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Is Diet More Important Than Exercise? (When You Want To Lose Weight)

You can’t outrun a bad diet goes the saying. I know a few ultra runners who would beg to differ, but for most people it’s true. When it comes to “Is diet more important than exercise for weight loss?” for most people, the food you eat will have a bigger impact on your waistline.

But the answer is a lot more complex than floggers of the latest fad diet would like to admit. Reducing weight loss to calories in versus calories out is a very simplistic way of looking at how we lose weight.

Is Diet More Important Than Exercise?

  • Diets may get faster results but often when the diet stops the weight rebounds.
  • Exercise can help you lose weight but only if you don’t replace the calories burned by eating more.
is diet more important than exercise

Which Is Best For Weight Loss?

Diets will always get faster results if you’re trying to lose weight. The problem is restrictive diets are difficult to follow. Whether it’s controlling calories, eliminating carbs, or any other food groups, most people can only keep it up for short periods.

Once the diet stops the weight rebounds. People can spend their whole lives trying to diet. Every time their strict diet lapses, the weight piles back on and they’re back at square one.

In the US, almost 50% of the adult population will try to lose weight each year. The most popular methods are exercising (62.9%) and eating less food (62.9%), followed by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and salads (50.4%).

It sounds like we all know what we need to do to lose weight and take up healthy eating. We just don’t do it for long enough and lapse into old habits.

It’s The Wrong Question

Is diet more important than exercise? The debate has raged for years and meanwhile, obesity levels continue to increase.

The problem is willpower. We’re surrounded by temptation from donuts at the office coffee break to the latest must-watch series on Netflix that tempts us to stay on the couch.

With all these distractions, it’s almost impossible to stick to an exercise and diet regime unless there’s some strong motivation.

Find An Exercise You Love Doing

I love running. It’s something I know I enjoy doing even if it’s wet and cold outside. If I have a goal such as training for a big event, I can motivate myself to train in bad weather.

Going to the gym, doing yoga, cycling, climbing, and walking, are all things I enjoy but they don’t motivate me in the same way.

You need to find what makes you tick. It could be anything as long as it makes you move.

Dancing is exercise. Getting on your skateboard is exercise. Paddleboard, diving, kickboxing… anything that makes you move.

Moving more makes you feel good. When you feel better about yourself, you’re less likely to reach for a sugary treat or eat your way through a whole tub of ice cream.

There’s more incentive to eat better if it will help you improve at the exercise you love.

diet or exercise

Improve Your Diet With Food You Want To Eat

It’s hard to lose weight just by exercising. Why? Because an extra treat can quickly wipe out the calories you’ve burnt during your exercise session.

Run 5 miles and burn 500 calories – terrific. Blow that calorie deficit on a post-run chocolate brownie? Not so good.

That’s why your diet is more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss.

Exercise is good for your health and wellbeing. It makes you feel good, increases your calorific needs, and can give your metabolism a boost.

But with a bad diet, exercise on its own won’t be enough to lose weight. It can make you hungry. You don’t need me to tell you that’s a big problem for weight loss!

Don’t Rule Out Exercise For Weight Loss

One of the biggest barriers to weight loss is your self-esteem.

Exercise can help you feel better about yourself. You’re achieving something. Even if it’s just walking a mile a day. Try following this walking for weight loss plan. It could be just what you need to start exercising!

I always find that if I’m not exercising regularly my weight starts to increase. For me running for weight loss is my go-to activity. I don’t just run to keep my weight under control – I run to have fun with my friends, explore new trails, and get all the positive benefits of feeling better from being in the great outdoors!

The positive feeling from even a small amount of exercise can have a huge impact on your well-being.

Plus if you’re exercising and feeling good, you’re going to take the next step and care about what you put in your body.

Related post: Fat vs. Muscle: How Does It Affect Your Weight?

Most Diets Focus On What You Can’t Eat

What does a diet mean to you? Restrictions? Not being able to eat all your favorite foods? That’s why diets fail.

We all know we should eat less sugary and high-fat treats. Yet it’s so hard to resist these food choices.

It doesn’t help that they’re available everywhere, from fast food outlets to supermarket checkouts. We’re surrounded by temptation.

So we need to find healthy food that’s equally tempting. If you’re full up on healthy and tasty low-fat, low-calorie filling food, you’ll be less tempted by sugary high-fat treats.

Replace one thing in your regular diet that you know isn’t good for you with something tasty that is. Do this until it becomes a habit. Then rinse and repeat. Food prep to keep your healthy eating habits on track.

Gradual changes, one small step at a time, to change poor eating habits to good ones.

Conclusion – Is Diet More Important Than Exercise?

What you eat is always going to have a bigger impact on your waistline than how much you exercise. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on being fit.

Exercise provides motivation and boosts self-esteem. Moving more makes you feel good, it’s essential for preventing bad backs and related aches and pains, plus activities such as walking for weight loss burn calories.

This all helps with losing weight.

Supplement your exercise by gradually weaning yourself off the worst of your eating habits. Swap out the sugary high-fat items for tasty healthy food, one small step at a time.

Making small changes to your diet is a sustainable way to gradually lose weight. Lose weight and keep it off for good.

If you’ve found this post helpful, you may enjoy my other weight loss-related articles:

Diet or exercise? Which is more important for weight loss?
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is diet more important than exercise for weight loss?

Yes but only because exercising doesn’t mean you can neglect your diet. Running 5 miles can burn 500 calories but it’s easy to replace those calories with a high-fat, high-sugar treat. To lose weight it’s important to eat sensibly and healthily. Don’t assume you can eat anything and everything just because you’re exercising!

Is it true 80% diet 20% exercise?

This refers to weight loss being 80% about what you eat and 20% about the amount you exercise. It’s not a hard and fast rule, just a general guide. It’s easier to build a calorie deficit by cutting calories than through exercise but sticking to a low-calorie diet is unhealthy, unsustainable and often puts your body into starvation mode. It’s much better to exercise and improve your eating habits rather than try to follow a very restrictive diet.

Is it OK to never exercise?

Without exercise, your muscles will be weak and you’re risking poor health especially as you get older. It’s possible to be skinny fat where you store fat in unhealthy places such as around your organs. Lack of exercise increases your risk of stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, high blood pressure, little energy, stiff joints, osteoporosis, poor posture, and mental health issues. Unless your calorie intake is low, you’re also likely to be overweight.