Getting results: diet versus exercise

by Khushboo on November 12, 2011

***Disclaimer: Before I divulge into this topic, I realize that this view will not be shared by everyone reading, especially if your name is Jillian Michaels :)!  This post is part of my Weight Loss Series, and is purely based on my own opinion and what works for me.***

The million dollar question: Which is more effective for weight loss: diet or exercise?

What you’ve heard countless times in the past: A plan which incorporates a mix of diet and regular exercise.

My response: “Abs are built in the kitchen, not the gym”

This is coming from someone who has repeatedly confessed her love for running, who would rather give up an hour of sleep to fit in a workout, and who chooses to exercise on holiday:

If I want to lose weight, I am more inclined to make changes to my diet than to my exercise routine. Ideally a combination of both diet and exercise will produce optimal health & weight management, but if it’s a case of either/or, I am going to lean towards diet.  Whereas weight loss can (as least initially) be achieved only through diet, the same cannot be said about exercise: dietary improvements are crucial! Unless you’re an athlete who can commit to hours of training daily, you cannot out-train a bad diet.

Weight loss comes down to feeding your body some sort of calorie deficit, or in other words, burning more calories than the amount you put into your body through food.

Weight Loss = Calories Consumed < Calories Burned

Personally I think it is relatively easy to reduce calories by a given amount through dietary improvements than to increase my energy expenditure by the same amount.  In theory it’s possible that you can burn more calories than you eat but the caloric value of exercise is modest and requires far more exercise than most people realize.  Put it this way, to cut out 200 calories a day (enough to lose 2 lbs a month)

  • You would merely have to skip your daily chocolate bar or packet of crisps


  • Run/walk at least 2 miles

What worked for me: I exercised during my weight loss but rarely viewed it as a means to lose weight.  My reasons for working out were (and still are) more for the health benefits and endorphin high; the calorie burn was just an added bonus.  Although it’s not something I would ever advise to others or myself, it is possible to lose weight by sitting on your ass.  However it’s important to get into the habit of exercising regularly: ultimately staying active is what’s going to help you to keep the weight off!

Agree or disagree? I would love to hear your views…

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Allison (Allison's Delicious Life) November 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm

This is something my mom and I have talked about a few times. We feel the same way that you do. Exercise is important and crucial to stay healthy in so many ways, but it is not the cure for weight loss per se. Diet is just as important, and in fact MORE important. People often mistakingly believe that they increasing their amount of exercise allows them to increase the amount of food they eat and even eat more junk/dessert than usual. This defeats the purpose if you are trying to lose weight! I like to think of exercise more in terms of increasing my muscle and strength, helping my heart, and being good for my mind.


Khushboo Thadani November 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

It’s so easy to overcompensate exercise with unnecessarily big portions/treats. I’m glad you focus on the array of other benefits has to offer!


Matt @ The Athlete's Plate November 13, 2011 at 5:52 am

I agree. You can workout like crazy and not lose weight if you’re eating too much!


jojo November 13, 2011 at 6:26 am

Very true, unless you are like a big swimmer like Michael Philips… 😛
But it is good to still keep exercising because you will lose muscle mass and gain weight quickly after a while if you don’t do any kind of exercise..


Khushboo Thadani November 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Or Lance Armstrong…I was reading his diet and put it this way, he is lucky he has exercise on his side!


Meg (A Dash of Meg) November 13, 2011 at 8:17 am

I couldn’t agree more girl 😀


Kiran @ November 13, 2011 at 8:44 am

Exercise is not a tool to only loose weight. It should be a tool to guide one to be physically active. Definitely NOT a tool towards food education.


sassywifechronicles November 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

you surely cannot out train a bad diet.


Ameena November 13, 2011 at 9:15 pm

When I worked out too much I was constantly starving! Reducing my exercise was the key in reducing my appetite and thus losing weight.


Khushboo Thadani November 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I’m glad you mentioned this! When I was on WW, I ironically lost weight on those few weeks where I would minimise my exercise levels! It’s important to strike the right balance when exercising and finding foods which satisfy your hunger levels.


Josie November 15, 2011 at 4:29 am

I completely agree that you can’t out-train a bad diet. If you are eating badly, no amount of exercise will compensate for the damage, but… in terms of weight loss I have to vote in favor of exercise. For one, it builds muscle which in turn burns more calories when you are at rest. For two, you only have to reduce your calories by a small amount which is a lot easier for most people. If you are burning 250 exercising and reducing by 250 a day, thats 500 a day, thus 3500 a week = 1 lb. A lot of people notice the 500 but not the 250 which is just like a packet of chips as you said. I think most people who successfully lose weight and keep it off do a combination of the both. I agree running an awesome 🙂


Khushboo Thadani November 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thanks for your input…I agree that the combo of exercising and cutting calories is most effective- a bit of both makes it all the more doable to stick to!


Tracy's Treats November 15, 2011 at 6:01 am

It’s definitely true that exercising doesn’t give you free reign to eat terribly! I think many people feel like if they work out they can eat whatever they want, but it’s just not the case!


Parita @ myinnershakti November 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

I used to not believe the whole “abs are made in the kitchen,” but now I really do. I think you definitely have to find the right balance between exercise and food that works for you, but food definitely has a large impact. Great post!


Nada (One Arab Vegan) November 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm

I’ve never really thought about it, but I think I agree with you – to a certain extent. True, exercise alone doesn’t yield amazing results like a change in diet can, but when only diet is altered a lot of people experience a plateau where their weight doesn’t change. I think it’s best to keep the body guessing, so adding in exercise will definitely move things along – even if it’s something small like walking for a few hours a week. Also I think strength training is vital for anyone looking to lose serious pounds because building muscle increases the rate at which your body burns calories even at rest.

That said, I definitely focused more on food during my weight loss journey. I still worked out 5-7 times a week, but as you said it was always a nice little bonus, and wasn’t what I primarily relied on.


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