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Hanging in the calorie balance

Alright so now you know I love cookies. But this is just a small part of my culinary
weakness – I actually like all food, and the less healthy it is, the better it
tastes (in my opinion). Of course I try
to eat lots of green leafy veggies, lean meats, and citrus fruits… but how can
one resist hazelnut gelato or Camembert cheese?
Or who would turn up his nose at Kobe
beef with truffle oil-drizzled mashed potatoes and butter? Or what about hot scones and clotted cream
with strawberry jam?

Sigh. I must admit
that my extreme enjoyment of all things gastronomical has landed me in quite a
position on the exercise side of the calorie balance equation. I’ve never been a natural athlete though I do
like getting out into nature.

In fact, I’ve been jogging (one could not describe my
efforts as running) since I was a pre-teen.
I like the minimal hand-eye coordination required for the sport, the
virtual inability to let teammates down (running by yourself has a low risk of
disappointing others), and the freedom of being able to go wherever you like –
breathing in the fresh air, taking in the landscape, and letting the mind

And so I’ve been trying to get back into jogging as this
winter has been the most sedentary of my life.
I am now experiencing what my profession calls “deconditioning” and have
been in near awe at my body’s ability to lose its capacity to perform something
it’s been doing for decades – all within the span of <6 months.

I was recently amazed by how difficult jogging had
become. My legs felt heavy, my heart was
pounding, everyone was passing me on the trail… I was becoming quite
discouraged, when I suddenly happened upon a brilliant idea: rope someone else
into my suffering!

I approached an unsuspecting friend of mine with a proposal:
“would you like to jog with me 3 times a week in the early mornings?” I tried to make that sound as appealing as
possible, putting on my best hopeful grin while sizing her up and wondering if
she could tolerate my slow pace. Much to
my surprise, she responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” She said that she was “not any good at
running” but was trying to get back in shape and would welcome some

And so the two of us have been trundling along a running
trail each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning for the past month. We’ve had a lot of fun catching up on each
other’s lives, and somehow the exercise has become less arduous and more

So what’s the moral of this rambling post? Exercise is hard – it’s not always fun, and
if you haven’t done it in a while, you’re guaranteed to feel fairly embarrassed
by your inabilities at first. But don’t
give up! Find a nice exercise buddy and make
time to do it regularly. That way you’ll
be healthier, happier, and able to eat occasional rich food with less guilt!  Anyone out there been struggling to get more active?

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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2 Responses to “Hanging in the calorie balance”

  1. daedalus2u says:

    Deconditioning occurs when there are insufficient mitochondria to produce ATP above that required for basal metabolism.  To change that, requires more mitochondria.  Exercise per se doesn’t make more mitochondria, what it does is initiate the process of making more mitochondria, which occurs in the rest period (usually during sleep) following exercise.  What initiates mitochondria biogenesis is nitric oxide.   Defective mitochondria biogenesis may be a key factor in the metabolic syndrome.

    Nitric oxide is involved in many aspects of physiology as a signaling molecule.  Because all “NO detectors” only detect the sum of NO from all sources (minus the loss from all sinks), the basal NO level will affect all NO mediated pathways with no threshold (because NO is already in the active range).  I discuss some of this in my blog

    Increasing basal NO levels will increase the effectivness of exercise at initiating mitochondria biogenesis and so increase the “conditioning” that occurs from a specific episode of “training”. 

  2. wellth says:

    Absolutely. Getting started definitely feels like trundling, just thinking about it.  I need an exercise buddy who is at my speed vs. a militant, in-shape die-hard.

    Good for you that you have gotten started, Dr. Val!

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