Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can working out really make you fat?

When I emailed my friends asking them about what motivated them to exercise for an assignment I was working on, Federica responded: "I don't work out--I have a theory it makes me fat!" Say what? When we got together last Thursday, I asked her what she meant and she said, "When I used to work out like crazy, I was 20 pounds heavier because I ate so much more." Hmm, interesting.
Since I started my new office job, I've traded my usual 6am workouts with blogging sessions. (It's hard to do at night because I'm usually either at an event, hanging out with midgets dressed as pirates or finishing up work that I'm actually getting paid to do.) The result? I've only worked out once in the past eight days. Yikes, that's a record. I did my Physique57 video the other day, and a couple other days I did random sets of push-ups, dips, lunges and crunches. I'm counting it all as one workout because not much cardio was involved. That's quite a difference from my usual routine of running, spinning and yoga classes.

I used to freak out if I exercised less than six times a week, but I've really been too busy to care too much. I actually noticed that my tummy is looking a little flatter--could I be losing weight? I have been eating a little healthier though: more veggies, less Diet Coke, more green tea and less ICE CREAM. So I'm feeling OK.

Acording to this article in TIME magazine, exercise plays a very small factor in weight loss, if any at all. The two main points were that exercise: 1.) Stimulates hunger. 2.) Gives you the "compensation problem." (ie. "I deserve this pizza because I just worked out!") This theory makes sense to me, but I'm not going to stop working out just to test its effectiveness (knowing me, I'd find a way to eat more and then some). I do think I might start trying to be smarter about my workouts though. Going forward, I want to push myself harder, but exercise a little less. I don't think six workouts a week is realistic anymore!

This being said, I can't WAIT for my spinning class tomorrow morning. Nothing is stopping me from going. I also cancelled plans with Jenn tomorrow night so I could go to yoga, too (sorry, Jenn!). I need to get back on track--my body is craving it!

Tell me: Do you agree with this theory? What changes do you see in yourself when you're working out more/less?


  1. I don't agree at all. I do believe exercise is an important part of a healthy body as is a balanced healthy diet. I have worked out since I was 17 and anytime I went for a prolonged period of time without exercise I have gained weight. I do believe though, the body does need periods of rest to regenerate and rebuild. I know of people who work out intensely for 3 weeks a month and take one week off to rest their body. I usually give myself 3 or 4 days off every 2 weeks to rest and rebuild.In doing this I have seen results during the rest period but, only following my normal routine. As for your weight loss, Ellen, you answered your own question. Your are eating better and your body is getting more protein and fiber and is burning off some of the sugar or carb indulgences.You are also happier now that you are working. Your body responds to that and functions more efficiently. If I am upset or depressed I gain weight no matter how well I eat.Can't explain it scientifically but it is true. And in conclusion, I do agree with your friend that some feel working out means they can eat all the crap they want.No. All the exercise in the world won't burn off an over abundence of Taco Bell. Exercise, healthy diet and an occasional treat in moderation (a glass of champagne with a midget?)is the best way to go... but that's just me.

  2. Joe, I totally agree...exercise is very important. (Plus, no amount of vegetables can lift a saggy ass!) I always feel so much better after I sweat. And yes, you are TOTALLY right about mood affecting food choices. When I was working at home, I was lonely and more stressed. Not to mention, it was a LOT easier to snack throughout the day. I have a lot more structure to my day now. Thanks for the great comment. Hey, maybe you could email me one of your delicious recipes and I could share it with all my FnF readers?? Your meals always sound so yummy!!

  3. other than physical changes, working out always makes me just FEEL better-in general. i have more energy, i sleep better, i sit up straighter...i am just happier! definitely feeling motivated now to go work out. i am so impressed with your dedication!

  4. Weight loss could also indicate a loss of muscle mass....

  5. That's true LIS, and I really don't want to lose my muscle mass. I know a lot of skinny girls who eat whatever they want and don't workout, but I'm pretty sure my body fat percentage is less than theirs because I have muscle and they are mush :) As much as I want to be thinner, I don't want to be a "skinny-fat" girl either!

  6. Last year I would just take the occasional walk and lift 3lb weights at home. I weighed 116 lbs...then I started to go to the gym and do real workouts and lift weights. This also coincided with the boyfriend, moving in together, trips to the farmers market, eating three meals a day...I gained like 8-10 lbs. Clearly some of that weight was "happy" weight - I was feeling good and eating better calories (dinner is now a protein, veggies, maybe a starch instead of a lean cuisine and half a bottle of wine on the sofa with my cats). Some of the weight was muscle (I have triceps now...triceps I tell you). So working out did cause me to gain weight. BUT 1) My heart and lungs are way stronger 2) My fanny/arms have definition and 3) I haven't had as many colds/sinus issues/tummy troubles.
    Gaining a few lbs is worth it if you are actually being healthier. I tell myself that when I can't fit into my expensive jeans I bought when I was too thin...

  7. Shannon, at least your "happy weight" is healthy weight! Most people can't say the same thing. I know I can't!