You’ve done it! After months (okay, years) of being unhappy with your weight, you have had enough. The new pink running shoes you bought have been peeking out of the closet, judging you for weeks. But not any more.
All that is behind you now because you just finished your first early morning run. Your feet are hurting, sure. But these are new shoes, and that’s to be expected.
As you collapse on the safe side of your front door, a prideful smile comes over your face. And why shouldn’t it? Your first run out of the gate went far better than expected. When all the breath seemed to leave your body in the first two minutes, you kept going. When that painful stitch started up your right rib cage after ten minutes, you didn’t even slow down. After a half hour, you were in the zone, and the maiden voyage of your new sneakers lasted a whole hour.
After a little while basking in the glow of your accomplishment, you peel yourself off of the floor and jump in the shower. As you wash the sweat out of your hair, you think about the Starbucks caramel frappuccino that you're going to enjoy on the way to work, and guilt-free too! Might as well make it a grande. That run has made you pretty hungry.
There’s just one problem with this picture: The math doesn’t work.
We know... math is boring. But you may have noticed that when people are serious about getting results, that means it’s time to look at the numbers. When you are serious about controlling your money, you don’t just buy the less expensive pair of jeans, and feel good about your fiscal direction. No, you make a complete budget, comparing your expenses with your income, and setting specific goals. The process may not be fun, but it removes the guesswork, and gives you the power to make a difference.
And what is true for your budget, is true for your weight management efforts. You see, the raw calories burned through exercise, can’t keep up with uncontrolled dietary choices. The degree to which this is true can be alarming.
In fact, the woman who just suffered through her first hour-long run, completely undoes her efforts with that one frappuccino. The run likely burned about 400-500 calories, almost the exact amount found in the drink that she buys to reward herself.
Much time and effort is required to undo the caloric damage that can be done so quickly by our food choices. Hundreds, even thousands of calories can be easily consumed in single meals, if no attention is paid.
Bready, and sugary selections grow the calorie count quickly. And outside of extreme physical activity regiments, exercise is largely ineffective as a weight loss tool on its own.
So what does this mean? Is exercise pointless? Hardly. In fact, exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your health. Regular exercise improves your cardiovascular strength, decreases the chances of diabetes, and pulmonary and neurological diseases, and even works to stave off depression.
Adding weight training to your exercise is also important. Here is a link to an article that gives you a way to get started, even if you've never lifted before.
But a look at the numbers reveals that the heart of any weight loss program has to be your diet. There is just no comparison. In terms of ability to effect your caloric picture, exercise cannot keep up. Don’t let this knowledge keep you from gaining the healthy benefits of exercise, but prioritize your dietary efforts appropriately, and get the results that you want because you took a second to consider the numbers.