If you read my post on the pros and cons of weight loss and fitness apps, then you can view this maybe as a bit of a continuation of that post. If you didn’t read it, it’s not pertinent that you go back there first, but I still encourage you to check it out.
As usual, this post was triggered by what I have been experiencing lately with my clients as well as what I have seen as an overall trend in the industry lately. And I hope that it comes to an end soon. I’m referring to looking to exercise as the end all, be all of the weight loss equation. And these weight loss and fitness apps, I’m afraid, are fueling the fire so to speak on the trend. “Look, I just burned “486” calories on the elliptical machine today. I know because my app said so. I just plugged it in.” I could give all kinds of examples, but I think this gets the point across. Look, I think it’s awesome that you worked out. Seriously, I really do. I encourage and promote it to everyone I work with. But I feel there is an underlying problem.
Seeing that you just “burned/torched/melted/incinerated/etc” so many calories makes you feel good. There is a tangible number associated with the burning in your thighs. It’s affirmation that you done went and did good! And you no doubt did. But I feel this gives a lot of people the feeling that they now deserve a reward. Or that they can now have (enter favorite food in unhealthy amount here) tonight at dinner. I don’t think most of us realize just how easy it is to down 500 calories, whether they come in the form of say, a couple slices of pizza, or are distributed throughout the day in the form of creamer in the coffee here, sugar in the tea there, and a few fudge covered Oreos after lunch (but damn those are good aren’t they?).
I like to preach about eating for weight and exercising for health with almost everyone I work with. The human body was designed to be up and moving around. I often reference the pre-industrialization period where agriculture dominated. Picture how your life and typical day would look like (I know, no Facebook or Instagram! How’d we ever make it?). Now look at how we go about our days now. I’m no exception either. I’m sitting on my ass as I write this. I do have a goal of reducing sitting time at the computer to a maximum of 2 hours per day though. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer. And I also like to talk about how we are designed to be vertical and horizontal. By this I’m referring to being up and moving around or sleeping. Sitting should just be interspersed with relative infrequency (eating or taking a break for a few). But I digress.
There are exceptions to eating for weight and exercising for health, however. I also work with high school athletes as well as endurance athletes. Many of them train multiple times a day or for literally hours on end. This is where the tables turn a bit. And frankly, that’s what I enjoy doing the most. However, I’d argue the vast majority of folks reading this, that’s not the case. And not that there is anything wrong with that, but I think it all needs to be put into perspective.
The bottom line is that losing fat is difficult for anybody. Don’t worry about how many calories you burned in spin class. You should expect to move every day. That should be a given. Instead…and this is may come as a shock… listen to your body and eat well. You have enough to worry about as it is. Keep this aspect of your life simple. Oh, and be sure to enjoy the ride too. Because as Jimmy Buffett says, it’s just “24 hours, maybe 60 good years. It’s really not that long a stay.”