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the virtues of calorie restriction vs. exercising to lose weight

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

from what i've read, calorie restriction can help you live longer.

 

i also find it economical vs. "exercise"... because i simply eat less food. i don't overconsume food, and then have to "burn it off" via exercise. i don't spend extra time working out, running, going to the gym, etc. i don't obsess over counting calories or measuring my heart rate while exercising.

 

one of my cardinal rules is that i simply don't eat after 5 pm. it works to lose weight, and i also think it's more natural... b/ in all previous generations, before advent of electricity, people simply went to sleep when it got dark. i think our bodies are geared for NOT eating at night. so for overweight people in our modern world, this is an awesome time to burn calories and drop pounds -- fasting in the evening hours.

 

assuming that one lives a normal active life, including caring for young children, cleaning one's own house, going for walks, etc. --

 

what are the virtues of losing weight via exercise, instead of calorie restriction? am i missing something?

post #2 of 32

For me the virtue of losing weight through calorie restriction is that it actually works, whereas for me exercise just doesn't.  If i exercise more my appetite increases.  Plus exercising to lose weight takes so much more time for me.  I could burn about 100cals running 1 mile, but i'm so slow, 10mins/mile, it takes me nearly an hour (not to mention weeks of training to get fit and conditioned enough to be able to run for that long) to burn 500cals, and my body would fall apart if i tried to do that day in day out.  Walking i can and do do every day, but it takes even longer, about 1hr15 to burn 500cals!

 

Also i doubt you could say i really "restrict" calories - i did weight watchers online to lose 45lbs recently, but now they are gone i'm maintaining a healthy BMI at 167lbs (i'm 5'11").  I've stopped pointing but i do still weigh my portions and keep an eye on my choices.  From what i've read the longevity-related calorie restriction means being MUCH thinner and eating a lot less.

 

Exercise is very important for overall health, whatever size i am, but for me that's seperate to the weight i am.  I really need to eat less to be slim.

post #3 of 32

I have never lost weight via exercise. Calorie restriction (or some sort of restrictive diet-, like carb restriction) is the only thing that works for me to lose.  I exercise on a regular basis (about 6 times a week) and have w/o fail for the last 14 years, only taking off maybe 2 weeks after having each  baby, so maybe that is why exercise doesn't work for me (even if I ramp up the intensity).   I do think that exercise will work initially for a period of time if someone goes from very sedentary to very active (like what happens on the Biggest Loser show), but after awhile a person's body gets used to the new activity level and metabolism adjusts and exercise no longer results in weight loss.   That said, I firmly believe that exercise is still super important for health, and I also believe that regular exercise can help prevent weight gain, so it is still very important to do.

post #4 of 32

I think you're right.  I just lost a lot of weight actually after primal/low carb eating changed my appetite patterns.  I was a little more active but since I never do workouts at all it wasn't a big factor.  I just started eating smaller meals and waiting to feel truly hungry before I would eat.  I just asked myself whether I was physically hungry and didn't eat until I was.  Then I would eat very dense high protein and high fat foods in small quantities.  I really shifted my idea of what is an adequate meal as far as portion size.  Without the carbs setting me up for cravings, this was really effective.

 

I didn't set out to lose weight, though, since I wasn't overweight.  I really just changed my perspective on what was healthy and the use of food in my life.  I was influenced by some of the things I was reading.  I basically concluded that no matter what the composition of our diet, overeating is a bigger deal than anything else.  I used to eat large portions and seconds of things like pasta all the time and that seemed normal to me. 

 

Now I eat a low grain diet and find that grains and sugars are not very healthy for me.  I don't eliminate them completely though.  The many harmful effects of grains, it seems, largely disappear when we consume fewer calories overall.  So I figure if I am keeping my meals small and not overeating, it's not detrimental to include grains.

 

I was also a little more active because I started biking for transportation, but I do not believe in doing strenuous exercise for its own sake.  The most I would do just for exercise is walk or do something playful.  I do contra dance for recreation, but it's not even weekly.  Otherwise it's all functional work keeping me physical.

post #5 of 32
notes.gif Interesting question. I just started Weight Watchers and it's working for me. thumb.gif I haven't yet added strenuous exercise.
post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by tropicana View Post

from what i've read, calorie restriction can help you live longer.


Do you visit the CR Society site?  They advocate calorie restriction for longevity and good health, and you have to exercise as part of that, since exercise by itself has health benefits, but it's moderate exercise, not the kind that would necessitate a high caloric intake. I know some of the people who turn to it used to be endurance athletes, but that's not really compatible with the CR lifestyle in most cases, at least not the extreme stuff. I think they also advocate the weight loss as having to be gradual, and a function of getting your daily caloric intake down to a certain level, which is a permanent lifestyle, so it doesn't seem like weight loss is the main function, it's CRON (calorie restriction with optimal nutrition) for its own sake.  

 

My nieces are really into losing weight right now, and working out a lot is big part of that. I think for them it just really feels like something active they can do, whereas not eating can feel sort of passive, like you're waiting for something to happen and you can get this feeling of, "OK, I'm not eating now...OK, I'm not eating now...again, not eating."  Or maybe that's just how it feels for me.  LOL.  I think starting out with a lot of exercise can feel positive, but getting into a more doable pattern is good.  I know that when I workout a lot, my appetite goes up.  The optimal nutrition part of CRON can involve research, like any diet change, and that might feel more active, like you are doing something instead of just not eating.  I used to be on a CR mailing list, but wow, the volume of mail!!!

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Viola View Post
 I used to be on a CR mailing list, but wow, the volume of mail!!!


so they restrict calories, but its no holds barred on emails (LOL).

thanks for the web site suggestion.

post #8 of 32

Interesting thread, as I'm (finally) trying to lose the excess "baby weight" that I've been carrying around for almost two years now.

 

I have a hard time simply restricting calories, especially while still nursing. I've also had a tendency to restrict too harshly in the past, so it's a tricky balance for me. I've been going the exercise route, with pretty intense aerobic exercise 4-5 times per week plus some mild strength training. My body has always responded pretty quickly to exercise, and I don't weigh myself often, but I can tell the difference just by the way I look and feel.

 

I also find that exercising makes me much less likely to overeat, while not having to consciously restrict.

post #9 of 32

For me, exercise makes a huge difference. Maybe because I've never successfully managed to restrict my calorie intake! But I lost 30+ pounds of pregnancy weight when I started riding my bike as my main way of getting around. And now that I'm dancing more again, I'm losing weight again. Not a lot, but some.

 

But honestly, I do not know how to restrict calories without being crazy. And I decided a long time ago that no diet was worth being crazy for.

post #10 of 32

I really think a combo works best.  Calorie restriction is more "efficient" as you said OP in that you don't have to burn off what you don't eat.  But exercising helps boost metabolism so you burn more calories while doing nothing.  I think a lot of women make the mistake of thinking of exercise in terms of cardio, but it is building muscle mass through weight lifting that will really help ramp up the metabolism.  That and it is how you do your cardio that makes the difference as well.  You need to do at LEAST 30 mins at one time to burn fat.  That being said, I find that I've had to also restrict calories in the past to get true results and also expect it to take a LONG time for any weight to come off.  It took restricting calories AND doing cardio and weights a minimum of 4 times a week for 6 mos for me to lose 15lbs.  I wasn't super, super restrictive with the diet part (because I wouldn't have been able to maintain that long run, but I was pretty good about it) but I was hard core with the exercise, often going to the gym 2x per day.  Best shape I've ever been in in my life.

 

Now I know that this isn't everyone's experience but for me the only thing that has let me lose weight effortlessly is BFing.  Without restricting my diet and without going to the gym, I weight 15lbs less than when I got pregnant, which is 30lbs less than my highest non-pregnant weight and somewhere between 45 and 55lbs (I stopped looking at my weight after I gained 30lbs) less than my pregnant weight.  Also, I think it helps that with DS running around it seems like I never sit down!

post #11 of 32

 

I also think the reason for the weight gain is something to consider. When I was younger, any extra pounds that I gained were usually due to a period of overeating. I could manage it with returning to a healthier diet. Most of my pregnancy weight dropped with normal activity post-partum. I wasn't "dieting" because I was breastfeeding, although I was careful to eat a healthy diet. 

 

As I get older and creep closer to 50, I find its easier to add an extra pound or two without changing my diet or exercise patterns. It's a metabolism issue. I seem to gain an extra few pounds and it's hard to get rid of them. I'm finding that I need to do both to be effective - avoid foods with a lot of empty calories AND increase my daily exercise. 

 

 

post #12 of 32

For the purpose of just losing weight I find calorie restriction the best tool for me to use, but I'm very careful about it, in the sense that I calculate how many calories I need in a day at the current weight and then restrict from there, adjusting intake every 10 pounds lost.  Exercise, however, helps control my appetite and does help me lose weight a little more quickly.  I also like the feeling of being in shape, and being at a healthy weight does not make a person "in shape".  I am most comfortable slightly above (10-20 pounds) an ideal or medically recommended weight but in the midst of maintaining a really killer fitness routine, which for me includes some elliptical (sometimes with intervals), some weights and calisthenics, some pilates and bar method and tons of walking and various forms of physical yoga.  Right now I am trying to get rid of just over 30 pounds of house hunting and baby weight, and I'm one of the lucky women that struggle to reduce while breastfeeding.  I'm restricting by no more than 500 calories a day, usually more like 250, and exercising as much as possible.  I'm losing about 1/2 pound a week, with no reduction in supply.  When I restricted to lose a pound a week I dried up. 

post #13 of 32

Ya know, there is a weight management sub forum on here that would probably be a far better place to house this discussion. 

post #14 of 32

That's a good point, Cristeen.  

 

Am I the only one who finds exercising makes me eat more?  When I first exercise, no, my appetite is decreased, but an hour or two later, no.  I actually lost weight when I hurt my back and couldn't exercise--I didn't have much of an appetite after a couple days.  Now the only exercise I do is dog walking, and that doesn't increase my appetite.  

post #15 of 32

I find that exercise is sustainable for me while calorie restriction is not. I can exercises for the rest of my life quite happily. I can't happily restrict what I eat for the rest of my life.

 

Exercise makes me feel good, it helps me with stress, and makes me feel strong and healthy.

Calorie restriction makes me crabby, even when I don't go overboard.

post #16 of 32
Quote:

Originally Posted by aphel View Post

 

I have a hard time simply restricting calories, especially while still nursing. I've also had a tendency to restrict too harshly in the past, so it's a tricky balance for me. I've been going the exercise route, with pretty intense aerobic exercise 4-5 times per week plus some mild strength training. My body has always responded pretty quickly to exercise, and I don't weigh myself often, but I can tell the difference just by the way I look and feel.

 

I also find that exercising makes me much less likely to overeat, while not having to consciously restrict.



I wouldn't restrict if you are nursing or esp. if PG.  I also would not deny hunger feelings in general.  Hunger is an important message that you need to eat...

 

I think the key is when you realize you can stop with a small quantity and really listen to your body.  Grains and sugars mess that up for me, because I can't tell hunger from craving and I get out of touch with my body and am impulsive instead.  I do eat whenever I am hungry. 

 

Exercise just makes me feel good in general and makes me feel toned.  I can't imagine eating more calories just to work hard to burn them off, though.  Why not just eat the number of calories I need to use doing the work/play I need to do?  It's surely cheaper too LOL.

post #17 of 32

I'm fine with exercising to earn extra calories. I'm not satisfied with the 1400 or so I'd need to eat to lose weight if I weren't exercising, so I'm okay with doing some exercise so that I can bump my intake up to 1600-1700 and still lose weight. I like knowing that if DH feels like having frozen yogurt in the evening, I have some wiggle room in there because I worked out that day. Plus exercise destresses me, and is a fun time to either spend with friends or be alone and listen to podcasts or whatever. So for myself, I'm in the exercise camp, but everyone's different. 

 

OP, I noticed that you mentioned having a normal active lifestyle along with the calorie restriction, so this probably wouldn't apply to you, but I've heard stuff in the past couple of years about "skinny fat" folks, who maintain a normal weight but are still susceptible to the health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle. 

post #18 of 32
Thread Starter 


Quote:

Originally Posted by littlest birds View Post


 I also would not deny hunger feelings in general.  Hunger is an important message that you need to eat...

 


i would not not eat all day. but hunger at night? when one is actively trying to lose weight? i do think it's a good thing. 

 

and -- i will add that after much thought about the subject -- i think eating after dark is UNNATURAL. when you think about it, it's only been the past several generations that had electricity at night; our bodies are expecting to enter a period of rest / fasting overnight. i am just about convinced that eating at night / evening contributes to becoming overweight.

 

post #19 of 32

That makes sense but I see no contradiction:  If you eat a moderate filling meal before dark, and then you wind down toward rest quite soon, you are not going to feel any true physical hunger at night.  It seems to me that matching your activities to the light and entering your rest period early would be an important component of honoring this excellent idea :)  Being physically active after dark is as unnatural as eating after dark; we can honor both together to our benefit.

 

If your activity level isn't matched to light patterns, it might not be so good to require your meals do so.

 

The hunger feelings of a truly emptied stomach were actually a quite new feeling to me.  That's the kind of hunger feeling I learned to wait for.  Now there are other kind of hunger, like the way you feel when your stomach is partly empty and it's been a few hours, or that restless hunger that is a bit emotional in nature, or the desire for pleasure in eating that resembles hunger but isn't physical at all.  Those feelings of "hunger" can be denied.  I was just talking about the unmistakable physical hunger of a fully emptied stomach.  I wouldn't deny that.  And I don't think you'd be feeling that during your quiet evening so long as your tummy got filled before the evening.  You'd feel it in the morning.

post #20 of 32


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by littlest birds View Post



I wouldn't restrict if you are nursing or esp. if PG.  I also would not deny hunger feelings in general.  Hunger is an important message that you need to eat...

 

I think the key is when you realize you can stop with a small quantity and really listen to your body.  Grains and sugars mess that up for me, because I can't tell hunger from craving and I get out of touch with my body and am impulsive instead.  I do eat whenever I am hungry. 

 

Exercise just makes me feel good in general and makes me feel toned.  I can't imagine eating more calories just to work hard to burn them off, though.  Why not just eat the number of calories I need to use doing the work/play I need to do?  It's surely cheaper too LOL.


To clarify, I would never harshly restrict while nursing. By restrict, I think I mean eating enough to satisfy nutritional needs of both me and the baby without overdoing it. Kind of like skipping dessert or an unneeded snack, but never restricting meals. And of course, I am nursing a toddler, not an infant, which is a much different thing.

 

I also think it's a great idea to reduce/eliminate intake after a certain time in the evening, and have found that to be helpful when losing or maintaining my weight. Unfortunately, there are two days a week where I'm not home until after dark, so it's been hard to achieve that.

 

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