Calories In vs. Calories Out – This is still the bottom line on weight loss, gain or maintenance, so in a simple world, you might think that you can accomplish this simple math any way you like, cut calories extremely low while doing no exercise or burn 1000 calories a day on the treadmill and not worry about what you’re eating. Unfortunately, neither of those options will really work out the way you would hope.
I’m often asked what works better for weight loss, diet or exercise. Most often the pre-conceived notion is that diet is more important than exercise for weight loss and people are quite certain of this. Technically this is true. Studies have shown that participants who follow a specific nutrition plan will lose more weight than individuals who exercise but do not change their nutrition habits, however the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
Weight lost by diet alone will not be all from fat. In fact, a large percentage of the weight lost will be lean muscle mass. This is not ideal. Muscle requires calories to survive. Fat doesn’t. If the person loses muscle, his or her metabolism will slow down, resulting in a downward spiral, where it becomes necessary to further cut calories to maintain the weight loss or lose more weight. This can be extremely frustrating, often ending up abandoning the weight loss efforts and then gaining back the weight and usually more.
What about that frustrating situation where you hit the gym every day sweating your butt off in group fitness classes or home workouts and the scale just won’t budge? The scale is only one means of measuring success in fitness. It certainly doesn’t tell the whole story on what’s going on in your body. From an aesthetic and health perspective, body composition would be a better way to compare whether your exercise or nutrition program is working for you. Waist circumference is one excellent example. This is often measured by fitness and health professionals as another factor in assessing progress in a fitness program and as a risk factor for certain health conditions. Frequently, if a person has been engaging in physical activity consistently for a period of time (I’d say at least 6 weeks or more) they will see a decrease in waist circumference and other measurable changes even if his or her weight hasn’t changed. I’ll discuss the many benefits of physical activity some other time…because there are many.
Great … but you still want to lose weight and keep it off, right? That’s where combining physical activity and healthy eating can really pay off. Oh, that sounds like a big commitment doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to change everything and give up all of your favorite foods in order to lose weight and keep it off. I believe in making small changes over time which will help keep you from quitting. Some people have the willpower to completely overhaul their lives at one time. Others may be forced to with the right incentive such as a job requirement or a health scare, but for the majority of us, it’s got to be simple, doable and sustainable or we won’t stick with it.
Research has shown repeatedly that the best fitness and nutrition programs are the ones you can stick to for life. Yes, I said that….life… not 3 weeks, not 3 months. For life. In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 59 individual studies were conducted and compared in an attempt to figure out "which diet works best?" They compared low-fat, low-carb, Atkins, Paleo, you name it, they looked at it. The result? There was no significant difference with the exception of adherence. Any successful diet or exercise program is one that people will actual stick to. The more complicated or restrictive the diet, the less likely it becomes that a person will stick to the diet.
Here are some easy tips for eating healthier.