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Dr. Ayala

Dr. Ayala
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Title
V.P. Product Development
Company
Herbal Water
Bio
I’m a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. I recently co-founded Herbal Water Inc. (www.herbalwater.com) with my husband, Albert. I am a serious home cook, and love to entertain. My expertise is vegetarian food (I have been a vegetarian all my life). I strongly believe that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand. My main interests are science, nutrition and art, and I am overall a very curious person that tries to learn something new every day. Dr. Ayala (Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.)

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MARCH 23, 2011 9:17AM

Does thinking about exercise make you overeat?

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Exercise burns calories. We’d all love to believe that we can forgo the unpleasant recommendation to eat less if we committed to exercising more – and the biggest fans of the “move more” doctrine are the makers of calorie-dense processed foods.

And while there are so many compelling reasons to exercise — regular physical activity reduces heart disease, diabetes and  hypertension, boosts mental health, fosters strong muscles and strong bones and improves our looks — exercise alone rarely results in weight loss.

One of the obvious reasons for the disappointing weight-loss outcome of an exercise alone regimen is that physical activity increases appetite, and we quickly reimburse ourselves for the calories spent with calories eaten.

Just thinking about exercise makes us eat more

A new study in the journal Appetite has an even more downbeat finding: Just thinking about exercise — without ever moving a muscle — may make us eat more.

The study group included 94 people shopping in a mall in the Northeastern US. People were asked about their shopping habits, exercise habits or music listening habits (to mask the study’s true intent).

After answering the initial questions the test subjects read a scenario describing either a fun 30-minute walk, or a 30-minute exercise walk. The control group just answered questions about shopping.

Once questionnaires were completed the participants received what they thought was a token of gratitude for their time and effort, but what was really the main measured outcome of the study. The participants were offered as-much-as-you’d-like ChexMix and M&M’s which they scooped into bags.

The people who read the 30-minute walk scenario poured about 60 percent more M&M’s and 52 percent more ChexMix into their thank you bag. It didn’t matter if the walk was described as a “fun” walk or a strenuous walk — both groups compensated themselves by additional snacks compared to the control group.

Overcoming calorie compensation

Advanced exercise equipment quantifies the number of calories spent working out — it’s actually more a guess than a true measurement. If exercise is perceived as permission to eat, the treadmill's calorie calculator may be its worst feature.

So how do we decouple exercise and eating? The authors, led by Carolina Werle, suggest we stop presenting physical activity as a route to weight-loss, and present it as a method to improve muscle tone, improve posture, strengthen bones and improve health. Exercise should be pursued as a goal in and of itself, rather than a means to an end (the end goal being weight-loss).

Some of my food loving friends who are super committed to exercise claim that exercise enables them to enjoy food in a less restricted way, while maintaining their weight. I think that attitude works quite well.

If thinking about sports may increase snacking, how about watching sports? I’d be really curious to see if watching other people involved in physical activities (something so many of us love to do) increases consumption. What do you think? Does watching sports make you eat more?

Dr. Ayala

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Comments

Type your comment below:
This makes sense to me.
I have noticed insatiable hunger after an hour at the gym. What I do is make an enormous salad and put it in my fridge. I put lots of veggies and high variety, including fresh nuts, berries, arugala, etc...lots of variety. And also kidney beans and all sorts of legumes.

When I come home I eat massive salads. This tends to keep the weight off. If you eat large portions of super low cal food, you can lose weight easily.