We all hear it. Losing weight is as simple as eating less and moving more. However, obesity rates continue to skyrocket and people are exercising themselves insane, thinking they are doing everything right with no results. More heath obsessed than ever, we are a nation paradoxically burdened with the highest levels of chronic disease. What gives?
We’ve created an abusive relationship with exercise, like a punishment used to torture the extra calories out of people who lacked the self-control or willpower to say no to that second cupcake. Not only is this a terrible way to connect to movement, but is far from the truth; forcing yourself on a 5 mile run to “burn off” those extra cookies is insane, and not at all intuitive. It doesn’t make sense to say that a piece of bread is the same as walking for 30 minutes, just because of the number of calories (defined as the amount of heat needed to raise 1 gram of water 1˚C ) are equivalent. Besides, we are meant to move, and move with pleasure. Just ask the children galloping around the playground, laughing and chasing each other, climbing trees and running up slides: our bodies were made to move.
Although your 40 minute treadmill run inevitably burns some extra calories, it is such a small factor in overall weight loss. You could technically eat back those calories, and more, with one muffin. The stress that exercise creates within your system has been shown to tell your body to hold on to any excess weight. Intense, excessive exercise can negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and lead to hypothyroidism, which is known to cause depression, weight gain, and digestive dysfunction. If it thinks that you are running from a saber tooth tiger every morning, why would it wait to let go of your protective fat? Besides, calories are hardly the most important factor in weight balance. The “calories in, calories out” mantra is oversimplified and outdated. It is now clear that hormones are far more important in the storage and distribution of fat. All growth is primarily hormonal, even horizontal growth.
However, this is not to say that you should not take up a sport, join a gym, or neglect your body, thinking that your hormones are completely out of your control. Exercise is important in many aspects, and can greatly improve all aspects of your health. However, instead of feeling like you need to guilt yourself into doing those 30 squats, find an activity that you love and find joy in. Lose the mindset that crossfit is better than weight lifting, that sprinting is better than jogging, that soccer is better than Frisbee, that one is better than the other. All types of movement will benefit your sanity, as long as you stay away from the highly toxic mindset that you MUST run every morning to keep off the excess fat. Take your recovery days, switch it up, and remember that it is not necessary to push your body to its absolute limits every single day. Less is more, and attitude is everything. Exercise smarter, not longer.