Monday, August 02, 2010

Diet & Exercise

I've been thinking about exercise lately, and whether or not it would help speed up my weight loss. I've tried a lot of things to lose weight over the years: meal replacement shakes (yuck.), diet pills (whoa jitters!), weight loss groups (have I mentioned my social anxiety?), crazy diets (cabbage soup, grapefruit, counting calories, low fat...), joining a gym ($$$)... and nothing has worked. Mainly because I never stuck to anything for more than few months.

Since I've been blogging, I've not lost more than 20 pounds, and that *was* while I was working out at Curves 3x a week. It took many months and was very slow with lots of ups & downs. Most of the downs were in conjunction with me adding a diet modification to the routine. And it was all gained back when I stopped going.

In March, Jacqueline started tracking my food using DietPower, and since then I've lost over 40 pounds. Yes, it's also slow, but my ups are usually daily fluctuations of a pound or less, and my downs have been steady. I feel physically better. I have better balance. Things that used to exhaust me, no longer do. I can walk all over without saying I need a break. I can go up the 4 flights of stairs to Emma's apartment and not need to stop and catch my breath when I get there. I can squat down to get a good picture and stand back up with out using my hands or feeling like I'm going to fall over. I can go up & down the hill at FlatRock without needing to hold someone's hand and without worrying about tumbling down headfirst!

But I still have body issues. My clothes don't fit right anymore; they're all falling off me and are uncomfortable, and I am sad about how I look in them. I have strange lumps and bumps (omg those are my ribs!), and parts of me feel very deflated and wrinkly now. I also have pain and discomfort. I have osteoarthritis in my hands and feet and hips, as well as some back pain (bed?), and strange hernia-like discomfort in my belly sometimes.

Today DietPower sent this in an email:
Is Exercise Enough?
By Terry Dunkle

Like many overweight folks, your DietPower CEO likes to think he can lose pounds by getting more exercise. My favorite neighborhood walk takes 50 minutes. If I do it daily, will that make up for the pork chops?

A few summers ago, while tending a campfire built on my driveway during a power outage, I got to thinking about Soylent Green, a sci-fi movie released during the 1973 oil embargo. Set in 2022, the film depicts a resource-starved world where Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson share a tiny flat powered by a stationary bicycle yoked to a generator.

Could you really power your household with a bicycle? Not a chance. The average American uses 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day -- equivalent to 26,000 calories. That's three times the daily energy expended by Lance Armstrong in a Tour de France.

We're not trying to beat Armstrong, however -- we just want to work off, say, one pound a week. And according to DietPower, 50 minutes of walking every day at my weight and speed burns about 3500 calories a week -- equivalent to one pound of body weight.* This will solve the problem, right?

Wrong. My walking will cause a weight loss only if I eat the same number of calories as before. But walking makes me hungry. Not right away, mind you, but an hour or two later -- which often happens to be dinner time.

Overblown Truths
"Wait a minute," says a little voice on my left shoulder. "Doesn't exercise raise your metabolic rate, so your body burns more calories even when you're not walking? Maybe that will get rid of some pounds."

This argument has been repeated for decades, but according to health writer Sally Squires (among the most reliable I know), it's overblown. "Studies show that after a typical 20- to 30-minute workout, the body burns about 10 to 12 more calories -- the amount in a bite of an apple," she writes.

"OK, but what about the extra muscle you're building?" the little voice says. "Doesn't muscle burn calories faster than the rest of your body?"

Once again: true but trivial. "The average enthusiast who goes into the gym puts on only three to five pounds of muscle mass over 12 to 15 weeks," David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University, told Squires. That amount of muscle burns only 28 to 40 calories per day -- the equivalent of half a slice of bread.

The answer is clear: Walking may lower my blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting pulse. It may also make me feel good. But it won't keep my weight in check if I don't watch my calorie intake. And that's why I'll continue using my DietPower.
And that last paragraph is it really. I've lost all this weight by monitoring every morsel of food that goes in my mouth. Portion control. Did I have days of hunger? Yes, some days were really hard. Did I have days of excess? Yes, did you see that birthday cake? Did I stick with it anyway? Yes.

But what about exercise? I do think I am going to add some strength training exercises. Strengthening my stomach and back muscles will help my hips and that weird belly problem, I believe, and the movement in general will help the other pain. I've got some belly dance DVDs that I've been meaning to practice with, and I'm going to search the intrarwebz for some other exercises, like the donkey kick, etc.

Anyone have any good links?

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