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What is better for losing weight – diet or exercise?

The answer hands down and unequivocally is diet.

It took me a long time to get on board with this difference between diet and exercise in the role of weight loss.  After the birth of my son, I went up 2 dress sizes and stayed there basically for 6 years.  It’s hard to blame all my weight gain on pregnancy for over 1/2 a decade.  

I tried various exercise programs, even hired a personal trainer at great expense but NOTHING worked.  I finally joined an EXOS program.  I was super excited about it.  I loved the idea of having a trainer in very small classes (4 participants at a time), I got my own machine that told me exactly what to do and a schedule of 30 min in/out 3x per week.

This is it!  I thought, once I get into a rhythm of working out 3x a week, I’m going to drop back down to pre-pregnancy weight.

After 48 weeks of CONSISTENT 30 min workouts that I religiously went to 3x per week, guess how much weight and inches I lost?



Not a single inch, not a single pound.  I did feel like my clothes felt better on me, which was nice, but I was no where near the fantasy of buying an entire new wardrobe because mine was falling off.

After each 12 week session I was excited to get my body fat analysis, weigh in and measurements done.  After the first 12 weeks, I thought, well weight loss is slow, I just need more time.

After 24 weeks of working out without any change, I thought, well maybe I just need heavier weights.

After 36 weeks of training, I thought it would take more frequency – but I couldn’t get there any more frequently.

After 48 weeks, I decided it was a huge waste of my time.

When I vented my frustrations about my efforts to my student Erin Kelley, she simply and nonchalantly said:

“You can’t outrun your diet.”

She was so blase about it, like she expected my results to be insignificant.  I was totally deflated, especially because Erin is an award winning competitive bodybuilder and a nurse, so I knew she knew exactly what she was talking about.  It wasn’t the first time I heard her say it.  It was just the first time I started listening to her.

I was so mad about the time, energy and money I was spending on exercise to lose weight that I was finally ready to hear her out.

Here’s what she said:

Exercise is good for your heart and well-being.  It keeps you in shape and gives you energy.  However, exercise is not the best way to lose weight.


Why would she ever say this?  After all we are bombarded by messages of exercise as a weight loss plan.  Join a gym, buy exercise equipment, do 7 minute abs..

Erin says if you want to lose weight your focus MUST be on what you eat.  You CANNOT outrun your diet.

One of the problems with exercising is that it gives us permission to eat whatever and whenever we want because “I went to the gym today” or “I’m going to the gym tomorrow”.  Also exercise tones and shapes muscle but doesn’t dissolve fat.

You have to prevent the fat from forming in the first place –> and you do this through your food choices.

Now don’t think this is an all or nothing proposition.  Don’t stop going to the gym if you are already doing it – it’s good for you.  Just don’t expect to lose weight because you’re going to the gym.  Also making tiny changes to your diet over time are much more effective than making drastic changes that you can’t sustain.

Trying to eat healthy 80% of the week is more effective than starving or depriving yourself.

Ok, so here’s the bad news as you would expect things you need to wean off your diet are:

  • Processed foods including snacks
  • Sugar
  • Dairy (except feta, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese)
  • Fast burning carbs such as bread, rice, pasta

Here’s the good news.  You can still eat what you want 20% of the week and still lose weight.  Just don’t underestimate how many times you’ve “treated” yourself.  Maybe designate a cheat day.

What should you eat?

  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Lean meats
  • Vegetables
  • Any type of beans
  • Eggs
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Greek yogurt, feta, cottage cheese
  • Coconut oil
  • Sprouted high fiber bread

And for extra flavor, experiment with spices like turmeric, saffron, ginger, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, cayenne pepper and so much more.  Not only will they make your food tastier, they have amazing health and healing properties as well.

Remember exercise to be healthy, but weight loss starts with how you eat.  Without a change to the food you eat, weight loss will be a constant yo-yo battle.