1950s: Exercise for health and beauty vs Today: Work-outs to work-off or earn junk

My diet books and articles from the 1950s and early 60s offer advice on how to exercise for better health and figure, guidelines and menus for how to eat less as well as the right foods for reducing. 

What they don't suggest is that you stick to a strict diet so that you can later binge and then do a work out to work it off. Exercise is a reward to oneself and for some, a way to undo self-abuse. For example, an overweight and out of shape woman is instructed to take on a new program of exercise, but it's not a tool in a bag of chips to be used as a way to justify eating poorly and too much moving forward.

From Weight Watchers:

There's really no limit to the ways you can earn activity PointsPlus values. "Do an activity three or four times a week, and you can swap PointsPlus values for a special dinner out or an extra slice of pizza and a beer," says meetings leader Mary Martin of Flemington, New Jersey. 

When I was on the "Points" system about ten years ago I began to see exercise as a way to earn junk food. It was a means to eat MORE instead of a way to appreciate it for its own rewards. My 1950s research changed that for me, thankfully.

What place does exercise have you in your day?

Comments

  1. I was on weight watchers and did that too, also on the app I'm using now when you exercise your calorie limit rises. Just recently I I realized wait I'm trying to lose weight why am I eating those extra calories!? I exercise when my 2 year old naps, it's a treat to me it's spending extra time on myself :)

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    1. I should clarify that it's important to have an idea of how many calories we generally burn in the course of a day so we know how much we can eat without gaining, so I think that app can be handy. :) But I wouldn't be surprised if there is a junk food app that equates specific exercises with earned "rewards."

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    2. I do love the app it's my fitness pal, it's so easy to track calories because left to my own devices I horribly over eat. I also wish more people realized how much more food you can eat when you eat healthy.

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  2. Love your blog and can't wait for your book! Anyways, I exercise everyday for 45 min. to an hour. I decided at 40 that instead of whining about being tired and overweight I would get off my couch and make an effort to be active. I have to say that I have never felt better. I have been working out for several months and I love it. Lost 15 pounds. I totally changed my eating habits too. I believe that you should break a sweat everyday. Our bodies were meant for movement. It has also made a tremendous difference in my energy levels. I eat healthy and exercise as my lifestyle it isn't a diet.

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    1. Thank you! I love hearing from others over forty who are actively working to take the best possible care of themselves and not using "I'm over forty" as an excuse. Good for you!!!

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  3. About 5 years ago I was also on Weight Watchers and found that I was eating more junk food because I felt I had “earned” it by working out. While I know that WW has helped many people lose weight I do wish that they would change their approach to exercise. I will admit I did eat more junk on WW then I do just keeping a healthy diet of fruits and veggies, moderation and exercise. I was like, “hmmm, three points for a WW Chocolate Chip Cookie or three points to eat a banana?” I would always go for the junk food never the healthy option. I would take the same approach to exercise, “If I work out I can have a snack, which meant always an unhealthy processed WW product”

    I now workout 40 minutes to 1 hour everyday if I can, if not I’ll do a short 20-30 minute “express” workout to make sure I am breaking a sweat at least once during the course of every day. It isn’t to gain more “snacks” it’s so that I feel better and more energized. I work in an office and sit most if not all of my work day. I am also going to school to finish my degree and this also requires me to be seated for most of my evening. I enjoy a good workout because my body feels great after moving and stretching after an entire day of being seated in front of a computer.

    Gabriela

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    1. YES! I always opted for the WW "treats" and became rather obsessed with them being a sugar junkie. I was entirely focused on earning brownie points with the plan and didn't learn to love the food that loved me back.

      That's great that you make a point to workout for the sake of what it does for you overall. I recall taking evening classes in grad school while working during the day. I managed to get my workouts by doing lots of walking in the hilly town of Burlington. I also lived on the sixth floor and always took the stairs. :)

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  4. This is why I think WW has gone off the deep end! It started out as a sensible way to eat well and lose weight but now it keeps you so busy counting and earning points it's like a cult. I never liked WW once they did away with the real food. No, I don't want a WW meal, I want a home cooked meal and take the time to figure out which food groups I'm eating. Those points steer their customers to eat "food products" that don't provide anything a body needs. It doesn't have to be that hard. And exercising to eat a processed diet cookie with no nutritional value? Insanity!

    Sarah

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    1. I hear you! I loved 1970s WW when I was on it as a teen! It taught me about the basic food groups and I ate a LOT of fruit for the first time in my life. It has little resemblance to what it is today, sadly.

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  5. Not a huge fan of weight watchers, although it will work, sort-of :-)

    Am a huge fan of Jack LaLanne!

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    1. "Sort of." heh

      I am also a huge LaLanne fan!! The book shown above was very inspirational to me as is his show. Right now I'm reading his book from the early 1960s "Foods For Glamour." I'll be sharing a great quote from that next post.

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  6. Weight Watchers' formula ensures them a lot of repeat customers. I can, from my desk chair, point to the houses of a half-dozen neighbors who join (again) every January, lose 20 pounds by April, fall off the wagon because of Easter, then eat their way through the summer and the fall holidays, and are up 30 pounds by December. Not worth starting anything then, of course, so they re-join in January...continue infinitely.

    WW does not work for anyone who's a compulsive overeater, sugar/carb addict, or has binge tendencies, because to overcome any of those conditions you have to identify and eliminate the foods that you find make you lose control. And WW sucks everyone in with their "eat all your favorite foods and still lose weight" ads that feature a big, cherry-topped, chocolate cupcake.

    I attended two WW At Work meetings in late 2000, had to quit because I found out I was pregnant. But those two meetings consisted of exclusively large women who'd all been on the WW merry-go-round forever, trading photocopied recipes for low-cal desserts made with fat-free instant pudding and sugar-free Cool Whip, and calculating how many glasses of wine they could drink on Friday night if they only ate raw vegetables all day. I also hated how people "earned" snacks and treats by doing "activities" like walking to the mailbox or vacuuming. The whole concept of exercise as punishment/food as reward is what keeps this nation on the Fat Track.

    They're a for-profit corporation. Their duty is to line CEOs' pockets and increase shareholders' dividends....not to provide a magic weight loss solution. If people learned good habits from them they'd have a lot fewer members.

    Exercise, for me, for the past nearly-six years, is just a non-negotiable part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth or wearing my seatbelt or cleaning up after myself. It's also my alone time, my thinking time, my therapy...sometimes it's been a social thing, or an adventure thing...but it's something I miss terribly on the rare days I have had to forego it.

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    1. Norma your observations on women who are on-and-off WW are very astute, interesting and sad. I could have easily been one of those women today, still. And it's a cautionary tale as well because WW IS a business and not a non-profit medical plan.

      Your passion for exercise is inspiring!

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  7. I have thought, also, that Weight Watchers is primarily a business now and foremost wants to keep customers on board. All that counting and swapping, looking for points on a box, seems too tedious and probably confusing for some. To their benefit. I have never done WW but I can see how they work.

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    1. Chrissy- I advocate counting calories and keeping track of nutrition, reading labels, etc which can definitely be tedious but it's so worthwhile. One of the problems I have with WW points is that it gets people focused on the numeric values without learning about the actual nutritional and calorie content of the food itself. When it's just points it's harder to make healthier choices if points is the only consideration.

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  8. Averyl, for me the minute my feet hit the floor I clip on my pedometer and work at trying to gain a monthly average of 10,000 steps a day. Some months I am successful at this goal, and some months I'm close! I also have one workout a week that is my "special treat". I save my favorite exercise and I limit myself to only doing it once a week and going at it with 100% enthusiasm. I know myself, and I know if I do my favorite exercise every day I won't do it as intensely, I'll tire of it and then find myself not looking forward to it.

    Yours, Amy D.

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