WEIGHT LOSS SERIES: Diet VS Exercise

It’s that time of year again: resolutions are on the horizon. Did you know losing weight is the #1 New Year’s resolution and has been for like five decades? This sense of new beginning gives people fresh motivation to make some positive changes—and I think that’s as good a reason as any! So if losing weight is one of your resolutions, I can help! I’m devoting a few posts to helping you on your weight loss journey. I, too would like to lose a bit in the new year so I’m excited to dust off these tips and apply them in my own life.

This is the first post in a 3-part series for weight loss strategies. The upcoming two will cover:

  • The best diet I've ever tried (and still use)
  • Types of exercise that promote weight loss

But to kick it off, I’d like to answer an incredibly popular question: Is diet or exercise more important for weight loss?

Let’s start with the science.

The science of weight loss is quite straightforward and I’m sure you’ve heard it before:

If you intake fewer calories or expend them with exercise, you will lose weight. With that in mind, to shed a single pound, you need to achieve a 3,500 calorie deficit. Let’s divvy that up in a scenario.

How many miles do you need to jog to burn off 3,500 calories? According to Livestrong, it’s about six hours going at a moderate (5) pace. SIX HOURS. If you jog one hour per day six days a week, you can expect to lose about a pound at the end of the week. Can you keep that up?

Now, what if you follow the 80/20 ratio; where 80% of the deficit comes from diet and only 20% from exercise?  You'd want to burn at least 500 calories through exercise and cut an additional 3,000 calories through dieting. That’s a lot easier! Your week might look something like this:

As you can see, ditching 3,500 calories (or 3,800 in this case) is much easier to do with diet than it is with exercise alone. That’s one of the reasons why meal prepping is so important: when you prepare your own food, you control the calories. You also have it readily available which will deter you from binging on fast food or pantry snacks.

Now, a story about the application.

For years, years, I tried to out-train a poor diet. Like many of us, when I thought “weight loss plan” I thought cranking up the treadmill or joining a bootcamp. And like many of us, I felt pretty deflated when all my hard work wasn’t budging the scale.

In 2015, I did something I knew deep down I needed to do: I changed my diet. It was so hard—particularly the little cheats. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were easy. For me, it was drive-thru “snacks”, little “rewards” after the gym, and other deals I made with myself that did nothing but delay my goals.

But when I buckled down and committed to a few months of honesty with myself: preparing meals and tracking macros (another post I will do!), the weight came off! Finally! This is my progress over 8 months (January 2015 to August 2015):

How I kept going over the long haul is a whole other can of worms, but it began with yearning to keep feeling as good as I felt. A yearning to keep looking as good as I looked. And trading what I want now for what I want most.

Buuut don’t neglect the sweat.

I’m not advocating diet over exercise; both are vital for overall health and weight loss. If weight loss is one of your goals, your exercise should be a combination of strength training and cardio—not one or the other. More on this in another post, but for now the takeaway is:

What you eat matters more than how you work it off, but exercise will push you past plateaus and help you achieve your ultimate goals!

Does this help you? Want to see more posts like this? Let me know, I want to give my readers more of what they value!