Do you know what the most important thing you have to do in order to manage your weight? That includes losing weight, maintaining weight, almost any other set of words ending with the word weight?
Number one is….tell the truth.
Tell the truth.
And so that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m going to tell the truth.
I don’t know if you want to hear the truth.
I don’t know if you are going to believe the truth
I don’t know if YOU CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH!!! (Sorry. Had to)
First truth; Diet carries a “lot more weight than exercise” when it comes to weight management. I don’t like this truth, and I have this in common with a lot of you. According to a nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic, “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.
Dammit. I would much rather hit the gym and eat what I want. When people hear I’m a runner they say “it must be nice to be able to eat what you want”. It would be if it were true. It’s not. The truth is, spending 2-3 minutes a day with a food diary is likely to have a bigger impact on your weight than 30 minutes a day in the gym. Unfortunately, prepping healthy food for the week isn’t exactly mad fun and we don’t get an endorphin rush from chopping vegetables or portioning out tuna.
Put simply: we lose weight when we eat less calories than we expend. Conversely, we gain weight when we eat more calories than we expend. In order to lose one pound of fat, we must create a 3,500 calorie deficit.
We spend most of our calories every day just “staying alive.” This is known as our “resting metabolic rate.” Let’s say you are a 200 pound man who is at 30% body fat. You expend 1,743 calories per day just staying alive.
You’ll expend about 10% on top of that by the amount of calories that you spend digesting and absorbing your dietary intake.
Add another 10% on top of that through the amount of calories wasted through things such as fidgeting. Unfortunately, this can vary greatly depending on how much you fidget.
This means that without so much as getting out of bed, you have already expended 2,100 calories
Now, add another 10% for getting out of bed and going about your daily routine and you’ve already burned 2,300 calories.
Adding moderate exercise into the equation barely makes a dent in your overall caloric expenditure; most of the work is done before you put on your gym clothes.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t exercise.
But it’s important to realize where a majority of your caloric expenditure is coming from.
In another study, 320 women whose weight ranged from normal to obese were randomly assigned to either an additional exercise or no additional exercise group (the control group). Those in the exercise group were instructed to take 45 minutes worth of moderate-vigorous aerobic exercise, 5 times a week for a year. Both groups were instructed not to change their diets.
At the end of the year, it was found that the exercise group lost an average of 4.4 lbs of fat.
While the exercise group were instructed to exercise 5 times a week for 45 minutes, what they actually did was exercise for an average of 3.6 days each week. Total exercise time averaged 178.5 mins per week. Over the course of the year that’s a total of just under 155 hours. That’s about 35 hours per pound.
Another truth; We lie.
This one is hilarious. Who are we lying to? If you’ve ever taught fitness, this comes as no surprise. When people find out that you are a fitness professional, they love to tell you about the diet they were just on, the exercise routine they just finished or are planning on starting next week. They don’t have to. I didn’t ask them. But I hear about the keto-kale-kambucha thermogenic colon cleansing regimen that is going to transform them into the healthiest version of themselves. And it’s so easy! And they feel great! And they are starting an interval HIIT cross training WOB at the local box.
But that’s not the funny part. The funny part is that we lie to OURSELVES! We lie to ourselves about about diet & exercise.
One study, published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, took trained subjects and had them track dietary intake along with energy expenditure. On paper, there was an overall caloric deficit created by the subjects. However, when researchers examined the objective results, no weight was actually lost. As it turns out, subjects were simultaneously underestimating caloric intake and overestimating caloric expenditure. In another study, this one in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, researchers asked the subjects to exercise, estimate their caloric expenditure, and then took them to a buffet afterwards. Subjects were asked to consume the amount of food that they believed they burned in calories.
The subjects ended up eating 2-3 times the amount of calories that they burned.
The takeaway from all of this information is that calorie expenditure doesn’t count for much, and human beings are generally terrible at estimating both expenditure and intake.
OK, maybe that’s not lying. Maybe that’s just optimism.
So, the truth that I take away from all of this is that the main factor in weight loss & management is (son of a *#@+!) diet.
Exercise is also important, because wellness is NOT a number on a scale. You can deprive your body of, say, carbs and drop a lot of weight. But your body needs certain amount of carbs to function, and the weight loss due to this type of quick fix is much more likely to come back, with 2 or 3 of it’s friends more often than not. This can also be primarily water weight and worse, muscle mass. There is a lot of difference in getting thin and getting fit.
Combining exercise with a healthy diet is a more effective way to lose weight than depending on calorie restriction alone. It can help you maintain and increase lean body mass, which also helps increase number of calories you burn each day. Exercise can increase metabolism, or how many calories you burn in a day. It also leads to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which may prevent a heart attack. In addition, It can also help contribute to a sense of confidence and well-being, and can lower rates of anxiety and depression, which can help when you are trying not to turn to your old friends Doritos or Cold Stone for comfort on a cold lonely Tuesday night.
And while we’re talking truths, here’s another one of mine. I believe in visualizing your goal and your successful achievement of it, but getting there is likely to be slow, plodding work, and will include many falls.
Boy, I am a regular ball of sunshine today, right?
Here’s another truth.
It’s worth it.
It’s worth every damn moment of doubt.
It’s worth every time you feel like you’re missing out.
That you’re the only one.
That it’ll never work.
That it’ll never end.
If it was easy, everyone would do it. If it was easy, there wouldn’t be so many people making money off of “get fit quick & easy” schemes.
It’s about what you want, and what you’re willing to do to get it.
It’s about you.
And that’s the truth.