Are you killing yourself at boot camp 5 times a week but haven’t seen the numbers on the scale budge? Is your belly bigger than you’d like? Believe it or not, you could be exercising too much! Because when it comes to weight loss, what you eat (or don’t eat) is more important than how much you exercise.
Weight loss specialist (and my little sister!), Amy Geant Mackenzie, RD, says of her clients, “Sometimes we ask them to cut back on exercise initially to create an environment that’s more conducive to weight loss. When we exercise intensely, our body is constantly trying to recover and is in more of a “survival” mode and less likely to let go of fat.” Your body senses trouble when you burn calories in an extreme way and cut back too much on food at the same time. Livestrong.com suggests your body’s metabolism shuts down to protect itself, stops burning fat and actually stores it!
For conversation sake, let’s consider extreme exercise cardio workouts (like spinning or running or cross fit classes) for an hour or more 5 or more times a week. And we all know people who do this! In addition to potentially messing with your metabolism, this type of load on your body can increase the stress hormone cortisol. This alone can wreak havoc on your body. Chris Kessler, Health Specialist, says on his website Chriskessler.com, “chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a variety of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly around the abdomen.”
That all said… in addition to eating a healthy, whole foods based diet, Mackenzie still encourages moderate cardiovascular exercise and resistance training like Pilates and weights 3 times as week. And for those cross fitters among you, your hour-long session 1-2 times a week should be just fine, but don’t overdo it if your goal is weight loss; “We know that exercise has amazing virtues,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Assn. “It helps prevent cardiovascular disease, build muscle tone and reduce bone loss. It improves mental health, and it reduces stress. … all of those are vitally important.”
So take a break from your stressful exercise and spend that extra time preparing some healthy foods for you and your family. You body and your scale will thank you.
Stacy Geant Hughes, Certified Pilates Instructor, Certified Pink Ribbon Program specializing in post breast cancer surgery rehabilitation, Owner of Core Value Pilates, LLC in Ridgewood, NJ , (201) 638-0245