It is common knowledge for most that when it comes to weight loss (or even weight maintenance), what you eat is far more important than how much you are exercising. Research varies, but if you have a weight loss goal, 75-90% is diet related and the remaining 10-25% is exercise. In other words, you can’t out train a bad diet. This was shocking news for the girl who used to think she “earned” that milkshake, burger and fries after completing a long run.
It makes sense if you think about it… It’s a lot easier to eat 500 fewer calories than it is to burn off 500 calories by exercising. What does it take to burn 500 calories? 45 minutes of jogging at 6.5mph, a 45-minute spin class, or an hour of swimming laps… You get the picture. What does it take to eat 500 calories? Well, I can promise you the above-referenced milkshake, burger and fries consist of far more than 500 calories. Regardless of how much you exercise, regularly rewarding yourself with a meal like this isn’t a good idea.
The flip side to this is the need to “make up” for overindulging in food or alcohol by doing a ton of exercise. The bottom line? This doesn’t work. Jill Coleman with JillFit physiques refers to this as the ‘deprive and binge’ cycle. The more you feel deprived, the bigger the need becomes to overindulge later. It’s a vicious cycle that no amount of exercise will ever fix. Exercise should not be used as punishment; it should be something that you look forward to doing! If you don’t look forward to it, you probably should look into changing up the type of exercise you are doing.
Since what we eat is so vital to weight maintenance and weight loss, it’s just as important that we create an eating lifestyle that we enjoy. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says, “The simplest litmus test question to ask is, ‘Could I live like this forever?’ and if the answer is, ‘No,’ you’ll need to change something up.” I couldn’t agree more. It isn’t realistic to think that you can sustain a lifestyle forever that you aren’t enjoying—and this relates to both exercise and eating.
The answer? Eat in a way that does not cause you to feel super deprived, but that also doesn’t make you feel miserable from overindulging too frequently. Find that middle ground!
A few tips:
- Drink LOTS of water. Staying hydrated is an important key to a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that drinking water before and after meals causes you to consume significantly fewer calories.
- Eat fruits and veggies- but only the ones you like! If you hate carrots, by all means, don’t eat them! Do some experimenting and find the fruits and veggies that you love and incorporate them into your diet as much as possible. DO try to step out of your comfort zone and try new things – even things you hated as a kid. You may surprise yourself and love the taste now!
- Save room for indulgences. I’m not saying go out and get a double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone every day but do indulge in a few bites of something sweet (or salty) occasionally. Why? Because life would be disappointing if you thought you could never, ever enjoy your favorite not-so-healthy foods again. Constantly depriving yourself is not a maintainable (or enjoyable) way of life.
- Eat plenty of protein. I’ll let you do your own research on exactly what kind of protein you choose to eat. Bottom line, protein keeps you full!
- Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are (almost) full. Sounds simple, right? In theory, it is, but many struggle with this one. Which brings me to the last tip…
- Eat mindfully. Taste every single bite that you are eating. Eat slowly and make eating your sole task. Watching TV, driving, or doing anything else while you are eating… is not good. You cannot mindfully eat if your brain is focused on more than one thing.