The Fitness Industry is Doing You Wrong
I was overweight for a good period of my life, from early childhood to my early teens. My Body Mass Index had an all-time high of just under 29 (the normal being 25). Luckily for me, puberty came and along with it the hormones to make me incredibly self-conscious. And because of that, one day I decided that I didn't want to be called the fat kid in class and in the family anymore. I lost 25 pounds in just over a month and how I did that was a combination of exercise and calorie restriction. I jogged for 30 minutes daily and I was accustomed to having brunch at 9 am.
But what I really thought was key in making me lose that weight and pull down my BMI from 29 to 21 at that time was my daily exercise. After my rounds at the park I would play basketball with the local kids for an hour. Everyday I had the motivation to keep increasing my amount of exercise and make it even more intense. Instead of jogging my usual ten rounds I upped it to fifteen. And then one time I tried 25 rounds! Twenty five rounds was way too much - my nipples were getting sore from all the movement. And all this physical activity made me feel so fulfilled, happy and surprisingly more sharp with my mind. I thanked my physical activity for the person I was looking at the mirror, a person I could hardly recognize anymore - a person whom I never thought ever existed.
But little did I know that it wasn't actually exercise that was making me lose that much weight in that short span of time. It was actually calorie restriction. It was my diet. And I have only been convinced by this after reading an amazing article that will really set new revelations free in your mind and will make you think deeply about the entire Fitness and Health Industry. Check out this awesome article about how minuscule exercise contributes to weight loss compared to calorie restriction:
- Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies - Vox
Physical activity may have less to do with weight loss than we think.
After reading the article, you'll find that in most cases, exercise does so little in making someone lose weight. There's no denying that exercise can do so much for your body - its benefits are endless, from sharpened cognitive function, to lowered risk of developing Alzheimer's and lowered blood pressure. But the entire Fitness and Health Industry is doing you wrong by making it look like exercise is the absolute key to making you slimmer. Even some government funded studies claim that the reason for the prevalent obesity in the population is the lack of exercise and the sedentary lifestyle of being at a desk.
What really lit a fire in me and got me believe the whole idea was the study conducted to a hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania called the Hadza, done by researchers from Hunter College in New York. Obviously, these hunter-gatherer tribes have a greater amount of physical activity than Westerners who sit for eight hours on a desk for five days a week. But was their calorie burning significantly higher than Westerners? Nope. Their energy consumption was more or less the same, and the explanation for this is that their basal metabolic rate, which accounts for more than half of the body's energy consumption on any given day could have been lower than Westerners. Basal metabolic rate refers to the energy consumption rate for normal body functioning. Their periods of rest could have been more relaxed and their movements minimized.
That finding alone made me think that gym memberships could just be a waste of money and a waste of time, because gym memberships are very common among office workers. Because of the amount of time they spend glued to their desks, they think they must compensate with regular hours a week on a treadmill. And these office workers are fond of eating pleasure food like pizza, ice cream and steak. But because of all the media advertising on fitness and all these commercials about new ways to exercise accompanied with cutting edge exercise equipment and playthings, they make you think it's TOTALLY OKAY TO EAT ANYTHING YOU WANT AS LONG AS YOU EXERCISE.
Another portion of the article I cited above was about a legitimate study done with a large enough sample size. It compared four groups of people - 1) the control group, 2) low calorie intake group, 3) exercise with calorie restriction group and 4) very low calorie intake group. Guess which group lost the LEAST weight? Of course, the control group did. But who lost the most weight? It was the very low calorie intake group.
Those who exercised while having a calorie restriction lost a little less (but more or less the same) amount of weight with the low-calorie group. This could be explained by saying that the exercise + diet group was affected by compensation mechanisms and a lowered basal metabolic rate. This further convinced me that the whole Fitness Industry is lying to us in a big way.
On most ads you'll see a new exercise machine being endorsed, or an energy drink with L-Carnitine that helps burn fat when coupled with exercise. The highlight for fitness has always been DO MORE EXERCISE. And so many running shoes, stationary bikes, treadmills, jogging pants, sports bras, headbands, jerseys, and all other sorts of gym equipment have been sold this way.
The Bad Thing About Exercising to Lose Weight
Here's what I didn't tell you about my weight loss miracle back when I was a teen. That one hour from 8 to 9 when I got back home to recover - they were the longest and most stressful hour of my day. Exercise has been proven to make you hungrier, and the stress to restrict yourself from eating anything can be incredibly unbearable especially after an intense workout. I tried so hard to make breakfast and lunch united as one meal so as to decrease my calorie intake, but doing so after my regular exercise was so stressful.
Regular exercise did help in making me a slimmer person, but it was actually my calorie restriction that gave me the wonderful readings I got with my scale. We all have that tendency to compensate with food after a long and intense exercise session, and we are doing ourselves wrong by eating after exercise. Just sitting for ten to fifteen minutes eating a ham sandwich can offset an entire hour of jogging. If you knew what the real numbers were, you'd realize that added exercise forms a very small part of our energy consumption. More than half of our energy goes to basic bodily functions. Exercise simply cannot offset the indulgent food we choose to eat. The commercials are wrong.
Maybe Fitness and Health commercials should really focus on selling dietary tips and probably meditation books that'll make you forget about eating. Those are the ones that work. But books and magazines aren't as profitable as shoes, barbels and treadmills. A lot of profit would be lost if the whole industry decided that it wasn't going to focus all its advertising on trendy exercise activities like Crossfit, Tabata workouts and yoga. But if Yoga made me forget about eating for an entire day, maybe that's the new exercise for me.
So if you want to lose weight, simply stop eating too much. Eat healthy food. Don't overexercise. And read more, too.