Find Something You Love to Do

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No fewer than six friends sent me the recent Time magazine article, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” by John Cloud. Catchy title, irresponsible piece.

Before I’d finished the first paragraph, it was apparent to me that Cloud would not succeed in achieving anything with his exercise routine because of his negative approach to working out. He hates working out. For him, it’s a chore. It’s something with which to begrudgingly fill in the hour after work. It’s a necessary evil because it makes him feel as though he has some measure of control over his body, his weight, his attractiveness, and his aging.

I wish I were sitting with Cloud in my office or talking with him at Starbuck’s over a cup of coffee, because there is so much that I have to say to him — and others — about this subject. As a physician who specializes in body transformation, I feel the need to set the record straight about exercise.

Cloud, and millions of other Americans who have not yet found the physical activity that makes them feel fully present in the moment, are unfortunate. They have not learned to connect to their body and, therefore, they cannot receive the maximum benefits of exercise.

I have trained consciously for 23 years and, like many people, I hate the cardio machines and ridiculous classes. But I decided to find something physical that I like to do — I should say, that I love to do — that increases my metabolism, keeps my weight even and, most importantly, shapes and contours my body so I feel great when I look in the mirror. That choice has paid off for me.

As a physician, I have been trained to be analytical, and that process starts with observation. Even though I am in the moment when I work out in the gym, I see everything. This is a skill that all surgeons learn. We see and feel everything in the OR even though we are focused on the task at hand. Several years ago, I said to my trainer, “Hey, Kenny, look around the gym. Who looks most different this year from last year?” He chose me, and I agreed with him. Because there were people all around me who had put more time into working out on the cardio machines than I had, it wasn’t obvious why my appearance had improved the most. But I suspected it was because all the cardiomaniacs around us typically left the gym and ate pancakes or donuts whereas I always had a healthy snack before, and after, my workouts.

This is in keeping with Cloud’s “compensation” theory. I agree this theory holds true for some people. It is not uncommon for my female patients to tell me that they will do more cardio tomorrow since they are having cake tonight. Unfortunately, it does not work like that. There is no bank account for calories! But Cloud proposes that we are hungrier after exercising, and therefore, we eat more than we would if we didn’t exercise. That’s only part of the equation. The other part is that, when we hate cardio exercise and we do it anyway, we feel the need to compensate ourselves. In my opinion, if we really enjoyed what we were doing, no matter how strenuous that activity was, we would not feel the need for a reward. So what we should do is to find a physical activity that we love, such as dancing, swimming, tennis, or outdoor biking.

Being in the moment while engaging in an activity you love infuses your brain with endorphins. It takes you out of your element and connects you to the grace of your body so that hunger is never an issue. In fact, one of the reasons that I insist upon a “post-workout snack” in the workout program of my book, The Brown Fat Revolution, is that when exercise is enjoyable, you forget to eat — and you need to feed the muscles after training to build the lean muscle necessary to turn unhealthy yellow fat into brown fat.

Speaking of fat, let’s discuss the fact that the lack of brown fat in humans makes us unable to control the intake of excess calories. Indeed, brown fat in rodents is important in the hibernation process, as Cloud describes. However, a significant difference between the human mammal and the rodent is that, for humans, cognitive function determines our obesity potential. Even though scientists have recently documented that vestigial brown fat can be triggered in study groups exposed to extreme environmental cold over long periods of time, this presently is a negligible approach to the obesity problem. Our overeating and weight gain are far more directly affected by emotion, stress, and self-image issues than by the environment.

I do see different qualities of fat in the body, and I have found that this is directly related to a person’s lifestyle. It is the fat in the body that defines the shape of the body, and it is the shape of the body — not the weight — that defines beauty and age. In my world, it is all about fat. As a plastic surgeon, I move fat around every day. I take it out, move it up, and move it over as I practice the art of contour manipulation to insinuate beauty and youth. Toned fat looks more brown than yellow. This superficial brown fat is the answer to creating the volumes of youth.

Now, herein lies the second problem with Cloud and the millions of Americans who cannot connect to “exercise” (which is too general a term, by the way!). The eyes see the scale, and the brain sees the mirror. We live in our brains. All emotion is there. This explains why looking at weight loss on a scale does not connect with the brain, and it does not give us the positive reinforcement necessary to remain compliant and to stay thinner. Looking in the mirror and seeing a body that is more attractive and younger does connect to the brain and will reinforce the behavior necessary to continue on a program of control. I can assure you, when this positive reinforcement happens, there will be no visit to Dunkin’ Donuts after the cardio sessions!

Indeed, recent studies have shown that increasing lean muscle mass is more effective in increasing calorie expenditure and controlling fat metabolism than some strenuous, well-known cardio regimens. To extrapolate this fact and say that exercise does not make you lose weight is unfair. I can assure you, when you connect the right exercise to the right individual, you will see amazing results in the weight loss department.

I agree that what goes in the mouth is 75% more important than what you do on the treadmill to lose weight. The goal is to synergize training and eating to achieve the optimal results. Cloud’s article does prove one thing: you cannot achieve optimal results without training and exercise. That is why I present a day-by-day exercise and eating program in The Brown Fat Revolution. Once you look in the mirror and see those pecs growing, and the abdomen getting trimmer and your biceps bulging, you will not eat donuts! Again, positive cerebral reinforcement is produced by shape and contour, not overall weight.

So the article’s monolithic approach to exercise and obesity is socially irresponsible. I leave you with an anecdotal inquiry: Do you remember the TV pieces on what Michael Phelps was eating during the 2008 Olympics? If exercise had no effect on how calories were processed, would he have been the next candidate for “The Biggest Loser?”

2 Responses to “Find Something You Love to Do”

  1. las vegas says:

    Hey so im starting to work out and bench pressing and curling will be a key part of it. judging by the pic on the link how much should i start out benching and curling? and what would u say my max is?

  2. That is nice to definitely find a site where the blogger knows what they are talking about.

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