When I went to the hospital a couple weeks ago to get tested for Celiac’s, I mentioned to a doctor that I had lost over 100 pounds in the last two years. His response, verbatim, was: “Wow! You look great! You must have had to work out like mad to have results like that.”
No. No, I didn’t. I work out about twice a week, normally. I do the bare minimum every time and I told him this. I also told him it’s all about what you eat. ME telling a doctor how it works. Something’s not right here.
The fact that a doctor said those words to me was insane. What is wrong with the medical community? Are they seriously not getting it yet? In the battle of the bulge, “eighty per cent of your ability to reduce excess body fat is determined by how you eat, with the other twenty per cent depending on proper exercise, other healthy lifestyle habits, and genetic factors,”, according to Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple and author of The Primal Blueprint. The other “healthy lifestyle habits,” including getting adequate sleep and Vitamin D, can be just as important as exercising if you’re trying to trim down.
This post is for all the people out there that think I’m a crazy fitness nut. Those who envision me on the elliptical trainer from 6 a.m. til midnight, 6 days a week. (Can I at least rest on the 7th day, in your imaginations? ‘Cause that girl would be freakin’ tired and riddled with inflammation, injuries and exhaustion. She would need a rest. She would probably gain weight, believe it or not, and be hungry all the time. All. The. Freakin’. Time.) It’s also for the people who don’t know what to do, how to work out and how to get the results they desperately want.
The Paleo Solution shoots for a variety of exercise: a little some days, a lot others, and occasionally none at all. Just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Some of you have already given yourselves a “gold star” for working out twice per day for the last five years. You’re so dedicated you even work out while sick! Yippee! Well, no gold star for you! You are at the other end of the extreme and need to calm down. We are trying to reduce stress and cortisol. In our gym we see people, usually the endurance types, who seriously overdo their training. Are you carrying some excess chub around the midsection despite “tons of cardio”? Well Buttercup, all that cardio and getting up early to train has released more than your fair share of cortisol. And it’s made you fat.
Thank you, Robb Wolf. You certainly have a way with words. If you work out too often, you’re not doing it right. Shows like NBC’s The Biggest Loser and A&E’s Heavy do more harm than good when it comes to educating the general public. They show contestants working out for 6 to 8 hours a day, losing massive amounts of weight every week. Ever wonder why most of the contestants gain back the weight they lost? First of all, you can’t keep up an exercise regime like that. It’s not natural; we were designed to exert ourselves as little as possible, thereby conserving energy for times of scarcity. Your body (and mind) will be screaming at you every step of the way to stop. I guess that’s why I feel really, really comfortable doing the bare minimum and why I’m sure a lot of you do too. Second, the contestants on those shows aren’t taught how to eat properly. Ever notice who sponsors The Biggest Loser? If you want to lose weight, know this: YOU NEED TO ADDRESS WHAT YOU EAT FIRST. Don’t take cues from TV shows; they answer to corporate sponsors, who do not have your health and best interests at heart.
That being said, exercise is still really important. It regulates insulin levels, gives you energy, helps you sleep better and releases serotonin which makes you feel great. I have to exercise for those reasons. Plus, I want to be strong. After all, strong is the new skinny. So, what do I do for exercise? I work out 2-3 times a week, for about 30 minutes at a time. That’s not very much, so I make the most of it. You’ll never catch me wasting my time on the elliptical trainer or doing bicep curls. I try to make it to CrossFit twice a week, and do something else one other time, like yoga, hiking or sprinting. I’m not tied to a rigid schedule, though. If I don’t feel like working out, I don’t. If I have extra energy one week, I’ll throw in an extra session. Here’s the workout I did this morning:
- 5 minutes running at 6.0 mph in Vibram FiveFingers
- 10 pushups
- 10 situps
- 10 clean and presses 45 lbs
- 25 jumping jacks
- 10 back extensions
- 100m overhead walk with 45 lb plate
- 10 burpees
Total time (from walking in the door to walking out): 28 minutes. This was an unstructured workout. I didn’t have a coach or a trainer, I just did what I felt like based on my energy level. I didn’t even leave the main floor and head into the “meathead” section, I just used the heaviest stuff I could find in the trainer’s area and went with it. I incorporated my warm-up into the workout but did the overhead walk and the burpees at the end, once I was good and warm. (I just picked up the 45 lb plate, put it over my head and walked around the cardio machines for approx 100 m. You should have seen the looks on the elliptical monkey’s faces.) Oh, and did I mention that I did this workout in a fasted state? I like to workout early in the morning, but have less energy when I exercise after I’ve eaten. Also, I’m interested in burning fat and eating before a workout is counterproductive if that is your goal.
Other days, I’ll just walk. Walking is really important and is one of the best ways to get or stay in shape. “Our ancestors hunted and gathered the energy equivalent of about 11 miles of walking per day,” according to Robb Wolf. “This activity was split among a multitude of tasks…As a result of not being overly repetitious, their activity had less negative impact on their joints and minds.”
You don’t have to be a slave to the gym. If your body is telling you to sleep instead of working out, then sleep. Your body and mind
give you cues that we often ignore. Stop doing this. Listen to yourself. If you have more energy one day, exert yourself more than you normally would. Go for a walk or a hike if you’re feeling like it. Do some yoga. Or do nothing at all (just don’t do that everyday, though, LOL).
The same people who had been on the elliptical trainers when I arrived at the gym were still on them when I left. How sad for them. They could have been soaking up the sunshine instead of wasting their time.
BACK TO POST  Mark Sisson, The Primal Blueprint (Primal Nutrition Inc, 2009) p. 66
BACK TO POST  Robb Wolf, The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet (Victory Belt Publishing, 2010) p. 137
BACK TO POST  Wolf, The Paleo Solution p. 136-137
BACK TO POST  Arthur De Vany, The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us About Weight Loss, Fitness and Aging (Rodale Inc, 2011) p. 92
BACK TO POST  The Mayo Clinic, Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity (July 25, 2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/HQ01676
BACK TO POST  De Vany, The New Evolution Diet p. 90
BACK TO POST  Wolf, The Paleo Solution p. 123