*First published on Yahoo!Voices, August 1st 2013
In the most recent Shape magazine, the "You Ate It? Negate It!" section sparked a conversation amongst girlfriends. Do you or don't you have to work off every calorie you eat to lose weight? In fact, it may be impossible to work off every calorie you eat to lose weight. Why? Because you can't lose weight with exercise alone.
Weight loss and exercise go hand in hand, that's for sure. With every cardio session and weight lifted you can carve into the excess fat you're looking to lose. But it doesn't stop there. In order to lose weight, there has to be calorie reduction on some level. Certain foods have more calories than others, we know that. Such as protein has 4 calories for every gram, while alcohol has 7 calories for every gram. So if you had less alcohol in your diet and but a little more protein, you would lose still lose weight do to a shift in calories.
If you're looking to lose weight, start thinking reasonably about how much you can lose a week; 1 pound, 5 pounds, 10 pounds? It's reasonable to think the average person can lose 1-2 pounds per week and this means it's time to crunch calorie numbers. If each pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, to lose 1-2 pounds a week, about 5 pounds a month, that's a 500 calorie reduction EVERY DAY.
Now think about how long it takes to exercise off 500 calories? 2 hours? 3 hours? Do we have that kind of time to give to running and walking and the elliptical? Can you sweat off 500 calories every day by lifting weights? Probably not, is the honest truth.
Our reality is the reality; we work, have children, have friends and family and obligations that take up time too. And while it's so important to exercise every day, 60 minutes of sweat, to keep your bones, heart and mental health healthy, the reality is you might not have the time to work off 500 calories with exercise every day.
Changing how you eat, choosing hearty, healthy, nutrient dense, filling foods like vegetables, fruit and whole grains and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, will help you reduce the extra calories found in processed, nutrient empty foods. Becoming very aware and mindful of portion sizes will be helpful too. An ounce of cheese is the size of a thumb, and a snack (150-200 calories) can be 2 ounces of cheese and a few crackers. A serving of peanut butter, for a sandwich, should be 2 tablespoons which is the size of a golf ball.
Stay on top of weight loss with exercise AND changing how you eat. It's the fastest and best way to lose weight and keep it off. Don't rely on just one method; only exercise, only counting calories. Use all the weight loss methods you have available to become successful.