Today we ask and answer one simple question: Diet vs exercise, which is better for weight loss?
Let’s start with a secret that fitness trainers probably wouldn’t want you to know:
You don’t actually have to workout to lose weight.
However, that may be oversimplifying it, so let me elaborate.
If your goal is to lose weight or lose body fat, improving your diet and nutrition will bring greater results as compared to working out. A better diet alone will not get you in GREAT shape though, so if you want to look amazing (like models you see on magazine covers), eventually you will have to turn to exercise.
(Putting aside aesthetics for a moment, exercise is PARAMOUNT to good health, which is arguably the most important thing.)
Now back to why, for the same amount of effort, improving your diet will help you see better results as compared to working out.
Greater Ease of Change With Improving Your Diet
Firstly, for most people, it’s easier to modify an existing habit, than to start a brand new one. If you’re alive and reading this right now, you most likely consume food on a daily basis. Since you have to eat every day, anyway, it’s not that hard to make a few improvements and modifications here and there.
On the other hand, working out takes a lot more effort and preparation. I’m not just talking about the workout itself. Changing into your workout attire, making your way to the gym, the thought of commuting back home, and how sore you’d be — sometimes those are the biggest obstacles that’re stopping you.
Psychologically, that’s one reason why improving your diet is better than starting a new workout program. We’ve met so many folks who are open to making small changes to their diets, but can’t even bring themselves to do 10 squats a day.
Whenever you’re thinking of making healthy changes to your lifestyle, the first question you should ask yourself is “Can I see myself doing (insert habit) for the rest of my life?”
You should really only proceed if the answer is “Yeah, I can imagine myself doing that”. Once you start getting positive results from the first few habits, you’ll naturally be more open to further habit changes.
Exercise Can Undermine Weight Loss
“Wow! I just burned 500 calories from running, I can fit one more meal into my day!”
One of the most reliable way to lose weight is to track your calories. As weight loss is largely about calories in vs calories out, tracking your calories accurately will no doubt help you lose weight.
However, research has shown that people tend to overestimate their calories from exercise and simultaneously underestimate the calories that they consume. Which is a double whammy that results in weight gain or a failure to lose weight.
It’s really hard to accurately measure how many calories you’re burning through exercise as many factors like intensity of exercise, gender, age and body weight come into play. If you do add exercise to your weight loss regime, it’s recommended to discount it from your calorie expenditure tracking.
Unless you have specific sports performance goals, most folks do not need to “eat back” the calories they burn from exercise. Simply start making intelligent and modest changes to your eating habits and you should be able to see results.
Instead of exercising to lose weight, think of exercise as an investment that will only pay dividends further on in the future (better health, maintained weight loss, etc.).
Winner: Diet and Nutrition
Working out can feel like a chore for many. When the amount of weight lost don’t justify the perceived amount of effort put in, it can feel really discouraging. On the other hand, if you start seeing initial results, it’s going to give you the momentum to do greater and bigger things and lose even more weight.
So, we always recommend that people start their weight loss journey by doing things that are the most effort-effective. For most people, the most effort-effective step is to work on their diet and nutrition.
Where to start?
Eating for weight loss can be as easy as making one small change to your eating habits a day. You don’t have to go all out and follow a strict diet, as that will be unsustainable. Remember, when making any changes to your lifestyle, always ask yourself this question: “Can I see myself doing this for the rest of my life?”
Only proceed if the answer is “Yeah, I can imagine myself doing that!”.