Health Inspiring

Exercise or Diet: Which is More Important For Weight Loss?

diet-and-exerciseIf you are exercising regularly, but don’t see the numbers going down on the scale, you might be misguided about the best way to lose weight. Many people fall into the trap that exercise alone will make the pounds come off. The training montages in action movies, extreme weight loss programs on TV, and fitness success stories can motivate us, but they paint an unrealistic picture about the role of exercise in losing weight. How has this idea gained so much credit?

The human body contains fat mass and lean mass, which includes muscle. It’s scientifically proven that muscle is the body’s best fat burner, and that having more muscle will lead to weight loss. And how do you get more muscle? Because it is most associated with muscle development, the most popular answer is through exercise. This probably explains why it is widely accepted as a primary weight loss solution.

The truth is, it is extremely difficult to lose weight from exercise alone. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. In order to burn off that pound, you would need to bike ride for about seven hours. But wait, we haven’t even counted the calories you’re consuming from food. If you are consuming 2000 calories a day, you would we need to work out for four hours a day just to maintain the same weight. You would end up working out over 40 hours a week to lose weight, and that’s if everything is perfect.

It is much easier to cut calories out of your diet than burn them through exercise. Let’s go back to the example of the pound of fat. If you regularly eat two small bags of potato chips a day, you’re consuming about 500 calories from these snacks. If you cut this treat out for one week, the calories you save will add up to a pound of fat.

Increasing physical activity has many health benefits, but the part it plays in weight loss isn’t as large as the public may think. Let’s take a look at the role of exercise in the different stages of weight loss:

Weight Loss Beginner

You are now on the road to weight loss, and like any journey, you must choose a path. The key to losing weight is consuming fewer calories than you burn, and developing healthy eating habits is your ticket to long-term success. First you need to know how many calories you’re eating. This sounds easy enough, but more often than not we eat a lot more than we think. A study by Cornell University found that overweight people tend to underestimate the calories they are consuming by 40 percent. The best way to count calories is to record your meals in a food journal.

As a weight loss beginner, you will need to increase your knowledge of your calorie sources- proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars. Each of these sources can have vastly different effects on hunger, metabolism, and regions of the brain that control food intake. Protein-rich foods will boost your metabolism and curb your appetite while sugary foods may reduce your brain’s ability to release signals of fullness, causing you to eat more. As you increase your nutrition knowledge, you will find foods that both facilitate weight loss and you enjoy eating.

Now that you’re eating healthier, you will begin to notice the number on the scale going down. Weight loss will bring about changes to your body mass composition. As you shed pounds, your ratio of lean mass to fat mass will improve. This means you will start having more muscle tissue than fat from dieting alone. And as we all know, muscle is our body’s best calorie burner!

Continuing to Lose Weight

You have lost weight and noticed differences in how you look and feel.  But after your initial weight loss, you may struggle to lose more weight and hit a plateau. As you weigh less, your body will require fewer calories or more physical activity to sustain your lower body weight. This is a time when you can start to consider exercise as part of your weight loss program. The added exercise will help build muscle and burn more calories to help break the plateau. Hitting a plateau should also encourage you to reexamine your eating habits. You may be have grown comfortable with your food plan and begun overestimating your portion sizes.

Maintaining Your Weight Loss Success

Now that you’ve reached your weight loss goal, this isn’t a time to revert to old unhealthy habits. Managing weight is a lifelong process. Exercise is a marker for long-term weight loss. In a study published in the journal Obesity, more than half of all participants that were successful at losing weight were able to keep it off through diet and exercise alone after 8 years. Find an exercise program that works for you, and keep that weight off!

Bottom line: What you consume is most important for achieving weight loss. Exercise has many health benefits but shouldn’t be viewed as a be-all end-all weight loss solution. However, as you develop your nutritional knowledge and healthy eating habits, exercise plays an important component in long term weight maintenance.

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How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

Stepping on the scale is not always easy, but weighing yourself is a necessity to track your weight loss progress. How often should you weigh yourself? It’s a common question, and one that can vary from person to person.

The Science

A study published in PLOS One found those who weigh themselves daily lose the most weight. The research was based on 2,838 weight observations from 40 individuals. Going longer than one week or one month without stepping on the scale was associated with weight gain, while the average time between checks without gaining weight was 5.8 days. During the maintenance phase of weight loss, researchers recommend weighing in weekly.

Although this study was smaller, other larger studies back up regular weigh-ins. Another study published in the journal Obesity, based on about 3,000 individuals who had lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for one year, found regular weigh-ins were associated with lower BMI and better cognitive restraint. Researchers believe monitoring weight regularly allows individuals to catch weight gain early and make behavioral changes sooner to prevent the scale from continuing to escalate.

The Takeaway

Stepping on the scale is a part of losing weight. Don’t dread it or be scared of it; embrace it as something that will get you where you want to be. Your weight tells you if your plan is working. If the number on the scale is going down, great, keep up the good work. If the number on the scale is going up, step back and evaluate where you can make improvements.

Considerations

However, particularly if you weigh yourself daily, keep in mind that weight can fluctuate throughout the day and week. A small weight gain isn’t necessarily a cause of alarm. For the most consistent measurement, weigh yourself at the same time of day, and keep in mind that the number on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Your body composition, which measures how much lean muscle and fat your body weight is composed of, gives you the most accurate indication of your weight loss progress.

If the thought of stepping on the scale every day gives you too much anxiety, it may not be the best plan for you. A weight loss plan isn’t set in stone. It can be adjusted at any time. If you’re seeing results by weighing yourself on a weekly basis, there is no need to change it. The most important thing is that you’re losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

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Savor Your Food: 5 Tips To Slow Down While Eating

Eat slowly, eat less. You’ve probably heard it before, but most people still eat too fast. Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your body to signal that it’s full. So when you eat too quickly, you end up eating more. A recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found eating slowly led to lower hunger ratings in both normal weight and overweight people. So if you have some weight to lose and feel you may be racing through your food, there is a way for you to train yourself to slow it down.

knife and fork with clock plate

Eat regularly. When you’re starving, your eyes become bigger than your stomach, and you want to scarf down whatever food is placed in front of you, regardless of its flavor. Avoid this situation by scheduling meals within four hours of each other. This way, you won’t be ravenous when you sit down to eat and are more likely to focus on your food and savor the flavors.

Sit down. Eating on the go, standing at the counter, or on your couch is a surefire way to eat too quickly. Sitting down at the table allows you to focus on the meal in front of you and keep track of how much you have eaten. It’s harder to keep track of how much you have eating when you’re getting up constantly to go to the fridge or grazing all day.

Turn off the tube. The television is a distraction. One study found viewers ate almost double when watching an action flick than those watching a talk show. Why? The action flick was more distracting. Get rid of this distraction completely by turning off the TV while you eat. You will survive 30 minutes without background noise and feel better about your weight loss progress.

Put your utensil down between each bite. If you’re having trouble slowing down, one technique that may help is putting your utensil down between each bite. This allows you to focus on the flavor while chewing your food before taking another bite, giving your brain more time to signal that your body is full.

Eat on a smaller plate. We’ve all been raised to “clean our plates.” So it should come as no surprise that we tend to finish all food in front us, regardless of how big that plate is. Try this: next time you sit down for a meal, serve yourself on a smaller plate. You’ll get that same satisfaction of finishing your food, but in reality you’ll be eating less than you usually do.

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Clean Your Pantry: 5 Foods to Toss for Good

shutterstock_258367139-300x207When boredom strikes, your pantry may be one of the first places you turn. But if your pantry is filled with high-calorie, high-fat foods, over time, the scale will tip in the wrong direction. Counter these temptations by tossing the junk food and replacing it with wholesome, nutritional snack options. It’s time to give your pantry a healthy makeover by tossing the following five foods for good!

Baked Goods: It’s time to ditch those lingering holiday treats in your pantry. The refined sugar and saturated fat won’t do your weight loss plan any favors. Keeping a stash of sweets in your cabinet will only tempt you to give into your cravings. And by now, the holiday treats won’t taste fresh, so why waste the calories?

Replace with: Dark chocolate
When your sweet tooth strikes, you don’t have to feel so guilty indulging in dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids, meaning it has antioxidant properties that help protect your heart. Stick to one serving, which is about a one-inch square, for a healthier alternative to cookies and brownies.

Sugary Cereals: Breakfast is an excellent way to kick-start your day, as long as you eat healthy, energy-boosting foods. Don’t be fooled by a stamp of good health on the box. Read the food label. Some cereals have as much sugar as a candy bar. If it has more than 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (4 to 6 grams) per serving, you should steer clear.

Replace with: Oatmeal
Old-fashioned oatmeal is a five-star breakfast pick. A recent study published by the Harvard School of Public Health found eating more whole grains can reduce your risk of a cardiovascular disease-related mortality by 15 percent. Spice up your oatmeal by adding fresh fruit, peanut butter, or cinnamon.

Microwave Popcorn: While popcorn is accepted as a healthier snack, most microwaveable popcorn is drenched in fat-laden butter, and some of the bags contain chemicals that can hurt your health in the long term.
Replace with: Stove-popped popcorn
Use canola oil to pop your popcorn on the stove and season with salt. If you like an extra kick, throw in some chili powder or hot sauce for a reduced-guilt snack.

Dried Fruit: Not all dried fruit is created equal. The healthier options simply drain the water, making for an excellent on-the-go snack, but others have added preservatives and sugars, making for a less healthy version of its fresh fruit counterpart. Read the nutrition label. A long list of ingredients is a red flag to throw it in the trash.

Replace with: Fresh fruit
An apple a day—you can’t go wrong with fresh fruit to keep you feeling full. Plus, you’ll never get bored with so many fiber-packed options.

Crackers: Crackers may taste good, but they are not the best complement to your favorite dip, lacking in nutritional value. Most brands have very little fiber, so you may eat more to feel satisfied.

Replace with: Fresh vegetables
Satisfy your crunchy craving with fresh vegetables. Carrots and broccoli take on the flavor of any dip and pack a powerful fiber punch!

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4 Tips For Dining Out While Losing Weight

Who would ever think that going to a restaurant could be a stressful event? But for millions of people trying to lose weight, it’s a reality. Between the tantalizing dish options and social fear of being labeled “the dull one” by friends, it takes a lot of willpower to stay on track. Or does it? There are actually a few tricks you can rely on to ensure that you don’t stray from your plan and still have a good time. 

1. Start By Getting Full.

While your dinner companions dive into the bread sticks that usually come before your meal, you can feel satisfaction in having knowledge they don’t. If you start by eating foods with a lot of fiber, like a salad or veggie appetizer, you will wind up eating less overall. Studies have shown eating a low-calorie first course enhances the feeling of fullness and lowers the total number of calories eaten during the meal. Be aware of how much dressing is used on your salad or appetizer. The recommended amount is no more than two tablespoons. To make things easy ask for the dressing in a cup on the side.

2. Stay Away From Sugary Drinks

Try to avoid beverages that contain large amounts of sugar (yes, this means you margaritas). Drinks that are high in sugar are also high in calories, and research from Harvard University found that people who drink sugary beverages do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food. Drink water or unsweetened tea and to avoid the excessive calorie consumption in drinks. If cocktails must be a part of the experience, look for a less sugary option, like wine or beer. And of course always use common sense when consuming alcohol!

3. Contol Your Pasta Portion

Eating at an Italian restaurant? If you decide to go with a pasta dish, be very aware of the portion distortion that often happens at a restaurant. The normal serving size of a cup of pasta is only 220 calories. According to research from New York University, a typical dinner portion of pasta at a restaurant can be 480 percent larger than a cup. That’s over 1,000 calories! Try sharing a plate of pasta or eating half and taking the rest home in a doggy bag. This will help you avoid eating too many calories at once and save money on the bill!

4. Make Healthy Swaps

The side dishes that come with your main course can be switched for healthier alternatives that pack a high nutritional punch without taking away from the overall meal experience. For instance, if your dish comes with white bread or rice, ask the waiter for brown rice or whole-grain bread. Swap out French fries for steamed vegetables. Just like your starter salad or vegetable appetizer, these friendly swaps will make you feel fuller faster due to their high fiber content. So don’t be afraid to ask the server questions about the options available to substitute into your meal.

The last important thing to remember about eating out is this: if you feel like you succumbed to temptation and “slipped up,” don’t beat yourself up. You have the confidence and information to know how to correct your course if you veer off path. It happens to the best of us every now and then. That’s life, so embrace every second of it!

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Health Food Imposters

hfiHave you ever thought to yourself, “Is the food I’m eating really as healthy as others claim?” Some foods are packaged to look like they’re good for you when in fact they’re anything but. For those trying to lose weight, here are some health food imposters to watch out for while grocery shopping:

Granola. Granola has long held a reputation for being healthy. It evokes an image of rosy-cheeked hikers exploring the great outdoors. In everyday life, it has become a breakfast or snack staple, as well as a popular topping for yogurt. The problem with granola is that many store-bought brands are made with sugary sweeteners, fillers, and palm and hydrogenated oils that are potentially unhealthy. Did you know a one-cup serving of a typical homemade granola could have as many as 600 calories? While granola does contain some wholesome ingredients like rolled oat, an excessive amount can turn what you thought was a healthy meal into a surplus of calories from sugar, which the body stores as fat. If you absolutely can’t part with granola, limit consumption to a quarter cup and always read the labels on granola products.

Smoothies and Fruit Juices. Fruit smoothies are all the rage. They seem to be a required accessory for anyone wearing yoga pants or spandex. But smoothies can cause trouble if the main ingredient is fruit juice. But wait…Doctors are always telling us to add more fruits to our daily diet, so how can something with fruit be unhealthy? The difference is that fruit juice lacks the fiber contained in solid fruits. Fiber makes us consume at a slower rate and feel fuller faster. Without the fiber, the liquid calories in fruit juice make it much easier to consume an excessive number of calories (some smoothies can have as many as 800 calories depending on size and ingredients). And that’s not even the worst part about fruit juice. If you look at most store-bought fruit juice nutrition labels, you’ll notice that sugar (in its various forms) and artificial flavors are front and center. Natural fruit juice is actually a small percentage of the product. So check the ingredients in that fruit smoothie first. You might also want to consider trying a vegetable-based smoothie. Vegetable-based smoothies are a healthier option and contain far fewer calories and less sugar.

Fat-Free Foods. Many products found in the supermarket come in a “fat-free” variety. For those with weight loss goals, naturally the fat-free products seem to be the most logical choice. But don’t be fooled. When the fat is removed from these foods, it is often replaced with a higher percentage of sugar and artificial fat substitutes to compensate for a loss of flavor. At the end of the day, we wind up consuming a higher number of sugar-laden empty calories with fat-free foods simply because we believe we are allowed to. We also physically feel less full with these foods, and may be unknowingly enabling a sugar addiction. When fat-free food dominated the packaged food industry in the 1990s, it did a huge disservice to the nutritional value of fats. We’ve heard it before, but it is very true. There are “good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and “bad fats” (trans fats and saturated fats) The American Heart Association recommends 30 percent of your diet come from good fats. When purchasing fat-free products, check the nutrition label to make sure that it has fewer calories than the regular version and that it isn’t packed with sugars.

Dried Fruits and Nut Mixes. Some dried fruits and nut mixes are great sources of fiber, vitamins, proteins, and healthy fats. The problem is that many store-bought versions coat the fruits with sugar and the nuts with salt. Some brands of trail mix are also packed with flavors from shredded coconut and chocolate, both high in calories. Just a handful of trail mix can easily have over 300 calories. It’s hard to stop at just a handful when the sweet/salty taste of the nuts, fruits, and other flavors complement each other so well. Choose the healthier alternative by buying unsalted nuts and unsweetened dried fruits for your snack. But be sure to watch your portions to stay within your daily calorie limit.

Diet Soda. We’ve all heard about the studies that link the consumption of soda to obesity. So it would seem a wise choice to turn to the zero-calorie, zero-sugar diet soda alternative. Right? Wrong! Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which send signals to the brain that very closely resemble that of natural sugar. That means that the brain responds to the “sweet” signal by telling the body to crave more sweet foods and drinks. But because the brain is receiving the “sweet” signal without the calories, this may cause us to actually consume an even higher number of calories to satisfy our cravings. In fact, research has shown that people who consumed diet soda versus those who did not had a 47% higher increase in BMI after eight year of consumption. There is evidence that diet soda might be useful in the short-term to wean regular soda drinkers off the sugary stuff, but it should not become an every day part of a healthy diet. If you’re looking for refreshment, good old H2O is your best bet.

Developing a curiosity for food’s health benefits will help you to avoid making choices that don’t support your health and weight loss goals. Don’t let your body suffer because of clever packaging, wording, or public misconceptions. Remember, facts are your friends! Always read the nutrition labels on packaged foods to determine if what you’re eating is the real thing or a knock-off that can set you back.

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