Thursday, October 25, 2012

Battle of the Bulge: Passive vs. Active

Perhaps because I loathe sweating, my weight-maintenance plan doesn't involve the gym. I make a point to walk as much as possible, but ellipticals, stationary bikes, and crunches are avoided. In general, whenever possible, I will embrace the passive approach (limiting food consumption) rather than the active (driving to a gym, weight-lifting things).

Additionally, my personal observations concluded that many of those who most proudly proclaim gym-devotion aren't exactly, um, slender. 

Here enters another article claiming that a relatively immobile lifestyle doesn't automatically equate to obesity. Researchers decided to test the theory that higher activity means burning more calories by observing one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies. Apparently, despite the fact that the subjects were on the move the entire day, they did not expend any more calories than we do.
Fascinatingly, moving about only accounts for a small amount of the energy we use. Our bodies are in essence a machine, and all the microscopic components, on a cellular level, eats up the most calories. 
Of course, if we push our bodies hard enough, we can increase our energy expenditure, at least in the short term. But our bodies are complex, dynamic machines, shaped over millions of years of evolution in environments where resources were usually limited; our bodies adapt to our daily routines and find ways to keep overall energy expenditure in check.
All of this means that if we want to end obesity, we need to focus on our diet and reduce the number of calories we eat, particularly the sugars our primate brains have evolved to love. We’re getting fat because we eat too much, not because we’re sedentary. Physical activity is very important for maintaining physical and mental health, but we aren’t going to Jazzercise our way out of the obesity epidemic. 
While exercise is vital to health, it has less of a connection to weight than we would like to think, as new research concurs. Thirty minutes on the treadmill (or in my case, two 15 minute walks to and from public transportation), and you are good to go. 

This article reminded me of a story featured a few years ago on 60 Minutes. Two groups of monkeys over fifteen years had been given diets composed of less and more; the monkeys who ate more had a higher percentage of being disease-ridden and dead, compared to the ones who were given limited portions. 

Some individuals are making a point to semi-starve themselves with the expectation of long-life.

The jury has still not yet concluded if that is a wise way to go, but I know personally that when I don't have a hefty supper, I feel fabulous the next day. 

Of course, thin does not automatically equal healthy. But the abundance of food (or stuff that masquerades as "food") that is so very available to us nowadays must be navigated with awareness and discipline. 


PremonitionsofanAfterthought said...

You are so on target with this post! I have always been an avid exerciser (it makes me mucho happy!) and my husband has tried for a while to convince me that the only way to lose weight is through diet...I didn't believe him UNTIL i had Shmooshy and the last ten pounds wouldn't BUDGE! Hubbie and I went on a modified weight watchers diet- it was brutal (I still can't look at a veggie burger) but after around 6 weeks I'd lost 8 pounds. DIETING WINS! Now that I'm down to my pre-baby weight I exercise to maintain weight lost, and to have energy (and cause, to some of us its' fun!) I DO miss the incidental exercise of Brooklyn though! You walk to the train and you've exercised for the day. I live in out-of-town suburbia. The only way that 30 minutes of exercise is happening is if I schedule a walk into my daily routine. ::sigh:: enjoy the walking culture! Great post.

the gelt said...

i think i read that article a little while ago, and while i agree that quantity of food is important, a critique of the study was that it doesn't address HOW quality of food factors into the equation versus sheer caloric intake.

but, down with the premise!

Princess Lea said...

PIAA: Whoo! -8 in six weeks! That is amazing!

True - not everyone has the option to walk. But so many I know can't believe I walk at all. I'm pretty much the only one. People stop and beg me to let them give me a ride; when I say, "No thanks," they look as though I should be institutionalized.

Gelt: Yes, there is definitely a difference between quantity and quality of food. I eat very "healthy" things, so for me it's not an issue.

But good food is very necessary for health, so one can be slender and restrict their calorie intake but whatever they do eat is not providing enough nutrition. Weight is an insufficient gauge of health.

I have detailed some of my "healthy" eating habits; but I really have to detail them better.

Anonymous said...

So I hear you about this stuff in theory, but it hasn't mirrored my personal experience. In high school, I was also very anti-sweat and decided the way to go was to eat healthy. I had only salads for two meals a day and cereal, but for the life of me I couldn't lose a pound.

It was only when my mother introduced me to cardio workouts via taking me to a dance class twice a week that I started to lose anything, and slowly (over the course of about 5 years) I have found the exercise routines and eating habits that seem to do well for me. Now I weigh about 10 lb less than I did in high school. Even though I am very careful about what I eat and making sure that what I do eat is healthy, I always notice that if for some reason I can't exercise for a few days, the weight starts coming back, despite the 'manhattan' lifestyle which should in theory include it in daily life...

Princess Lea said...

Anon: Since I can't stand salads, I don't consider them "healthy" food. :) And cereal is not necessarily dietetic. It's more about quantity as well as quality. A person can gain weight eating good foods, if the portion sizes are large enough. I have.

I like cereal but they are high-fiber and whole-grain in nature, and I measure it. Seriously. I measure my cereal. The rest if my diet is primarily fruits, vegetables, and other grains/berries (quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, amaranth, brown rice); it makes me feel good and maintain my weight.

As with all things, there are exceptions. And considering the case of science today, a study will come out in a few months that will disprove everything in this article.

Until then . . .

tesyaa said...

I taught my husband to measure his cereal - and he lost weight.

Princess Lea said...

I remember when I found out how much calories pasta is, and now I measure it, too. No fun.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Guys like curves. Keep that in mind.

Alan Levin said...

The science is simple, we're made to use x-heartbeats and y-tons of food. My mother taught me to finish what is on the plate, I worked out if I leave half I can eat it 'later' - and add the time on to my life to have to eat it.

The oldest living humans have two things in common, 1. eat less 2. do less. I no longer waste heartbeats on cardio, rather do 15 mins lactate intense exercise.

"Semi-starve" - is quite a loaded comment. I'm not sure how much different that is to 'be hungry', enjoy and appreciate every morsel, where's the Torah?

The plan is to make it to 500, anyone want to join the club?

Princess Lea said...

I have no intention of semi-starving; as I recall, their choice for dinner was a half a slice of bread smeared with split-pea baby food. Ew.

WigTastic said...

Great blog post. Sounds very much like the Health At Every Size (HAEs) approach.

Princess Lea said...

That's the thing. If one is a little chunky but they are eating the right stuff, they should still be in good health.