What’s More Important: Diet or How Much You Exercise?

You have probably wondered at some point in your life, is diet more important than exercise or does exercise trump diet. I think the question that you first need to ask yourself is: “What is your main outcome or goal?” If your answer is strictly weight loss, both diet and exercise are important but the focus placed on diet is slightly higher. If you’re looking to just maintain a healthy lifestyle then you need to consistently monitor and focus on both. Remember, you can’t manage something if you don’t measure it. Finally, if you’re someone who has lost a significant amount of weight and your goal is to maintain that weight loss for the rest of your life then both diet and exercise are your best friends.

One of the best research-based organizations that looks at these types of questions and more is the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The NWCR is the brain-child of Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University Medical School and James Hill, PhD, from the University of Colorado. The NWCR “provides information about the strategies used by successful weight loss maintainers to achieve and maintain long-term weight loss.” The NWCR is currently tracking over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and, most importantly, have kept it off for long periods of time.

NWCR members have lost an average of 72.6 pounds and maintained the loss for more than 5 years. “To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (≈1 h/day/walking), eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends.”

What should help clear up this debate is the fact that only 1 percent of the huge NWCR database (>10,000 subjects) have been successful at keeping their weight off with exercise alone. About 10 percent of the subjects have been successful with weight-loss maintenance by focusing on diet alone. More than 89 percent of the subjects have been successful because of BOTH diet and exercise modifications.

Your best bet is to spend quality time at the gym a few times a week and remember to challenge yourself when you’re moving through your paces. Stay active throughout the week and especially during the weekends. Focus on eating clean, healthy foods, avoiding highly processed foods while watching the added sugar in everything you eat. Finally, know that diet and exercise are your best choices to help get you there and once you’ve reached your goals, will help keep you there!

References

Wing RR, Hill JO. Successful weight loss maintenance. Annu Rev Nutr 2001;21:323–41.

Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 82(1): 222S-225S.

8 Tips for Maintaining Weight Loss Based on a 20-Year National Study

To learn more about the science of weight loss, researchers founded the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) as a long-term study project back in 1994. There are currently more than ten thousand people who have joined in the project. Researchers compiled self-report data from subjects who have successfully maintained weight loss and the finding were published in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners.

The results from of the data showed that 90 percent of NWCR participants were still maintaining at least 10 percent weight loss 10 years after losing weight. These people had various ways to achieve that, but they also used eight common strategies, including:

  1. They eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet primarily prepared at home. On average, they consumed 1,306 calories per day, with only 24.3 percent of calories from fat.
  2. They eat breakfast. Studies have shown that regular breakfast is associated with low BMI.
  3. They have diet rules for weekdays, weekends, and holidays. Their food intake is very consistent from day-to-day.
  4. They exercise about 1-hour a day. About 75 percent of people expended at least 1000 calories/week in physical activity. Walking is the most common exercise used.
  5. They regularly drink low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, especially water. Only 10 percent of people drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
  6. They weigh themselves on a regular basis. Regular self-weighing may serve as an early alarm for weight regain.
  7. They spend limited time on watching TV. Most of them watch TV fewer than 10 hours a week.
  8. They sleep 7 or more hours a night. Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours are more likely to be obese.
HOW IMPORTANT IS BREAKFAST
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We know from research and our personal experiences that there are no “one size fits all” strategies for successful weight loss maintenance but these eight behavioral tips can be used as tools to develop a customized approach to maintain a healthy weight.

Reference

Raphaelidis L. (2016). Maintaining Weight Loss: Lessons from the National Weight Control Registry. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 12: 286-287. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2016.01.009

Resource

The National Weight Control Registry, Providence (RI).

 

Enough with the Statement that Exercise Does not Help with Weight Loss

A few times a year we see some news publication or media outlet come out with a bold statement that aerobic exercise in one form or another is useless when it comes to weight loss. First off, even if you never lost weight with regular exercise, the (many) positive outcomes associated with regular exercise, still far out way not exercising at all and yes, even if weight loss never occurs.

EDITH
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A recent issue of TIME (July, 2016) looked at the “new” reasons to exercise which I like because it takes the focus off weight loss. In the article, author, Alexandra Sifferlin, shows the research and hits on the following point:

  • Exercise improves memory.
  • Exercise increases energy – a study out of the University of Georgia, saw “a 166% increase in self-reported energy in men who exercised on bikes for 20 minutes.”
  • Exercise may keep depression at bay.
  • Exercise can curb food cravings.
  • Exercise can reduce the risk of serious cancers – data from the National Cancer Institute showed individuals who are more active than their sedentary counterparts had a “20% lower risk of certain serious cancers.”
  • Exercise has mind-body benefits.

Let’s face it, many of us know that we can run a few miles a day for weeks and even months at a time and sometimes by the end, lose minimal or no weight at all. We may think all the hard work and time commitment was a big waste of our time.  If you start thinking out of the box and focus on the additional benefits of exercise rather than a primary outcome all the time (i.e. weight loss) you’ll be better off in the long run.

Professor Herman Pontzer of City University of New York (CUNY), stated: “Exercise is really important for your health. That’s the first thing I mention to anyone asking about the implications of … exercise. There is tons of evidence that exercise is important for keeping our bodies and minds healthy, and this work does nothing to change that message. What our work adds is that we also need to focus on diet, particularly when it comes to managing our weight and preventing or reversing unhealthy weight gain.”

Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England has stated: “Being physically active is good for your physical and mental health and also helps to maintain a healthy weight. However, the evidence shows the most effective way of losing weight is to reduce calorie intake through a healthy balanced diet.”

Oh and by the way researcher Rena Wing, PhD, from Brown University and her colleagues at the National Weight Control Registry have followed a large group of subjects (>10,000) who have lost a significant amount of weight, and more importantly, have kept it off for many years. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5.5 years. One of their secrets is exercising (walking) for an hour a day!

References

Exercise alone won’t cause weight loss, study shows, The Guardian, January 2016.

The new reasons to exercise, Alexandra Sifferlin, Time Magazine, July, 2016.