing strenuous yard work)...
If you try to negate this hunger response to exercise — say, by eating less or not at all — your body will respond in kind by depriving you of the energy needed for physical activity (you'll become sluggish and lethargic).
If you don't believe me, take a look at long distance runners. As Taubes notes, many marathon and long distance runners will gain weight over the course of their running careers, and even while training for the races themselves.
But that's definitely not to say you shouldn't exercise...
On the contrary, exercise has been shown to make you happier, healthier, and maybe even extend your life.
However, the evidence time after time again shows that exercise is an ineffective weight loss mechanism.
Calories in/calories out only work in a completely efficient system, of which the human body is not. If that were the case, there would be no need to go to the bathroom, as your body would efficiently utilize every calorie you are, either as energy or as fat storage.
The body is more complicated than "calories in/calories out." This idea (taken from the first law of thermodynamics) can work for chemistry and physics, but it's a poor model for explaining something as biologically complex as human metabolism and obesity.
The basic lesson here is that the quality of the calories you consume are much more important for regulating your metabolism — and therefore, weight loss and weight gain — than the quantity.
Your metabolism determines what will be stored as fat and what will be burned as energy, and that hinges almost entirely on what you eat, what fuel you're putting into your body. Obesity is a form of malnutrition and semi-starvation. Your body is turning the calories you consume into fat instead of directing them to fuel your organs. And since obese people often tend to consume highly-processed, high-sugar, carbohydrate-rich food that is nutritionally weak, this causes their metabolism to store the calories they consume as fat.
That's why if you look at the poorer parts of the country — Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia — they also tend to have the highest obesity rates. Simply put, the cheapest calories out there are processed carbohydrates. And you don't need a lot for them to wreak havoc on your metabolism and make you fat (in fact, depending on your genetics, a mere 20 extra calories a day can make you an obese adult in just a couple decades — even with exercise).
Luckily for us, more and more researchers and doctors are questioning the traditional "wisdom" of what it is that really makes us fat. It will take many more years to undo the damage to American health from ego-driven faulty science conducted by Jean Mayer and Ancel Keys.
The next time you gain weight, even after listening to your doctor tell you to "eat less and exercise more," know that science is on your side — but more importantly, know that there are more effective and healthier options out there...
One of the most effective options I've discovered can be found in Taubes' book Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It.
(I'll tell you up front that I do not get any financial reimbursement from Taubes or his publisher for mentioning his book.)
I think he does a great job of laying out the scientific evidence against America's current (false) understanding of obesity, and his diet plan at the end is pretty much the same as what I recommend to my own clients.
I'm interested to hear your take on being mislead all these years about weight loss, so feel free to email me your comments and questions to Ken.S@angelpub.com.
Yours in health,