Calorie Intake
Nutrition

Why Eating Less Is More Important Than Exercise

You have to exercise to lose weight, right? It’s something we hear throughout our lives but is exercise the main ingredient in an effective weight loss strategy?

Weight loss may feel like a complicated process, but it is really just a numbers game – one that is more about daily calorie intake than exercise. Your body burns just so many calories a day, and if you eat less than that amount, you will lose weight. The question is where does exercise fit into that equation and how many calories do you need?

The Truth About Calories

Calories are energy, and you expend energy in three ways:

  • Basal metabolic rate – That’s what your body uses for normal functioning like breathing
  • Breaking down food – That’s right, you burn calories just by eating
  • Physical activity – That’s movement of any kind whether it is at the gym or taking the stairs at work.

The Logic Behind Calorie Counting

You don’t have much control over energy expenditure, so you have to focus on what you can control – calorie intake. Your body uses calories as fuel, but when there are too many, it saves them as fat in case you need them some other time. It is a protective measure to keep you from starving.

By changing your calorie intake, you can change how you look and feel. The simple fact is if you eat more than your body burns, you will gain weight but the reverse is true, as well. If you eat fewer calories than you need, your body will turn saved fat back into energy to make up the difference.

According to the Mayo Clinic, it takes 3,500 calories to make one pound of fat. When you burn 3,500 calories, you lose one pound of fat. For most people, cutting out 500 calories per day will mean you lose will lose one pound a week without exercise. If you burn 500 calories a day at the gym, though, there is no guarantee you will lose that pound without changing your diet.

How to Cut Calories

You’d be surprised how easy it is to cut 500 calories a day out of your diet. Start with the little things:

  • Woman CookingEliminate soda from your life. Switch to zero calories drinks like water or even coffee.
  • Reduce portions sizes by half. You can do this even if you eat out for lunch every day. Just ask for a to-go box with your food and put half of your sandwich in it before you start eating. You can eat that half for supper or lunch the next day. Better yet, start bringing a healthy meal with you to work.
  • Eliminate processed foods – Even diet dinners have a lot of fat and salt that will hinder your weight loss. Take a healthy cooking class and learn to enjoy preparing your meals.
  • Skip the little extras you eat each day like the bagel and cream cheese you get from the breakroom or the candy you get out of the vending machine in the afternoon.

Does cutting calories mean you can’t enjoy the occasional candy bar or rich pasta dish from your favorite restaurant?

The 80/20 Diet

The 80/20 Diet is a system created by chef and nutritionist Teresa Cutter. The concept is simple. You eat healthy nutritious calorie-conscious food 80 percent of the time and treat yourself without going crazy the remaining 20 percent. You can still eat some of your favorite foods and even sneak in the occasional candy bar as long as you stay on track 80 percent of the time.

Finding a Balance

Even though you can lose weight without exercise, the best weight loss plans promote both calorie counting and exercise for success. Exercising brings more to the table than just burning a few calories, too, especially for older women. For instance:

  • Exercise helps control blood pressure and improves heart health
  • It reduces your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes
  • It improves flexibility and joint health
  • It helps maintain muscle mass and strength – something women lose as they grow older
  • It enhances metabolism, so your body burns calories more efficiently.
  • It helps you sleep and improves your mood.
  • Exercise is essential for bone health especially in women over 50 who are at risk for osteoporosis.

All that, and you can burn a few extra calories, too. There are some things you need to keep in mind about exercise, though:

  • Working out is rarely enough to lose weight unless you have hours a day to spend doing it. What woman has that kind of free time?
  • Exercise enhances your appetite so you may eat more unless you count your daily calorie intake.

There is little doubt that exercise is necessary for good health. There is some question, though, about whether it is essential for weight loss. People do seem to exercise more these day, but still, almost 40 percent of the population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If losing weight is one of your goals, consider joining Prime Women’s new weight management program. Read more about here.

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