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Is Exercise a Part of Your New Year’s Resolution?

January is filled with the best of intentions when it comes to fitness and health. Unfortunately, most don’t last longer than 3-4 weeks. (Insert sad face here.) When it comes to beginning an exercise routine, there are several things you need to know for your new commitment to be successful. The biggest thing you need to know is why some folks gain weight with exercise (and, no, I don’t mean putting on muscle), as this is one of the common reasons they quit exercising.

Trauma Alert!!

When you go from being somewhat sedentary to being active – particularly intense activity such as lifting, running, etc – your body will be saying “WHAT THE HECK?!?” It may be in a bit of shock. You’ve just taken it from it’s nice comfy place and introduced it to an entirely different activity and routine. You may be sore, built up a bit of lactic acid, and may even feel swollen and stiff. Think about it… you put your poor, untrained muscles through something traumatic. What happens when any part of your body experiences trauma?

When the body undergoes injury, even micro-tears in the muscle as a result of completely appropriate exercise, it will send fluid to the area to begin repairing the damage. This may sound like you are doing something harmful, but you aren’t! It’s an entirely appropriate response! It’s no different than when you sprain your ankle and it swells because of fluid and inflammation. Your muscles can undergo the same process – the fluid and inflammation bring needed chemicals to the area to begin to repair your muscles and prepare them for your next workout.

This fluid comes from the body holding on to excess water as a response to the new activity. This will contribute to extra pounds on the scale. It’s NOT FAT!

Your Body Wants to Make Exercise Easier!

Your body is impressively adaptive. Now that you are working out, your body will take steps to prepare you for your next workout. This happens independent of the process described above – where your body attempts to repair any micro-damage done by hard workouts.

Your body has the ability to be ready for activity by storing sugar inside the muscles so you have immediate energy for your workouts. It says “okay, I’m gonna be ready next time!” and stores glycogen (the storage form of glucose/sugar) within the muscle.

THIS is when people quit their routine because they weigh themselves after a week and expect the scale to be down. On the contrary! The scale may be up several pounds! Your brain says “this obviously isn’t working!”, so you stop exercising and those pounds go away. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard people say “I gained weight when I started exercising, but lost it all when I stopped.” We know exercise is good for us – so this doesn’t make sense….but, yet – it happens just this way! WHY??

Glycogen Storage – Your Body’s Gift to You

In an effort to be ready for the next workout, your body will store glycogen (stored form of sugar) in the body as mentioned above. This is great! This enables you to start your workout fairly intensely – as your muscles have an immediate fuel source RIGHT THERE! (Of course, after appropriate warm-up and stretching.) However, glycogen doesn’t last forever. It’s purpose is for immediate usage, not long-term usage. It’s used up rather quickly, actually. Your body then turns to fat to fuel the rest of your workout. Your body works harder to use fat as a fuel source…glycogen is EASY to use! Thus, our bodies WANT to store glycogen for us!

When the body knows you are really going to stick with this exercise routine, it will store more glycogen in your muscles. Here’s the kicker….. To store ONE molecule of glycogen, the body has to store approximately 3 grams of water! Yes! That means you will retain fluid to store this precious glycogen! This will lead to a heavier weight on the scale. This is also dependent on what muscles have been worked! What will store more glycogen?…. your glutes or your forearms? So, yeah – when you work those big muscles (glutes, back, hamstrings, quads) – there’s a lot of potential for glycogen (and thus water) storage! This will reflect on the scale, but it isn’t true weight gain!

Losing Weight When You Stop Exercising

This explains why you lose that weight when you STOP exercising. It’s not true weight loss. It’s simply ‘pound loss’ – you see the number on the scale drop, but you’ve lost absolutely no fat. When you stop exercising, your body does’t need to store that glycogen. So, all that water you retained as a part of this wonderful, natural process begins to leave your body. This results in a lower number on the scale. That’s it.

So, What’s The Answer?

The answer is to just stick with it. Tune into your logical, rational brain and KNOW you are doing what is right for your body. Know that this is what is supposed to be happening! Drink lots of water (counterintuitive, I know…but it’s a must!) and wait for the scale to begin to show your true weight loss. Or, don’t get on the scale at all and just wait for your clothes to fit differently, or for others to compliment you on your new physique. Or, simply focus on your performance. Are you getting stronger? Faster?

So, You Must Have Numbers?

One way to truly measure if your efforts are working is to have your body composition tested before and during exercise. Before starting a routine – get a baseline body composition test. Then, about every 4-5 weeks. This tells you so much more than the scale ever could! I have patients who have been working with me for months and have only lost ONE pound according to the scale. However, their body comp shows a muscle gain of 11 lbs and a fat loss of 12 lbs. There’s your ONE pound net loss, but obviously things have changed!

My office uses an InBody to check body composition. There are other brands out there – simply google your area and “body composition” to see if there’s a way to do this. Personal trainers also can do this via skin-fold methods and measurements. The scale isn’t the only number that you should be looking at!

In Conclusion

You know exercising is good for you – stick with it despite what happens with the scale! This weight gain is protective, normal, and adaptive! It means your body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Have faith in your body and it’s ability to look out for you.

-Dr. Hodges

This, as well as other essential information for weight loss, can be found in my new ebook!  This new ebook prepares you for your next weight loss program – to make it your LAST weight loss program!  Weight loss starts with your MIND….not with your BEHIND.  Get your mindset right and your chances of weight loss success SKYROCKET!

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Weight loss

Dear Former Patients,

Please allow me to take this opportunity to issue my sincerest apologies.   Prior to 2011, I was giving out some really crappy nutritional advice.  You came to my office, claimed you were following all of my instructions – yet, you were a few pounds heavier than last visit and your diabetes was still out of control.  I remember thinking you were not being honest with me about your food intake.  And, I remember you looking desperate, wondering what else you needed to be doing, asking yourself how you could possibly try harder.   And, I vividly recall sending you on your way with instructions to increase your whole grains, switch from white bread to wheat bread, and to stop putting sugar on your cereal.  Essentially, I encouraged your high-carbohydrate diet.

I humbly ask your forgiveness.

Prior to 2011

As a medical resident and then a young attending physician, I was regretfully under the influence of some very, very bad nutrition education.  I had been taught that diabetics needed 40-60% of their intake to come from ‘good’ carbohydrates – whole grains, natural starches, fortified breads and cereals.  I was taught that fat was the enemy – one that was sending our nation into a spiral of irreversible cardiovascular disease.  So, I recommended fat-free products to you.  I advised you to purchase skim milk, margarine, and to stay away from eggs.

I humbly ask your forgiveness.

After 2011

However, a single conversation changed my life.  I was discussing my sudden weight gain to a trainer at a gym I had joined.  I was in the best physical shape of my life – trail running in the mornings and doing Crossfit a few times per week.  Within 2-3 months, I put on 15 lbs.  I knew this was not “muscle” – no one gains muscle that quickly.  I was asking her what she thought (and I was on the verge of crying!).

Her first question was “how many carbs are you eating?”  And my first thought was “why the hell does that matter?”  She recommended I try to keep track of my carbohydrate intake and see if I could keep it under 100 grams per day.  (My head was still thinking she was full of it…..limiting carbs was NOT what I’d been taught in medical school.”

My discovery

I left the gym that very day and went home to consult my favorite mentor:  Google.  I spent hours that day reading about lower carbohydrate diets and the history of how fat came to be such a villain in our society.

That was the day my jaw hit the floor – and it’s pretty much stayed there.  I was shocked at what I learned – that our excess carbohydrate intake furthers many disease processes, including diabetes(If you have a problem processing sugar – carbs are sugar – why in the world would it make sense that you eat mostly carbs??) I learned that there really isn’t a “minimum” amount of carbohydrates that one needs – that we’d survive just fine without them.  And, I learned that removing fat from our diets starting in the 1960s (and peaking in the 1980s-90s) was the single biggest dietary mistake our society has made.

My world was forever changed.

In case you didn’t know, I’m a DOCTOR

So, why was this information all new to me?  I’m going over countless studies, not believing what I’m reading.  Flawed research, industry influence!  How was I not privy to this information as a young medical student and physician – sworn to do no harm?

That’s it – I was OBSESSED.  The world has to know about this!  (My friends reading this are all saying…oh yeah, she let us all know about it….over…and over….and over…)  🙂

My new career was born

Since that one conversation, I have been on a mission to fix the mistakes I made so long ago.  I can still see some of those patients very clearly and this helps me stay focused on my goal of re-educating people about what real food truly is – and more importantly – what it is NOT.  Obesity and type 2 diabetes have only gotten worse – particularly in the last twenty years.  The low-fat, high-carb dietary recommendations have done us no favors, friends.  In fact, they have made us an incredibly sick nation.

After becoming a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, I opened Exceptional Health & Weight Loss Solutions, PLC in September 2015 – a clinic entirely dedicated to fighting the untruths we’ve been taught about food.   I focus on responsible weight loss without gimmicks. I basically teach people how to eat.

All of this came about due to one simple conversation after I’d gained 15 lbs.  Going back to that story – I did start watching my carb intake.  I realized for every handful of pretzels I gave my kids, I’d take handful too. (Because, ya know…pretzels are fat free.)  I’d take a bite of every PB&J and every serving of Mac ‘n Cheese.  I stopped all of this and the pounds came off within a couple of months – fairly effortlessly.  (BTW, I no longer purchase pretzels or Mac ‘n Cheese for my children.)

So again….

I am so sorry for the terrible advice I gave so many years ago. (And I’m also sorry my family felt like they had to hide the butter, bacon, and eggs when I went home to visit!)

I was uneducated on this topic.  You came back to me heavier and sicker and I assumed you weren’t following my directions.  When, in fact, you were probably doing exactly as I had instructed.

~Dr. Linda Hodges

You can find this story, plus other valuable information, in my new ebook!  A book about weight loss that focuses on PREPARING for your next diet….MINDSET is ESSENTIAL for SUCCESS!

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