Imagine you're invited to a celebratory dinner. The chef's talent is legendary, and the invitation says that this particular dinner is going to be a feast of monumental proportions. Bring your appetite, you're told--come hungry. How would you do it?
You might try to eat less over the course of the day--maybe even skip lunch, or breakfast and lunch. You might go to the gym for a particularly vigorous workout, or go for a longer run or swim than usual, to work up an appetite. You might even decide to walk to the dinner, rather than drive, for the same reason.
Now let's think about this for a moment. The instructions that we're constantly being given to lose weight--eat less (decrease the calories we take in) and exercise more (increase the calories we expend)--are the very same things we'll do if our purpose is to make ourselves hungry, to build up an appetite, to eat more.
--From Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
Wrap your mind around these three paragraphs--especially the third one. It's enough to bake your noodle, isn't it? Essentially, this passage explains the foundational logic behind the view that eating less and exercising more doesn't work--a view that's increasingly catching on across the entire dieting and obesity establishment.
Look, the passage above is logical, no doubt about it: the things you do to eat more are exactly the same things your doctor will tell you to do to lose weight. Which... blows, basically.
But them I'm left with a different kind of question for readers: Is it counterproductive to make a blanket statement like "eat less/exercise more doesn't work"--even if it makes sense in this specific instance? Should we worry about the impact such a statement might have on the dialog on obesity? Most importantly, will it give people tacit permission to sit around, stay sedentary, and claim that everything is out of their hands?
Here's one more thought: once you finish your exercise and build up that appetite, what you eat matters. A lot. If you run for an hour (or worse, skip breakfast and lunch), but then gorge yourself on chips, beer, soda and ice cream.... well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude you won't lose weight with that "strategy." Eat foods like this to excess and your bloodstream will be literally swimming in insulin--which means you will quickly convert all of those delicious carbs directly into body fat.
I'll share one more nuance from my personal experience: When I'm running my typical 3-4 mile runs 3 or 4 times a week, I can pretty much eat and drink whatever I want without gaining weight at all. But my body doesn't crave junk food and sugary drinks when I do this. My body just doesn't want that crap food when I'm exercising regularly.
Hmmmm. So does exercise work or not?
Readers, what's your take on the idea that "eat less/exercise more doesn't work"?
I owe a grateful thank you to Gary Taubes and his book Why We Get Fat for prompting the ideas in this post.
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