People tend to get angry when you tell them that excercise will not make them lose wait. I’d probably get angry too if I spend 3+ hours a day doing zumba and god knows what else to get rid of that ‘belly fat’ and someone dared suggest I may have wasted a lot of time. They will inevitably come up with the calories in- calories out fable to help explain why you’re completely out of your mind making such a claim.
But purely biologically speaking it’s true, supported by evidence too, which always holds a lot of weight in verbal discussions! (uhu) There are plenty of people doing a good job explaining the truth of it, like Gary Taubes with sciency stuff and Robb Wolf with a bit more anecdotal evidence. I’m very glad I don’t feel the least bit inclined to do the same, after all, the audience I have in mind for this blog is people who already have or will read that stuff on somebody’s elses site. The people already living Paleo (or trying to, or thinking about it) and quite familiar with its theories.
So if you’re one of those people, perhaps especially if you’re someone trying or struggling or dabbling, then I’d love to tell you why excercise DOES help you lose weight. It has absolutely nothing to do with science or biology. No, it’s all about headology! (Or psychology if you haven’t read any Terry Pratchett books.)
Thing is, the subject of weight loss (or maintaining weight) is usually accompanied by a big collection of bad feelings. Shame, fear, doubt, anxiety... Especially for those who have struggled with their weight for some time. And these are not exactly very motivating emotions. Quite the opposite. In fact, these things can cause (or reinforce) eating disordered behaviour. Which will in turn generate more negative emotions. And down the spiral goes...
In short: weight loss can be too emotionally difficult to keep you consistently motivated about your clean eating aspirations.
Another reason it is hard to be consistently motivated about weight loss is the long-termness of it. If you weigh in every week it’s easy to argue with yourself about how much that one cookie is going to hurt your goals. Don’t know about anyone else but I can pretty easily convince myself that a cookie won’t matter so much on the grand scale of things. And it probably won’t, but that’s hardly convenient when you’re trying to motivate yourself into eating cleanly.
Now let’s look at excercise. We’ll take crossfit for example and we’ll work with a bit of anecdotal ‘evidence’. Subject: my boyfriend. (From now on we’ll call him by his name, Jaap, because typing ‘bf’ makes me feel 16 years old.)
Even though Jaap is far less messed up than I am when it comes to eating, it still isn’t all that easy for him to eat clean all or most of the time. It’s that dratfull motivation thing that keeps slipping away at the worst times. Perhaps especially because he doesn’t need to lose any weight, just maintain where he’s at. Makes it even easier to convince yourself some of this or that won’t matter so much.
Just slipping this in between: Some of you will now be thinking ‘but what about your health? Longevity etc?’. While this matters a whole lot, and it’s nice to get rid of some pesky health problems (hayfever!) this is a way too long-term kind of goal to powerfully motivate a generally healthy person in his or her early twenties.
Jaap started to visit our brand new and shiny local crossfit gym in january and caught a bit of a fever. He’s competetive alright. Then I noticed his diet cleaning up. He’d tell tales of steely self-control when visiting his mother whose fridge he always plundered. He was consistently packing his ‘paleo’ lunch. Our eggs were dissapearing at a phenomal rate! And last friday instead of drinking plenty of beers at the pub with his mate, he convinced him to go to crossfit with him the next morning. (His friend lived to regret agreeing for the next 3 painfull days.)
After observing this for a while in increasing confusion, Jaap explained that it was all about his recovery. He wanted to perform better at the next workout! Did I mention he’s very competetive?
Excercise gives you a powerfull short-term motivation to eat clean. You can quite easily convince yourself that every bite of non-paleo food WILL affect your recovery and performance.
And best of all, this scenario brings a whole array of positive emotions. Excercise makes you feel proud of yourself, it makes you feel good. When you’re eating a paleo meal to help your recovery before your next kick-ass workout you’ll feel proud and perhaps excited.
A good change for those who feel all these conflicting emotions of shame and determination while eating for weight loss.
So get yourself some short-term goals for steely self-control!
Disclaimer: The picture is meant to poke fun, I'm really not saying anyone should do Zumba. It's hard to imagine wanting to do better at your next Zumba class anyway :|