We all overindulge sometimes. You crave brownies, but instead of stopping at one, you enjoy slivers throughout the day. By the time you head to bed, half the pan is in your stomach.

It’s easy to assure yourself that you’ll just work it off, but the problem is this: it’s almost impossible to out-train a poor diet. Those of us who work in the weight loss field know that eating right is the most important component of a weight loss program. Here’s why…

Debunking Unrealistic Expectations

It only takes you fifteen minutes to polish off a typical 550-calorie margarita, and you certainly won’t feel full after consuming it. However, it will take you approximately two and a half hours of brisk walking or an hour and a half of jogging to burn off those calories. When you order a second drink and joke that you’ll work it off tomorrow, you probably aren’t really planning on five hours of walking, right?

If you drink two vodka tonics instead of the margaritas, you’ll only ingest 130 calories total. You can work that off, no problem. Hence, the power of a good diet.

Why Is It So Hard to Work Off Calories?

Thanks to the nature of the very plentiful and tasty processed food available to us these days, it’s very easy to overeat. Most of us can consume double our daily caloric requirement without even feeling stuffed. How is that possible? We don’t usually overindulge in high-fiber, low-calorie foods like celery. Instead, we consume too many martinis or too much Brie, foods that don’t fill us up (but certainly fill out our jeans).

However, our bodies also adjust to the amount of exercise we engage in and the number of calories we take in. While exercise is very good for you, it is limited in effectiveness when it comes to managing your weight.

Your Body’s Response to Exercise

If you exercise a lot, you will notice an increase in appetite, tempting you to eat more (and derailing your weight loss efforts). Studies confirm this is so. If you burn 350 calories in aerobics class but then eat an extra 350 calories at lunch, you aren’t going to lose weight! The key is to exercise enough to build muscle and stimulate fat loss but not so much that you have trouble sticking to a healthy diet.

Your Body Isn’t a Calculator

Contrary to popular belief, the problem is deeper than finding the time to exercise more (or harder). Reviews of multiple recent studies conclude that increases in exercise do not necessarily produce the level of weight loss that the math would predict.

Why does this happen? Your body adjusts as you exercise more. Metabolic and hormonal changes occur that cause your body to burn fewer calories even as you up your exercise. Frustrated that your sedentary friends remain slim as you pedal for hours in spin class? Put the blame where it belongs: on your body’s natural inclination to accommodate change.

Over-Exercising Takes a Toll

Over-exercising also increases your risk of injury. This issue becomes more important as we age since we need to invest time in exercise that builds strength and mobility while protecting ourselves from injury. If you hurt yourself, you’ll probably have to limit exercise while you heal, again, further obstructing your weight loss efforts.

Finding Success

As a physician, I am a big proponent of exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can act as a mild anti-depressant. Resistance training burns calories, increases bone density, triggers the production of fat-burning hormones and firms you up (so you aren’t skinny-fat but are skinny-toned after those extra pounds drop off).

However, there are multiple factors in every weight loss effort. You will derive maximum success if you work with a physician that takes into account:

  • Your dietary habits and proclivities, tailoring a plan to your preferences and lifestyle
  • Your body’s metabolic and hormonal balances/imbalances
  • Your current exercise habits
  • Your age and health history

An experienced weight loss doctor will help you prioritize changes to your diet first and exercise second. The recommendations should fit your lifestyle and result in sustainable, long-term weight management.

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