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Food Speak / Forced to pick, diet trumps exercise for weight loss

Published 4:58 pm, Thursday, April 3, 2014
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Dear Food Speak: What's more effective for weight loss, diet or exercise?

O.I.

Fairfield County Tennis

If forced to choose just one, I pick diet.

Research shows that exercise alone is no guarantee for getting thin. This applies mostly to the average American with mediocre eating habits. And those people who naively believe they can easily burn off bad eating habits.

Let's be real, anyone would be hard pressed to find enough free time in the day to burn off a typical 2,000-calorie restaurant entree. So while it may be easier to watch your diet than exercise to drop pounds, just any diet won't do. Cut your calories too drastically and you can expect feelings of deprivation to set the stage for a return to poor eating habits and more weight gain.

A better way to improve your diet for weight loss is to shrink your food portions by a modest 20 percent. Meanwhile, keep close tabs on your hunger and fullness cues for an even more accurate guide to calorie control.

For help finding a diet style that you can live happily ever after with, ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian with experience in weight management.

While your question begs me to pick a side, I still recommend a combination of diet and exercise for weight loss. That's because losing weight by dieting alone means only some of your weight loss comes from fat (dieting alone makes you lose muscle).

That explains why research has shown exercise plays an important role in people keeping lost weight off. Consider that most members of the National Weight Control Registry, a group of individuals recognized for succeeding at long-term weight loss, report using some combination of diet and exercise. Experts overwhelmingly agree that the longer you keep weight off the better chance you have of maintaining that loss.

Exercise also offers a slew of impressive health benefits beyond the scale. It produces natural endorphins for that feel-good attitude, strengthens your bones, helps you sleep, supports a healthy heart and much more. Many people find that exercising enhances their motivation for other healthy habits like eating right.

Courtney Sansonetti is a medical nutrition therapist and certified diabetes educator for Rehabilitation Associates Inc. Her Food Speak column appears monthly. Email your questions to: c.sansonetti@rehabassocinc.com.