What seems to work best for weight loss? Diet or exercise?

Everyone wants to loose weight at some point in their life. Some people have struggled their whole lives trying to figure out the magical ingredient to lose that unwanted poundage that has taken over their midsection. Losing weight and keeping it off is a huge challenge. It’s just not easy for a lot of people, including myself. I have patients come into my office with lower back pain, knee pain, hip pain and they are overweight. Most of the time they will say “If I could just lose some weight I know it would help with my pain problems.” Or “I want to lose weight because I know it will help, but my pain prevents me from exercising.” If you ask most people will tell you that if they don’t exercise they have a hard time losing weight. Is this really true? If we limited our physical activity, would this effect our ability to lose weight? Does the way we eat have anything to do with our ability to lose weight?

Exercise has great benefits for your body. It strengthens muscles, helps your cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure and helps you release the chemical Serotonin the “feel good” chemical of the body. This helps your mood change after a workout. Have you ever felt lousy after a workout? I would probably say no! The bottom line is that exercise makes you feel better, boosts your health and it also can be fun. Exercise helps burn calories, which in turn helps you lose weight right? If we burn more calories than we take in then in turn we lose weight. This equation works well, but it wont last for long if all we are doing is an insane workout routine.

Our eating habits can also help with weight lose. People tend to say “I can’t have that I’m dieting!” Or “I am on this diet for the next 4 weeks to get down to my beach body!” Crash diets are just that…they crash! If you decide to start counting your calories and follow the newest “fad” diet plan it might work for a few weeks or maybe a month. Eventually it will catch up to you, especially when you start to eat the same old stuff you used to. Most people will have short term success with these type of diets and leave them saying “I have tried dieting and I just can’t seem to lose the weight.”

So what is it that most of us are doing wrong that is causing us to either not lose weight? Or gaining it back after we have lost it? The short answer is we are relying solely on either exercise alone or some fad diet plan. I suggest to patients that they should try and follow the 80/20 rule. 80% food intake and 20% exercise. Most people would think it should be the opposite. But to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul there is a balance that needs to happen and food is usually the main culprit. Changing the way we eat has such a huge effect on the way we can lose weight, get healthy and stay healthy. If you continue to workout like crazy and not get the proper nutrition you are just being counterproductive. You can’t use exercise as your primary source to lose weight. There has to be some sort of balance both ways.

What I suggest for people to do is first get away from those processed foods and sugar! Sodium alone keeps weight on and those foods are packed with it. Usually I will tell people to fill half of their plate with vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, spinach, artichokes, asparagus are just a few that I like. You only need about a fist full of protein on your plate and a palm full of your starches such as brown rice or yams. Getting fat in your diet is also recommended. Just make sure it’s good fat. I eat at least 1 avocado a day. Try and eat cleaner foods and drink lots of water. In order to stay fully hydrated throughout the day you should drink half you body weight in ounces per day. This can also help your body stay full and not hungry. Sometimes when you think you are hungry you are really dehydrated. Exercise 3 times per week is plenty for about 25-30 minutes. You can do more if you would like. It’s totally up to you.

These are all suggestions that you can try. I am by no means a nutritional expert or a dietitian. I am solely going by experience alone and what has worked for me. As with all things new I recommend to do this for at least a 6-8 week period to really see results. Let me know how it goes!

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