If you are one of the many people whose New Years resolution is to lose weight, ask yourself which you believe to be more important, diet or exercise.
This is not an idle or trick question. The answer is important to your success.
In a study submitted to the journal Psychological Science, those who believe that diet is more important weigh less than those who subscribe to exercise being more important.
"The greater the extent to which you believe it is diet, the thinner you are on average," said Brent McFerran, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, in a press release issued January 2nd.
McFerran and his co-author Anirban Mukhopadhyay, a marketing professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, examined a series of studies across five countries on three continents. They found that the research showed that people mainly believe either that obesity is caused by a lack of exercise or by a poor diet, not other causes. They then found that the beliefs a person holds predict how that person will approach the goal of weight loss.
McFerran said that people who believe obesity is caused by diet consume less food. Those who believe it is caused by a lack of exercise should work out more. The problem with that is that people tend to overestimate the amount of calories burned during exercise and underestimate calories in the food they eat.
Science supports this finding. For example, a 20-ounce venti Java Chip Frappucino from Starbucks contains 580 calories. It would take the average person four hours to walk it off.
This is not to say that exercise does not help reduce weight as long as calorie intake doesn't also increase, said Mukhopadhyay. He continued, "Our finding is simply that people who believe strongly in lack of exercise as the primary cause, rather than poor diet, tend to have higher body masses."
So, what is your answer to the question now? According to McFerran and Mukhopadhyay, it had better be diet.