The Low Intensity Experiment: Preliminary Results (Longish)

Afreet

Cathlete
Hi all:

So, after reading the "Time" article about how exercise alone won't help you to lose weight, I reflected on my fitness regime.

I have never been overweight, but I definitely have my fat days and skinny days, just like everyone else. I love being muscular and strong, and I like to challenge myself, but in the last couple of years I have gained weight and am currently at my highest weight ever, in spite of the fact that my diet is generally clean and very carefully planned. When I first started exercising at higher intensities, I lost weight like crazy and looked fabulous. And then I guess my body adapted.

I also exercise LIKE CRAZY. During this time, I've been doing cardio, heavy lifting, and experimenting with light weights/high reps, kettlebells, long-distance running, less cardio, more cardio, whatever. I've been on several rotations in the last couple of years and I've seen strength gains and other positive results, but my weight has just been creeping up - and it's not all muscle - it's definitely fat.

So, I know that weight is just a number and I don't think I'm too obsessed about it, but it got to a point where I don't like the way I look anymore.

I KNEW that my problem was diet. I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I had a really hard time controlling myself when temptation struck - and I craved sweets all the time. I adjusted calories, macronutrient ratios, etc., and my main problem was willpower - I had enough to get my workouts in, and to eat healthy all day, but after dinner, I just had total willpower failure. I tried adding more protein, eating bigger breakfasts and lunches, keeping busy after dinner, but I just really couldn't sustain any of these approaches long enough to be effective.

I started Insanity, and really liked it, but I was EVEN HUNGRIER all the time after a couple of weeks on that rotation. It started to distract me at work! There was an unpleasant encounter with a birthday cake in the company kitchen, and that was when I knew I had to take a step back!

So, this week, I decided I would do a diet bootcamp. I gave myself permission to take a week off from working out. I still walk my dogs for around an hour each day, and I have been doing a little Classical Stretch, but NO high-intensity. I am putting all my willpower into my diet.

It has been SO EASY to keep my diet under control! It's not really surprising, but I guess I wanted to believe that I had enough willpower to exercise like a maniac and still eat sensibly. It turns out, I don't. And that's OK.

So, this week, I lost three pounds.

I know some of it might be water, etc, but still. I haven't seen the scale go in that direction for years!

I'm going to keep doing this through next week, and then start adding in some fun higher-intensity stuff. I want to see what balance of high and low intensity works for my body without making me perpetually ravenous.

I've read lots of threads on this forum over the years and I know a lot of the reasons why this is working for me. I have rationally known that weight loss is mostly about diet, but somehow I FELT that exercising more OUGHT to help me shed pounds. I also feared that if I cut back, I might gain even more weight. Finally allowing my body to just relax a little and really focusing on diet has really helped me.

I'll post more results as I bump along on my little experiment. Just thought I'd share - if you think your diet is out of control, and you're exercising your butt off (but your butt isn't coming off, if you know what I mean), it may be time to try a diet bootcamp!

Of course, every body is different and YMMV, etc. Also, exercise has tons of wonderful benefits besides weight maintenance/loss and I'm not quitting - I'm just trying to be a little more sensible about it.
 

nspire

Cathlete
Love your post! I've been challenged with the same issue myself. I do good during the day, have a nice workout, but for some reason I can't stay out of the fridge or cabinets in the evening. One thing I did was eliminate temptation from the house. Usually, I buy things and I think, I can have a few, I'll be able to abstain, but it doesn't work. I realize my willpower isn't as strong as I thought it was.

What methods have you incorporated in your diet bootcamp. I'd really be interested.
I think finding what works for you is a good thing, but how many rotations and eating plans do we have to go through to get there. I do agree, the less you obsess about, the better.
 
Afreet, good for you! I couldn't agree more because what you are doing has worked for me too! For a year I was working out like crazy, mostly all high intensity, and trying to eat sensibly, but the scale wouldn't budge. It was about 10 lbs or so I put on after getting married. I think it was around March or April of this year that I took several weeks off from working out completely and told myself, when I get back into it, I am doing is slow & easy. I started by walking my dog 4-5x per week (I used to laugh at the thought of walking for "exercise"), and I started Slim in 6. Now that program is tough in it's own way, but definitely not high intensity. I only did it 4-5x per week (instead of the recommended 6x per week) in combination with walking and guess what?? The pounds started coming off!! After a few months I lost the weight I had gained after getting married, hoorah! AND, I wasn't killing myself either! I'm not saying high intensity is bad, I just don't think it's for everyone and it's always good to take a break once and a while!

Best of luck to you, keep it up!! :)
 

DeanaMax

Cathlete
Interesting. Illustrates how important diet is. Many people tend to eat more because they exercise (because they are hungry or reward themselves), thereby undoing the exercise progress!
 

exer_cited

Cathlete
Great post, Afreet.

This comes at a perfect time for me. I feel like I'm really pushing myself with the exercise just to maintain. When in my mind, I should be seeing some improvements in the scale and I'm not.

Maybe I need to try your Low Intensity Experiment and get back to basics.

Thanks for posting!!!
 

kariev

Cathlete
great post! today i started a rotation of light cardio and power yoga. for the past 10 years all of my workouts have been all out either cardio and weights to the point where i'm always hungry and have struggled with binge eating. not to mention i feel runned down all of the time. in my eyes the harder and more exercise i do the better but it just made me eat so much more. i've decided to cut back b/c i find that i can focus on diet better when i'm not beating myself into the ground. i don't want to be a power lifter, a bodybuilder, or a track athlete. I just want to be healthy and fit and have energy to enjoy life. With so much talk lately about how intense workouts are the key to weight loss, i feel that that is all i have done and in the end it just didn't work for me. I initially lost 35lbs 10 years ago and did this just by watching what i ate and power walking for 45 min 5 days per week. Then i got so caught up into all the theories of exercise and what works and ended up just beating up my body for no reason b/c i got the same results or even better results when i first started. So thanks for you post and good luck! Mabe we can start a check in thread called "tone it down" or something. I think the biggest obstacle i have to overcome is realising that i don't have to go all out to get a good workout in and be healthy.
 

singinggoddess

Cathlete
This week I have decided that I am so tired of working my butt off everyday and not seeing the results I want. I only want to lose 5lbs, but it should not be this hard. I too have been doing Insanity and a lot of other high intensity workouts, and I am totally exhausted. I am now focusing a lot more on healthy food and low intensity workouts. I took a walk the other day for an hour at a quick pace of 4.8 and I felt GREAT at the end. I did not fell beat up and I wasn't starving at the end of it. I already, after only four days, feel so much better and more balanced. I have also lost 3-4 lbs, go figure. I think I have always thought that the harder the workout the better results. I am now questioning that theory. I am going to focus on lower intensity workouts and more walking. I am still going to lift heavy, though. I think my problem is too much high intensity cardio. I am tired of my life revolving around working out and always looking for the quick fix. It really is about the food and doing things in a more balanced way. I want to start enjoying being active instead of dreaading it. Anyway, this topic is really interesting, and the Time article definiltey spoke to me.

Susan
 

Afreet

Cathlete
Hi again all:

Here's what I decided on for my diet bootcamp:

AM: Wake up, have some coffee, walk the dogs for 40 minutes.

Breakfast: Tofu scramble or rice protein shake (1-2 scoops Sun Warrior rice protein, 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries or strawberries, 1 tbsp almond butter, almond milk). If you're not vegan, I guess this would be the equivalent of any old protein shake, and maybe a couple eggs or something.

I work all day, but now that I don't kill myself with killer cardio in the morning, I have more energy to take the stairs, walk around a little during breaks, and run some errands (on foot) during my lunch hour.

Lunch: I like some sort of giant crazy salad with nuts or tempeh, spring greens, little tomatoes, cukes, sprouts, blah blah blah...and dressing with flaxseed oil or olive oil. Some days I wrap up some hummus and veggies in a low-carb tortilla and add some macadamia nuts for dessert.

Snack: apple and handful of almonds, soy yogurt with berries and flaxseed and cinnamon, or something like that...

PM: I get home and this is when I might do some Classical Stretch. I am kind of a junkie for Miranda Esmonde-White, I don't know why. I plan to do a 30 or 50 minute session 4 times/week, IF I feel like it and have time. But I have permission to skip it.

Dinner: Something relatively low in carbs, like veggie chili. This varies enormously - I like to cook so i experiment a lot.

PM: Another, shorter dog walk, to make sure they get their full hour!

I'm sort of counting calories and carbs, but not obsessively. Since most of my focus is on maintaining my diet (instead of squeezing in workouts), I am eating more mindfully, and I also have more time to carefully prepare things I actually like. I'm shooting for around 1500 calories a day, since that seems to be my "magic number". I'm drinking a lot of water, too.

I think you could use any old diet/way of eating: for me, lowering carbs always seems to help, and it's refreshing to be able to cut back on carbs without feeling like I'm going to die!

Also, the dog walks are relatively brisk, 3.5-4 mph, but I only burn around 200 calories from them. I was freaking out at first, because I normally shoot for 450-600 calories burned during a cardio session. I don't know where those calories came from, but it wasn't from my fat reserves. Maybe it was from my brain?
 

Afreet

Cathlete
This week I have decided that I am so tired of working my butt off everyday and not seeing the results I want. I only want to lose 5lbs, but it should not be this hard. I too have been doing Insanity and a lot of other high intensity workouts, and I am totally exhausted. I am now focusing a lot more on healthy food and low intensity workouts. I took a walk the other day for an hour at a quick pace of 4.8 and I felt GREAT at the end. I did not fell beat up and I wasn't starving at the end of it. I already, after only four days, feel so much better and more balanced. I have also lost 3-4 lbs, go figure. I think I have always thought that the harder the workout the better results. I am now questioning that theory. I am going to focus on lower intensity workouts and more walking. I am still going to lift heavy, though. I think my problem is too much high intensity cardio. I am tired of my life revolving around working out and always looking for the quick fix. It really is about the food and doing things in a more balanced way. I want to start enjoying being active instead of dreaading it. Anyway, this topic is really interesting, and the Time article definiltey spoke to me.

Susan
Wow! Right on - I'm glad to hear that you are finding the same thing to be true.

I absolutely think high-intensity workouts are fun, and I think I did get "results" from them - better cardiovascular and muscular strength, better endurance, positive mood-enhancing endorphins...but if I do them too much the benefits start to disappear.

I agree also that finding real enjoyment in activity, without worrying about how many MORE calories you could be burning if you were doing something more intense, is SO NICE.
 

measuredoak

Cathlete
Afreet, thanks for posting. I've been struggling with some of the same issues. Over the last 6-9 mos. I've seen the weight slowing creep back on after keeping it off for over a year. More exercise doesn't seem to be doing much but making me hungrier. Please keep us posted on your progress. After reading your post & the comments of others, I am going to rethink my workout routine & scale back a bit & see what happens.
 

LauraMax

Cathlete
Hmmm this is really interesting (I think I missed it the first time around). I could've written the first half of your post, except my willpower issues are on the w/e, not at night. The only difference being for a couple of months I did only low impact cardio b/c of an injury, but it was still every day & still for about an hour. And the guilt I felt for taking a day off b/c I just wasn't losing weight......

Just so I have this right, are you still lifting heavy & doing low impact cardio, and less of it?
 

PhyllisG

Cathlete
I am just finishing up CLX and then would like to do something different. I plan on Physique57, low impact cardio, and maybe Ellen Barrett's Studio Series. I also have Release which I love so I will work that in somehow also. But my question really is--I am vegetarian and I am having a hard time cutting down on carbs. I could really use some suggestions regarding this. I know cutting carbs works for me but this time around, since I changed my diet, it is a little harder to make food choices. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
 

Afreet

Cathlete
Updated Low Intensity results

Hi again:

I was just getting ready to post another update! How funny that I popped in to the forum and this thread is back!

LauraMax: To answer your question: I had been lifting moderate-to-heavy and doing super-intense cardio, which is what (I think) led me to be starving all the time - I seriously found it almost impossible to control my eating habits. I started the experiment by doing ONLY these things for one week:

Walking my dogs (at a brisk pace, around 4-4.5 mph, for around 1 hour per day)
Classical Stretch/Essentrics, as much or as little as I wanted.

I decided on this after seriously reflecting about the way my intense workouts had changed my body over the years. I decided that diet seemed to be a bigger deal than exercise in keeping my weight down. I decided to do super-super easy stuff and focus all my willpower on my diet.

As I hoped, cutting back on workouts made my appetite REALLY manageable! I stuck to my diet and lost three pounds in the first week.

This last week, I added in some other stuff.

In terms of lifting/"toning" work, I am on a kind of Essentrics bender right now. I LOVE these workouts, I even think I love Miranda Esmonde-White. Since I wanted to do more of them, I did around 30-45 minutes a day of this. I added in 30-40 minutes of more intense cardio on three days (I incorporate this into the dog walks, in case anyone was concerned about whether Greta and Afreet are getting their cardio). My "more intense" cardio included running, both steady state and intervals with Cardio Coach.

Prior to my experiment, I was doing hyper-intense cardio, often with intervals, for a minimum of an hour per day, 6 days per week. What I WANTED that to do was trim me down. But since cardio doesn't seem to lessen my appetite (quite the contrary), it was having the opposite effect. The moderate-to-heavy lifting was building muscle...which didn't look very defined because I couldn't lose any fat because my diet was out of control.

Hence the experiment. I decided that I needed to step back and focus on diet, since that was my biggest challenge. I value my strength and fitness, and I don't think I'm obsessed with a number on the scale or anything - I just noticed that I was always gaining, gaining, gaining - and that really needed to stop!

So this week, with the moderate amount of cardio and my fun, super-easy non-weight Essentrics stuff, I still had my appetite in check and I lost 2 more pounds! Just like that! I also did measurements:

Waist: -2 inches
Hips:-1.5 inches
Thighs: -0.5 inches (each) (grrr...)
Arms (biceps): about the same - but they were pretty good to start with, so no complaints.

I'm a little surprised. I thought for sure that my body was so accustomed to the higher intensity that diet and gentle exercise wouldn't cut it anymore.

So, I think I'll stick with my current formula again through next week, and then maybe switch things around.

I should add that I don't really like heavy lifting (I know, I know - sacrilege!! But it requires a lot of focus, and I kind of like to space out and let my mind wander when I work out - just my personal preference!).

I think the take-home here is: for some of us, exercising alone makes us lose weight. Huzzah for those people. For others, diet is a bigger factor. If diet is what makes the difference, killing yourself with cardio can be counterproductive. So maybe scaling back the cardio hours and getting the diet under control is a good idea?

So, to recap: So far, I'm down five pounds and a handful of inches. My knees feel GREAT. I am less stressed and am enjoying myself. My appetite is currently manageable and there have been no more incidents involving cake.
 

sparrow13

Cathlete
Hi again:

My appetite is currently manageable and there have been no more incidents involving cake.
This made me LOL.

I've found that diet really does matter as well. I always thought exercise was the top thing but just tweaking my diet slightly has had a noticeable impact on my body.
 

Govtgirl

Cathlete
I love this thread!

Afreet, this is a wonderful discovery, and is sort of mirroring what I've experienced. Years ago I lost weight with the FIRM, then slid, and when I got back to exercising did heavy Cathe workouts, but nuthin was happening. Mostly, I hate heavy weight work too, so i wouldn't do it as much. I really prefer total-body almost every day workouts. That's what I went back to, some Cathe and yes, some FIRMs, got my diet in check with my GWF, and I'm down 10 pounds.

Years ago a guy at work who was very fit told me that in the end it all comes down to diet, and he was so right.
 

kariev

Cathlete
I hate heavy lifting too! I just feel super hungry and runned down when doing it. I want to know more about the Escentircs thing that you mention. Are they workouts????
 

Stacy

Cathlete
I had similar results when I started watching my diet more and doing whatever workout, if any, I felt like that day. I was down 2 lbs the first week and another 3 the next week. I also suffer from IBS and eating cleaner certainly made my stomach issues virtually non-existent. You'd think those results alone would be enough to stop my emotional eating though! I'm not giving up, your post inspired me to get back on the bandwagon!
 

bitmover

Cathlete
I was on vacation a week or so ago and didn't do workouts. I was somewhat active with walking/hiking, but not hugely so. The food situation was grim -- we were camping and eating not-so-great camp food my husband decided on or we were eating at greasy diners. I watched portion control. I was hungry, but didn't feel like I needed to graze the way I do when I have tough workouts. Guess what? I lost a few pounds. Back home a week , working out, and struggling with the eating again. I'm not sure I can blame it all on the exercise -- I think a lot of it has to do with availability, boredom, routine.......
 

kariev

Cathlete
I hate heavy lifting too! I just feel super hungry and runned down when doing it. I want to know more about the Escentircs thing that you mention. Are they workouts????
nevermind. researched it and found the website. i bought it too. thanks for making me spend more money LOL
 

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