I have said on this website before that in terms of weight loss, diet is more important than exercise. A recent study confirms my claim. Before I share results of the study, I want to clarify what the “Rule of 70 “(my term) means. After considering both my personal experience and consulting many sources on the subject (including my good friend and personal trainer Karrie Ryan and sports physical therapist Alan Tyson), I feel quite confident in my assertion that weight loss (and to some degree maintenance) is 70% what we eat and about 30% what we do.
What I am not saying is that exercise is only minimally important. I believe it is hugely important, actually. But that has as much to do with what it offers outside of the scale. If you want to be healthy, you need to exercise. If you want to be strong as you age, you have to exercise. If you want to be happier, try exercise (for the natural endorphin affect-I swear by it). However, if weight loss is your primary goal, look first to what you are eating and then to exercise.
A study of the Hadza tribe, who still exist as hunter gatherers, suggests the amount of calories we need is a fixed human characteristic. This suggests Westerners are growing obese through over-eating rather than having inactive lifestyles, say scientists. Here is a quick look at what the researchers themselves said about the study:
“In this study, we examined daily energy expenditure and physical activity level in Hadza foragers to test the hypothesis that hunter-gatherers expend more energy each day than subjects in market and farming economies. The Hadza are a population of hunter-gatherers living in a savannah-woodland environment in Northern Tanzania; their traditional foraging lifestyle has been documented extensively in previous work.
We compared energy expenditure and body composition among the Hadza, measured using the doubly labeled water method, to similar data from other populations taken from previous studies and new measurements of U.S. adults (Methods). Given their traditional, physically active lifestyle, we expected the Hadza to have lower body fat than individuals in Western populations. Further, if current models for obesity are correct, the Hadza, with their natural diet and lack of mechanization, should expend more energy than individuals living in market economies with comparatively sedentary lifestyles and highly-processed, sugar-rich diets.”
The study’s researchers found that despite the perception that a member of a hunter-gatherer tribe would move much more than the average sedentary office worker, in fact the metabolism rates were similar between both groups. But while their energy expenditure rates turned out to be the same, their weight was not: the tribe members weighed much less than their Western counterparts. So what is the deal? It comes down to diet.
Although these tribespeople certainly burned a lot more calories in their hunter gatherer lifestyle, the metobolic rates really weren’t all that different from a more sedentary person’s here in the West. What was different was their diet. We can guess they don’t eat processed foods. We can guess they eat a plant based diet. We can guess they don’t eat sugar except the natural kind. These are the reasons they are lean.
I am definately not advocating no exercise. As I mentioned earlier, I believe strongly that exercise is crucial for our health. But I also believe that if weight loss is a goal, diet is the place to begin to make changes. Eating little or no processed food is a really great way to begin. I cannot claim that I do this. But I am trying to eat less “artificial” foods and more whole foods. While I eat meat, I am eating less of it lately and trying to get protein through other means.
The Rule of 70 was confirmed by this study. I stick to the idea that weight loss is 70 percent what we eat and 30 percent what we do (exercise). When it comes to maintaining a certain weight, exercise is key….but then again, so is diet!!!