Diet Matters More Than Exercise When Losing Weight


When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, medical experts are agreed that keeping active is one way to guarantee you won’t be plagued with ill health. However, when it comes to losing weight, some experts are now of the opinion that the emphasis placed on exercise is one of over-exaggeration, arguing that more attention needs to be paid to diet. Basically, all those statistics you hear about weight loss being 80& diet and 20% exercise are probably true.

This mode of thinking was the topic of Aaron E. Carroll’s column in the New York Times yesterday. Carroll wrote about his frustration with shows like The Biggest Loser, where overweight people are pushed to lose weight through dieting and a LOT of exercise. While Carroll praises such shows for inspiring some people to take control, he’s also wary of the message they promote. Because as Carroll writes “when it comes to reaching a healthy weight, what you don’t eat is much, much more important.”

Carroll says that the trend for exercising more, while laudable and definitely with its benefits, isn’t the magic ingredient to shifting pounds the media would have you believe. He illustrates his point with a calorie comparison. 30 minutes of jogging or swimming burns around 350 calories, but cutting the equivalent of two fizzy drinks will help cut that same amount. As one is prone to say in 2015: sugar is the devil.

Carroll says that the “ubiquitous” media message to be more active isn’t as helpful as we think. Schools in the states and other places are introducing programmes, led by Michelle Obama, to get students more active in a bid to combat the obesity epidemic. That’s all well and good, but an examination of meal menus and lunchboxes would be more effective if weight loss is the goal.

And Carroll quotes studies saying campaigns to get more fit aren’t helping people use weight. The percentage of people who are sufficiently active is on the increase; this isn’t translating into more weight loss. Other studies are finding that exercise isn’t burning as many calories as predicted. Carroll’s advice, if you’re looking to slim down, is to focus on your diet more. Keep up the exercise, your heart will thank you for a few weekly sessions, but concentrate on eating ‘less’, by which he means foods rich in nutrients and lower in calories.

New York Times

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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