Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Diet and Exercise, Which is more important?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions in weight loss is you have to crash diet, cut out everything you would usually make part of your meal plan, and exercise until you can't walk or even drive home.  But, The healthiest way to lose weight is neither crash diets nor bursts of exercise. The body likes slow and consistent changes in terms of food and exercise.   For example, someone who hasn't exercised for years shouldn't rush into running 3  miles a day or pounding the treadmill for 90 minutes. Not only will the struggle to do so leave you feeling disheartened and demotivated, you're also far more likely to injure yourself and set your fitness and mental levels back even further.  The same goes for people who suddenly start starving themselves. Diets that severely restrict calories or the types of food 'allowed' can lead you to be deficient in the nutrients and vitamins that your body needs.  Also, if you do a diet that totally restricts you, you will fail because we are not perfect!

One way to be successful, introduce changes gradually.  You should think of weight loss in terms of permanently changing your eating habits. While weight-loss goals are usually set in term of weeks, the end game is to sustain these changes over months and years, ie lifestyle change for life.  Changing your diet and limiting those bad foods, in addition adding some exercise routine, will guarantee weight loss.

If you're overweight and trying to lose weight, you can't continue with your current eating habits if you really want to lose weight.  This holds especially true if you have had weight loss surgery.  It's not possible to reduce body fat while eating lots of food high in sugars and carbs, cakes and sweets. This doesn't mean you can never have any treats, but you need to learn how to limit these foods to small quantities – say, for special occasions.  I tell my clients it's ok to have one cheat day.  That doesn't mean the whole day, but one meal that is not the ideal meal.  For me, College Football Saturdays means wings, pizza, etc in moderation.  In terms of weight-loss, you can get your body to use up existing stores of fat by eating less and making healthier choices.   This doesn't mean crash diet (anything less than 1500 calories), which usually ends up with you either getting weaker or giving up in desperation. Starving the body will not make you lose weight, it will make your body go into emergency mode and hold on to everything it receives for dear life, not knowing when its next meal may be.  Quick-fix diets can lead to a yo-yoing effect of drastic weight loss followed by weight gain, resulting in a vicious cycle. There are no shortcuts to losing weight in a healthy and reasonable way.  Eating 300 to 500 calories less per day should lead to a loss of between one and two pounds per week. This is a realistic target. It may seem slow.  Eat smaller amounts low in calories several times a day.  I eat 5-6 meals of 5-6 oz, basically every 3 hours or less.  I never feel hungry, my stomach never growls, at that point it is too late and your body is already in emergency mode.  Fat contains the most amount of calories out of all the food types (protein, carbohydrates), so a good way to achieve this is to cut down on fatty foods and eat more wholegrain bread, fruit and vegetables

Whether you are trying to lose weight through diet or you have undergone bariatric surgery, you must increase your activity levels.  Now you don't have to follow my lead and swim, bike, and run 100 miles a week, but no matter if you hate gyms – even light exercise, such as a short 20 minute walk outside, will be beneficial if done most days of the week. There are lots of ways to increase the amount of activity you do. Team sports, racket sports, aerobics classes, running, walking, swimming and cycling will all improve your fitness levels. Our Overweight to Endurance Athlete Personal and Endurance Training Programs are a prime example.  You don't have to do it alone, you don't have to do it with all those intimidating pieces of equipment or trainers screaming at you.  Find something you enjoy that's easy for you to do in terms of location and cost. You're then more likely to build it into your routine and continue to exercise, despite inevitably missing the odd session through holidays, family commitments, etc.
  • Get out and about during the weekend. Leave your car and walk to the shops. Try to incorporate longer walks into outings to the park, coast or countryside and take a picnic, so you're in control of what you are going to eat that day.
  • Every extra step you take helps. Always use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, or get off the bus a stop before the usual one and walk the rest of the way.  Don't fight for that close parking space.  Park far away and walk to your location.
  • Use commercial breaks between TV-programs to stand up and do exercise, or consider using an exercise bicycle in the living room while watching your favorite program.
Finally, make sure you develop a plan.  There are plenty of programs and phone applications that can help you track your meals and your workouts.  We build our clients customized calendars with nutrition and fitness goals and workouts.  It is essential for their success to know what the plan is day in and day out, week in and week out.  Our program will text or email our clients daily workouts and goals.  They never have an excuse of not knowing what the plan is!  You can track everything you eat to every activity you do.  This holds you accountable, if you are following the plan and not losing weight, then maybe you need to re-evaluate yourself or if that plan really works for you.

It might take a week or two before you notice any changes, but they will steadily appear. Don't get discouraged.  After the first month you'll be able to see the results and measure them in terms of looser fitting clothes.  Keeping your motivation up is one of the most difficult aspects of dieting and losing weight. There will be days when healthy eating goes out the window, and there will be weeks where you may not lose any weight – or put a little back on.  The other side of this is to make sure you celebrate your goals. While there's joy enough in stepping on the scales and seeing them dip lower, be sure to mark long-term progress with a reward – such as new clothes or time off from domestic chores.  Celebrating is also a way to involve your nearest and dearest – it's up to you whether you want their encouragement in the form of gentle reminders not to eat certain foods.  My partner always asks, "Want any more?"  That is my key to stop eating or watch what it is I am eating.  But support from other people can get you through the bumpy patches.