Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's not about fat

Research on diet, exercise, and weight is good. I especially appreciate a focus on gender differences in these areas. It's obvious that the battle women fight against weight gain as they age is more brutal. And so, I think, is our perception of that battle. I look at a pooch or sag on my husband and smile, focusing instead on how awesome it is that in his fifties he can kick pretty much anyone's butt on a bike. I don't let myself off nearly so easy. I tend to focus more not on what my body can do but how it looks.

It's my personal issue with which to grapple, and I'm working on it. But a recent New York Times article didn't help. Or maybe it has: The fact that it pisses me off may be a sign of progress.

Whereas the results reported identify some interesting gender differences (women have a biological urge to almost immediately replenish calories they burn, as in "Give me a sandwich RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!"), the focus is largely on whether exercise will help you lose weight. They conclude that for women at least the answer is not really, or at least not the way one would hope (you eat the same amount, exercise more, and tada!) because for most people, exercise will cause you to eat more.

Fine fine fine. It's good to know this hasn't been my imagination. But the article pulls up short of another point to exercise:

What about being STRONG?

Exercise not because of how it will make you
LOOK but what it will help you DO.

For the first time in a couple of years, I started off this ski season feeling not as strong as usual. I had been rehabbing a shoulder injury, traveling across town for physical therapy at lunchtime when I normally would have been at the gym, and otherwise refraining from exercise that just hurt too much. Shoulder surgery three weeks before the season started had me off exercise as well. By the time I got on the snow, my shoulder was feeling better, but the rest of me felt like crap.

So I worked. Hard. I skied nearly every weekend and squeezed in as much exercise as I could during the week. Of course I ate like a horse. Skiing makes me HUNGRY. Although I'm far from the machine I would like to be (I am not a naturally muscly person), I got stronger and felt better. The funny thing is that when I shifted my focus to strength not weight, I lost five pounds. But who cares?? OK, I do. I've got a ways to go, both physically and mentally.

So here's my standard spring/summer workout schedule. I aim for six days of exercise and usually hit five. Thank goodness my office is only several blocks from the world's greatest YMCA.
Monday: Spin at lunch

Tuesday: Body sculpt at lunch

Wednesday: Pilates at lunch + hike/jog in the evening

Thursday: Spin at lunch

Friday: Spin at lunch

Saturday/Sunday: Something outside one day / Day off on the other
I'm a creature of habit, and I love me a schedule. Having a schedule helps by removing whether I am going to exercise from a decision process. It's Thursday, so it's spin. Speaking of which . . . time to go. :)


gandr said...

Too bad you aren't retired. You could do spin, body sculpt and palates one day and have the rest of the week to get in shape.

Midge said...

I've been struggling with this lately too, but I realized while I weight more now then a few years ago I'm also stronger and fitter (just not looking) then I have ever been.

Purple Flowers said...

I really like your idea of scheduling something vs decision-making. I'm on that end, and sometimes when I'm feeling alittle burnt out, I take a day off or switch to gardening.

Kristin said...

Well thank goodness! I've been racking up the swimming miles &, while my cholesterol has dropped bigtime, I've lost no weight & I'm HUNGRY! My family tells me I'm gaining muscle, thus the no weight loss, so ha! I am strong & healthy!

Sis. Boom. said...

As someone who has lost the last 20 pounds nearly a dozen times I can honestly say that you can't exercise it off. Its really all about diet. Exercise might fine tune and move some of the dimensions around but for the pure numbers game, its about what you eat. That said, reaching fitness goals is quite high and I strongly recommend it.

Other Mother said...

I feel like I'm intruding on a private conversation between friends, so let me tap on the window and introduce myself to Cindy.

It's Susan. Hey, how's it going?

I have been having this conversation with myself for quite a while. Sigh. What SisBoom said.