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Diet or exercise- which works best

Is a Solution for:
Fitness & Weight Loss
Reviewed by SarahK February 4, 2011 3 Comments
My newest TV addiction is MTV’s I Used to be Fat, which chronicles the lives of overweight or even obese high school seniors who are afforded personal trainers in order to whip them into shape before heading off to college. I cannot get over the incredible transformations that these kids make: unhealthy, unhappy youth emerge as svelte, confident college bound students after three months of intense ass kicking, provided by hardcore trainers. If I exercised that intensely, I could have a perfect physique, couldn’t I?

Maybe not. I’m not overweight but, hey, no one’s perfect (except maybe Halle Berry or Madonna). Everyone can stand to improve his or her bodies a little, including me. But apparently, exercise is not the key to slimming down. In fact, in some cases, it could be keeping you from losing weight!

According to Eric Ravussin, exercise researcher and chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University, “in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless.” While exercise burns calories, it also stimulates hunger. Many (if not most, according to the increasing population of obese people despite the increasing number of gym memberships) give into these hunger pangs and eat even more than they normally would. This is called “compensation,” and it also takes the form of being less active than usual in your daily routine after you hit the gym. Surprisingly, there is more than one study that validates this occurrence – and the weight gain that goes along with it.

You might think that all one needs is a little self-control to combat the issue. But, according to the journal Psychological Bulletin, self-control is like a muscle – it weakens each day after you use it. Essentially, humans aren’t built for willpower.

In theory, if you exercise a bit less, you may choose to walk to a friend’s house instead of driving. Or you might spend a little extra time cooking (something healthy) and cleaning (burning calories).

Moral of the story? Exercise doesn’t have to mean killing yourself on a treadmill for two hours. It can mean being moderately active all day long. This is not to say you should cancel your gym membership; but you may want to focus a bit more on diet and a little less on exercise. Those kids on I Used to be Fat were put on strict diets that deviated enormously from their old eating habits. That old adage “you are what you eat” seems to be truer by the minute. Everything in moderation – that goes for both pizza and the treadmill.
  • March 11, 2011

    by marta

    Congratulations JustD! Losing 23 lbs is a real achievement. I'll check out the Game On Diet, which I hadn't heard of before. I agree, though, it really is about portion control. Especially, in a country that has supersized everything.

  • March 11, 2011

    by JustD

    I lost 23 pounds using the Game On Diet, which isn't really a diet, but more of an exercise in portion control and now that I've used it, I can't go back to 3 meals a day. I have 5 mini meals and sometimes, it's too much and I skip one.

    At 57 with a metabolism that has left the building, this has been a guiding light for me to stay on top of things and keep things in tact. Water, of course, is a HUGE factor and it makes sense why. The great thing is that you can reward yourself, and although they do subscribe to a level of exercise, it's only a minimal amount for those who don't subscribe to it, and for 20 minutes a day. But it works in tandem with the diet.

    I used to spend hours in the gym, and SarahK has hit on something. Recently I read an article on RMR, Resting Metabolism Rate, which is an estimate of how many calories you would burn if you did nothing but rest for 24 hours, with a calculation of what minimal calories you would need each day to function, and the amoung of weight one can lose if they apply a calorie deficit, depending on their wt, ht & age. There's a formulation to it, and whether you agree with it or not, it seems plausible, because lots of people maintain their weight without exercise. Their muscular system may not be up to par, but their weight management can be maintained by such a mindset.

    Again, sometimes, the simplest method to any adversity is common sense, however, why keep it simple when you can make money off of it. Thanks for the insights and info SarahK. Great article/reminder!

  • March 11, 2011

    by Kimberley

    Great article! I have always believed that fitness/fatloss/weightloss is 80% food related, 10% exercise related, and 10% genetics.

    What you eat shows not only in your weight and bodyfat, but also your skin. If you eat a lot of processed foods and drink sodas all day, it WILL show on your face and body.

    Once I cut out processed foods (following the 90/10 rule of eating clean 90% of the time and indulging 10% of the time), I had no problem dropping weight AND I started looking younger too! I have more energy, don't have the stomach issues I used to.

    Sorry for sounding like an infomercial! :-)

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