What is the best way to lose weight? Diet, exercise, both? Well, the answer lies somewhere in between.
Exercise: my personal failure
Two years ago I gained a little bit of extra weight and made a mistake thinking I could fix it by getting super-active. I love exercise, and thought it shouldn’t be a big deal. I was mistaken.
Exercising five times a week was fun at first. Those who are naturally active understand what I am talking about. I really do enjoy things like trampolines and Body Combat classes – both burn about 800 calories per class. However, I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I gained weight.
How is that possible? The answer is easy! First of all, you gain weight due to newly-gained muscle tissue, which is a good thing. You might look bigger at first, but if you continue your exercise efforts without increasing your food intake, you’ll lose fat and ultimately reshape your body. That’s in theory; in real life, however, things are not that simple.
Exercise increased my appetite like never before. I craved for sugar, bread, chocolate, meat – everything! I tried to control my food intake, but it was incredibly hard. In addition, while I was very active at the gym, I tended to avoid any unnecessary physical activities outside the gym. This is something many people underestimate. If you do a lot of exercise, but then just lie in bed for the rest of the day, you aren’t going to lose weight. That’s exactly what happened. Instead of losing weight, I gained even more weight.
Now I know exercise alone will not do it.
Diet: another failure
Another option is dieting. After all, no matter who you are, if you starve yourself you are guaranteed to lose weight. However, battling with daily cravings for months is not sustainable. I personally can’t stick to any diet for more than a week. Low-fat, low-carbohydrate, high-protein, low-GI – all are same for me. They all work, but I can’t stick to it. I am sure I am not alone.
According to scientific research, there is no single dieting solution that will work for everyone.
This was demonstrated in one of the largest and longest-run weight loss studies ever conducted, which investigated how diets with different fat, protein and carbohydrate content influenced weight loss.
Over 800 overweight adults took part in the study which ran for two years. Each person was randomly allocated to one of four different diets which ranged from high-carbohydrate/low-fat to low-carbohydrate/high-fat.
After six months, the average weight loss was 7% of the initial body weight, with negligible differences between the diets. Predictably, much of this lost weight was regained, with only half the respondents maintaining their new weight for two years.
As the study progressed, the differences in the nutrient mix between the diet groups became smaller, as fewer people met their diet goals for fat or carbohydrate intake.
If the participants of this research study found it difficult to stick to a diet, despite expert advice and ongoing follow-up and support, then the chances of success in the “real-world” are even more remote.
– Tim Crove, The Conversation
What about exercise? Well, according to research exercise has a modest, but consistent benefit on body fat reduction (1). Did you hear that? Modest, but consistent – that’s it!
Everyone’s body is different. Try different things and see what works for you. My advantage is that I love exercise, yours might be something else. We should use our natural inclinations to help us achieve our goals.
Diets and special exercise programs may help you achieve short-term success, but that’s not what we are looking for. Long-term results can be achieved only with lifestyle change, a kind of change that involves both – your eating habits and your energy spending. The good news, it doesn’t have to be radical, but it still should include both.