Saturday, June 13, 2009

The E Word

Bear with me a moment. This is a post about losing weight, not politics.

Since joining Facebook at the end of last year, I've made contact with a lot of old college friends. It's been an interesting experience to see that many of them are liberals and that's fine. I may not agree with their politics but then we don't spend a lot of time talking politics. However, it rapidly turned out that one woman, we'll call her J, wasn't just a liberal but a barking moonbat. As in when she found out that one of her "friends" was a fan of Ann Coulter she couldn't wait to trash the woman behind her back on Facebook and in very short order all of J's moonbat friends were chiming in with all sorts of vile things including one man who expressed the desire to whack this woman, that he didn't know, in the kneecaps with a baseball bat. All this J took in stride as if it was the most natural and reasonable thing in the world. When I, however, posted in her thread that Ann Coulter was just the conservative version of Bill Maher she had a meltdown. I mean you would have thought I'd literally walked up and pissed in her Wheaties while she was eating them from the way she reacted. It was then I realized that whatever our history was, were I to meet J today for the first time, we could never be friends and so I removed her from my friends list.

So what does this have to do with losing weight? Well, J's moonbattery wasn't limited to just politics. Even back in college she was struggling with her weight. During the week we were talking to each other on Facebook she posted a link to an article she'd found on the web claiming that exercise had nothing to do with weight loss. The article claimed that it was all about what you ate and that exercise had no effect at all on weight loss. To give you an idea of just how thoroughly the author had researched his/her claim, he hadn't done any actual research but instead settled for hypothesizing that anyone who has ever experienced weight loss while exercising was also probably watching what they ate and thus it was what they were eating that caused them to lose weight instead of the exercise.

Based on my own experience I can tell you that hypothesis is worth the paper it's written on. What's that you say? It's not written on paper? It's just words on a screen that will vanish as soon as you click on the next link? Well, there you go.

Even as a child I lived a relatively sedentary lifestyle. I was never really into sports. While I might occasionally go out and hit a ball around or go swimming or play with friends, I also spent a lot of time sitting in front of the television or reading or working puzzles or building models or some other activity that didn't exactly burn a lot of calories. Except in the summer when my parents would send me off to camp where I would be fairly active with a variety of scheduled activities like boating, nature walks, trampoline, and swimming. Of course what I ate at camp was different from what I had at home. At home Mom tried to make us balanced meals. At camp they, generally, tried to make meals that kids would eat with minimal fuss. At home Mom would never have given my brother and me donuts for breakfast but at camp they did. At home I never got a soft drink and candy every afternoon for a snack but at camp I did. And yet every summer I would lose weight and then put it back on during the rest of the year.

Then came college. I attended Georgia Tech where the PE requirements included a course on either aerobic conditioning or weight training, a swimming class called Drownproofing (You, too, can get college credit for letting someone tie your hands and feet together, hang a brick around your neck, and throw you in the pool. Seriously.), and a lifetime sport. First quarter I took aerobic conditioning. Every class we would engage in some aerobic activity. At the end of the quarter our final grade was determined by how fast we could run 1 ¾ mile. I did it in just under 12 minutes, earning an A for the course. Outside of class we were expected to earn 30 "aerobic points" a week by engaging in various activities. We had to keep an activity diary and that also played a part in our final grade.

Winter quarter I took Drownproofing and I wasn't kidding about having someone tie your hands and feet together, hang a brick around your neck, and throw you in the pool. The course was a holdover from WWII when apparently the Marine Commandant toured the school, which had a large ROTC contingent, and decided the cadets needed a class that would teach them what to do if their transport was torpedoed on the way to Europe. The tying of hands and feet was used to simulate the loss of an arm or a leg. A rubber brick simulated carrying the weight of an assault rifle. Personally I think if I've just had an arm and a leg blown off and have been dropped into the water of the North Atlantic I've got bigger problems than holding on to my rifle but that's just me. Dubious usefulness of the course aside, swimming is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do.

Spring quarter brought Bowling. A fun course but not real high on the list of good workouts.

What was I eating while I was getting all this exercise? Let me put it this way. It was the first time in my life that I had complete control over everything I ate and I wasn't the least bit worried about my weight. So I ate a lot of burgers, fries, pizza, soft drinks, whole milk, cookies, cake, candy, etc. As an example, a favorite breakfast was scrambled eggs with cheese, grits, breakfast sausage, and a biscuit or two smothered in sausage gravy. Definitely not the diet of someone trying to lose weight and yet lose weight I did. Despite my horrible diet, my freshman year of college was the leanest year of my life.

If I wasn't eating right, why did I lose weight? Because I was getting a lot of exercise. Remember the golden rule of weight loss. You will lose weight if the number of calories you burn in a day is greater than the number of calories you consume. Dieting restricts the number of calories you take in but its exercise that burns the calories. Both diet and exercise are important parts of any weight loss plan and anyone who tells you differently is probably trying to sell you something.

I've heard a lot of people say they can't help gaining weight because they have slow metabolisms. Did you know there's a way to speed your metabolism up? It's called exercise. Aerobic exercise will burn calories while you're working out. Weight lifting will help burn calories 24 hours a day. A 6 pack seems to be the Holy Grail of weight loss for a lot of people. Guess what. If you want a 6 pack you've got to get some exercise. Want to get rid of that "chicken wing" that hangs down whenever you lift your arm? Exercise is the key. Ever see a flabby thin person? I have. You want a firm body, you've got to exercise to get rid of the flab.

Here's a fun little test. See if you can think of anyone, outside of sumo wrestlers and the like who deliberate work at maintaining bulk, who leads a physically active lifestyle and yet is fat. To give you an idea of the sort of person I'm talking about, I used to work with a guy who played basketball every morning with a friend before work and the first thing he did after work was go to the gym, when he wasn't organizing a softball league or the like. The guy was constantly in motion and there wasn't an ounce of excess fat on him. He didn't do all this stuff because he was worried about his weight. He did it because it was fun to him.

We, as a society, have become more sedentary. With 100s of cable and satellite channels to choose from there's always something to watch on the television. If there isn't we can always put on a DVD. Or maybe browse the Internet and read some guy's random ramblings. Or we can play video games. I mean who wants to take the trouble of rounding up enough friends for a game of football when you can play from the comfort of your couch with a soft drink and potato chips at hand?

Exercise is good. Go out and get some.

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