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Burning it off

(article, Ashley Griffin Gartland)

Okay, so you've heard all this before: Eating less and exercising more are the twin keys to that great big weight-loss door. Consume fewer calories and burn them off more efficiently, and you're golden.

But what if exercise — while still, of course, being good for you — just makes you hungrier? 

That’s one argument highlighted in a recent New York magazine article about exercise, eating, and weight loss. The author, Gary Taubes, presented research from biochemists and physiologists who, in the 1980s, discovered that the more rigorously we exercise (and the more fat we lose from our fat tissue), the hungrier we became post-workout (because our fat tissue wants to restore lost calories). 

Taubes is a science writer whose controversial articles on health and science have appeared in Science magazine and the New York Times (which recently reviewed his new book, [%bookLink code=1400040787 "Good Calories, Bad Calories"].) In New York magazine, Taubes wrote, “The feeling of hunger is the brain’s way of trying to satisfy the demands of the body. Just as sweating makes us thirsty, burning off calories makes us hungry.”

So is success at losing weight merely the triumph of mind over matter? Can we train ourselves to realize that food is fuel and we might not need as much as we desire? 

Taubes argues for the latter: 

bq. “The benefits of exercise include the joys of virtuousness. I worked out today, therefore I can eat fattening foods to my heart’s content. But maybe the causality is reversed here too. Maybe it’s because we eat foods that fatten us that the workout becomes a necessity, the best we can do in the battle against our own fat tissue.”

So perhaps the golden key is this: If you want to lose weight, you can eat less. You can exercise more, so long as you also eat less. But if you just exercise more? You'll probably feel great, but you'll almost certainly eat more, too.