Trying to Lose Weight? Diet or Exercise?

So you want to lose weight, but you're totally or exercise?  Which one is more important for weight loss?  

Most people want to believe if they go to the gym several times a week, they can eat whatever they want and still lose weight.  How many people believe it's all about exercise?  In one study 70% people thought that diet and exercise were equally important, and 18% thought it was physical exercise that was responsible for the greatest weight loss.  Only 11% thought that diet was the biggest contributor to weight loss...and they were right!  Meg and I continually tell our clients that weight loss is 80% what you eat, and 20% exercise.  

Trying to Lose Weight?  Which is more important?  Diet or Exercise?  Find out!

Caloric Deficit

There are lots of studies about the exact amount of calories needed to lose a pound of fat, but most agree that 3,500 is the number of calories needed to lose a pound of fat.  That means you either have to "burn" 3,500 calories more than you eat, or you have to eat 3,500 calories less than what your body uses.  

It may seem like it should be easier to just exercise so you burn more calories, but the problem is that most people don't realize that you have to work REALLY HARD to burn 3,500 calories (read about that here).  That realization became very clear for me one day after I had put in a lot of miles running over the course of a month.  As I was looking through my log, I saw I had run 50 miles and burned 5,500 calories, which sounded great... until I realized that was a little over one pound of fat loss.  That's it!  For running 50 miles, I hadn't even lost 2 pounds!  Talk about putting things into perspective.  


80/20 Rule - It's a Numbers Game

Here is where you can start to see how diet becomes the 80% of weight loss.  Let's say you decide to remove the slice of cheese and mayo off of the sandwich you have everyday for lunch, but continue to eat everything else else the exact same way as you usually do?  Only making that one small change, you would lose a pound in about two weeks.  On the flip side, to lose that same amount of weight in two weeks just through exercise, you'd need to run 2.5 miles every day.  Which is easier?  Running 2.5 miles every day, or not eating a slice of cheese and some mayo?  

And that's just one small change you make on a sandwich, imagine if made real changes in your daily diet?  Every smart decision helps!  Say you also cut out your Venti Latte (read about the healthiest Starbucks choices here)?  You could lose another pound in just over a week!  Making real lifestyle changes toward healthier eating can help you achieve real weight loss.  Not only could you lose weight, but maintaining our weight is so much easier as well!  (find out more about clean eating and how to make healthier choices)

Throw Exercising Out the Window?

NO!  Definitely do not throw exercising out the window!  Leading a more active lifestyle can still help you reach your weight loss goal, remember the 20%!  Most importantly, it will make you a healthier individual overall!  There are so many positive benefits to exercising I can not possibly list them all, but here are just a few:

  • Stronger muscles and bones
  • Less prone to injury
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Improves mood and energy
  • Better brain health and memory 
  • Promotes better sleep quality
  • Associated with combating a host of diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, a several types of cancer, and arthritis.

The key to success lies in both exercising and healthy eating!  Meg and I have had shirts made with the 80/20 rule to remind ourselves and our clients, that for real change to happen, healthy eating has to be the key component!  Exercise is important for weight loss, but the reality is that a healthy diet has a bigger impact on weight loss than any other factor.  If you are trying to lose weight, remind yourself of the 80/20 rule every day - it will help keep you on track and on your way to achieving your goals!


Like the 80/20 shirts? You can order one for yourself, or one of our other great styles.