The two most important factors in weight loss are diet and physical activity. Diet refers to your eating habits, and physical activity refers to your movement habits. To optimize a weight loss program, both factors must be managed in a balanced way. That being said, successful weight loss can occur by just changing your dietary habits and not your physical activity level. Conversely, it can be very difficult to drive consistent weight loss results when just your physical activity is increased and no changes are made to your eating habits.
Consider the following comparison:
► A 300 calorie donut is eaten.
► This is an eating behavior that takes roughly 1 minute to accomplish.
► 300 calories are consumed per minute.
► One way to burn 300 calories is to do moderate intensity (not easy, but not hard) aerobic exercise.
►To burn off the calories, this physical activity behavior takes roughly 30 minutes.
►10 calories are burned per minute.
If you eat a donut every day, you can see how simply not eating the donut is much more efficient than spending 30 minutes on a piece of cardio equipment to negate the calories consumed. It’s an uphill battle to try to out-exercise a bad diet. But don’t worry, occasional indulgences have a place in an effective weight loss program.
Physical activity is not to be downplayed, as consistent exercise contributes to weight loss and improves many aspects of health and physical performance; however, its application in weight loss does have limitations. When it comes to losing weight, managing your eating habits must be the priority.
Bottom line: Creating a significant and consistent caloric deficit by only changing your physical activity requires a lot of time and energy exercising every day. In contrast, creating a significant and consistent caloric deficit by only changing your dietary habits requires much less time and effort, after the logistics of calorie-control are figured out.