Changing how you move is every bit as important as changing how you eat. In fact, the two habits work closely together. According to the American Council on Exercise, if you diet without exercise, 25 percent of every pound you lose is lean body mass. When you lose lean muscle, your metabolism slows down, making weight loss even more difficult. On the other hand, the higher your percentage of lean body mass, the faster your metabolism — and the faster your metabolism, the more calories you can burn.

I used to think of this as my antidote to bingeing. I would stuff myself with junk food and then exercise so compulsively that some people called me “an exercise bulimic.” I'm not sure that's an official diagnosis, but it did seem like a good description of my manic ability to calculate exactly how far and how fast I would need to run to burn off a pizza or a pint of ice cream. I spent so much time obsessing over this in college that I barely managed to study, or even attend class. The same thing happened when I got into the work world. Early in my career, if I wasn't at the TV station working, it was a pretty safe bet that I was out running someplace.

I am no longer doing those internal calculations, and no longer spending all of my free time running. My attitude toward exercise is a lot less compulsive now, and a lot healthier. It's still a big part of my life, but in a very positive way. Honestly, exercising is how I keep my sanity and reduce my stress.

It's also how I maintain my health. Research tells us that regular exercise lowers the risk of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. Unfortunately, not enough people are paying attention to that message: the federal government's Healthy People 2020 report estimates that nearly 80 percent of adults aren't doing enough aerobic or muscle-strengthening exercise.

My strategy for fitting physical activity into my life is to make sure to keep moving, no matter where I am. Washington, DC, is the center of the political universe, so I'm there a lot for Morning Joe, and no matter how busy my day is I find a way to squeeze in some exercise. Every time I head to Georgetown for lunch, I go first to the “Exorcist steps,” made famous by Father Karras' headfirst fall in the movie, and run them up and down. So far, at least, my head hasn't started spinning, and it hasn't caused projectile vomiting, but I have burned some extra calories.

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