By Garth Davis, MD
Every day I ask patients whether they are exercising. Invariably the response is yes. But when I probe more, I find out that they are only working out 2-3 days a week. Your body is constantly working, it doesn’t take days off. So every day the rule of thumb for your body is “use it or store it.” If you work out on Monday and eat above your resting metabolic rate, you may not gain weight and may lose a little that day. But when you rest on Tuesday, your body is going to store any excess calories to make up for the loss the day before.
Keeping your metabolism burning is absolutely essential to losing weight. A year out from a gastric bypass, the body becomes adept at slowing metabolism to whatever food you are consuming. So let’s say you have done great losing weight but suddenly you plateau. The plateau is due to your metabolism slowing to match your calorie intake. So you may want to lose a few more pounds and then decide to just decrease calories to un-plateau. But guess what your body will do? It will just slow metabolism further, and at super-low calories you won’t feel good so you won’t be able to move much at all.
It’s Not Always All or Nothing
Daily exercise is the Western concept of “all or nothing.” People go the gym and kill themselves. They watch “The Biggest Loser” and believe that they need to work out until they cry in order to lose weight. How can you get daily exercise if you can’t get out of bed the morning after a tough workout?
Keep It Simple and Use a Pedometer
There are so many great pedometers out there to measure your steps. Put your pedometer on in the morning and wear it all day. Go for a walk, take the stairs, park farther away. Just get to that 10,000 steps a day and see how great you feel, and how fast the weight comes off. Once this gets easy, challenge yourself a bit. Try to break a sweat daily. Set some goals beyond 10,000 steps, like running a 5K. Then you will cross that finish line and crave a 10K.
Nothing feels as great as meeting goals and expectations, and then surpassing them. But you must start with the basics and slowly move up, or else you will burn out. So write out a big sign that says “I will get 10,000 steps today” and put it on your bathroom mirror. Put on your pedometer and go and do it. You can do a Zumba class, go for a walk, whatever, just do it.
Garth Davis, MD, FASMBS, is the Medical Director of Mission Weight Management.