Thursday, January 14, 2010

Diet and Exercise, Exercise and Diet

If there's one thing on which there's pretty much a consensus in the world of weight loss, it's that effective and sustained slimming-down requires both diet and exercise. This isn't exactly news, despite the fact that every couple weeks another magazine or newspaper or website treats it as if no one had ever suggested the idea before:

For Fitness, Cutting Calories May Not Be Enough - US News and World Report

In addition, the authors of autobiographical weight-loss books and blogs can't sing this same chorus enough, constantly proclaiming the joyful synergy of the two sides of the process - how their athletic endeavors make them eat better and how their healthful eating fuels their workouts.

But me? I have to admit that I have a really hard time doing both at the same time. Right now, for instance, I'm exercising regularly, and that is a rare change from my usual winter lethargy. I'm doing an hour on the elliptical 5-6 days/week, and even going out running occasionally when the sun comes out.

But does this uncharacteristic motivation spill over into my eating? Am I able to euphorically control my appetite and thus maximize my weight loss? Nope. Of course, this is partly because the exercise makes me hungry. Very hungry. Worse still, it makes me hungry for sugar, which is a very bad thing.

Similarly, there are periods of time when I have no trouble following my diet plans, resisting the temptation to snack, ignoring the siren songs of the vending machine at work, the bakery counter at Panera, and the ease of obtaining drive-through McDonald's french fries on my way home from work. During those times, I have my appetite under control - but am I usually exercising regularly, too? Nope, almost never. Why? Because I don't have the extra energy!

Even beyond this interplay of appetite versus energy, I often feel like I only have a certain amount of will power in reserve - and it's enough will power to control my eating or my exercise, but not both at the same time. I can will myself to exercise, but if I do that several times a week, there's not enough left in the tank to also will myself not to eat candy at the movies. And I can will myself to count carbs and stop eating when I reach my daily allotted maximum, but most of the time I can't also force myself into my shorts and Nikes.

I do know one solution to the problem: being a different person, an athletic, fit guy with a cooperative metabolism who naturally lives the right way. But I'm me. I like rich foods, and I don't like exercise. Given my druthers, I'd just as soon eat lots of unhealthful foods and sell the elliptical on Ebay - but then I'd get fat to the point of having to buy two seats on the plane, and that's also not acceptable.

There are never any easy answers, are there?!

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