The last thing I want to do is deter anyone from exercising.
In one form or another, I engage in it
daily and strongly believe that activity is an integral part of mental and
physical health. So the conclusions of an article in the May 2009 issue of the Nutrition
Action Healthletter came as a surprise and were, I confess, a bit
of a downer.
“Exercise? I’m Hungry” sums up a study reported in the
journal Obesity. Here’s what it has to say: ”If a clever experiment in
college students holds up, just seeing advice to exercise might make you
eat more. Scientists showed roughly 50 students posters with messages to
exercise (like ‘Go for a walk’) or other messages (like ‘Make friends’). Those
who saw the exercise ads ate more from a small bowl of raisins than those who
saw the non-exercise ads. In a second experiment, students ate roughly 25% more
M&Ms, raisins, and peanuts after they were exposed to action words (like
‘go’ or ‘active’) than neutral words (like ‘pear’ or ‘moon’).” The article ends
with the words: “Exercise. No. Don’t exercise. No. Exercise. No…Could words
like ‘go’ elicit a subconscious urge to eat so you’ll have fuel to move? Who
The study’s conclusions (which, of course, at a later date, may be
proven false) cut right to the point of exercise: Do we do it for health
reasons or weight loss, which are not one and the same. It makes sense that the
primitive part of the brain might connect preparing for engaging in heavy
activity with an increased desire for food. But does that mean we have to fuel up just because we’re planning to jog for 30 minutes on the treadmill?
Can’t we ignore signals from the brain? We do it all the time when we restrain
impulses which are not in our best interest (like not ignoring the alarm clock,
not going through red lights, etc.). Moreover, aren’t the health benefits of
exercise so essential to quality of life and longevity that being a little
hungry or eating a little more of nutritious foods might be worth it? The
article doesn’t say that you have to eat a hot fudge sundae because you’re
about to exercise. Even if you’re physically hungry after a run or a workout,
you can choose healthy foods to replenish your body. And if you eat until
fullness due to exercising more, that means you don’t have to eat again so soon.
I’m blogging about this study because some people will find
any reason not to exercise, and it pays to have your head on straight regarding
your motivations. If they’re healthy intentions and you feel better doing
regular exercise (as most folks report), then you’ll make sure that even
increased hunger won’t deter you from staying active. Better yet, draw your own
conclusions. Experiment to see if exercise increases your hunger level.
PLEASE NOTE: I encourage you to comment on my
blogs and will do my best to address topics/questions you raise in future
blogs. I cannot provide individual responses, but encourage you to post
your questions and comments on The Food and Feelings Workbook message
board at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/foodandfeelings.