"So, like, how much do you exercise?"
"Exercise? No, not me. I try to walk as much as I can, that's it."
"What, you don't go to the gym?"
"The gym? Feh! I spit on the gym."
"So how do you . . . "
"I watch what I eat."
Conversation is dead in the water.
I am adamant: When it comes to weight, exercise is not the way to go. Yes, exercise is necessary for health. Yes, exercise can tone. But exercise won't be the way to kick those pounds to the curb.
Even before Aaron Carroll's article ("To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercise") was actually printed, it became the most popular e-mailed online, to the point that CBS This Morning picked it up. Tack that together with Aseem Malhotra's Washington Post article, "Take Off that Fitbit."
Carroll begins by referencing The Biggest Loser, in which morbidly obese individuals are mostly clobbered in the gym as they attempt to lose the weight. But as Carroll and Malhotra point out:
1) Exercising burns less than one thinks. Sure, you can be lying there post-workout, wheezing and steaming, every muscle screaming, but you probably only burned off a cookie or two.
2) Exercise makes you hungrier. I knew a gal whose trainer would put her through hell, and she would fall into the fridge whenever she got home. Kinda defeats the point.
3) When losing weight, the metabolism can slow as the goal gets nearer. Many erroneously believe that the metabolism will get a burning boost through exercise. Research shows there is no correlation between the two.
4) Despite busy schedules, the determined manage to ration time and effort to get to the gym, work out, clean up, drive home. But there would be better results in utilizing those same hours in planning healthy meals, shopping the perimeter of the supermarket, and cooking up some vegetable-based lunches and suppers.
Carroll: Many people think of dieting as a drastic and rigid change, with a high risk of putting the pounds back on. What is more likely to succeed is gradual change, made in a much more sustainable way. I also don’t mean to make it seem that weight loss with diet is easy and exercise is hard. They’re both hard. The challenge of a slowing metabolism, and the desire to eat more, occurs in both cases, although dietary change still works better than exercise.
That's how I did it. Starting small, reprogramming my palate, shunning certain foods and embracing others, learning that whole stupid portion-control thing, which I still struggle with. But I'm a work in progress.
It's happened to me very, very few times:
"So how do you do it?"
"I eat vegetables, mostly."
"Can you type it up and send it to me? You know, what your plan is?"
For me, exercise is the devil; altering my diet is a much more attractive option. Very few others want to hear that exercise is not the messiah. I challenge you, then: Change one bad eating habit. Tell me that you don't see results in a month.