In theory, if you're starving, exercising less helps conserve energy. But obviously you're going to place finding food and eating at the top of your to do list. But dieters today do exactly what they shouldn't do...exercise less if they were to starve and start dieting when trying to lose weight.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System recently published their findings from a 21 state study with over 112,000 participants on how weight loss methods affect dieter's success.
Each participant was placed into one of four categories based on the weight control method they used.
1. Increasing physical activity
2. Eating fewer calories
3. Combination of fewer calories with exercise
4. None (not trying to lose weight)
For those who were trying to lose weight, the most common weight practices were eating fewer calories without other methods (32.3% of women, 24.1% of men) and eating fewer calories with exercise (33.8% of women, 19.9% of men).
Increasing physical activity as a sole weight-loss practice was reported by 3.4% of women and 4% of men.
The last statistic on exercising without dieting is where I get lost. It's hard for me to understand how only 3% of women and 4% of men use exercise as their sole weight loss practice. Is anything wrong with this?
Yes, we are wrong. The entire weight loss industry is wrong!
It all reminds me of a slogan from a few years ago, "Simply Weight Loss." It represented a return to diet basics. And that's when it hit me, a return to diet basics is what is wrong.
Dieting is Wrong
You're too heavy and you need to lose weight. The extra pounds pushing you above your ideal weight, resulted from a chronic state of positive energy balance...eating more calories (energy) than the body needs.
This is usually followed by the question, "Why doesn't my body just get rid of the extra energy?" I totally agree. Just get rid of all that extra energy, send it on it's way.
Unfortunately, the laws of thermodynamics are what mess things up.
The tough law to get around involves the whole idea that you can't create or destroy energy. It's constant. Since you can't simply destroy energy, you have no choice but to use the extra energy (packed into calories) or store it.
So, how does this make dieting wrong? Dieting only works in theory. In theory, dieting, which is synonymous with calorie restriction, causes total body energy to decrease in hopes of creating an energy deficit.
To make up for this deficit, the body will tap into energy stores to cover immediate needs. So, in theory, dieting causes weight loss.
Is this what occurs in dieters? Yes and no.
The Best Method for Using Stored Energy
Dieting, a.k.a. calorie restriction, slows down the resting metabolic rate, throwing the body into a state of energy conservation. This is not conducive of weight loss but instead is perfect for gaining weight.
Those dieters that do lose weight and keep it off, practice my concept of Slow & Low.
Now what? Exercise.
What is the best method for using the extra energy we didn't use in the past? Exercise. Start an exercise program first, one that centers on muscle tone and strength, then use dieting on an as needed basis to lower total body energy.
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System published perfect statistics. We should be using exercise as a sole weight loss method more often.
To Healthy Living!
Michael Smith, MD
Chief Medical Consultant
Diet Basics Website