By Matt Stone
Does exercise work for weight loss? This is an age-old question in health circles. I have thought about and studied the general effectiveness of exercise for weight loss and general weight regulation for an eternity it seems.
We are undeniably conditioned to believe that exercise is a powerful tool for weight loss. By burning lots of calories and getting into better shape, it’s assumed to be a foolproof way to shed some pounds and improve our health. Is it?
I think I’ve experienced more cognitive dissonance and inner turmoil over this topic than just about any other. My brain is a crowded mess of opposing thoughts, viewpoints, research, and personal experience over the matter. But this will be a frequent topic over the coming months, as I have word that Ari Whitten will be authoring a book about a concept known as “caloric flux,” which basically means to lose weight by increasing your?physical activity without a reduction in calorie consumption. It should be interesting. Might as well start the discussion now.
Personally, the largest weight loss episodes I’ve ever experienced in my life all came while in this coveted state of caloric flux. The leanest I’ve ever gotten in my life (sub 5% bodyfat) was achieved at just under 3,000 calories per day. The second leanest I’ve ever been (probably around 7-8% bodyfat)?happened?while ingesting well over 4,000 calories per day. How did I lose fat down to 6-pack abs levels of leanness eating so much? Hiking. Plain and simple. Usually 4-8 hours per day, 6 days per week, or thereabouts, for entire summers.
So it must work right?
Well, every time I entered?a state of caloric flux, I had a substantial drop in resting body temperature (about 2 degrees F)?with other signs of a reduced metabolic rate. Then, when I stopped exercising so much at the end of the summer, I experienced a great deal of fatigue and rebound hunger, leading to a quick replenishment of my fat stores with usually 5-10 pounds of extra blubber compared to where I was at during the spring. I experienced this on multiple diets/eating regimens ranging from several quarts of milk and a couple pounds of meat per day to strict vegetarianism. Result was the same every time, although I maintained a lot more muscle on the higher-protein diet (and also felt A LOT shittier while out on the trail, hiking at only a fraction of my normal, fully-carbed pace).
Even more alarming, the two summers that I’ve hiked a lot in my mid-30’s (as opposed to my 20’s) resulted in not 5-10, but 15 pounds of additional weight gain! In fact, I could make a nearly irrefutable case that losing weight in a state of caloric flux has been the single biggest contributor to the lifetime, cumulative fat gain I’ve experienced. You could blame it on the calorie-dense foods that I pigged out on each fall, but the reality is that “fattening” food has never been fattening to me unless I had preceded the?consumption of this supposed-fattening food?with a strict diet or an unsustainable exercise regimen. And I mean that. I bought $80 of girl scout cookies this year, am down to four boxes, and my weight hasn’t changed an ounce since I ordered them a couple months ago. My weight hasn’t changed in over a year actually, except during?a?brief -10 followed by +15 eating too much fruit.
So I’d say that exercise is a great way to lose body fat. I’ve yet to gain fat on a 50-mile backpacking trip. But at the same time, using exercise as a tool to lose fat is fraught with danger, as intermittent exercise habits can, in my experience and in others that I’ve witnessed, lead to tremendous fat gain just like yo-yo dieting. I listed it in my summary of how we get fat.
So if exercise has been fattening for me, I should just avoid it?
Oops. That’s a problem, too. I deteriorate in so many ways when I reduce my physical activity down to next to nothing. I may not gain fat being sedentary, but I get to the point where I can’t walk a mile without my feet getting sore or even cook a meal in the kitchen without the muscles in my back tightening up so bad I can?barely stand upright. I become extremely injury-prone, and my breathing also seems to suffer. Plus, it just sucks to not be physically fit. To not be able to?do stuff.It’s miserable.
Well then, the obvious answer is to exercise more moderately. 4-8 hours a day of strenuous hiking is too much. Why not an hour a day or something like that? An hour a day of exercise is great. It’s enough for me to more or less fix the problems caused by sedentarism, especially if I’m also doing lots of light activity such as cooking and easy walking and otherwise keeping up with basic household type of chores.
But I’ve done just about every form of exercise under the sun. Weights. Cardio. Cycling. Interval training. HIT. HIIT. Circuit training. Yoga. Pilates. Jogging. Team sports.
So far, in my quarter century of experimentation, none of those activities led to an ounce of weight loss. Only when my exercise levels start to reach several hours per day and beyond do the pants start?getting loose in the waist. And that’s what most of the existing research shows–that?a moderate and sustainable amount of exercise results in very little weight loss, if any, for most people.
From a scientific and statistical point of view, it appears that’the most useful role of exercise when it comes to weight regulation are:
- To prevent weight gain in the first place
- To prevent?or at least prolong weight regain after losing it through traditional means (intentional, consciously-controlled calorie deficit)
I can attest to’that for the most part. Having spent years and years living in mountainous regions of the American west (outdoor recreation meccas like Aspen, Bozeman, and Jackson Hole), it’s obvious that a very active lifestyle including several hours of daily exercise in the form of cycling, skiing, hiking, climbing, surfing, and so forth is damn near close to being a foolproof preventer of obesity. If of course, unlike me, once you start you never stop. And I think this is really how it should be. We should be playing for hours a day, and our modern lifestyle and mindset, which often prevents or at least deters us from “acting naturally,” probably has a penalty attached to it that can’t be circumvented with a few sets of burpees once a week.
Weight loss conversations aside, I think it’s pretty clear from the breadth of the evidence available that exercise, in a general sense, is healthy. Being fit and functional improves quality of life and general health in a multitude of ways, especially as we advance in age.
But I have some reservations about recommending it for weight loss, because the Catch-22 is that a little isn’t enough, and a lot is unsustainable for most and may even result in a net weight gain if you fall off the wagon. Here is an article that echoes just about everything I’ve said so far.
In addition, virtually zero of the people I’ve met who exercise enough to be extremely lean and fit are doing it with weight loss in mind. They just do it for fun. They do it for adventure. Or perhaps they do it for competition’s sake, entering some races.?It’s certainly not something that is boring drudgery or a means to an end for these people. Making it a chore just to lose some weight is a great way to completely ruin the enjoyment you should and could be experiencing from it. Your enjoyment of exercise should be protected at all costs.
By the way, I plan to spend yet another summer hiking this year. I enjoy it so much I’m willing to risk almost certain weight gain.
But hopefully I’ll find a way to continue exercising after the season is over. Florida is certainly not as fun in the outdoor recreation category as the Rockies, but I just bought a 70’s era bicycle (Edith, named after my favorite grandmother, although I’m discovering she’s a lot more like my other grandmother Mary Jane… a pain in the ass!), so maybe I’ll stir up some trouble with that.
Or maybe my high metabolism will finally start to result in weight loss. Right now it just makes me hot and sweaty, poop a lot,?and have a lot of impure thoughts!
What are your personal experiences with exercise, for better or for worse, for general health and for weight loss? Is it really as effective for weight loss as most believe? Is Gary Taubes just being a dick when he says it’s useless? Should I stop talking about this and go back to discussing pee? I await your comments…
About the Author
Matt Stone is an independent health researcher, author of more than 15 books, and founder of 180DegreeHealth. He is best known for his research on metabolic rate and its central role in many health conditions as well as his criticisms of extreme dieting. Learn more by signing up for his free Raising Metabolism eCourse HERE,?which also includes?THIS FREE BOOK, and subscribing to the 180DegreeHealth podcast HERE.
I find I gain weight and look more pear shaped the more exercise I get, unless we’re talking about ballet class. I’m a beginner so we go slow, the movement is graceful and, for me, it’s meditative no matter how hard I’m working. I feel like there’s a connection between the joy, the flow and the weight loss/toning for me. Rigorous exercise or forced exercise doesn’t work. I think we’re saying the same thing? Thanks as always for making me think! ;)
All I know is that I enjoy being active until someone comes along and labels it “exercise”. Then it’s the very last thing I want to do ever. Maybe there’s a vital psychological aspect that health and fitness experts are leaving out of the conversation. I’d be curious to see what would happen if we stopped talking about exercise…. Maybe we’d all move whenever and however we felt like moving and that would be just the right amount of activity for each of us as well as our unique and evolving lifestyles….
But yeah, anyway, thanks for shedding light on the idea that exercise for weight loss may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
Yeah, “exercise” is a foreign concept in places where they do a lot of it :)
“Maybe we?d all move whenever and however we felt like moving and that would be just the right amount of activity for each of us…”
Watch young children….they move when they want and stop and park themselves when they are tired. They do not burn through it, ever.
Sorry this is a little off topic, but can you point me in the right direction if you have spoken about this topic? I struggle with an eating disorder (anorexia mainly) for over 13 years. I am now in mid-twenties at a healthy BMI of 22 and have recently been diagnosed with PCOS. I have all the symptoms and a low temperature (even during the day, never gets above 97.9) I am trying to get pregnant and haven’t been able to in over a year. Do you have an article/book where you talk about the combined effects of an eating disorder and PCOS??
If you have PCOS, then BMI 22 is not healthy for you. Actually, healthy BMI readings have actually mysteriously lowered to ratios for women to be unhealthy in reality.
Years ago when I was first married, I was telling my woes of being overweight….then it might have been 7 pounds…to the local veterinarian’s wife. She said, that I was fine and for me to weigh any less, I would have difficulty becoming pregnant.
So, WAY back then I said, OK. I’m fine. Got pregnant easily twice and if I had not fussed over getting back to my original weight before the first child (I had just stopped nursing the first when I got pregnant with our second), I would have been fine.
But no, the hoopla of being thin, a perfect BMI, etc. blah, blah, blah entered my world and I was hooked into dieting for the next 30 years. With an extreme few years of anorexia and literally starved down to 118 (and I had toddlers to care for) so sad, I barely remember any of it and I was miserable…tired, short tempered, etc.
Google starvation studies. People are not and cannot be themselves when they are hungry, let alone undereating/ignoring hunger…whatever you want to call it. Simply not eating for fear of getting fat. Hell, get a little round…you quite literally HAVE TO (your body won’t be denied) to recover from starvation.
As I say below, get rid of the scales and recover from your self-imposed starvation.
My natural without scales weight I would gravitate to when I didn’t have scales was 128…minimum.
Guess what, finally stopped dieting and now I’m 100 pounds over that initial pre-baby weight of 135 pounds at 5’2″. After two years I finally got the part of It is what It is…and stopped getting on the scale. Lost 10 pounds in the last two months without giving up ice cream by the quart with Root beer several dinners per week., etc. I eat what and when I want. However, nothing really inspires, so food is basically food and I enjoy it when it’s great, but can get by when it’s not so fabulous to fill the hunger and then be on with my day.
So, if you want to get pregnant, and truly be healthy enough to nurse and laugh with your baby/ies and husband, get Matt’s books…all of them. You need to eat for heat…to increase you metabolism and therefore get your hormones in working order. Read the books and stop dieting. Eat the food with no shame. Get some soft curves and be OK with it, and share you body with joy, and live your life.
And get a few of Joey Lott’s books. He tells it like it is, BECAUSE It Is What It Is. And throw away your scale. You don’t need it. You CAN trust your body to tell you when to eat and when to stop.
Thank you SO much for this! I truly appreciate it. I typically eat until I feel satisfied, and I don’t weigh myself very often, but I do realize that my hunger cues are probably way off due to ignoring them for so long. I am going to look into what you suggested. I appreciate it!
Additionally, season/sweeten your food to taste. Not artificial sweeteners, but plain old white sugar. If you need a lot of sugar for it to taste good, that’s your body telling you it needs the carbs, right now…not some watery fruit or juice. If you need sugar to make your fruit sweet instead of tart, then sweet it up.
Over the past two years after ditching diets, I used to require a lot of sugar. Now I still generally have a morning coffee of 2 T gelatin, 6-8 T of sugar, 1 T instant coffee in a 20 ounce mug. I might drink all of it, but more likely only 1/3 to 1/2 before I set it aside for later. It keeps. The gelatin gels up as it cools or is refrigerated and I heat it up later in the day if I need it. Or it might be a day or two. Think of it as coffee Jello.
Don’t get hung up on eating perfectly or clean.
I am not religious (although I used to be to a fault…it was bad), but Gwen Shamblin has a few good thoughts about food in her Weigh Down program. In a nutshell, ALL FOODS ARE TO BE EATEN as given to us by our Creator. Even candy. Quite literally eat to taste, as your body (designed by the Creator) will decide from the foods that are most tasty to you at each meal, each day, for a span of days, weeks at a time, what it needs. The basics are carbs, proteins and fats. Let your body decide what it needs. Enjoy it all.
Hey Jen,posted a comment for you below, downthread. (Should have replied right here but didn’t think of it.)
I just wanted to suggest you read this article: http://www.youreatopia.com/faq/specific-recovery-questions/but-i-have-pcos.html
and perhaps check out the other Your Eatopia articles. :)
Thanks Aliandra! I do have high level of androgen as well as the cysts. I’m not saying that there isn’t truth to this and that going above and beyond my current metabolic state wouldn’t be a good idea, I just really believe that its PCOS and not just due to the ED. It’ll be interesting as I eat more to see if this changes. Matt’s book has been really helpful for understanding how to eat for heat.
My exercise program consists of walking 1-5 miles per day, bouncing on my mini trampoline 4-20 minutes a day and weight lifting 2-3 times per week. No fat loss really came from that over the past several years, just muscle gain. Struggling with being over weight most of my life was only fixed long term after adopting Ray Peats ideas :) Its nice to have a six pack and still be able to eat until I’m satisfied. And of course not be freezing all the time.
I’ve been working out consistently for years – generally an hour a day 3-5 times a week – and have found that it hasn’t aided in weight loss. I have done aerobics classes, bootcamp style classes, HiiT training, lifting, etc – to little or no avail. Fitness wise, I’m extremely fit. I have a low resting heart rate and have excellent endurance…which incidentally, I couldn’t care less about. I’d prefer to have a rocking’ bod. The only times I’ve lost weight is when I’ve done extreme dieting (calorie deficit), which of course, has completely jacked up my metabolism.
I enjoy working out, playing tennis, hiking, biking, etc – and I like being fit…but I wish I could figure out the magic formula to lose the extra padding so I could show off just how fit I actually am!
Andrea, I had the same problem. A year ago I tried the potatoes hack and it changed everything. I eat a lot, good food and if I need to lose weight I go on potatoes for few days. pound a day is the normal rate.
And I don’t gane it back. Nothing ever worked for me before.
It has made my life much easier to know I have the trick under the belt and I can eat as I want.
What is a potato hack? Is there a book or website?
If she meant to write the potato diet, read this. http://www.20potatoesaday.com/20_potatoes_a_day_006.htm
The Potato Hack was an offshoot from Voigt’s 20 potatoes a day. I wrote about it here: http://180degreehealth.com/the-potato-hack/
I haven’t lifted in a couple years, but man I love what heavy free weight lifting does to me. I did get “noob gains” where I lost fat and gained muscle.
Mostly what I like is how it shifts my shape around. I seem to have the same weight, it just looks better. And my back hurts less. I didn’t suffer too much weight rebound after stopping, it just packed back on slowly.
I’m hoping my damn metabolism shifts sometime soon so I can get back into it. 97.5 isn’t where I need to be to get back to my beloved stiff legged dead lifts. Yes Matt I said stiff :P
Waiting for my Mad Mortigan moment of “I..feel..BETTER!”
Btw Matt – thank you. It’s so awesome to have zero food issues and eat whatever the fuck I want. So awesome! Couldn’t have done it without ya.
I decided last year to not approach exercise from a weight loss perspective but from a health and fitness perspective for the first time in my life. I mainly did weights and HIIT with some boxing and jogging thrown in. I have managed to control many of my health symptoms from PCOS and low thyroid and build muscle and reshape my body but weight/fat loss has been very minimal. I love the fitness and strength side of exercise but recommending it as a weight loss tool can be dangerous especially if someone if also restricting calories. I am still yet to find that sweet spot where I can feel strong and fit and eat in a way that will give permission to my body to let go of the fat. If you know how I may be able to get to that spot I would be more than happy to give it a go.
If you are obese or just generally out of shape, moderate exercise will help.
You may not lose scale weight, but I’ll bet you a dollar your body fat percentage will go down.
Two pieces of advice.
1. Throw away the scale
2. BMI is horseshit. Don’t use it.
Matt, you got to remember to call out your target audiemce.
A bed ridden 500 pound man will absolutely lose some fat mass and improve insulin sensitivity with moderate exercise. Heck, just doing strength training 3 times per week (full body compound exercise) will result in a significant shift in body composition for an overweight or obese person, given consistency.
A woman recovering from anorexia is a different story. As is a pro athlete.
Can’t wait for Mr Whitten’s next book then. From what he says about calorie flux in is previous book, FFL, it seems like an interesting concept.
It is the reason why athletes are the way they are and why Michael Phelps can eat 10-12K calories and stay wire thin.
Maybe I missed something, but from what I remember calorie flux itself is only a way to represent the calorie in-out not a state of having high calorie in-out, so it feel strange to read you were in a state of calorie flux.
His idea, I think, has to do with increasing the flux (or flow) of calories as much as you can while keeping it sustainable.
He also write about the fact that it has a lot to do with NEAT. And in a way I agree because I got an uncle who works on a farm (at that point it might be considered an exercise like your hiking) and while well in his 50s he look more like a bodybuilder than anybody else I know :P
Talking about this makes me wonder where the line is to determine what is considered non-exercise vs exercise.
Ari has corrected me on this in a personal email which I hope to post for clarification. Caloric flux is not a state, nor does it pertain to creating a calorie deficit. Rather a high caloric flux just means to be consuming and utilizing more calories. Maintaining energy balance on say, 4,000 calories per day instead of 2,000 due to exercise, metabolic rate, and other things that influence metabolic rate would thus be an example of maintaining a higher “caloric flux.”
I exercise for about 30 minutes 3-4 times a week. Not to lose weight but to feel good. It clears my mind and gives me energy and esp. yoga helps me feel loose and helps my joints. It makes me stronger and I just plain enjoy it. It’s my time – making time for myself as a busy mom and writer.
Great post. My experience is similar to yours, but not as extreme (since I do not like exercising :P)
I walk my dog, and that has to be enough (in own woods though).
Exercising as in going swimming bicycling 20 km (lots of ups and downs on the way) just makes me eat very much.
Working outside, or walking the dog, makes my hunger more realistic compared to needs.
I am really hot, sweaty, stopped losing hair, but no luck so far in pooping :'( Though, my cortisol is really really low after several burn outs and other stuff that put too much pressure on the adrenals. I have low ACTH + low cortisol, and think I have severe electrolyte imbalances. Can’t poop at all without lots of natrium AND potassium.
Don’t know what to do. How to help adrenals, when metabolism seems rather ok (great bloodwork regarding T3, T4 and TSH, even a “stop the thyroid madness-person would agree)?
This newsletter came at the perfect time, as it has supported my decision to act on a hunch. I lost 30lbs with Lindora. The program itself is crap, but it was one of the first to use a pedometer. I walked 10,000 steps a day and that was it. They maintained that walking/moving kept the fires burning in the mitochondria. Didn’t matter if you walked in 20 minute intervals or a few feet to the kitchen. It’s shocking how little we move. Anyway, because of a heavy schedule, I couldn’t get to the gym, so I put on my ped and also started eating like Matt suggested. I was surprised my weight was staying the same, in spite of eating a lot, and my jeans are looser. I’ve decided to continue this experiment. Matt, I think you were experiencing something similar when you were climbing and hiking. Perhaps it wasn’t so much the activity but the movement. I also think this casual movement fools the body so it doesn’t shut down because it thinks it’s in a starvation mode. So you may be able to lose weight without wrecking your thyroid, adrenals, etc.
Also Matt, if you are into fixing your feet. Check out Katy Bowman’s technique. First thing to look at is if you walk like a duck. You may not think so until you put two half domes or rulers by the outside of your feet, with them parallel (should be shoulder width apart) then step away from the domes and you’ll be shocked how you thought your feet were going straight ahead and they aren’t. She has a new book out and also has a website… Rachel, I agree with you Callanetics or the Barr Method are far more appealing and effective and enjoyable. I don’t care what they say, lifting weights bulks me out… my tight jeans don’t lie.
I know Katy well and had her on the 180D podcast. I don’t walk like a duck, I just have really weak feet, perhaps in part because I was NEVER allowed to step so much as a toe outside barefoot as a kid growing up. Strengthening them up is no problem though. Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it. Get out on them and don’t baby them with shoes full of padding.
Hi Matt, can you please tell us more about the “too much fruit leading to fat/weight gain” thing?
i knew intuitively that part of quitting long distance running was what made me so fat after…
you can look at ex olympic gymnast girls too, after they are done with that… they all end up fat.
Matt?gaining weight from ‘too much fruit?? Could you elaborate? What happened to whole fruit being moderately rewarding and virtually impossible to gain weight from? How did you do it?
Fruit stimulates insulin release much the same way straight sugar does. It causes the same spikes in blood sugar, and the subsequent release of insulin causes anything that’s not immediately burned to be stored as fat. Unless you are a child, an endurance athlete, or a weight lifter, most people should really limit their fruit to what they *know* can be used by the muscles immediately.
That’s total bullshit Ann. That kind of thinking spreads like a rumor, but simply isn’t true. I lost weight from eating too much fruit, which caused a reduction in metabolic rate from which I had to rebound from. Hence the minus 10 plus 15 of eating too much fruit and then having to add back in more regular foods to restore normal function.
Well, Matt, I wasn’t going to be so forthright, but yeah, it’s crap.
Fruit, fat, sugary cereal, mints, booze, roast beef, roast pork, roast chicken, roast turkey, coconut oil, ice cream, pasta, fruits of all kinds, juice of all kinds, vegetables of all kinds, animals, fowl, ocean, fresh water, etc. etc. etc. Eat it all. DO NOT FEAR ANY FOOD.
No food will make you fat, unless you fear that it will and eat a bunch of other stuff to avoid the food your body really wants; because when you fear eating anything, you under eat the nutrients your body wants and it makes you overeat what you THINK is better, but not as tasty to try to get what it needs.
Just eat what tastes good to you and you will be eating correctly for you. If you feel like eating candy all day, then eat that. If you feel like eating bloody medium rare steak and apple pie, then eat that. Really.
When you satisfy your hunger (people mistakenly call them cravings…and then label cravings as evil) then your body is a happy camper and will have what it needs to repair, maintain and have energy to be awake, pleasant and have fun doing the things you desire to do that make you happy. Strive for happy, eat the food.
Forgive my ignorance, but how does eating lots of fruit cause weight loss? Did you not eat enough calories? Did you loose mostly fat or mostly muscle? Also, I thought a very fast metabolism allowed people to have a low body fat percentage so why in your case did the weight loss cause a drop in metabolic rate. I thought metabolic rate helped determine if one was lean or not and that the most important thing to maintain a high metabolism was calories not how much a person weighed. I suppose it isn’t that simple so could you help me understand.
One last thing – how much fruit were you eating when it was too much? When you say too much, did you mean in relation to other types of foods?
Basically I added more fruits and vegetables, the quintessential “health foods” to my diet last year and noticed a very small amount of effortless weight loss. A little less than 10 pounds. And because of that, I got overly excited and added more and more, which of course led to more weight loss. But as I lost weight, body temperature and metabolic feedback plummeted. I had to eat more normally again to get back to proper function, and in the process gained back everything I had lost. A typical weight loss scenario no matter how you try to lose the weight.
What has the greatest exertion on metabolic rate is leptin levels. Losing weight causes leptin levels to drop, and then metabolism goes down. That’s the bummer and why successful weight loss without severe metabolic downregulation is so extremely rare. We have it built into our physiology that our metabolism slows down any time we lose weight.
Weight loss is probably the most common cause of a low metabolic rate among health conscious people.
Too much fruit in relation to other foods. I wasn’t measuring how much, but probably 10 pounds per day. Because fruit is so watery and has a very high potassium to sodium ratio, it is generally very cooling to body temperature, especially in excess (total and in relation to other foods).
Thank you for the explanation, though still confused. How does eating just one thing cause weight loss unless you are eating fewer calories or your metabolism goes up. Do you think that when you were eating mostly fruits and veggies, you were eating fewer calories than before? It must not have been because your metabolism went up more since you said you didn’t feel as well eating so much veg/fruit – correct?
So all weight loss results in a decrease in leptin? Can it be increased without weight gain? Other stuff must influence leptin, sorry if I missed that post. People who have always been skinny in an effortless way then just have naturally high levels of leptin?
He didn’t gain weight from eating too much fruit. He gained weight because he was eating too much fat with it.
I’ve mentioned it before here. Started running 1hr+ a day, 7days/week, lost exactly 0.00 ounces, led to beast appetite, inevitable overtraining, stopped running but kept the beast appetite, gained about 50lb in the ensuing binge. In my experience exercise only jacks up appetite, not a good thing with binge eating disorder.
P.S. Matt speaking of weight loss on a caloric surplus, you had an interesting guy on here a while back, Billy Craig, who wrote about that. Promised to write a book but never did. Whatever happened to that guy?
With the demands of modern life, for many people forced exercise is really the only option for increasing physical activity. Between work, family, kids, chores, and all of life’s other obligations, it can be difficult to find the time and daylight to engage in teams sports, or other outdoor activities that are best done in the day.
For those, I see nothing wrong with devoting a few hours a week to some weightlifting. It can be done anytime, and can be done solo (although for safety sake it’s probably best to be a a gym around others). It also provides the most bang for your buck in terms of reward for time spent. Look at most older people and you will see the dramatic decrease in muscle mass as they age. It’s unavoidable, but nothing in modern life helps mitigate that. It’s up to you to lift those weights and keep your muscle mass as healthy as possible while you age.
For the last two years I have been doing an exercise program invented by Teresa Tapp. It is called T-Tapp and is very rehabilitative (I used to do Zumba 3/4 days per week). I took my body measurements on Jan 25, 2014 and then again on Mar 10, 2015. In a little over a year I have lost 39.5 inches. My body is stronger and I have good muscle tone. Slowly my stomach is getting flatter. In this same time frame I have lost only 12 pounds. I have not changed my diet and I exercise 2 to 3 times per week an do a little walking. This works for me and I know that overtime my body will continue to transform all while staying healthy.
T-Tapp did nothing for me.
I found/find weight training
better for weight maintenance.
I shifted from doing weight training to doing T-tapp
and gained (fat not muscle).
I like a lot of things about T-tapp,
I found weight training was superior for keeping weight down,
her program was not great for my knees – despite the fact that it is supposed to be rehabilitative.
Down the track I did read that if you had knee issues, not to do the one legged tracks – but a lot of her tracks are one-legged, and her program is supposed to rehab knees , not
make them worse!
So that all did not seem good to me..
Also , her program is supposed to improve saddlebags,
and I really followed it to the nth degree, for a couple of yrs;
and had zilch improvement of saddlebags.. absolutely zilch..
In all fairness though, I also have had no results with
getting rid of saddlebags through weight training, or callanetics , or any other kind exercise! lol
I just had big hopes with T-Tapp because it promised so much.
I’ve found that 15-30 minutes a day of strength training (kettlebells, alternated with pilates) 7 days a week is the best formula for me. I get up and exercise first thing in the a.m. to take advantage of the energy burst I get post workout. It keeps me mentally and physically fueled through the first half of my day better than anything else. I backed off from it over the winter because I’m convinced that Minnesota winter just puts me into hybernation mode and it was too much of a chore to get up and do it. I generally didn’t feel as good, but I didn’t gain weight, but continued to slowly loose pounds, even over the holidays. My metabolism has stayed pretty strong during this period, I think because the workouts are really short. I’ve definitely lost a lot of the dangerous belly fat I was carrying from my post-RRARF exercise avoidance era. I’ve tried very hard to see exercise as play and get out on week-ends and do light hikes, XC skiing, swimming, other things I enjoy doing. But I’m one of those who really doesn’t have the time in my schedule for that. I can never be consistent with it unless I’m on vacation or something.
RSD I’m intrigued by T-Tapp. She has a program for adrenal fatigue and hormonal health for Women of A Certain Age. I’m battling fairly severe per-menopause symptoms. So bad that I actually went back on birth control pills because I was just getting battered by period symptoms for about 2 weeks out of every month. It’s only been a few weeks, but symptoms have improved to the point where I’ve gotten my life back, but I desperately want to ditch the artificial hormone and find a way to feel better without it.
Andrea: the “magic formula” is that most people in the fitness industry have some kind of disordered eating. If you look around long enough you will see exercise guru after exercise guru coming out of the closet as a binge eater or something. The way to get that “rockin bod” is to starve the fat off of it. It’s particularly bad in the body building world AKA competitive dieting. The techniques that work for men so well, like Intermittent Fasting seem to be generally terrible for women and end up being a fast track to disordered eating. I recently re-watched Zoolander (classic movie by the way, Matt, you need to watch it) and there’s this scary/funny moment when Matilda is telling Hansel and Derek about how she was bulemic in high school and after they have the word explained to them, Hansel says, “throwing up is a great way to drop pounds before a show!” Derek nods in agreement. Matilda patiently explains that it’s a horrible disease that can be deadly and they just stare blankly. It does not compute. While this is exaggerated of course, I think it perfectly sums up the way that having a fat-loss based mindset for exercise and eating will eventually end up hurting a person. Our way of looking at the world is disordered. The person who is lean to the point of being unable to function to reproduce is considered sexiest. We have literally stopped functioning as biological organisms when that starts happening on a mass scale as it does now.
The weird thing is that I have found that setting fitness goals and doing my best to avoid scales, measuring tapes and fat calipers has been the best way to reshape my body for the better. Instead of journaling obsessively calories in/calories out as I used to I try to keep track of how I feel, and positive gains in going to higher weights or whatever to keep myself motivated. While far from rockin’ my body is stronger and more functional as well as being two pants size smaller than it was a year ago. It’s very slow, and it might seem counter intuitive but moving past the obsession with fat loss has been a big key for me.
I hope this isn’t preachy or obnoxious. I’m not meaning to pick on you or anything or single you out as a shallow person. I certainly was in the same mindset for years, and if I’m honest with myself I still have my moments of weakness on this point.
Jenny, I agree with you on the weight lifting. This is now the rage. Everyone has to lift weights. I hate lifting weights. Intermittent fasting is also the rage. I can’t handle that either. It causes my blood sugar to crash and I develop a ravenous appetite. I can relate to Matt because you start listening to these people and your head wants to explode. I think you have to look at what your body responds to because your body knows best.
Little aside here:
Have you heard of Lems Shoes and Correct Toes? I’ve been using both (with Toe Sox on top of that) with very good results.
The Lems have a wide enough toe box to accommodate the toe splay that the Correct Toes causes. The Primal 2 is by far the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn in my life. All their other ones are excellent as well.
In my twenties and even in my early 30’s, I could exercise my weight down with lifting and intense cardio. Now, I can pretty much only do yoga a few days a week mixed with my relatively active life as a full-time mom of two little kids before my body goes on strike. The much lighter and gentler exercise regimen definitely has done nothing to reduce my size, but it keeps me from aching too badly, my weight stable (albeit a much heavier weight than a few years ago), and my spirits lifted which are really great health benefits anyway. And honestly, even if my body could still handle the abuse of rigorous exercise like it once did, I’m pretty sure the extra weight still wouldn’t budge. Every time I’ve pushed past the pain with exercise in the last few years, I’d notice the number on the scale actually creep up.
I will say this though–abandoning obsessive, restrictive dieting has been way easier than letting go of my tendencies toward compulsive exercising. I’d be eating a crap ton of food and exercising all day long if my aging body would allow it.
I’ll be curious to see whether the increased biofeedback from barefooting mitigates the “inevitable” weight gain after a summer of hiking.
If you are looking to recover from anorexia or other restrictive eating disorders I very strongly recommend the thorough, well researched articles and extensive “Usual Questions” at http://www.youreatopia.com. in fact, one of the Usual Questions addresses PCOS specifically. In short, starvation symptoms can mirror PCOS symptoms, and the symptoms will resolve on their own with dedicated ED recovery. (Recovery includes refeeding without restriction and being sedentary. Plus the mental work of changing ED behaviors and psychology, often with therapy.)
In short, full recovery from restriction should be your top priority! Your hormones will probably re balance themselves — over time — when your system has an energy surplus, physical damage is repaired and your overall stress state (caused by your anxiety and restriction itself) is resolved.
I agree with YourEatopia as a great site to get your head wrapped around changing the anorexic mind set. Still, it took over two years from my last diet to get to the point of staying off the weight scale the majority of the time.
And when I do get on it, I remind myself, I have no control over the number or anything except making sure I start preparing food as soon as food thoughts become noticeable.
Which means shortly, my body will be telling me it’s hungry. It really is that subtle and that accurate, even after 30 years plus of ignoring hunger nearly every day. Sure I’d eventually eat, but it would never be enough or be consistent.
Now my mantra is: It is what it is. My body is what it is. It will only change as it decides to…and my only job is to feed it promptly when it asks for food…and for what it prefers at the moment. No one has shunned me for being fatter than they’ve ever known me to be…and grandsons still think I’m beautiful, because character is the true beauty anyway.
Oh, and buy clothes promptly and maybe even in preparation for more weight gain so that you always have clothes that fit, even if it’s the largest size you’ve ever worn. Find your style and enjoy beautiful clothes (they don’t have to be expensive).
For me this was the final hurdle apparently, because those pants are too big now…and the current size are looser than they were last month. Ha!
I do no formal exercise, just doing housework in big house, laundry is in the basement and I hang most of my clothes to dry; and enjoying playing Xbox games with the grandsons. Even Kinect ones…bowling is my favorite.
I used to run a play when I was a kid and enjoyed it. Then when I started undereating, I stopped playing or enjoying most movement. I’ll be 60 this year, but I expect to keep being active as I desire; and if the body gives me a lighter weight one eventually, I expect I’ll move more, since at this weight, my movement is already considerable expenditure of calories just to do the housework.
There’s a secret about your post. ICBITTYHTKY
Gymnastics style training has been great for me. I’ve been doing it for about a year now. I always keep my training sessions to 30 minutes to an hour at the most.
What’s most exciting is the progressions. For example, I’m working on being able to do a full planche. The training sessions are not overly intense, but over a long period of time, my body adapts and I can do increasingly more difficult exercises without feeling like they’re more difficult. And before I know it I can move my body and hold it in positions that were impossible before. I love it.
My primary concern is physique, not weight. One of the main reasons people want to lose weight is to look more attractive.
My goal now, with a beer gut (just shy of 40″, measured right around my navel), has been to not restrict calories, but focus on getting plenty of sleep (lifelong issue for me), and train to build muscle.
Even with my beer belly, I look better than I did when I was 140 pounds. I’m 5’11”. I’m 195 pounds now. And a lot of people’ve commented that I look a lot better.
Because I used to be anorexic and suffered tremendously from that, I don’t do any calorie restricting these days. I do believe it’s reasonable to want a nice physique. I have a naturally big chest and small, narrow shoulders, so my first focus was to add in some exercises to help fill out my shoulders and widen my back.
My attitude is that the weight will take care of itself. And whatever it does, I can still work on building a better physique safely — by not restricting calories, and not burning myself out with exercise.
I notice if I work out too hard, whether at home or my job (I work in manual labor), the cold hands+feet come roaring back. Along with anxiety, rage, insomnia, and feeling ‘tired but wired.’
It’s like clockwork. Sleep deprivation, calorie deficit, excessive physical exertion. Those are the three big ones for me.
I don’t like having a beer gut, but I see it as a consequence of having been anorexic and going through the re-feeding process and putting weight back on. I was solid around 150 for a long time, but after I crashed and burned it seems my new weight ‘set point’ is around 195. Hasn’t budged from that over the past year as far as I can remember.
@Matt – Pranarupa recently wrote a very interesting piece about metabolic differences between muscle fiber types. According to what I understood of what he wrote, the type 1 fibers, which are the “slow” fibers, rely on oxidative respiration. The type 2 fibers, which are “fast”, rely more heavily on glycolysis. The implication being that the more you develop type 1 fibers, the more you increase oxidative respiration. And theoretically you can develop type 1 fibers with slower, more sustained movement. This is highly speculative, but perhaps it would be possible to develop more type 1 fibers with a slightly slower hiking pace that relies more heavily on the large muscles rather than on momentum and stabilizers. I really don’t know, but it would be an interesting experiment to discover what, if any, difference hiking pace and “mindfulness” in hiking would make. Of course, that would only be a doable experiment if the hiker found such an approach to hiking to actually be enjoyable, and it would be completely unsustainable otherwise. But the idea being that perhaps any movement can result in fat loss under the right circumstances, but the type of movement may (or may not) alter the longer term effects. If, for example, a person does movement that increases muscle primarily of type 2, then there will be fat loss in some cases, but the result is a less efficient metabolism. But possibly with movement that increases oxidative respiration there would be a longer term benefit. Obviously much of what you wrote in this piece is still applicable and relevant and there is no magic answer. After all type 1 fibers are lost with inactivity. So it’s not a permanent solution. But still something that seems interesting.
This reminds me of a comment Ido Portal made, something along the lines of “Your body has to look a certain way to be able to perform in a certain way.”
e.g., if you can hold a full planche for 10 seconds, that says something about your body composition.
Gymnastics strength training reminds me of yoga in a lot of ways, with static holding of poses that get increasingly complex — e.g., crow pose to crane pose, progressing from there to an eventual full planche.
Holding static poses, and transitioning into other poses, and getting more and more complex the stronger you get, is something I’ve had very good results with. e.g., going into a headstand from crow pose.
But anyway, I do think that whether it’s type I fibers increasing due to yoga/gymnastics style training or something else, the body has to adapt to be able to hold different poses, and this is pure speculation, but I’d imagine that whole body exercises stimulate a much stronger adaptive response than weight training, for the fact that whole body exercises would REQUIRE a much more comprehensive adaptive response.
I never use machines, and IMO free weights are the way to go with weight training, for the very reason that the movement is more whole, more complex, recruits more muscle fibers from all over the body, and would probably induce a much more favorable adaptive response based directly on the demands of the exercise being performed.
Lifting heavier weights is cool, but for me, being able to move my body in ways that were impossible when I was weaker/less flexible is a lot more rewarding. Though I like both, my recovery from yoga/gymnastics style training is also much better since it seems to be easier on my joints and muscles than the more explosive heavy weightlifting.
Glad to hear a comment on slow, mindful movements.
Having been rather sedentary for almost two years, I’m finally feeling the urge to become more active. I started with gentler practices like beginner yoga and T-Tapp, but it left me with sore ligaments and tensed muscles, and the tanking metabolism signs would show up after 15 mins or so. Very shocking to me that I couldn’t handle this, considering I’ve always been active and fit.
I decided to start a mindful way of walking in scenic areas. A meandering pace, looking at things around me, going off path to feel the difference in terrain under my feet. I do this once a week and I’m up to an hour because it’s what feels right, and I do not have a single instance of tanking metabolism while doing so.
LH, how do you determine if your metabolism is tanking when you exercise?
Cold nose, hands, underarm sweat begins to smell are the first and most frequent signs to show up for me. If I continue pushing on, I’ll get jittery and have increased need/urgency to pee. Going way too far and ignoring it will leave me feeling like I have the flu!
For a month last summer I walked a mile around my property with many hills, usually with kids in a stroller. I did my usual approach of powerwalking, aiming for speed and good time. I tracked my progress and how I felt with an app on my phone. I never felt good afterwards, and had at least some, if not all, of the signs I listed above after a short 15 or 17 minutes. And two weeks after I stopped, I had to buy the next size up in clothes! That type of walking was work and drudgery, which was a terrible way for me to ease back into activity.
Before I gained a bunch of weight and suffered from many years of intense stress, I had a lot more energy and exercised more intensely than I do now. I very much enjoyed being active. When I low carbed and in the beginning of my refeeding, I thought all the running I did before was bad. Now, I think it was just fine for me.
When I ran my first 1/2 marathon, I was eating a TON of food and could not keep myself from losing weight. After the 1/2 marathon, I probably gained about 2-3 pounds back and then my weight stayed stable.
The last time I tried to train for a half marathon was after a few years of stress, unemployment, and low calorie/low carb dieting had taken place. In fact, I was using the marathon training as a way to “try” to lose weight. I did not lose weight and had to stop training because I hit a wall (it’s really hard to run 7 miles and eat 1400 calories a day). After I stopped the training, I dieted even harder, did even more binge eating on the weekends and gained even more weight. And I was very sedentary.
I got to my highest weight ever about two years ago. After walking consistently each day for about 7 or 8 months, I lost 30 pounds, lost my plantar fasciitus symptoms, lost some body aches and pains and gained some energy. I was not restricting food intake at the time.
I still like to walk, hike and garden. And I have to take it easy if I’m really stressed or tired. I haven’t lost a lot more weight, but my body feels so much better when it’s active.
Beth, how long did you walk each day? I’m encouraged you lost weight by just walking. Did you limits your calories?
When I lost the weight, all I did was walk about 45-60 min a day, 4-5 days a week. I walked outside, I wasn’t binge eating very much at the time, and I don’t think I was restricting calories at the time. I also might have been getting more sleep at that time too!
Perhaps not binge eating might have helped me lose the 30 pounds. I was also less stressed and more well-rested (which seems to help me not binge eat as much).
Now, I’m still obese, I walk 4-5 days a week, my work is labor intensive (gardening and an Amazon seller who packs and ships BIG boxes to Amazon warehouses for them to fulfill for me). I haven’t lost weight lately, but I do stay up later at night and eat more to keep myself awake.
I hope this is helpful!
Sorry to say to all those here trying to lose weight that there are some weirdos like me who can’t get fat, at least at my current age of 35. I used to weigh 140-145 in the paleo days and had lots of problems that I’m just finally getting under control. After a refeeding stage (1.5 years) I got up to 169 pounds but I really had to force feed myself to keep it there and then I didn’t feel that great. Even then my family still said I looked skinny. So, now I hover around 160-165 and seem to be stable. I just have a small Buddha belly that can be seen if I push it out hard enough. (-:
It’s really interesting how different people are. My wife gains weight quite easily. She excels at weightlifting but can’t really get into running sports. I on the other hand have run long distance since I was 8 years old and played competitive soccer (many times AFTER cross country practice!). And my dad still does 100 mile bike rides through the Cascade mountain ranges.. I am no match for uphill hikes with him even though he is 65. So, it really seems like there is a gene thing (AMY1 + many others?) that effects muscle composition, metabolism, weight gain, etc… And then there is always the question how much your childhood activities affect you later in life too… Nature vs. Nurture…
I have continued with quite a bit of weight training for the past few years just to see where it leads. At times I have completely stopped running and tried to see how I feel with just weights. It just doesn’t feel right. Weightlifters talk about “the pump” feeling in the muscles. I feel that with weights sometimes, but I also feel “the pump” in the lungs when I breathe hard and get near oxygen debt on a run. There is a certain chemical-like taste in the mouth near oxygen debt when I get it right. Then I keep it there for a minute or so, and maybe repeat a few times. After that kind of stuff I just feel normal – like myself I guess.
People who are good at weights claim that no other activity is needed – that it is the perfect physical activity for improving health and wellness. And people who are good at running write books like “Born to Run”. But, people are different. Really different. A football linebacker will never run long distance like me, it’s just not going to happen. In fact, he may always feel horrible running no matter how hard he sticks with it. And I ain’t going to bench press 300 lbs, it’s just not going to happen. I hate the bench press… argh!
Weight training and HIIT has made me more lean and muscular, but I didn’t change the amount of caories I was eating a day or crave more.
I have a lot of health issues including Lyme so aesthetics is not that important to me. I do, however, feel the pressure to be fitter from outside forces and I wish I didnt. There are so many chill people online who care more about health and philosophy but I am surrounded by fit, vain rock climbers all day at work – people who do work out 4 hours a day. I think feeling good (whether vanity or health does that for you) is #1 so owning your body and loving yourself has to be the foundation if you want to have a sustainable and emotionally nurturing diet and exercise routine.
In my experience, exercise is crucial for fat loss, but I think it’s a balance. If you are already dieting with too much of a caloric deficit, it will not work. If you are overdoing it, it will backfire. And yes, the body likes consistency. Little blips are fine, but huge sways back and forth it doesn’t like. We are supposed to eat and we are supposed to move. You need both. We are supposed to have to work to eat. We’ve created a world where we can cheat that and it’s just bad for our health.
One of your best articles in a while Matt. Good stuff. Moderate caloric reduction is the only thing that really results in weight loss for me. Resistance training results in putting on muscle under the fat.
Slightly unrelated question, but what do you think about higher bodyfat levels inhibiting metabolic rate? I have this idea that maybe people who grow up at a certain bodyfat % will function best at that percentage upon reaching adulthood, as their body has grown to support, and perhaps depend on that percentage for optimal functioning. Too much over this optimal amount, or too much under, and you get negative symptoms, i.e. metabolic syndrome, lowered metabolic rate, etc.
Also, in my personal experience, excess bodyfat acts as a “stressor” in and of itself, perhaps because it results in elevated cortisol levels.
Ultimately, the idea is that the ideal bodyfat percentage varies depending on the individual, and so what is fat for one person might be skinny or obese for another.
I do think exercise has helped me lose weight but I also agree it has to be consistent and something you enjoy because the problem is it causes rebound weight gain if stopped just like Matt says. That’s why I think exercise is great and important for your overall health but is not a great weight loss tool. I have also exercised vigorously in the past only to maintain my weight too. Also I have a question for everyone? I have been eating for heat and not exercising to get my metabolic rate up which has been damaged by excessive yo-yo dieting and exercise but I have experienced massive rebound weight gain partially due to thyroid problems and now I have high blood sugar. Has this happened to anyone else in the process and does it correct itself or do I need to succumb to the low carb diet? Help!! Please!
You probably ate a little bit too much fat, but temporarily elevated blood sugar levels is not unheard of. You’ll probably have better luck by raising the proportion of carbs to fat in your diet, within reason. Keep it sustainable of course. It usually helps improve glucose clearance to do so, and can also help a little bit with body composition. But of course, experiment freely and assess for yourself.
Hey Matt,I was wondering if you can elaborate on this sentence from your article: “except during a brief -10 followed by +15 eating too much fruit.” Were you doing a more Ray Peat eating style when you gained those 15 lbs? does this mean eating Fruit is fattening like the low-carbers believe?
Well no. Eating nothing but fruit in unlimited quantity will cause dramatic weight loss in nearly everyone. That doesn’t mean it’s good for you to do that, sustainable to do that, or that it won’t have an adverse affect on your metabolism. I could have easily eaten only steak in unlimited quantity and had the exact same thing happen. Lose weight, feel shitty, gain it back, feel better.
The same could be said of just about every strange way of eating.
Thank you Matt for replying.
Yes, I would confirm from my experiences that eating fruit only, even at very high caloric levels, results in weight loss.
If I just ate fruit only, even eating more calories than I normally would on a normal varied diet, I would lose.
However, as Matt says –
its not good or sustainable,
it did crazy things to my blood sugar, was not good for my gut, and you feel crap,
and crave protein..surprise surprise!
I do wonder how bananarider and the girl does it IF they claim to eat nothing but fruit while drinking enormous amounts of water. Matt, any idea?
Raw foods isn’t absorbed at the same rate as cooked food, there’s also some indicator that very low protein diets can have somewhat of a hypermetabolic effect. They also can’t even eat so much as some durian without weight gain. And they are extremely cold (Freelea often wears mittens and a hat in the tropics) and likely headed for eventual trouble. Even if they aren’t, most will probably bomb hard on such a diet and rebound like a mofo.
I do wonder why the h*ll they force down all that water for?! Probably would be a more sustainable diet without it, but what about salt cravings? Especially with all that bike riding and living in a tropical climate..
I am just too curious! Matt, why don’t you interview them two crazy persons? Oh pretty puh-LEASE! (with extra extra white sugar on top)
You can see some commenting back and forth in the comments in this ancient post:
Is it gaining the fat back that makes you feel better…or just that you are no longer in a calorie deficit?
Gaining the fat back restores metabolic rate.
Increases leptin, which causes the hypothalamus to increase the metabolic rate via its effect on the thyroid and other metabolism modulators.
Interesting. What is your opinion on bodyfat in general? Would you rather lose it and risk temporary metabolic downregulation, or keep it to ensure metabolism stays stable. I only ask because bodyfat seems to be anti-metabolic in itself.
There’s no known way to lose fat without permanent metabolic downregulation. That’s not to say that it’s never been accomplished. It has, here and elsewhere. But “trying” to lose weight is fraught with danger from the get go. What makes the most sense is defending the metabolic rate you have and trying to prevent additional fat gain. Significant and sustainable weight loss remains a pipedream for most, and most attempts at losing weight just make things worse. Having excess body fat isn’t preferable, but once it’s there, it’s likely to stay whether people want it to or not.
Matt, question on your comment:
“Significant and sustainable weight loss remains a pipedream for most, and most attempts at losing weight just make things worse. Having excess body fat isn’t preferable, but once it’s there, it’s likely to stay whether people want it to or not.”
This is interesting, and in my experience, ultimately true. However over past 2 mo. I’ve recently begun to lose weight (down from 275 to 250, with an increase of maybe 5 – 10 lbs of muscle) from a combination of applying principles in Ari’s Fat Loss Forever book and some HIIT ala Doug McGuff’s Body By Science (which I think I remember you may have actually introduced me to a couple of years ago – but am only now doing it, regrettably).
I’m hopeful, but reading your comment puts things in perspective – after all, much like you (and Ari), I have done everything from raw veganism to vegetarian, pescatarian, lacto-ovo, WAPF, Paleo, VLC Paleo, Peat, RRARF (that’s depressing when together like that) and am a full 40 lbs more than I was when I started – complete failure, and worse, probably would have been better off had I not ever gotten into this mess in the first place. But, I’m still hopeful, and it sounds like I’m at the point where many people finally turn it around.
Sorry for the long post, maybe should have been an email – feel free to remove from this thread if out of place.
Yeah that’s great, and that’s really the only way to lose weight. Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods to fullness without macronutrient restriction, steadily improve strength and fitness, sleep well, and otherwise take good care of yourself on a very consistent basis for years. It’s not guaranteed to result in resolving some of the accumulated body fat along your quest for the perfect diet, but there’s no other way.
What do you think of the modified intermittent fasting diets? Supposedly by eating 25% of your normal daily calories on the fast day you provide enough glucose and protein to feed the brain and prevent muscle loss, while gaining the same metabolic improvements on insulin and autophagy that strict fasting provides, and by eating somewhat to excess calories on your feasting days you avoid triggering the lowered metabolic rate. Mathematically, it works out that on a 3:1 ratio you need to eat 19% excess calories on your three feast days to make up for the 75% calorie deficit on the one fast day and be stable. The 5:2 fastdiet is one version of this. (2 fast days per week)
Modifying your intake with manipulations rather than following hunger, appetite for particular foods and satiety and fullness is a diet that is unsustainable and a form of starvation that the body will rebel against.
Listen to your body, toss out any dieting in any form and let your body know you trust it to be the size and weight that is best for you, whenever it trusts you enough to allow it to be so.
It didn’t work in rat experiments. Do you believe your body is less intelligent than a rats?
The diets that restricted diet rats were on raised their cortisol in a short time and it persisted for a longer time afterwards. Your body on any form of diet is a body with higher cortisol than it prefers to sustain. Avoid putting your body in survival mode and it will respond much quicker to trusting that you don’t live in a land of intermittent famine. A land of daily or weekly difficulty in finding food and/or enough food.
That reminds me, I’ve been ignoring my hunger to make several response posts here. Ahhhh!
I think the goal in our lives shouldn’t be to be thin but to be healthy and enjoy life. We don’t live forever so why do we have to go on the hamster wheel to have a perfect-looking body? We need to change society’s norms. Having extra fat doesn’t mean being ugly. We’ve just been so brainwashed to see it that way. If we feel unhealthy, that’s a good reason to exercise and eat a whole food diet. Of course, this says someone who their whole life has been obsessed with staying thin and finally when I’m no longer thin, I’m feeling more relaxed and more ready to accept myself than ever. I’m getting there. One day at a time.
That’s true Kathy, although you have to remember that there are hundreds of millions of people on earth whose quality of life is undermined by the weight itself. Just about everything we do physically and recreationally is less enjoyable when carrying excess fat, from tennis to sex and everything in between.
And here too, we need to be careful to not generalize and then believe that any excess fat is going to compromise our enjoyment of life and the activities in which we want to participate. There is a degree of fatness that will get in the way, but don’t assume that anyone knows your excess degree of fatness. You may feel great just as you are now, and your physical activities partner may be happy with how you are now, too.
If not, it’s still up to each of us to come to grips with What Is now, how our body functions to the best of our current knowledge and work with our body to keep our metabolism at the best we can. Not perfect, but feeling our best. Not perfect but the best we can the majority of the time and let the rest go. Learn to be OK with however our body responds to our best care and let the rest go. Do our best to focus on living with the goal of being our best self for the majority of the time to ourselves and those we choose to have in our life.
Where attractive clothing whatever your size (get professional assistance if necessary) and get on with enjoying being in the world. If you think someone is judging you about your fatness, (without even speaking) at least be content that you are presenting yourself as best you can. Again, there is not perfect.
Insert correct spellings where necessary in the above post. I hit send before checking one last time.
I’d add that I suspect that one of the major players in health deterioration (and fat gain) is chronically elevated stress hormones. Cortisol has been fairly well studied, and as you’ve written about, caloric deficits increase cortisol. As will low carb (eucaloric) diets in most cases because cortisol is a survival mechanism to prevent blood sugar from dropping dangerously low.
The trouble with excess cortisol is that it is, well, stressful. It’s great short term to survive a threat. Terrible long term. It raises blood pressure, increases inflammation, messes up digestion, causes insomnia, and so forth. Plus, when it comes to fat mass, it plays a role because it is catabolic (breaks down protein to make sugar). So it makes sense that the body will then start a trend toward more fat and less lean mass, which is a vicious cycle. So each time a person goes into caloric deficit there is a risk of worsening the cycle. It won’t happen every time because there are always going to be exceptions. There are surely things that can buffer the negative effects and increase lean mass even under caloric deficit for some people some of the time. But most of the time, caloric deficit probably worsens that cycle.
So, if that theory is correct. Then one way a person could improve his or her health would be to reduce elevated stress hormones. Obviously, some of the major ways to do that are covered well on 180D and in Matt’s books. That includes adequate calories and lots of sleep and rest. But it also includes developing skills for dealing effectively with stress in general. It also includes developing healthy social support (friends and family). And in our culture it often means having financial means. Statistically, poverty is a great predictor of poor health, and that is independent of how healthy a person’s lifestyle and quality of care. Poverty tends to correlate strongly with elevated stress hormones. And that is probably the main factor.
So when it comes to health (and fat mass) there’s much that a person can do to support him or herself. But part of the big lie that has been fed to us is that health (and fat mass) is entirely the responsibility of the individual. But research points to a very different picture. The individual is much more responsible for his or her actions that worsen health (dieting, etc.) but has limited control over how to improve his or her health. Those who have financial means and are otherwise privileged have a much greater degree of freedom to improve or worsen their health than do those living in poverty.
That may sound like a dismal view. And I guess some aspects of it are. But on the other hand, I feel that ironically, when seen, it gives people permission finally to stop hurting themselves all in the name of health (or fat loss), and that seems to be the single best thing people can do to improve their health.
Do you believe that being overweight-obese could also cause higher cortisol levels?
@Potato – It’s a possibility that high levels of body fat could somehow increase cortisol. However, I think it’s more likely that elevated cortisol drives increasing body fat than increasing body fat independently driving elevated cortisol. Of course it could be both. But my guess is that it’s mostly the elevated cortisol that comes first.
What is your and/or Matt’s opinion on the correlations between obesity-overweight and metabolic syndrome/diabetes?
@Potato – I’m not sure what you’re asking. Metabolic syndrome and diabetes (I assume you are referring to type 2) are not synonymous. So there are two things you are asking about. There’s the correlation between body fat and metabolic syndrome and then the correlation between body fat and diabetes.
The correlation between body fat and metabolic syndrome is easy since metabolic syndrome, whatever we may think about it, is actually defined by “excess” body fat around the waist.
The correlation between body fatness and type 2 diabetes exists. Higher body fatness beyond a point does correlate positively with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. But since that information is readily available, I’m guessing you’re not actually asking about correlation but rather, causation. And I think that the mainstream view that eating->fatness->type 2 diabetes isn’t accurate.
I think that it’s more like metabolic impairment->increased risk of disease and maybe also fatness.
Right, didn’t mean to be unclear. I just wanted to get a sense of your thoughts on the matter in general.
Exercise used to work for me,especially when I did something more or unusual.For example a wild dancing evening instead of supper.Next day I would weigh a pound or so less. Recently this does not work any more. It could be age related? I am 62 years old now. I find as I get older it gets increasingly difficult to loose weight, no matter what I do,vegan, raw food, Mcdougall, nothing works, not even eat for heat. Luckily I only carry about 5 kg extra. I may have to live with those, what do you think?
Wow, 5 pounds extra at the age of 62! I think you’re doing great! Doesn’t Matt Stone say in one of his books (not sure which one) that it’s inevitable to put on a bit of weight as we age and that statistics have shown that those who are a little overweight at an older age live longer? (Not to say you’re old as 50 is the new 30, isn’t it?) Also, with what guideline do we actually measure an ideal weight? The fashion/beauty industry? Maybe that’s just the perfect weight for your body. I can understand greatly overweight people being unhappy with their weight as it causes many mobility and health issues, but a few or even ten pounds over really shouldn’t be an issue. Since I’ve started eating probably and not restricting, I’ve put on weight, and yes, I don’t fit the ideal weight according to some strange norm that’s pumped by modern science which has only fuelled the dieting industry. But hey, I feel so much better! I always thought, even before I was aware of the problems with restrictive eating, that I felt better when I was fatter. I even used to think my sex drive was better when I was fatter. It felt nicer to sit as I had some padding and I wasn’t so sensitive to touch – like my bones aren’t right at the surface. Crazy, but in many ways it does feel better. The only thing I struggle with is bending down to do up my shoes and some exercises are much harder to do like yoga poses. Push-ups, etc. are harder because there is more weight to pick up. I think I’d rather battle with those minor issues and have energy to face up to my everyday challenges. And have energy to exercise in the first place!
5 kg = 11 lbs.
I wish. Yeah, that’s around the extra pounds I weighed when I felt really good and could maintain it. But I didn’t have a tight flat stomach and had some cellulite. To my husband, even though he found me attractive enough to have fun with, thought I could look better. Oh, really…. This coming from someone who was well over 40-50 pounds his “ideal” weight, let alone what it looked like on him.
Oh, well. Now 37 years older and 100 pounds above that weight. No longer dieting. Finally coming to grips with how to eat normally. You know, like when you are hungry.
Don’t sweat it. Just remember to eat when you are hungry, what you are hungry for to the best of your ability to locate that food and enjoy the rest of your life with only the clothes in your closet/in your home that fit you.
Thank you Kathy for your friendly comment. Yes,I did read that too somewhere that sightly rounded people live the longest. Ha,there is a silver lining to just about anything!
I do suspect that we humans are designed to live a lot more active lives than we do in modern times and that “exercise ”
quite often doesn’t cut it because the rest of the day is spent more sedentary than would be ideal. I do 30 minutes every morning on my standing bike just to generate a sweat and get my heart pumping. It feels good to do that with my favorite music. But then I go to work and sit about a lot, and in the evening I sit about some more. Perhaps older people gain weight because they tend to sit about even more. When you think what our ancestors had to do in a day without all the machinery we have at our disposal today, it seems easy to understand why they did not struggle with weight as we do nowadays. This might be ONE of the aspects of weight problems.
Yes, AnnB, I must admit I have all sorts of clothes in my closet. Some favourite trousers that once used to fit me…As the eternal optimist,they might fit again one day, when I am retired and lead that active lifestyle that will make my additional pounds slowly vanish…
But I have also kept a few bigger trousers that fit me with 15 pounds extra…you never know, right?
Well, I have lost about 20 pounds by restricting calories, and I kept about 16 pounds off for the last 3 years.So I think it was worth it. I gained a bit back, but not the dreaded scenario of gaining all back and some more on top.
I find this a great forum to voice some experiences and learn from you guys, thank you.
I find the views on this website to be conflicting with was is seen in society peroid. America is full of people eating to fulfill body signaling and look where it has took them thus far. A good diet, coupled with daily circadian enterainment, and some exercise will take you a long way.
Those who eat to fullness, sleep well, don’t diet, take decent care of themselves in general… and continue to accumulate fat… are likely people who have a very strong hereditary predisposition to store fat–usually very high adipocyte counts, which is likely caused by consuming far too much linoleic acid in infancy, and the multi-generational fattening effects of eating a diet high in linoleic acid:
“America is full of people eating to fulfill body signaling and look where it has took them thus far.”
We have a vast array of fat and thin, healthy and unhealthy people in America. Not all of the lean people eat clean and exercise daily. Not all the fat people eat to fulfill body signals. In fact, I don’t know a single person in my real, actual life (that I didn’t meet through 180D) that isn’t trying to eat less than they desire. Literally none.
It’s not so cut and dry. The more adamant you are that it is, the less intelligent you sound.
I just want to be healthy, and I feel that I have came a long way through a good diet and staying active. I agree it’s not all cut and dry, we used to be anti saturated fat and look at that subject now. I have followed The Perfect Health Diet with great results. I was at on time in my life 215 pounds, had high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and a very rapid heart beat. I am now 140 pounds, in great shape, no high blood pressure, or insulin issues. I believe that God blessed me and healed me and gave me the desire to become well. I ment no disrespect to you, or any of your views on health. I want to be opened minded and learn everything that I can, so that I can help others and see my family healthy as well.
I think it’s in the first chapter of Paul Campos ‘The Obesity Myth’ that he tells of a study where over 16 months a large group of women exercised daily (the way we’re all told to do, so-called aerobic,) and at the end of the 16 months they averaged one (1!) pound of weight loss. period.
Your comments in this post about fitness and mobility have given me a lot to think about. I resonate with the idea of ongoing increasing of strength and fitness. There is so much going on in the fitness world that is interesting in terms of efficiency of strength training. Hillfit, earthing, body by science.
I’d like to see a post on sleep. I’m extremely skeptical about the all holiness of circadian whatevers because the world is sooo beautiful at night. I cannot believe we are meant to sleep through it. For example.
Google: ‘Sleep for Weight Loss’ for all the studies you want on how sleep affects weight loss/gain. And then test it for yourself.
The thinnest I’ve ever been was when I took a break from exercise and got a sedentary office job, I think this happened because the drop in activity massively dropped my appetite. Being super thin is overrated though, I much prefer feeling strong and being able to carry heavy stuff and not have to ask someone to open jars for me :D BTW when I was very thin I was always freezing cold, but when I do resistance exercise moderately (like a few hours a week, nothing crazy) it stimulates my appetite, I eat more, feel warmer, have more energy etc. I do tend to have a bit more body fat but I think that is a small price to pay.
p.s. does anyone have any tips for dealing with loved ones who act like the food police? I’ve just had a baby and am getting tired of “helpful” comments about how to lose babyweight (I am 4kgs over my pre-pregnancy weight, nothing major). I feel that I won’t lose this fat until I stop breastfeeding (which has given me am insanely massive appetite as well as produced a big, healthy chunky baby :D) but keep getting told I should cut down on carbs, bread, sugar, calories, try intermittent fasting (while breastfeeding??? WTF is wrong with people?) etc. I now secretly put sugar in my tea!
Yes, those few extra few pounds is part of being a new and nursing mother. The extra will go away as baby gets bigger and more active…and you more active keeping up. Just tell the bozos that you intend to nurse and the extra on you is nature’s way for you to be able to make milk.
Too many women who try to lose pregnancy weight end up losing their milk and have to use formula. Yuck.
I also had extra weight after my pregnancies and I had no problems with breastfeeding – had great milk and my kids thrived! You’ll lose it eventually after the breastfeeding. And you need those carbs! I’m so glad I wasn’t on low-carb diets when I had my babies (that was before the paleo craze) because I was able to sustain them properly. (Strangely enough, Mark Sisson, one of the great paleo teachers recommends a higher carb diet when pregnant and breastfeeding. Figures! He got something right.) I hope you manage to convince these people who want to run your life to back off! It’s your baby’s health that matters more than their stupid opinions. And believe me, when you wean your baby and they start walking, you’ll need the carbs to keep up with them! :)
There should be some mention of the digestive tract coating theory. There shouldn’t be a digestive tract coating. Digestive tract cells have a real short life and drop off the digestive tract. Meaning there should be nothing for a coating to stick to.
Endurance exercise apparently removes the coating. Endurance exercise is walking 15 minute miles or more intense exercise. Ken Cooper author of Aerobics says endurance exercise can reduce your need for food. I think he is talking about running 3 to 4 miles a day at an 8 minute mile pace.
Yoga can also remove the coating. The book Yoga Youth and Reincarnation by Jesse Stern frequently mentions that yoga students have to eat much less food to satisfy their appetite. All the bending, twisting and deep breathing must really improve the digestion.
I am thinking of a movie on u-tube called Lying to be Pretty. A character decided to exercise. The exercise caused weight gain.
I saying some of the weight gains from exercise may be from improved digestion rather than metabolism slow down.
Yes, exercise works better to weight loss. This has been well explained in this article.
Interesting study: “Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity”
This study will interest anyone interested in the eat less move more hypothesis of weight regulation and manipulation. Specifically that moving more equates to an increased caloric burn and thus can be used as a tool for weight loss.
This study, undertaken on the Hadza tribe, outlines that energy expenditure can downregulate to compensate and prevent energy expenditure exceeding the bodies current and predictive energy reserves.
This is no big surprise really. Human metabolism and TEE will always gravitate and adjust toward the number of calories consumed. :)
Good thoughts, Matt. I know that with too much aerobic exercise the risk goes up for developing atrial fibrilation. Maybe those with a propensity for getting it are extremely susceptible to getting it if they engage in this a n a l l y retentive running.LOL!
Jordan was bigger on sprinting whereas Larry Bird was known to run for great lengths slow and steady-before games. Bird has atrial fibrilation. It makes me wonder if that led to it?
Overdoing even sprints is bad, I knkw that cardiologist, Dr. James O’Keefe is critical of overexercise and thinks on/off intensity is better for heart rate variability. Probably 20 minutes of full xort basketball is all one needs to reduce coronary mortality.The hiking is good, too. I used to hike for 4 hours like you, Matt. I wond3r though if it was too much even for walking. O’Keefe does not say much about walking being overdone.
It is a great tool for people-normal people etc. But for the truly obese-those with single gene defects and absurdly obese (already active)-I doubt it would do much. There’s is a problem of fat cell hoarding.
I am talking the people worse off than The Biggest Loser etc. We all should be reasonably active but resukts will vary. Luckily , I am a muscular ectomorph-not quite mesomorph but nkt Reggie Miller either LOL!My natural build is 1984 college M.J. Same ,legs and upper body.I stood next to a life sized M.J. poster (in Kissimee, Florida) and I was only 1 inch shorter tops. I was surprised. A.I. is 5′ 9″. I met him once right in front of me. And Curry is NOT 6 ‘ 3″.More like 6 feet tops, only slightly mkre than Iverson. Barkley admitted he was no more than 6’ 4.8″