As I prepare for surgery, I find myself wringing my hands about exercise.
I used to be a runner. I stopped running about 12 years ago, but prior to that I ran pretty regularly. I was never fast--I raced only once, and found it was not my thing--but I logged some fair mileage, averaging between five and nine miles a day four-five days a week. I did this, off and on, for the better part of a decade.
But here's the thing. Ultimately, I only became a runner to try and keep my weight under control: that was my whole reason for wanting to exercise. And while running certainly made my cardiovascular fitness a good deal better, I very quickly figured out how to eat to compensate for all the calories I burned. And so my weight held steady and even increased slowly even as I was approaching half-marathon distances. Knowing my pathological food interface, this now seems not shocking in the least.
But this reality poses a challenge as I try to map out my recovery from bariatric surgery and my new life as a thinner person. Exercise is strongly encouraged as part of one's new routine, and I can imagine that for many obese folks very strenuous exercise has long been off the radar. As we lose weight, it becomes easier and more alluring to live a more active lifestyle--and indeed, I find myself dreaming about doing more bike riding, having an easier time walking and hiking, even strapping on my running shoes again. I'm more fortunate than some: though I stopped running a dozen years ago, I still walk two-three miles most days, and when I'm traveling it's not uncommon to walk five miles or more. So exercising at that level will be no problem whatsoever for me.
But what of more strenuous exercise? As my weight drops and I begin to exercise more, I'm also trying to learn anew how to eat; I must adjust my new eating routine to the lifestyle I'm living. And if my new eating regimen must accommodate the calories burned by running, I will settle on a richer diet than if I were not exercising. If I ever stop running I'll find myself used to eating more calories than are needed for the non-runner.
And this seems a perfect recipe for putting weight back on.
So I have to decide whether running and accounting the calories is a smart strategy for me. It's almost as though if I start running I'll have to keep at it. My track record of cutting back my consumption for changing conditions is a bit spotty, though I'm definitely eating less now than I was during my running days.