Tag Archives: exercise

some say exercise won’t make you thin

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The blogosphere has been abuzz lately about an article in TIME magazine called Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin.  It is interesting, because we’ve joked about such things before, yet here’s an article in a credible magazine suggesting it.  But before we dig into it, let me mention that the author of this article exercises regularly and talks about how he isn’t losing fat, yet he weighs only 163 pounds.  Unless he’s abnormally short, that’s not a bad weight for an adult male to be at.   I don’t see how he could be considered fat or obese.  Actually, my “ideal weight” is supposedly 190-200 for my height, so 163 seems too skinny to me.  Anyway, let’s get to the article.

First, let’s start with the author’s premise for his hypothesis:

Like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don’t.  Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight? ~ John Cloud

He also quotes some other experts who back his claim: “In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless,” says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher.  That sounds extreme to me, but I’ll keep reading.

The notion that we eat more because exercise makes us more hungry and thus exercise makes it harder to lose weight sure sounds like something the “Important Doctor” came up with.  The article also mentions the idea that intense sessions of exercise may cause people to reward themselves by eating what they want.  I can see that — it’s much easier to justify a milkshake or snack if you’ve worked out.

Some scientists imply that it’s evolution’s fault that humans can easily get fat.  We don’t have much “brown fat”.  Rats, among other species, have a lot of it, which turns off their mitochondria (which are the cells’ power plants), so they don’t get an energy boost from eating too much — they just get warmer, which helps the calories burn effortlessly.  So for animals like that, it’s really difficult for them to get fat, even if they overeat.  In contrast, humans can barely overeat and yet gain weight, because unused calories get stored in regular “white fat” cells.

One example cited in the article explains why our compensation for exercise keeps us from losing weight:

A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories.  If you’re hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it’s easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash.  From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting.

Well, few people knit these days, but I think it would be fair to replace that part of the example with sitting on the sofa playing video games.  So there’s your proof that playing video games can help you lose more weight than running! (That definitely sounds like something from the “Important Doctor”.)

The article also says that self-control is like a muscle, that it gets weaker when you use it too much.  So if you force yourself to jog for an hour, your capacity for self-control becomes weakened, and you’re more likely to eat pizza than a salad.  (Although I’m always more likely to eat pizza than a salad, given those choices.)

Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, agrees that exercising makes you more hungry, therefore he’s suspicious of the playgrounds at fast-food restaurants: “Why would they build those?  I know it sounds kind of like conspiracy theory, but you have to think, if a kid plays five minutes and burns 50 calories, he might then go inside and consume 500 calories or even 1,000.”   One study has shown that exercise causes kids to eat an average of 100 calories more than they had just burned.

Of course, some sites have countered the TIME article, with one even saying it is an “Epic Fail”.  The TIME article makes some points, but we don’t have to give in to overeating because we exercise.  And I don’t think self-control is like a muscle from a physiological sense, but the analogy may work if you carry it out further.  The more you resist something, the stronger you get, instead of weaker — after a while.  For example, if you give up cokes, it may be hard for a few days, but eventually you don’t even miss them anymore.  (I know, because I gave them up.)

I reckon what all this debate results in is that you can find a study that backs up whatever lifestyle you want to live.   If you don’t want to exercise, then you shouldn’t, because it makes you gain weight.   But if you want to lose weight, well, it’s hopeless.  (Of course the last one isn’t true — but if you want to blame it on evolution or misinformation or whatever, there’s an excuse.)  To me, it still seems really simple — if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight.  Maybe that seems too-good-to-be-true, but it adds up, if you do the math.

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scientists discover a skinny gene

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I saw something quite interesting in the news recently : scientists discover “skinny” gene.  If that’s true, then it should be made into a vitamin I can take.   I really miss the days when I had a metabolism, when I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight.  But since I got out of college and started working in a cubicle farm, that’s no longer the case.

Now, I know, some of you are thinking I should just eat less and exercise more.   If that’s what I wanted to do, I’d be skinny.  But I enjoy eating.   And while I enjoy some forms of exercise, there’s not always time to do enough of it.  If only I was genetically predisposed to be skinny, then I could eat fried chicken with biscuits & gravy more often.   Oh, and include mashed taters, too, covered with gravy.  Yeah, that’s the stuff.  And I’d order pizza a whole lot more.  I’d definitely eat much better if I was unable to gain weight.  And then I wouldn’t have to rearrange my schedule, giving up fun activities, to make more time for exercise.   And who knows, maybe if I wasn’t overweight and thus had more energy, I’d do more exercise-type activities.  As it is now, exercise makes me feel tired.

So I’m looking forward to being transformed into a skinny person by the benefits of cutting-edge science.  They need to hurry up with it, because I think a lot of people need this.

overeating and inactivity doesn’t make you fat

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I’ve always heard that eating too much and not getting enough exercise will make you fat.  That seems reasonable to me.   But I read somewhere online that this isn’t true.  Check out these “facts” someone posted:

The basic assumption here is that people become obese due to overeating and inactivity. This isn’t true. … Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.

Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.

Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.

We get fat because of an imbalance — a disequilibrium — in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism.

So if I understand it, I’m not overweight because of overeating and being lazy, but because of excess fat accumulation.  And exercise doesn’t help you lose weight but actually makes you fatter because you’re hungrier!  (This sure sounds like that “Important Doctor” fellow, but it was someone else.)  And it’s my “hormonal regulation” that is to blame.  Hmm…

If you’re curious what that guy recommended to do to lose weight, his solution is to eat less carbs.  Although I thought he said consuming excess calories doesn’t make us fatter, so I don’t understand.   I just know that according to what that guy said, it’s not my fault!

viewer mail, issue #13

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It’s about time to open the viewer mailbag again.  I have some time-specific ones about Halloween which might prove helpful to people with questions, plus there’s some general issues to discuss.  As always, these are actual search terms that people used to find this site.

  • what to do with old pumpkins — With it being close to Halloween, a lot of people are probably wondering about this.  I didn’t make a trip to the pumpkin patch to get one, but I know of people who did.   Anyway, I e-mailed the Buffet o’ Blog staff to see what they thought, and here are the options they presented: A) catapult; B) fire; C) both A and B.  Another suggestion was to line up a few hundred pumpkins on the train tracks, then wait for a train to plow through them.   That would be awesome to see.  (Of course, the standard disclaimer applies to these ideas: we are not responsible for any of the stupid stuff you do.)
  • cycling calories burned smell — So when you’re riding your bicycle for exercise, you encounter a burnt smell?  Well, the truth is, you can’t smell calories burning.   You might not want to know what that smell is, but I should probably tell you so you will know.  It’s either sweat or gas.  I don’t know that cycling gives you gas, but the act of cycling may cause more release of gaseous fumes.
  • pickles burn calories — I’ve never heard this, but it could possibly be true.   But even if pickles do lead to the burning of calories (and thus exercise in some form), you don’t want to take this route.  Let me explain.  Pickles are evil.  That’s well-documented at that link.  The side-effect (or full-effect) of eating pickles is not fully understood by scientists, but some important scientists suspect pickles turn people into zombies.   The way this can burn calories is that your body has a natural immune system, which will try to fight off the effect of the evil pickles.   But there’s no guarantee that you will win.  So just don’t eat pickles!   There are much better ways to burn calories.
  • subservient chicken — This is not as good an idea as you might suppose.   Burger King created one online a few years ago, and the page is still there.  We’ve written on this before, and the link to him is at that post.  He can do some stunts and even dance for you, but if you tell him something useful like “bring me nachos”, he does weird stuff and never brings me any nachos.
  • is fat bigger than obese — Interesting question.   Everyone has fat, but of course not everyone is obese, so I’d say obese is bigger.  To get technical with it, obesity is when you have so much excess body fat that your health is negatively affected.  So I reckon if your body fat is not excess — that is, it’s how much you want — then you’re not obese.  Or even if you’re fat or “big-boned” but still have good health, then you’re not obese.  So maybe it has to do with how you look at it.  From a scientific standpoint, it is generally agreed that you’re obese if you’re a man with more than 25% body fat or a woman with more than 33% body fat.  I could explain why those numbers are different, but this is a family-friendly blog…  AWW-RIGHT!

Well, this has been fun, but I have stuff to do, so I’m calling this issue finished.  Besides, some people say these posts get too long (which means they have the attention span of a cheese sandwich).   If you want to read more, you can catch up on the other issues here.