Why exercise might be making us fat

I usually exercise 7 days a week. I know. Experts recommend a day of rest, but I’ve gotten into a routine that makes me feel guilty if I don’t set my alarm for 6. Why do I do this? Partly because I like how I feel after an 8-mile run, but mainly to lose weight. Has it worked? Not so much. I lost a lot* of weight several years ago, but those last 5 … 10 … sometimes 15 pounds just won’t go away and no amount of crunches, lunges or planks seem to scare them off. And I don’t know why. Or at least I didn’t know until I read a recent article in Time magazine.

According to Time, my obsessive exercising is either making me hungrier or making me think I deserve that Ding Dong. (Oh, Time, you know me so well!) Either way, I’m eating more calories than I burn, negating those early morning workouts. And it’s not just me!

More than 45 million Americans spend $19 billion a year on gym memberships, and 57% of Americans say they exercise regularly, according to a major study in 2000. But we’re all still fat. A third of Americans are obese, and another third are overweight. That math doesn’t match up.

A recent study took 464 overweight women who didn't regularly exercise and put them in 4 groups. Three groups worked out with a personal trainer for 72 minutes, 136 minutes and 194 minutes a week. The fourth group maintained their usual workout routines. Everyone was told to eat what they normally eat.

Six months later, all the women lost weight. But those who worked with a personal trainer for several days a week didn’t lose much more weight than those who did nothing. And some of the women actually gained weight (10+ pounds each!). Scientists call this the compensation factor. The women ate more than they did before they started working out – either the exercise made them hungry or they felt they deserved a reward.

That’s not to say we should hit the snooze and skip the gym. Exercising significantly lowers the risk of cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. And it still feels good. We just have to work on working out our willpower.

So what’s your post-workout reward? Mine would be a honey wheat bagel with (extra) honey walnut cream cheese! ... I should probably work on that.

*over 100 lbs

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