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Is Diet or Exercise More Important For Weight Loss?

I've always been active, but weight loss was never top of mind for me until I was a freshman in college. My first months away from home, I packed on some serious weight, but instead of cleaning up my diet, I started doing two-a-day cardio workouts, barely ate a bite all day, and binged on a calorie bomb late at night. The results? General exhaustion and minor, unsustainable weight loss. I wish I could say that I did my research, talked to a doctor, and changed my ways, but this vicious cycle continued for many, many years. Years later, I would kick my ass with an insane workout four or five times a week, and while I was stronger, I would not see any results on the scale or in my clothes. Things only changed when I was able to fully digest this fitness adage: "Abs are made in the kitchen."

There's data to back up this claim. In meta-analysis from Behavioural Weight Management Review Group, researchers determined that over the course of a year, the combination of diet with exercise leads to sustainable weight loss, but over a six-month period, adding exercise made no difference to participants' weight-loss success. Trainer Sam Kelman can vouch for this study's efficacy. Despite her intense workout schedule, she couldn't manage to shed the last 15 pounds she'd be holding on to. Without making any shifts to her workout routine, she let go of the weight she hadn't been able to lose in just a few months by changing her diet, specifically in terms of portion control.

Weight loss is not my primary fitness goal right now, but for many years, it absolutely was. It was only when I got honest about my propensity to emotionally eat that I was able to take off weight, keep it off, and refocus my workout goals to improved energy and strength. I only wish I had gotten the memo sooner, so I could have saved myself from years of miserable yo-yo dieting and self-doubt about my ability to achieve my goal. It was celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser who helped me make the shift with a dose of tough love: "Put down the fork. No one needs to be eating five bowls of pasta a week and think that they're going to get rid of saddlebags if they're doing 500 leg raises. It's just not going to happen." A little harsh? Yes. But true? Unfortunately.

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