It’s that time of year again! You all know what I am talking about. The beginning of a new year, when we start to shout our New Year’s Resolution from the roof tops. We start telling everyone, “new year, new me.” As we all know, it is no secret the top New Year’s Resolution, year in and year out, is “to lose weight.”
I have been there, along with all of you. Year in and year out it has been something like: lose weight, be more healthy, drink more water, etc. It is always hard to stick to, no matter who you are. We have all seen it! Go into a gym or workout facility the beginning of the year and what does it look like, like a packed store on Black Friday. Hard to find the equipment, weights, or room in that 10 am barre class. However, show up mid February and it’s a ghost town, with your pick of the litter. If you’re on social media you will see tons of more posts healthy food and links to “detox” drinks, 30 day meal plans, and you can’t forget the cleanses!
So many choices and information at the beginning of the year regarding health, it can be quite overwhelming. But what should we do? Who should we listen to? First and foremost, listen to your body. Every one is different and every BODY is different. What works for your husband or friend may or may not work of you. I have to admit, I even get confused. Science says this, natural medicine says that, my friend says a completely different thing. Too many options can make the entire losing weight/healthy lifestyle thing difficult.
After teaching barre class recently, I was chatting with one of my favorite students. She is an older woman, in her 60’s, and has been coming to the studio regularly for the past year. I think she looks great! However, like most women, she is hard on herself and feels like she should be doing better with her body and losing weight. As we are talking about the New Year and becoming more healthy she says to me, “I was talking with my sister the other day, and she’s telling me it is more about diet than it is about exercise. Maybe I need to fix my diet, but it’s very difficult.” I agreed with her. I told her I heard the same thing, weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. But is it really? I mean, I said that because I heard it, but was I just talking out my rear end? Well, I decided to do some research…
I should point out, before going further, be careful what you come across on Google. During this time of year tons of ads and blogs about “fad” diets or pills or exercise plans/equipment/videos pop up; a lot of them leading you to believe they are “scientific” in nature. They are not. Now, back to the topic at hand: diet v exercise. Is one better than the other?
And the winner is….diet! According to a scientific peer reviewed study, where weight loss using diet, exercise, or diet and exercise was measured; diet prevailed. In this study, aerobic activity and diet were included and surgeries, drugs, and hormonal therapeutic treatments were excluded. When compared to diet v exercise alone, diet far outranked exercise. Over a 15 week period the diet alone subjects lost 10.7 kg or 23.6lbs and exercise alone came up short almost 8 kg short. Compared to just diet, exercise subjects lost 2.9 kg or 6.6 lbs after 15 weeks. When diet and exercise were coupled together, those subjects only did slightly higher than diet alone subjects with 11kg of weight loss or 24.25 lbs.
Now, what can we take away from this? Why was there such a huge discrepancy between diet alone and exercise alone? Do we even need to bother with exercise any more? Well, no not exactly. First let’s just talk straight science and math. Calories, what are they? Calories are simply a unit of energy (heat)-the amount of heat necessary for 1 gram of water to raise temp 1 degree higher. The Calories we see on food and drink labels are technically kilocalories-1,000 calories = 1 Calorie which is really a joule. This is just a little bit of information on what we’re really looking at and to satisfy my nerd brain. We also must understand a little bit of thermodynamics to understand why diet works far better than just exercise alone. I will be very basic here, just know there is A LOT more that goes into it, but simply put (in regards to body mass):
Energy consumed is EQUAL to the expenditure, then mass is maintained.
Energy consumed is GREATER than expenditure, then storage of calories occur.
Energy consumed is LESS than expenditure then, mobilization of calories occur.
So, if you want to just lose weight, and nothing else, eat less. It’s simple math and science. If you want to see the numbers on the scale go down, consume less. As I was looking for articles and papers regarding diet v exercise I cam upon an interesting experiment a college professor did. He ate junk food, and only junk food, but he ate less calories than he usually did, and he lost weight. So throw away all the healthy food, eat whatever you want, just less of it and you will lose weight.
I’M KIDDING!!! DO NOT DO THAT!!!
Yes, that will work-it’s just the laws of science. However, I would be curious as to what his insides looked like, how he felt, how his energy was, headaches, joint pain, etc. This leads me into the second part of this blog.
Don’t stop excising. Don’t stop moving. First, let’s quickly look at science one more time. In the study mentioned earlier, they did follow ups on the subjects for maintenance of weight loss. Diet alone subjects maintained a 6.6kg or 14.5 lbs of weight loss and diet plus exercise maintained 8.6kg or 18.9 lbs of weight loss. So, while diet alone is better than exercise alone, nothing beats weight loss and the maintenance of weight loss when you combine both good diet and exercise. Why? Because you’re boring more calories than you consume!!
Before I wrap up here there are a few points I would like to make regarding diet and exercise.
- Do not be consumed with calorie counting. Calorie counting can lead you to eating empty calories-foods that are low in calories but also low in nutritional content. You know what I’m talking about, something like those 100 calorie snack packs-like cookies or crackers. Sure they are low in calories but they don’t have much else. They, more likely than not, will have you reaching for another snack shortly after because the “snack pack” didn’t sustain you. If you are eating healthy and going to the gym, grab some nuts or avocado. Something that is higher in good fat. Yes it may have a bit more cialories, but that can hold you over longer than the other junk. Therefore, actually consuming less in the end.
- Eat whole, healthy foods. A lot of veggies should surround your plate, with protein and good fat. It’s really all about portion control. When I teach menu planning with my patients they often talk to me about calories and how many calories are in a certain type of food. Or they will try and justify something because of the low calories. I tell them, stick with this list of healthy foods (it’s a very large list fyi) and focus on portions. For example, your protein should be the size of your palm and the rest of your plate should be filled, mainly, with non-starchy veggies like cruciferous vegetables, greens, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini, etc. With a smaller portion of more starchier vegetables such as: beets, winter squash, carrots, and potatoes (including sweet potatoes).
- Do not be afraid of exercise. Do not put exercise on the back burner. First, go back to basics-Energy (calories) consumed must be less than energy burned to decrease weight. Let’s rephrase that: You must BURN MORE calories than you consume. Not to mention exercising does a lot for the human body. Just because you lose weight by eating less does not, necessarily, make you a healthier individual. Losing weight with diet alone does not tone your body. With exercise you can manipulate your metabolism. Tone and strengthen larger muscle groups like the thighs and glutes, you help to improve and increase your metabolism (that fire inside you that helps burn those calories!). Exercise strengthens the lungs by increasing volume of oxygen, it strengthens the heart (remember it’s a muscle too!). Exercise increases energy while also decreasing stress, muscle protein builds making you stronger, and so much more! Don’t give up on exercise, it does a body good!
Moral of the story, do not trade one for the other. Eat better, eat healthy, and continue to move. Your goals of a healthier you, a more focused you are very much attainable. Remember to listen to your body and how you feel. Never hesitate to consult your doctor if something doesn’t feel right, or if this is the first time you are exercising and drastically changing your diet.
Do not give up. No matter what, do not give up. You may have bumps here and there, but even the best of use do. Know this is a lifestyle change. It is not a diet. Diets are temporary, but a lifestyle is forever.
Postural Evolution offers menu planning with REAL food for those who want a little jumpstart to their plan. If you’re interested contact Donatella at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-460-0944