Why Diet Trumps Any Workout Regime
As we near the end of February, and the New Year's motivation to head to the gym begins to dwindle for so many, it is important to emphasis the critical role diet plays in a person's actual weight. I am by no means discounting the massive and documented benefits of creating and maintaining a vigorous and ever changing workout routine, however, you can also absolutely lose weight by not doing any exercise whatsoever.
The reason I can so confidently say this is because I did it. When I was a freshman in college I was out on a run and incurred a stress fracture. Besides being incredibly painful, it relegated me to a life of zero impact exercise. The only treatment prescribed was rest, and even if I wanted to disobey the doctor's instructions, the pain was so intense, that I would not have lasted long. At first I was petrified that I was going to gain weight and never be able to get it off. Afterall, I was running 15-20 miles a week and just barely maintaining my then heavier frame of 135 pounds. What the hell was going to happen to me now that I couldn't do anything?
My solution came slowly and timidly. I started to eliminate items from my diet that I had never really thought about before. The first thing to go was soda (duh). It was surprisingly easy. The next step was a vast reduction of bread and simple carbs (eg cereal, pizza, pasta). Next was milk and processed foods (ie anything in commercial packaging). I replaced these old favorites with raw vegetables, fruit, protein and complex carbs. As I systematically cut out known calorie and fat dense foods, I immediately began to feel clearer and lighter. The oddest discovery of all was when I removed milk my seasonal allergies virtually disappeared. They have not returned since.
The biggest impact of all, and the reason for this post, however, was that I ended up losing 25 pounds and did zero cardio. I would do an ab workout 3 times a week, but that alone would not have produced such results. I had to laugh when I thought about how much I had been killing myself, at times not even remotely enjoying the workouts--all because I thought it was what had to be done in order to maintain the status quo, and maybe even lose some weight. It became clear that it was so much easier to just cut out the processed junk, reduce calories intake, and revamp my diet with foods high in nutrition and low in calories.
Eventually my stress fracture healed and I went back to running, but not because I had to. It genuinely felt good. Since this little experiment, I no longer feel the need to punish my body during a workout. If it doesn't feel enjoyable I simply let up a little and continue to push on a lower gear. I know now that working out is not about weight, it's about how it makes me feel emotionally, and that elicits so much more joy in the whole experience.