As a chef, I have learned one of the fundamental precepts of seasoning: if a little is good, more is not necessarily better. Except where a recipe calls for a particularly strong, outstanding flavor – as is the case with honey mustard glazed chicken – seasonings should blend in such a way as to complement one another so as to create a multi-layered flavor profile and enhance the item they are designed to bring flavor to, not overwhelm it. If too much of any one (or more) spice(s) is added, the result is often the ruination of the meal. So, were someone to ask me if there can be too much of a good thing, my answer would invariably be, “Yes.”
It may be hard to imagine, but the same holds true for exercise, particularly for novices. Seeking to make a change in lifestyle, an ever-increasing number of people are starting to listen to the ceaseless repetition of the experts exhorting the virtues of healthy weight management, diet, and exercise and so are watching what they eat and heading for the gyms. Oftentimes however these people don’t prepare an exercise program designed to burn a certain number of calories over a specific amount of time. Instead, they begin exercising and plan on doing so for thirty to sixty minutes every day or every other. Well, depending upon which exercise(s) they’re doing, the difference in calorie consumption can vary greatly and that’s where the problems begin. Burning too many calories – and yes, there is such a thing – induces hunger as the body’s signaling mechanisms begin to whet the appetite. Exiting the gym, the hunger can sometimes lead the individual directly to the refrigerator and the calories consumed are replaced in part or in whole by the repast that follows.
The other interesting thing that happens is the occasion when, as a reward for having done more or exercised harder than normal, the individual treats himself or herself to a luxuriant (generally high calorie) treat for having done so well at the gym. Not the greatest idea, is it? Burning calories only to replace them again is not a prescription for successful weight loss. Frustration mounts as the weight loss falls well below expectations and eventually most people just give up on the idea entirely.
In truth – AND EVERY COMMERCIALLY SOLD DIET SYSTEM IN THE WORLD KNOWS THIS – diets in and of themselves have very little long-term success. The reason for this is the I’m going to start a diet tomorrow approach that most people take when deciding to make a change to their appearance and health. This narrow short-term view begins with a false premise and usually ends in disappointment. The portion sizing for quick weight loss is too small to sate the hunger and the event becomes a hardship, eventually leaving the dieter with the thought, I can’t wait until this diet is over! despite the weight loss.
Losing weight is not the same thing as dieting. Weight loss is a naturally-occurring result of a balanced lifestyle that incorporates eating the right foods and exercising regularly. A one to two pound per month decrease in weight is a net twelve to twenty-four pounds per year, and twenty-four pounds is generally enough for most people to go from overweight to appropriate weight. If not, there’s always next year. Keeping portions balanced, eating whole grain carbohydrates, adding high-fiber snacks and soups, consuming less sodium in meals, and employing an exercise program that burns calories in moderate amounts (at least when starting out) will invariably lead to weight loss, and that dreaded four letter word D I E T is nowhere in sight. Don’t overdo, but don’t fail to do either. Balance is the key.