Exercise, stress eating, and spring flowers

Filed Under Emotional, Exercise | 2 Comments

Spring here in Brooklyn, lovely, isn’t it.

I just finished jury duty today.  I almost got on the jury of a criminal case; the judge ended up declaring it a mistrial and they sent us home after 2 days.  Stressful because I just started my new job and didn’t want to take that much time off.  I did manage to get 2 days in at the gym, Saturday and then Monday, which helped make up for the emotional overboard eating.

The New York Times magazine this past weekend did a story on exercise and weight loss.  The following is an excerpt from that story by Gretchen Reynolds.

At the same time, as many people have found after starting a new exercise regimen, working out can have a significant effect on appetite. The mechanisms that control appetite and energy balance in the human body are elegantly calibrated. “The body aims for homeostasis,” Braun says. It likes to remain at whatever weight it’s used to. So even small changes in energy balance can produce rapid changes in certain hormones associated with appetite, particularly acylated ghrelin, which is known to increase the desire for food, as well as insulin and leptin, hormones that affect how the body burns fuel.

The effects of exercise on the appetite and energy systems, however, are by no means consistent. In one study presented last year at the annual conference of the American College of Sports Medicine, when healthy young men ran for an hour and a half on a treadmill at a fairly high intensity, their blood concentrations of acylated ghrelin fell, and food held little appeal for the rest of that day. Exercise blunted their appetites. A study that Braun oversaw and that was published last year by The American Journal of Physiology had a slightly different outcome. In it, 18 overweight men and women walked on treadmills in multiple sessions while either eating enough that day to replace the calories burned during exercise or not. Afterward, the men displayed little or no changes in their energy-regulating hormones or their appetites, much as in the other study. But the women uniformly had increased blood concentrations of acylated ghrelin and decreased concentrations of insulin after the sessions in which they had eaten less than they had burned. Their bodies were directing them to replace the lost calories. In physiological terms, the results “are consistent with the paradigm that mechanisms to maintain body fat are more effective in women,” Braun and his colleagues wrote. In practical terms, the results are scientific proof that life is unfair. Female bodies, inspired almost certainly “by a biological need to maintain energy stores for reproduction,” Braun says, fight hard to hold on to every ounce of fat. Exercise for many women (and for some men) increases the desire to eat.

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I’ve noticed a workout at the gym, particularly if I have had a few days hiatus, can leave me feeling extra hungry.  I fall into that trap where I eat up the deficit.  I know the gym has tons of good physical and mental effects, but if I need to get a handle on the number of calories if I want to see this weight go down.  And with the stress of new job and jury duty and life, I’m wanting to reward myself with goodies, how wacky is that.  I think I’m not honest with myself about how big I am.  I see myself as smaller than I really am, so I give myself an excuse not to work harder getting the extra pounds off.  Then reality strikes (when I stand on the scale), and I feel so bad about myself.  I feel weak, and like I can’t get this done. 

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m giving up, which I’m not at all.  I get frustrated though.  Tonight is the Biggest Loser, that always makes me feel more hepped up about being on program eating wise.  Ay Dios mio.