It’s all about Calories In

Enjoyed this Vox feature summarizing all the research on diet, exercise, and weight loss.  The research is clear and comes to the conclusion that I intuited myself years ago based on personal experience– it’s all about the calories in.  Exercise is great for all sorts of reasons.  What it is not great for is the primary means of losing weight.  This is quite a thorough (and well-worth reading) exposition of the issue, and I really like that it hits on how it is politically expedient, but scientifically misguided to focus on exercise.  Here’s the final summary on weight loss:

10) So what actually works for weight loss?

At the individual level, some very good research on what works for weight loss comes from the National Weight Control Registry, a study that has parsed the traits, habits, and behaviors of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of one year. They currently have more than 10,000 members enrolled in the study, and these folks respond to annual questionnaires about how they’ve managed to keep their weight down.

The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight share a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. Theyrestrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes. They also exercise regularly.

But note: These folks use physical activity in addition to calorie counting and other behavioral changes. Every reliable expert I’ve ever spoken to on weight loss says the most important thing a person can do is to limit calories in a way they like and can sustain, and focus on eating more healthfully.

In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with onlymarginal additional weight-loss benefits.

So, again, nothing magical– find a system of eating that works for you for not eating too many calories over the long-term.  And exercise, because it’s good for you.

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to It’s all about Calories In

  1. itchy says:

    “In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with onlymarginal additional weight-loss benefits.”

    Right. It’s not that exercise doesn’t matter at all for weight loss. It’s that, with the wrong choices, you can out-eat 2 hours of exercise in 2 minutes.

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