As regular readers may know, quite a few things make me mad and give me an excuse for a rant. Fad diets; the idea that you've got to give up all carbs to lose weight; the experts who are quick to tell us that it's pointless dieting as all the weight will return.
But one that gets me more than anything else, is the almost endless succession of headlines and reports on the theme that exercise makes you fat. Or at the very least, there's no way it will help you lose weight or keep it off.
Just a few days ago there was one in the good old D. Mail, headed in huge letters - 'Why going to the gym can make you FAT' (note the capitals).
There's always a grain of truth hidden somewhere in these articles. Yes, very true that to burn off the calories you just ate in that large slice of iced cake (remember last week's blog, anyone?) would take around two hours’ brisk walking or an hour's running. It is NOT easy to burn up calories anywhere near as quickly as you can eat them. And also very true that moderate amounts of gentle exercise, especially in the fresh air, can make you feel hungry. That, coupled with the feeling that "I've just had a walk so now I deserve a treat" can make you dive for the breadbin as soon as you get in the kitchen after your activity.
But none of that is actually saying that 'exercise makes you fat'. It doesn't. Whether you do a 10-minute walk or 15 minutes on a rowing machine or an hour's aerobics class or whatever your bag is, you WILL burn up more calories than if you had spent that time sitting on your bottom. Translate that into doing something for a reasonable length of time most days, and over the course of a year, exercise can make all the difference between weight loss and weight gain, or between weight maintenance and weight gain.
All things being equal. If you eat more to compensate for the calories you've burnt, then it isn't the fault of the exercise - it's yours.
So please, all you writers and researchers who are so delighted to tell us gullible ordinary people that exercise isn't the answer to our weight problems, give it a rest. We do little enough activity as it is, without giving us yet more excuses not to do anything. Exercise won't produce rapid slimming results, but it IS a great help, and vital for many other health reasons.
If you're still not sure, just look at the Olympic athletes - some of whom (e.g. rowers) have to eat up to 8,000 calories a day just to maintain enough weight and muscle. If you need proof, there it is.
Ate last night - a rather lovely summer lamb stew with tomato, lemon and feta. We're having it tonight as well! It was based on an old recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine that I altered a bit by adding broad beans from my garden and loads more lemon juice. Any cut of lamb will do but if using shoulder, remove as much of the visible fat as you can.
Lamb with lemon and feta
- 1kg boned lamb, cubed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 4 large cloves garlic
- 400g tinned or fresh, peeled tomatoes
- 1 1/2 lemons
- 1 heaped tbsp chopped oregano OR 2 tsp dried
- 500ml lamb stock
- 500g small new potatoes, scrubbed
- 200g small broad beans
- 175g feta cheese
- Good handful chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper
1. Brown the lamb in 1 tbsp of the oil over high heat in a flameproof casserole and remove to a plate. Add rest of oil and the onions, turn heat down and cook for 10 minutes until lightly golden, stirring from time to time.
2. Return lamb to pan with crushed garlic, tomatoes and the half lemon, chopped (skin, pith and all). Add the oregano, seasoning and stock, stir, and bring to simmer. Put lid on and cook for an hour, or transfer to oven at 160C (325F, gas mark 3) if you prefer.
3. Add the potatoes and broad beans and cook for a further 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the juice from the remaining lemon. Check seasoning. Serve sprinkled with parsley and the crumbled feta.
A hunk of crusty bread on the side for non-slimmers would be good.
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