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Take-out food again? No problem … Just exercise a little more!

We all do it; we all think that if we work out a little longer, we can reward ourselves with dessert or that we can make up for a cheat meal. Famously and controversially, Olympic Swimmer and gold medal winner Michael Phelps ate upwards of 8,000 calories a day during the 2008 Summer Olympics. There are always exceptions to the rule but unless you are able and willing to train for 5 or 6 hours a day; compensating for overeating with more exercise is an unsustainable and unhealthy strategy.

Let’s breakdown what really happens when you try to outrun your diet.

Weight gain and weight loss are essentially a result of either calorie surplus or deficit. If you expel more energy than you consume on a consistent basis, you should lose weight. Conversely, if you consistently consume more calories than you use, weight gain is likely.

Limiting calories and increasing exercise should be a sure fire way to lose weight and this is the foundation of almost any weight loss diet or plan.

Calorie counters often try to make up for a night of overeating with more exercise; this is how trying to outrun your diet starts. When in reality, a once in a while indulgence has a way of balancing itself out. However chronic over eating has been linked to weight gain and other health problems.

A typical person consumes about 2,000 calories a day and burns about 1,400 of those calories just moving and breathing. You can burn the other 600 calories with about an hour of moderate exercise to avoid weight gain. Adding snacks or extra food to your daily intake adds more calories than you can possibly burn off.

You can see how quickly a few poor food choices can add up to nearly impossible exercise equivalents:

  • A muffin with breakfast adds 265 calories  –  50 minutes of walking or a 25 minute run
  • A can of pop with lunch adds 138 calories  – 30 minutes of walking or a 15 minute run
  • Potato chips for a snack adds 171 calories  – 40 minutes of walking or a 20 minute run
  • French fries with dinner adds 460 calories  – a 40 minute run or an hour of weightlifting
TOTAL = Over 2 hours of exercise!

Mathematically speaking, outrunning a poor diet on a daily basis is next impossible.

Forget about the math or the calorie counting and think about what you are putting into your body. What goes into your body can and will affect your overall health! While you might get away with eating what ever you want while still looking like a Greek God, you are still eating junk, and junk food has a lot of “junk” in it: Trans-fats, artificial sugars or sweeteners, as well as a bounty of chemicals, preservatives, and additive, not to mention a total lack of real nutrients.

A poor diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies that will ultimately impact how well your body performs now as well as later in life.

So, if trying to outrun your diet is not something that is good for us physically, then what about mentally? We often view exercise as a penalty or punishment for overeating. Many people struggling with weight or body image already have an aversion to exercise, so making exercise a punishment simply deters them even more.

To build up adherence to a healthy lifestyle, exercise needs to be perceived as a positive habit not a negative one.

Elevate your food IQ. The more you know and care about your food and the more you pay attention to what is going into your body; the more likely you are to choose healthier options.

Increase your food quality. Nutrient deficiencies are responsible for a lot of health issues so eating higher quality, whole foods is your first step to becoming healthier. Most people don’t need supplements to be healthy, just good food.

Manage your appetite. Increasing food quality often results in eating foods that are more satisfying and filling. So, you don’t have to count calories to eat healthy but you can still use this information to be more mindful of calories or portion sizes in order to avoid overeating.

Keep moving. Exercise or at least be active a few times a week. Just because you cleaned up your diet doesn’t give you permission to stop moving. Try to find something that you enjoy doing instead of something that you may hate and you will find yourself being more active.

Sound nutritional habits will always be the best way to maintain a healthy body
But, to get healthy, you may have to do some “heavy lifting” along the way.

Paul Bradshaw l Kinesiologist