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Author: Patzer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 58627  
Subject: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/10/2005 9:54 PM
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It is not a novel observation that weight loss is easy to understand: If you expend more calories than you consume, you lose weight. If you expend fewer calories than you consume, you gain weight.

In the short time I've been here, this has been pointed out a couple of times. Both times, someone quickly replied that it wasn't that simple for various reasons including the effect of exercise on basal metabolism rate, the thermic effect of some calories being more easily assimilated than other, etc.

I grant that there are many other important factors to consider, particularly if I wish to promote general health and fitness instead of just losing weight however I can. Fortunately, the more significant other factors can be made to work with the primary effect.

The first-order, most important thing to remember is that to lose weight I have to expend more calories than I consume. Concerns about which foods I eat, which calories are more easily absorbed, how much exercise is enough, how much worse fats are than proteins and carbs, how much worse simple carbs are than complex carbs, how building muscle mass helps me burn fat while resting, and all the other minutia are really details of implementation. The big picure is that I need to expend more calories than I consume.

A true story: At the beginning of June, 1996, I was 40 years old and weighed 207 pounds. I started eating more, and it was all high-fat stuff. The McDonald's Two Cheeseburger Meal became a staple of my diet. Super-size that, please. Make that drink a real Coke with sugar and caffeine. I was under a lot of stress, and made no effort to limit my consumption of comfort foods. Ice cream? Bring it on. Potato chips and french onion dip? A lovely snack. Better have two of those 12 ounce containers of dip handy.

By mid-September I weighed 192, down 15 pounds.

Of course, the junk food diet wasn't the whole story. My employer was engaged in a stupid labor dispute with the union. I was spending 4 hours a day at my regular cubicle-dwelling job, and 8 hours plus Saturdays filling in for union workers who were not working as many hours as normal. The fill-in was characterized by periods of driving a van interspersed with physical labor doing real work. I built a lot of muscle mass without a formal exercise program. While doing my best to do craft work, I got to wear boots with steel toes and steel shanks. They weigh 2 pounds each, but were hardly noticeable next to the other stuff I got to carry around.

When the labor dispute was settled, I stopped eating as much and needed a lot less comfort food. All 15 pounds came back within a few months.

What I learned from my weight follies in 1996 is, exercise matters. It matters a lot. Sufficient exercise can overcome a terrible diet, at least in terms of pure weight control. A farmer or a construction worker can eat an awful lot and not become obese.

However, I am not a farmer or a construction worker. I am a cubicle dweller. If I want to maintain a reasonable weight, I can't eat like a farmer or like a construction worker. It's easy to get plenty of exercise if your paid job involves physical labor; it's a lot tougher if your paid job is sedentary.

I've wrestled with balancing diet and exercise since I first got disgusted with a peak weight at the beginning of 1999. I tried just getting more exercise. All that fit was a walk on my lunch hour. That kept me from gaining more weight, but was insufficient for weight loss. I tried just eating less, primarily smaller portions. Coupled with the daily walk on work days, that was enough for slow weight loss. Problem was, I could lose months of progress in a couple bad weeks of social eating and stress eating.

Along the way, I found that life's little details like having a teenage daughter with a psychological meltdown, or being forced to act as a single parent to said daughter for three months, or the three months being extended by a divorce proceeding, or the divorce proceeding dragging out for 21 months tended to get in the way of focusing on fat control and general health.

Amazingly enough, weight loss got easier when I got some of life's distractions out of the way. I like to think I learned some things from the interaction of my weight loss efforts and the distractions. What I've learned may not apply to everyone, or even necessarily to anyone other than myself. But for what it's worth, here are some lessons from my last decade:

1) Exercise matters. It matters a lot. Absent regular exercise, I will gain weight while eating very little.

2) If I am committed to 40 sedentary hours a week at work, exercise alone is insufficient. I will have to watch what I eat in addtion to exercising.

3) Life is going to throw distractions at me. Some of the distractions will be very compelling. It will be more important to pay attention to such distractions than to my diet and exercise plan. Because of this, I need a diet and exercise plan that can be followed with very little attention.

4) To keep getting exercise while life is distracting me, it is not sufficient that I enjoy the exercise. I have to look forward to the exercise, and I have to resent things that make me give it up for a day. This is what I need to get my exercise consistently. It also helps a lot if the exercise fits into time that is otherwise useless for my preferred leisure activities; my lunch hour is a good choice.

5) I have not been very successful at controlling eating while life is distrating me. I think the key is to achieve a mindset where food is not on page one of my priority list. It is easier to squeeze excess eating out by wanting to do something else than by sheer will power.

6) Portion control is vital. Even though it is cheaper by the ounce to buy the giant economy pack of whatever, it is important for me to buy single servings. Make that small single servings. Microwave soup is better than canned soup not because it is more convenient, but because there is less in the package.

7) I can't change my whole life at once. In 1999, I could add a regular walk on my lunch hour. With this one change, I got more exercise and ate less, as I was not eating out for lunch any more. After this became routine, I could start trying to control how much I ate for supper. After a small supper became routine, I could work on eliminating boredom eating. After I had done enough of this to have some weight loss success, I could "go public" with my need for weight loss and start posting here. If I tried to do all of that at once, it would fall apart and I would fail.

8) If I'm struggling to hold the routine together, I'm doing enough. If I'm holding the diet and exercise routine together without effort, I can afford to look for ways to improve it. Perhaps I can eat a little healthier. Or perhaps I can add a new form of exercise in some time that I would otherwise use to run to the fridge. Once I make such a change, I need to stick with just that change until I figure out how to make it routine and effortless. When it becomes effortless, I can look for another improvement.

9) When all is said and done, the bottom line remains the same: To lose weight, I have to expend more calories than I consume. Understanding this is very straightforward. It's actually doing it that is challenging.

Patzer
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Author: chewiekiki Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46483 of 58627
Subject: Re: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/11/2005 7:00 AM
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This is one of the best posts I've read in a while! Thanks!!!!

And congratulations on being brilliant!

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Author: possum2000 Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46485 of 58627
Subject: Re: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/11/2005 11:52 AM
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1) Exercise matters. It matters a lot. Absent regular exercise, I will gain weight while eating very little.

2) If I am committed to 40 sedentary hours a week at work, exercise alone is insufficient. I will have to watch what I eat in addtion to exercising.

These are so well said they're worth repeating. To #2 I would add: "especially if your 40 sedentary hours is HIGH STRESS".


5) I have not been very successful at controlling eating while life is distrating me. I think the key is to achieve a mindset where food is not on page one of my priority list. It is easier to squeeze excess eating out by wanting to do something else than by sheer will power.

Can you elaborate a little more, or give an example? Are you talking about boredom eating vs other types of entertainment? Or about caring about what you eat (good food vs junk)?

Possum



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Author: Patzer Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46486 of 58627
Subject: Re: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/11/2005 12:10 PM
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5) I have not been very successful at controlling eating while life is distrating me. I think the key is to achieve a mindset where food is not on page one of my priority list. It is easier to squeeze excess eating out by wanting to do something else than by sheer will power.

Can you elaborate a little more, or give an example? Are you talking about boredom eating vs other types of entertainment? Or about caring about what you eat (good food vs junk)?


This is an area that I am still working on. While I have some current success here, it hasn't been going on long enough for me to trust that it is a permanent change. Hence, the less definitive description of the point.

The major categories of eating that have been a problem for me are:

1) Portion size (and seconds) at regular meals,
2) Boredom eating
3) Stress eating
4) Social eating

Changing my mindset to put non-food activities higher on the priority list is helpful in controlling boredom eating and stress eating. If I find that a trip to the fridge for a snack is a boredom ritual (and it was), it has worked better to replace that with a different boredom ritual. One idea was to get diet soda instead of a snack with calories. Another one I stumbled into by accident was to make some light exercise with dumbbells a boredom ritual so I'm not even walking into the kitchen.

Similarly, when I am stressed out I need to develop a stress coping mechanism other than eating. Maybe it's storming out of the house and going for a walk. Maybe it's sitting around playing a mindless computer game. The important thing is that it will be easier to replace a stress habit of eating with a non-food stress habit than just to avoid eating on pure willpower. I am less confident of how good a solution this is, because I have not been tested on it under high stress conditions.

Portion size is more of a meal planning thing, and this thought is less applicable to that. There is some benefit of looking forward to a non-food activity instead of looking forward to supper, but the benefit is minor compared to the effects with stress eating and boredom eating.

Social eating is trickier. Here, I may not want to control my eating because it's fun! I do work on a mindset that isolates the fun from the food and understands what drives the fun, so that I can consume less and still have a good time; but that isn't really applying this particular point.

At this point, I'm not paying a lot of attention to good food versus junk. I'm avoiding obvious junk, but not making a serious effort to have super-healthy food. If I can lose weight and feel good on portion control and exercise, I don't want to mess with formal diet plans. But that's a subject for a future post discussing the interaction of time constraints and weight loss efforts.

Patzer

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Author: Marxtacy Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46488 of 58627
Subject: Re: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/12/2005 7:14 AM
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It is easier to squeeze excess eating out by wanting to do something else than by sheer will power.

This is such an important aspect of successful diet and lifestyle. To understand it, just think of those days when you are very busy with work (or play) and "only" manage to squeeze in three meals with no snacking. The time flies and you never even thought about snacking.

Another way this could be said:

The best way to stop a bad (eating) habit is to replace it with a good habit. Stopping the bad habit with no other changes is doomed to failure. A change can be either direct (e.g., replace soda with water) or indirect (e.g., increase activity level to reduce boredom eating).

Indirect change often works because humans don't deal well with dissonance. That is, the new good habit eventually makes the old habit seem silly - poor eating no longer makes sense in your life.

For example, it is the wrong mindset to quit smoking so one can start exercising. Instead, one should indirectly REPLACE smoking with exercise. I helped a friend quit smoking (and start exercising) with this mindset. (Granted, he was already willing to stop smoking.) I told him to smoke as much as usual every other day, but to not smoke at all on the days he exercised. If he missed a day of exercise he had to exercise the next day, which resulted in two days of not smoking. After just a few weeks he started smoking less on his smoking days because (he said) it stopped making sense to smoke. He was really enjoying weight lifting and knew smoking (even on his "off days") was hurting the amount he could lift. In other words, smoking no longer made sense within the context of his new lifestyle.

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Author: yeilBagheera Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 46531 of 58627
Subject: Re: Musings on Diet and Exercise Date: 1/16/2005 3:56 PM
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EXCELLENT


" If I want to maintain a reasonable weight, I can't eat like a farmer or like a construction worker."

and, may I add, I can't eat like I did when I was 22 years old.

YeilB

simple not easy

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