Diet and exercise, exercise and diet. Those are the two words we hear every day in our battle to lose weight and stay healthy.
I know many people who have started an exercise regimen or diet plan trying hard to get in shape, only to step on the scales a few days later and discover they haven’t shed more than a few ounces.
They look in the mirror, decide they’re a failure, and order a pizza.
So what’s the secret? What should you put your focus on in order to meet your goals? The answer is both simple and complicated…
Listen to what an expert has to say
Donald Hensrud, M.D the preventive medical specialist at the Mayo Clinic states that cutting calories is the more effective way of losing weight. The key is to consume less calories than you burn. 3,500 calories equals approximately 1 pound of fat. Cut 500 calories a day from your diet and you will shed a pound of fat in a week, far more quickly than trying to burn it off by exercising.
Don’t throw away your gym shoes yet, Dr. Hensrud also goes on to say that exercise is important because it helps maintain weight loss. Studies have shown that people who lose weight gradually, with a calorie controlled diet, will be able to maintain their weight better be getting regular exercise. Crash dieting without exercise often results in fast weight gain after the diet is stopped.
Identify the problem and find solutions
If you and your family are overweight, it’s time for a team meeting. If you’re going to change habits of a lifetime it must be discussed first. It’s even more important to do this if you and/or your partner have a family history of diabetes. Talk about the effects of diabetes, educate yourself and your family about the risks of being overweight. Point out how being overweight can affect social activities, confidence, and energy. Then, just like a good salesperson, tell them the benefits of eating healthier. Make a list of consequences of good eating verses bad eating.
Sugar and processed foods are probably two of the biggest roadblocks in the effort to maintain a healthy weight. If you want to get in shape you’ve got to quit sabotaging yourself.
So the next step is to re-educate yourself about what you should be eating. Start in by choosing to add in more of the healthy foods you already eat. Ask yourself and your family “what fruits and vegetables do we like to eat?” (In the answer is none, then ask what they dislike the least)
Cut out as much sugar and processed foods as you possibly can. If you can get your family on board (with your sales pitch at the family meeting), you can clean out your pantry and throw away the junk food that is making you unhealthy. The truth is the human body responds better to unprocessed foods that are low in fat, salt and sugar. It may be difficult but it will pay high returns in better health and greater happiness.
It is easier (and more permanent) if you do it gradually. If the family gathers around the TV to watch Sunday football with chips, sodas and greasy hamburgers, start by substituting leaner hamburgers, or substituting soda sweetened with stevia. Gradually work your way toward whole grain hamburger buns, chips that aren’t fried and adding a veggie tray to the whole spread.
Also, expect some slip-ups. Don’t be upset if sometimes you give into temptation to eat things that aren’t healthy. Realize that the real mistake would be to give up and go back to your old unhealthy eating habits. Just try to do a little better overall than you have the year before.
“Consistency is important. If you can only fit in ten minutes, do ten minutes. Just be sure to move a little bit every day.”
A final key to a healthy diet is portion size. Even though unprocessed foods tend to be lower calorie, they do still have calories. American portion sizes are notoriously large. You will need to re-educate yourself about what a real serving size is. It is an excellent idea to buy a food scale and measure out your food at least until you get a good feel of how many calories are in the portions you are eating.
But what about exercise?
Getting regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It keeps your metabolism going as you seek to cut out the calories from your diet. It may be quicker to cut calories to lose weight, but if you are continually cutting calories without keeping your metabolism ramped up the calories you do eat will stick around longer.A regular cardio workout helps to strengthen heart muscles, reduces the risk of heart attack, increase lung capacity, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and can help control diabetes. Another surprising result will be that you will sleep better.
Some other important benefits of exercise is that it will help you stay on your diet by reducing stress that might cause you to eat things you shouldn’t, it acts as a reminder of the connection between what you eat and how you feel, the increase of oxygenated blood to the brain helps you think more clearly, and exercise releases endorphins.
Consistency is important. If you can only fit in ten minutes, do ten minutes. Just be sure to move a little bit every day.
What does this all mean?
This means that if you want to lose weight it is quicker to cut calories, but if you want to maintain your new healthy weight you need to exercise. This is why we hear over and over diet and exercise, diet and exercise. They are both necessary for being healthy.
What you need to focus on is making small changes every day that you can maintain. Start somewhere, enjoy the results of your efforts and move forward into more changes that will lead you to a new, healthy life!