Diet vs. Exercise: Which Works Best for Weight Loss?

By Bob Greene for

There’s no debating it: Weight loss is difficult. It’s no wonder that people who are looking to slim down often try to tackle just one area—either their diet or exercise routine (or lack thereof).

While I’ve always said that you need to incorporate both elements into your life to drop pounds (and study after study confirms this fact), there is something to be said for initially focusing on just one component. No surprise here: As a fitness trainer, I’d recommend that you start off by increasing your activity before you even think about what you are or aren’t putting in your mouth.

It’s not just a personal bias toward fitness that makes me say this. Logic and sound science both suggest you should begin a fitness routine before you start cleaning up your diet.

Burning calories is easier than cutting them. To lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. You can do so either by cutting calories from your diet or expending them through exercise. If you’re like most people, you’ll find trimming calories from your diet to be challenging. Research suggests that cutting more than 250 or so calories each day can trigger the body’s hunger response (this dates back to our caveman days when a shortage of calories often signaled starvation). On the other hand, when you’re active, you can create a negative energy balance without having to change your diet all that much. In fact, the more you move, the fewer calories you’ll have to cut. (Bonus: Getting all the nutrients you need is easier the more calories you’re able to get away with, so you’ll be healthier to boot.)

You’ll get a mood boost. Runner’s high, exercise euphoria, an adrenaline boost…whatever you call it, that mood lift you get from exercise is undeniable. These good feelings will help make the weight loss process easier because you’ll be less likely to turn to food for emotional reasons and you’ll be more motivated to stay on track. You’ll also be better prepared for cutting calories if/when you have to do so down the line.

You’ll feel more energetic. Exercise can increase energy levels, and the more energy you have, the more active you’ll be. It’s a beautiful, calorie-burning cycle!

Do you tend to focus on one component of a healthy lifestyle?

Also Read:

6 Exercise Benefits You Won’t Believe

Boost Your Fitness All Day Long

Cold Temperatures May Help You Lose Weight

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