Liz Blike, Registered Dietitian at the Intermountain LiVe Well Center in Park City helps us answer this question.
It’s confusing to ﬁgure out the best way to lose weight. On one hand, an entire industry tells you to exercise. But you also know you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Most of us know we need both diet and exercise to be successful with our weight loss, but have you ever wondered: Is exercise or nutrition more important for weight loss?
Nutrition is number one
Contrary to what a lot of people think, it’s much more important for you to watch what you eat than it is to exercise when you’re trying to lose weight. It’s much easier to eat fewer calories than it is to burn them off as you exercise. Not only that, but if you try to exercise more, your body will likely respond by telling you that you need more calories. That extra hunger that results will make it more difficult for you to lose weight. If you want to lose weight, focus primarily on eating better.
If nutrition is so important for weight loss, the more help you get, the better you’ll do. Try these tips:
- Keep a food journal. It’s hard to know how much you’re eating unless you’re keeping track of what you put into your mouth. Write down what you eat—and be truthful.
- Choose whole foods over processed foods. Whole foods tend to be healthier.
- Load up your plate with plants. At least half your plate should be non-starchy vegetables. The more you eat the better you’ll do. It’s pretty hard to fi t in too many vegetables.
- Plan ahead. Make a meal plan. Prepare foods and snacks ahead of time. Bring food with you when you’re commuting or traveling so you won’t end up in the drive-through.
- Skip fad diets in favor of long-term success and health. Choose a healthy lifestyle you can maintain long-term. It might take a little longer to see the kind of success you want, but your success will be lasting.
- Get help from a registered dietitian. A dietitian is a provider who can work with you to plan meals, get ideas for healthy eating habits, and provide accountability to help you stay on track. Many insurance plans now cover some appointments with a registered dietitian. Check with your insurance provider for details.
The case for exercise
Although nutrition should be your primary focus in your weight-loss efforts, it shouldn’t be your only focus. Exercise delivers important benefits. You’ll feel better, sleep better, and even have more energy.
To enhance your weight loss, moderate amounts of exercise will do the following:
• Make your nutrition goals easier to stick to. Instead of cutting out 500 calories from your daily meals, you can cut 250 calories and hit up an exercise class to burn the other 250. It’s a lot easier to stick with your plans when you exercise than when you’re just cutting calories through diet alone.
• Help build muscles.
• Get you through difficult weight-loss plateaus.
• Help maintain weight over time.
Although it’s more important to focus on nutrition when you’re trying to lose weight, exercise is a critical piece of your health puzzle. Instead of just looking at the numbers on the scale, looking at your health as a whole will help you be happier and healthier. Diet and exercise go together to give you a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight.