Like many adults in my age range (late 40s), I have observed over the past decade my weight progressively creep up, much to my great joy and satisfaction (tongue firmly in my cheeks).
It is not driving me crazy (yet), but I am now feeling that I should make controlling my weight one of my main goals as I approach my …ties (sorry, I cannot type that in full), mostly because I would like to stay in good health for as long as I can.
So, how bad are things now ?
First of all, the obligatory disclaimer: I love eating and greatly enjoy food. Wait, that is not really a “disclaimer” — whatever.
I would also be a liar (even more so, that is) if I denied having a bit of a snacking problem, but nothing really excessive. I think it is fair to state that I have never had anything resembling an eating disorder. In fact, I have never really had a weight problem. I have never been thin, to be sure, but not overweight either. I am six feet tall, and ten years ago I weighted approximately 178 lbs, which I felt was a reasonable weight.
Five years ago I was ten pounds heavier than that, however, and that is when my doctor (whom I see annually and who had until then never said a word about weight) started warning me gently about not letting my weight get out of control. He has hardly been pleased with my performance over the over the past five years, given that I have picked up ten more pounds, which squarely places me in the “moderately overweight” category. The first challenge is for me to lose at least ten, ideally fifteen pounds, in order to return to an acceptable weight; the second challenge, of course, is to maintain that weight, as opposed to starting to gain again.
OK, one would think that I have got my work cut out for me. We all know that that the secret to weight loss can be summarized in the simple recipe: Eat less and exercise more. It will require discipline, sacrifice, it will be difficult, frustratingly slow, but, barring any unknown and/or unforeseen underlying health conditions, diet and exercise together are bound to lead one to achieving the desired goal… right ?
Make no mistake: I am no doctor, nutritionist or physical trainer, and surely have nothing new or particularly authoritative to say about this subject. However, I would like to write here about my own personal experience and observation over the past decade, and perhaps read what others will share with me, because I am starting to wonder whether trying to combine diet with exercise is necessarily the best thing.
My lifestyle has always been active. My work is sedentary, of course (though no more than many others), but I have never been a “couch potato”. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and physical activity, have been a fairly disciplined runner for the past fifteen years, averaging twenty-five miles a week (I typically run for an hour, on average six miles and a quarter, four to five times a week). It is my understanding, based on my reading and conversations that I have had with a number of doctors and/or personal trainers, that such an exercise routine is above average, and can be defined as “vigorous”. I also love hiking and taking long walks, something that where I live is not really possible or convenient six months of the year, but is quite enjoyable the other six. In short, I do not see myself being able to increase substantially the amount of exercise that I do, and quite frankly I would be very happy if I managed to exercise this much over the next five years.
It would therefore seem as if my problem is excessive consumption of calories, combined with the fact that, as I age, my body is less efficient at burning fat.
So, I should just eat less, and I know that I do suffer from the type of food addiction that affects many of us — I eat out of boredom, as well as for a number of reasons that have little or nothing to do with actual appetite, there is no denying that.
However, in all honestly most of the time I eat because I am hungry — my stomach starts complaining. In other words, if I eat more, it is because I am hungry more frequently.
But, why ?
I do not know the answer, but while I have always been instructed to regard physical exercise as an essential part of weight control, it is a simple fact that my two most significant weight losses (in my late twenties and thirties) have been achieved in periods of little or no physical exercise. In particular, walking regularly, not running is the physical activity which seems to correlate the most with weight loss, in my case.
On the other hand, and this is the most frustrating aspect of this whole story, by any quantitative measure the past five years have been pretty darn good from the standpoint of physical exercise. However, I have the impression that all that physical activity comes at the cost of increased calorie consumption, to a point where the overall balance has been tilted toward weight gain.
So, lately I am becoming convinced that eating less is really the key, and that physical exercise, in particular the vigorous type (while probably a good thing for a number of other reasons) may or not always be necessary, or even helpful. I do not know if it is because vigorous exercise increases my appetite, or maybe sub-consciously exercising gives me the illusion of being “protected” from weight gain, thereby lowering my mental guard against starches, cheese and gelato — whatever the explanation, I am seriously wondering whether in some circumstances it may be a better idea to exercise less, not more, if weight loss is what one is aiming for.
Any thoughts ? Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom (do not waste your time telling me to cut down on gelato — your comment will simply not be posted… dammit).