A few weeks ago stories were circulating around the web because of the statement trainer Bob Harper of NBC’s Biggest Loser made. Bob said that when you’re trying to lose weight “diet trumps exercise”.
In a Fox News article, Harper said, “It’s all about your diet. I used to think a long time ago that you can beat everything you eat out of you and it’s just absolutely not the case.” Harper says what he hears from people is that they just want to get skinny.
He’s right. That is what people want. And, in their attempt to achieve that they are willing to try crazy diets (can you say baby food?), pills, shakes, and even surgery. All of these are very effective weight-loss methods as long as you stay on them. Once you ‘go off’ of the diet and resume your normal lifestyle, the pounds begin to creep back on.
Statistics show that almost 95% of people that lose weight will regain it, although, clearly that number is debatable since it’s impossible to accurately track. Think of the people that you know that have lost weight. Have they gained it back?
I organize the Weight Watchers at Work program where I’m employed and I don’t know anyone who has been through the program one time. Most people are ‘back on’ Weight Watchers. Most of the people that I know that have lost weight have 1.) gained some or all of it back or 2.) a daily struggle to stay at their desired weight. And that daily struggle can take the fun out of just about everything!
Have you noticed that when people gain the weight back they blame themselves? They lost 40 pounds on an amazing diet of two shakes and a freeze-dried heat and eat meal a day that totaled about 800 calories. Now that the diet has ended – or they’ve run out of money to pay for the food – the pounds are coming back on. How could anyone be surprised by that?
In my world I listen to many people that are consumed with the number on the scale. If you jump on in the morning and are down a pound it’s going to be a good day. Being up a pound is a real buzz kill and sucks the fun out of everything.
Back to Bob
I would agree with Bob Harper when he says diet trumps exercise for weight loss. As long as we’re talking short term weight loss. If you want to get 10 pounds off before your high school reunion that takes place in two weeks, or you need to drop some weight to win the iPad in the office weight loss challenge, cutting way back on calories is key.
But, if your goal is to keep the weight off, you might as well accept that you can’t spend the rest of your life counting calories, beating yourself up over splurges, or trying out the latest fad diets or supplements. That’s too exhausting.
Your time would be better spent finding an exercise program that you can fall in love with. Whether it’s a walking program or Shaun T’s Insanity, find something physical that you like to do and do it on a regular basis. Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Take the time to perfect a sport that you like to play.
- Find a sprint triathlon in your area and start training for it.
- Forget the mantra that you’re not a runner and learn how to run efficiently and without injury.
- Be an overachiever and take the 10,000 steps a day program up a notch to 15,000 or 20,000.
- Try CrossFit. Too hard? Try Zumba instead.
- Start each day with a 15 minute workout from the Be Fit channel on YouTube and end the day with two or three yoga poses.
- Launch a 30 day ab or squat challenge at your workplace.
- Go to your local library and check out workout DVDs that you can do at home.
- Do lunges, push-ups and planks every day.
- Jump rope.
- Do all of the above.
We all know that there is nothing that matches the mental and physical health benefits that regular exercise provides. Exercise has a positive impact on every system of the human body. It is the secret to avoiding type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many forms of cancer.
- Strict, low-calorie diets weaken your bones. Exercise strengthens them.
- When you lose weight from dieting you lose precious lean muscle mass. Exercise increases muscle mass as well as your metabolic rate.
- Being on a diet is a bummer and can leave you feeling like a failure. Exercise produces endorphins that reduce stress and the risk of depression.
- Crazy diets like the plastic tongue patch or tube feeding make you think that if you have to eat like that forever, you don’t want to live. Exercise reduces your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death.
The Fox News article that quoted Bob Harper went on to say that when you go on a diet your chances of keeping the weight off improve with exercise. Plus, I would be negligent if I didn’t point out that’s it’s a fallacy to think that as long as you exercise you should be able to eat everything you want and not gain a pound. Not true! Two hours of spin class won’t burn off a BigMac and fries.
If you’re thinking about which weight-loss strategy to deploy next, the first step should be to find some physical activity programs that you can fall in love with. Get as busy as you can doing those. Then, in a few weeks, see if you are still preoccupied with the scale. If you are, send me an e-mail.
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