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Eating and Exercise

Dr Yoni Freedhoff is a bariatric physician in Canada — he specializes in weight loss (in his case, without surgery, although he is not opposed to surgery for people who can benefit from it). Dr Freedhoff’s position is that weight control is about food, and exercise is about health.

Of course, it’s a balancing act: eating and exercise behaviors can easily reinforce each other (as the common “when I exercise more I crave healthier foods”). We need to eat sufficient healthy foods (protein, fiber-rich foods, foods with vitamins) to take good care of our bodies, and we need to exercise enough to keep our hearts and bones strong and to burn off some energy in the process.

But when we make a new commitment to healthy living, we have another issue to keep an eye out for, and that is the way one behavior can become “anchored” to another:

About a month ago however, she developed an injury, and as a consequence, her exercise dropped down to nothing.

Wanna know what else dropped down to nothing?

Her healthy eating behaviours.

—From Why exercise may be crucial to weight management

Anchoring can be a great tool — it’s a good way to get some exercise in your life, for example: “Right after I wake up, I will do a few pushups and sit-ups” is a way to help you develop a new behavior by connecting it with something else you already do. You just have to choose the anchor wisely — choose something that happens with the same reliability as you want in your desired behavior. And consider the possible snags in the plan.

How Can I Protect Myself?

People who train at a gym 3 or 4 days a week — that is, who have definite, scheduled “rest days” — often use an eating “trick” of eating differently depending on the day. This is sometimes called a “zig-zag food pattern.” The idea is that your total calories are consistent week to week, but some days you eat more to support the exercise, and on rest days you eat less.

Anchoring food to activity level — instead of just to a switch over from previous behaviors — can help you get through downtime (from an injury or other interruption in your exercise schedule) without losing your progress.

More about Dr Freedhoff’s position: Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Maintenance? and Weight ain’t about exercise.

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