Gain­ing per­spec­tive on eat­ing and ex­er­cise

Work­ing out to ‘burn off’ un­healthy food choices is miss­ing the point, ex­perts say

Windsor Star - - YOU - GABRIELLA BOS­TON

Frozen mar­garita, any­one? A calo­rie-count­ing app will tell you a 12-ounce (340-gram) mar­garita con­tains be­tween 650 and 700 calo­ries; for a 150-pound (68-kilo­gram) per­son, that would equal about an hour of spin­ning at a mod­er­ate ef­fort.

Al­though it can be fun — and some­times shock­ing — to match un­healthy foods with their “ex­er­cise cost,” does that in­for­ma­tion en­cour­age health­ier be­hav­iour?

When per­sonal-train­ing clients come in for con­sul­ta­tions, they cite weight loss as a top pri­or­ity, says Cas­sia Den­ton, a per­sonal train­ing direc­tor at Bal­ance Gym.

Com­par­ing calo­ries in and calo­ries out can work, but not when the equiv­a­lent to those fast-food french fries is 14 hours of brisk walk­ing. She tells them that at least 80 per cent of weight loss is about nutri­tion and 20 per cent is train­ing.

“As the tried and true say­ing goes, bod­ies are made in the kitchen. ”

And that 20 per cent should not just be car­dio (which is usu­ally em­pha­sized when it comes to ex­er­cise equiv­a­lents), but strength, too. The more lean body mass — mus­cle — you have, the higher your ba­sic meta­bolic rate, Den­ton says. In other words, a 150-pound per­son with high fat will burn less than a 150-pound per­son with a higher ra­tio of lean body mass.

“The con­tri­bu­tion to weight loss from ex­er­cise is min­i­mal,” says Scott Ka­han, a weight-loss doc­tor and direc­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Weight and Well­ness, adding that he still sees value in ex­er­cise equiv­a­lents as a way to put food into per­spec­tive.

Many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how much harder it is to burn calo­ries than con­sume them, says Den­ton.

Break­ing down ac­tual num­bers can pro­vide a re­al­ity check.

Ac­cord­ing to Ath­’s ex­er­cise calo­rie con­verter, a take­out burger meal at 1,180 calo­ries is the ex­er­cise equiv­a­lent of 208 min­utes of walk­ing, 132 min­utes of spin­ning, 116 min­utes of swim­ming or 83 min­utes of jog­ging.

“When you present it that way, it shocks peo­ple,” says Stan Reents, au­thor, health coach and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ath­ “And we know that if you want to change hu­man be­hav­iour, you have to cre­ate an emo­tional re­sponse.”

But Claire Mysko, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional Eat­ing Dis­or­ders As­so­ci­a­tion, says fram­ing ex­er­cise in a com­pen­satory way is risky busi­ness, es­pe­cially for those vul­ner­a­ble to eat­ing dis­or­ders.

“In­stead of look­ing at foods as good or bad and ex­er­cise as a mech­a­nism to burn calo­ries, we try to en­cour­age peo­ple to think about ex­er­cise as some­thing that makes you feel good and food as some­thing that gives you en­ergy.”

Eat­ing and ex­er­cis­ing, Mysko says, should not be about num­bers that po­ten­tially in­vite shame and pun­ish­ment spi­rals. Food, along with giv­ing you en­ergy, is also about get­ting the right amount of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, pro­tein, fat and other es­sen­tial nu­tri­ents for good health.

And on the flip side, ex­er­cise is about so much more than coun­ter­ing calo­ries con­sumed. “There are so many ben­e­fits to ex­er­cis­ing, including mind, mood, joints, feel­ing good, sleep­ing bet­ter,” says Ka­han.


Eat­ing and ex­er­cis­ing should not be about num­bers that in­vite shame or pun­ish­ment spi­rals, says Na­tional Eat­ing Dis­or­ders As­so­ci­a­tion CEO Claire Mysko.

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