Diet or Exercise?

Losing weight is simple. All you need to do is eat right and stay active…  Success can be obtained by making a few small changes to your lifestyle, like cutting down on your bad carbohydrates, lifting weights, eating fruits and vegetables, performing cardio exercises, drinking water, avoiding refined sugars, and…

Okay, so maybe weight loss isn’t so simple after all. With the more than $60 billion spent by Americans on weight loss efforts last year, it’s no surprise that we have been inundated with information, tricks of the trade, and quick-fix solutions to reaching our healthy (or ideal) body weight. Does this feel a little overwhelming? I agree, so let’s focus on one of the most basic of debates: Is diet or exercise more important for losing weight?

The “Diet”

“Diet” is in quotes because the word often feels negative and annoying, like your ex just showed up to ruin your birthday party. Realize your real goal is to make a lifestyle change; change the way you look at food. When it comes to weight loss, exercise falls far second to a healthy diet. Reducing your calorie intake by 500/day will result in weight loss of 1 pound/week (since 3,500 calories = 1 pound, according to the Mayo Clinic). 500 may seem like a lot, but let’s take a look at how easily we can get there:
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  • 1 can of soda pop = 150 calories
  • 1 serving of potato chips = 160 calories
  • 1 Starbucks Grande Latte = 220 calories


You might have noticed that we successfully cut out 530 calories by eliminating only 3 things, and none of which would make you feel hungry if you went without!

The Good and Bad of Exercise

Exercise is good for you. Period. Anytime you can work your heart, lungs and muscles you are strengthening your body. But according to Richard Cooper from Loyola University Health System, one of the problems with exercise and weight loss is that although exercise burns calories, it also increases your appetite, potentially causing you to eat more and not see a change on the scale. Furthermore, exercise isn’t always a given. We have to make decisions on food every day, but many of us have to go out of our way to exercise, and given our busy schedules, finding the time isn’t always easy. In addition, many of us have limitations to the amount and type of exercise we can do. Whether you have a permanent limitation or a nasty cold that’s kept you off the treadmill for 2 weeks, it’s important to realize that exercise may not be the easiest route to your success.

Clearly, a combination of eating healthy and staying active is the key to losing weight, but a healthy diet is probably the more important of the two. Focus on your diet; what can you eliminate to cut out unnecessary calories? If you’re eating right, you can skip the gym and still see the results you want!