You cannot outrun your fork

We’ve all heard it. Maybe even we have all said it at some point. You know someone who is not int he shape they want to be. They have a few (or more) pounds to lose. They have extra inches on the waistline, and so on. Very often they will say something like this:

Wow, I am out of shape. I need to lose some weight. I better start hitting the gym!

And off they go. They workout for a few days, maybe a week. Then they step on the scale, expecting to see results, and are shocked when they have remained the same, or even gained weight. Their best intentions to “get back in shape” in the gym have been foiled by a sad, but true statement:

you cannot outrun your fork

The first summer that I was working my way toward better health, I was sitting at a picnic table talking to a friend. She is a Chiropractor who also helps some of her patients with weight loss. I told her how I was approaching my situation, getting good control of my food, and adding in more exercise. I was seeing great results at the time. She smiled and said “you’re doing it the right way. Too many people fail to understand that you cannot outrun your fork”. Those words have stuck with me, and I have passed them on to others along the way. It really comes down to a matter of diet math, and it will always work against you. Here is an example…

A friend of mine was at his vacation home in Florida, tending to some home improvement projects. One sunny morning he decided to go for a walk.After about an hour he had walked approximately 3 miles and was feeling good about himself. He stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for some coffee and jokingly posted on his Facebook that he was going to reward himself with a donut as well. I happened to be online at the time and cautioned him against it, while other friends of his were telling him to go for it. The reason is simple. The average adult male burns about 100 calories per mile, depending on how fast they walk, and how much they weigh (it could be more, but we will use 100 as a nice round number). The average donut at Dunkin Donuts is about 400 calories. It took him an hour to get to that point, and would have taken about a minute or two to eat the donut. In other words, he would have given back all of his hour of work, plus an additional 100 calories, in about 2 minutes. As I said above, he was joking when he made the comment, and didn’t eat the donut.

The sad fact is that it takes far less time to blow up your routine by eating, than it does to burn it off with hard work.

This past weekend my wife and went to Ohio for some high adventure hiking. On Saturday and Sunday we took very strenuous hikes of 6 miles or more. It was warm and humid, and the sweat was pouring off both of us at times. More than once my wife remarked that when the hike was done I could have whatever dinner I wanted, because I had earned it on the trail. On Sunday we were joined by her brother and his friend, and they remarked similarly. When the hike was done, we did go to dinner at a restaurant, where I ordered a salad with grilled chicken. I did indulge in one 12 ounce beer.

In past years I might have celebrated that hike with a burger and fries, and maybe a couple of beers. And, in the process, I’d have given back the 4.5 hours of hard work I’d put in climbing over rocks on a difficult trail. (To be fair, my wife, her brother, and his friend all knew the same truth as I, and were joking when they said I could eat anything. All of us know this important fact).

I don’t know if I will gain, lose, or remain the same this week. Part of me is hopeful of a loss based on the hiking and hard work I’ve done. Another part of me knows that when traveling I am not always as diligent about my tracking and recording of food. So, while I made good choices, I might still be off. Time will tell. What I do know is that, if I didn’t lose weight, it won’t be because I blew myself up with bad choices.

If you are among the many who struggle to lose weight, despite how hard you work in the gym, I strongly suggest that you start working on the other side of the equation. Take stock of what you are eating – the quality of the food, and the quantity. I strongly suggest that people who are trying to lose weight use measuring cups and a digital scale to help accurately measure their food. Another sad truth is that most people tend to over estimate how much they burn in a work out, and under estimate the size of their food portions.

Wherever you are in the journey, keep your chin up and stay focused on your goals!

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