I’ve seen it over and over and over again…people spending countless hours on a treadmill or going to the latest, greatest aerobics class or halfheartedly knocking out reps on a universal machine trying to outwork a bad diet. It’s just not going to happen… at least not with attaining the results they say they want. They don’t realize (or don’t want to admit), man can’t live on exercise alone.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a company called Arcade Manufacturing produced high-quality cast iron coffee mills, spring hinges, cork extractors and stove dampers. But what the company was best known for were its cast-iron toys… and more specifically, its Yellow Cabs. Arcade was part of the World Fair in 1933 in Chicago, showing off a fleet of toy World’s Fair buses.
But then WWII rolled around. After some time enjoying its success as a toy producer, it is rumored that the leadership at Arcade Manufacturing had a conviction that led them to start producing war goods. The sentiment was this: “We can’t win this war on toys alone.”
I’m here to tell you that when you’re trying to fight the Battle of the Bulge (Get it? See what I did there?), you will not win that fight on exercise alone. Let’s look at some basics as to why not.
Eating calories is easier than burning them
The average person burns 100 calories for every mile they cover (walking or running). Let’s say you knock out three miles a day, which would burn roughly 300 calories. I’m glad you’re exercising, but the can of Coke and bag of chips you bought on impulse are about 300 calories. So now you’re back to even, and that’s if you think all calories are created equal (which they’re not!). It’s as if you didn’t exercise at all, at least from a calories burned perspective.
TIP: Stop before you pop (insert favorite vice here) and count the cost. Do you really want to undo your hard work?
Okay, so it’s the weekend and you feel extra motivated. You’re going to run five miles today, which will burn about 500 calories. Awesome job. Most people can’t run five miles. But that night, you have a hamburger, fries, and a beer because after all, you did run 5 miles today… you deserve it. You’ve now put yourself in a hole cause that beer, burger, and fries far exceeds the 500 calories you burned earlier. And you’re probably not going to crank out another five miles that night to make up for it.
TIP: Don’t use exercise as an excuse to justify behavior. Reorient your thinking to find the joy and reward of exercise in and of itself.
Human nature tends to overestimate the positive and underestimate the negative
How many times have you looked down at the (insert your favorite cardio machine here) after being on it for 23 minutes and were shocked when it said you only had burned X calories? “I thought for sure it’d be at least Y.” That’s because we tend to overestimate the positive… the benefits.
Ever played Calorie Jeopardy?
“What is the number of calories in 3 pieces of pizza?”
Oooeeuwww. Sorry. The question was, “What is the number of calories in one piece of Cheesecake Factory Oreo Cheesecake.”
you the contestant guess so conservatively? Because human nature tends to underestimate the negative.
This phenomenon is a recipe for disappointment when we’re relying on exercise alone to get us fit.
TIP: Stop guesstimating! Tracking your nutrition though something like MyFitnessPal.com is immensely helpful, especially in the beginning of your fitness journey
Food is fuel
When was the last time you put water in your gas tank? Hopefully never. It would devastate your car’s performance. It was built to run on gasoline. Probably will run even better on higher quality gasoline.
Your body is infinitely more complex than a car… it’s a living thing for crying out loud. Yet we put low-grade fuel in our tanks and expect great performance. WRONG! Garbage in, garbage out. If you want results, if you want to change your body, you have to feed it the right amounts of high quality fuel. This will improve performance which will then improve your “gas mileage” which will in turn improve performance again. It’s a cycle. Whether you want it to be a vicious or a victorious cycle is up to you.
TIP: Eat for fuel first, pleasure second. Have a cheat meal once a week to get it out of your system. But the rest of the time, treat your body like the high-performing work of art that it is by feeding it nutritious, satisfying, whole foods.
Eating always happens
When was the last time you didn’t eat for a day? Probably been a while for most of us. We make time to eat… every day (ideally 5-6 small meals every day). So doesn’t it then make sense that we’ll get the biggest bang for our buck if we focus on something we know we’re going to do every day?
Most of us drive to work every day. We have to go, so we’re going to go. Now we could go a whole number of different routes. Chances are though, we’re going to go the route that makes the most sense for our objectives…which is to get to work on time, in the shortest amount of time possible, while arriving safely.
Food is no different. We’re gonna eat no matter what (not necessarily are we gonna workout). So why not eat in such a manner that’s going to give us the route that makes the most sense for our objectives… which is to reach our goals in the shortest amount of time possible while arriving safely.
TIP: Write down what you’re going to eat the day before and then stick to it. This cuts out the guesswork and you’ll have a plan to follow… which is half the battle.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not here to badmouth exercise. In fact, I want your first fitness objective to be to build muscle, which obviously requires exercise. But you can lift weights until the cows come home and if you’re not eating the right way in the right amounts, you’ll be disappointed with the results.
Exercise is part of the fitness equation, but it’s a much smaller part than nutrition. So don’t commit to the next exercise craze if you’re not first willing to commit to your nutrition.
You will change your body by first changing what you feed it!