Food and Exercise Are Never Lone Acts

woman running over dark background

Have you been frustrated by the ineffectiveness of your diet or the lack of results from exercising? One of the main reasons why many people don’t have success with weight loss programs is because they focus solely on one aspect of weight loss to the neglect of other strategies.

There are two common health misconceptions prevalent in our society when it comes to diet and exercise. The first is that as long as you exercise you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. The other is that dieting alone will give you a healthy body.

Both of these myths make the same mistake of giving with one hand and taking away with the other. Exercise without dieting or vice versa is like getting a car tune-up and then filling your gas tank with soda. It’s counterproductive, to say the least. When it comes to weight reduction, diet and exercise are two sides of the same coin.

Why You Should Combine Diet and Exercise?

According to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., diminished physical activity and high caloric intake are two of the main factors contributing to the obesity epidemic in America.1 That’s why substantial, long-lasting weight loss can only occur when diet and exercise go hand-in-hand.

The good news is when you combine physical activity with healthy food choices you’re burning the calorie candle at both ends. The logic of weight loss is simple, even if putting it into practice is challenging. You have to expend more energy than you take in through food. But if your weight loss program entails only dieting, then you have to undergo an extremely rigorous eating program because your body is not burning the proper amount of calories from exercise. This method of weight loss is unsustainable in the long run. But if you combine diet and exercise, then you reduce calories from both food and exercise, and so can ease your way into a diet program.

The scientific community has conducted a number of studies substantiating the value of diet plus exercise. In order to determine the most effective weight loss program, a study in the International Journal of Obesity reviewed the past 25 years of weight loss research pertaining to diet only, exercise only, and a combination of diet and exercise intervention. The authors concluded that the majority of reviewed research confirms that a diet plus exercise weight loss regimen was the most effective exercise program, producing about a 10 percent weight loss in obese subjects over four to six months.2

It’s important not to leave exercise out of the equation because physical activity is essential to avoid regaining lost weight. Also, adding exercise to a diet program helps you retain lean body mass (muscle) during weight loss. In other words, in weight loss programs that focus solely on dieting, a greater percentage of weight loss comes from lean body mass, whereas an exercise plus dieting program produces more weight loss from fat.

Physical activity is also important in maintaining muscular strength as we age. Once we reach middle age, we begin to lose a small portion of muscle each year; this can lead to more injuries, lack of energy, and increased inactivity, among other things. And once it becomes more difficult to remain active, we tend to adopt sedentary lifestyles and, as a result, gain weight. But for middle aged and elderly individuals a combination of a nutritional diet and adequate exercise has been show to significantly slow muscle deterioration, allowing you to remain healthy and active as you age.3

How to Develop a Diet and Exercise Plan

Every person’s diet will look different, depending on your body frame and eating habits, but a good guideline is to intake 1000 to 1200 calories a day for women and 1200 to 1600 calories for men. According to the National Institute of Health these calories should mainly consist of the following foods:4

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans

  • Egg whites, and skim or 1 percent milk
  • Lean meats like poultry, fish, lean ground beef, and ground turkey

As for exercise, the recommended standard for general health maintenance is 150 minutes of physical activity per week.5 But if you want to lose a substantial amount of weight, the National Institute of Heath recommends about 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise 5 days a week.6 With this diet and exercise routine, you could burn as much as 1-2 pounds of fat a week.

But if that weight loss regimen sounds intimidating, don’t worry. If you’re just beginning an exercise program, start small. Take a 20 to 30 minute walk a few days a week, and then gradually increase the amount of exercise you do over the course of several weeks to months. Just remember it’s better to start off slow and consistently increase your exercise load, rather than push yourself too hard too soon and get burned out.

Some blogs and internet articles try to pit diet and exercise against each other, as if one is more important than the other. But that’s like asking which is more important, eating or drinking. The answer is “both-and,” not “either-or.” Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand. The important thing to remember is that creating a healthy lifestyle is a comprehensive commitment that entails choosing healthy food options and daily physical activity.


1 Carmona, R. H. (2007, January 8). The Obesity Crisis in America. Retrieved from Office of the Surgeon General: www.surgeongeneral.gov/news/testimony/obesity07162003.htm

2 Miller, W., Koceja, D., & Hamilton, E. (1997). A meta-analysis of the past 25 years of weight loss research using diet, exercise or diet plus exercise intervention. International Journal of Obesity, 941-947.

3 Schardt, D. (2011). Staying Strong: How exericise and diet can help preserve your muscles. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 1-6.

4 National Institute of Health. (2006). Facts about Healthy Weight. Bethesda, Maryland: NIH Publications.

5 Haskell, W., Lee, I., & Pate, R. (2007). Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1423-34.

6 Ibid


The content provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Our content is not medical advice and you should seek a licensed physician or health professional regarding all health issues. WEIGHTLOSS.US takes no responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, or application of medication which results from reading this site.