Our gym sweat is being rewarded with cellulite? It certainly would appear that way. But don’t go burning your gym card just yet—the treadmill isn’t the problem. Also during the past 20 years, we’ve seen countless meals move from the stovetop to restaurant kitchens and commercial food labs. That means bigger portions, more oils and sweeteners, and heightened emphasis on desserts, appetizers and cocktails. So if you want to get serious about getting in shape, you’ve got to realign your priorities. It’s all about the food.
Cutting Calories Has a Bigger Impact Than Burning Calories
In a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials, Brazilian scientists determined that diet controls about 75 percent of weight los. Working out helps, of course, but a smart eating plan will get you three-fourths of the way there without you ever having to break a sweat. (That’s the difference between six-pack and eight-pack abs!) Another study published by the Public Library of Science found that women who worked out with a trainer for 6 months lost no more weight than those who merely filled out health forms—in other words, those who started thinking about what they were eating. You can do that easily. As soon as you start cooking, you become instantly aware of everything on your plate.
Forcing Yourself into the Gym Ups the Odds of Indulging Later
Some researchers have compared willpower to muscle—once you work it hard, it becomes weak. So by forcing yourself into the gym today—when you don’t really have the time—you’re setting yourself up to fail tomorrow when you’re confronted with milk shakes, French fries and chimichangas. Unfortunately, it takes only one slip to negate an entire sweat session. Ever reward a trip to the gym with some food outside your normal eating regime? Sure, we all have. But the truth is, we’re probably better off sticking to home-cooked food and skipping the gym.
It Takes Less Time to Cook in Than it Does to Work Out
You can eat a 1,000-calorie fast-food burger in 5 minutes, but you’ll spend an hour or more burning it off at the gym. And that’s if you’re busting your butt. Now imagine that you decided instead to skip the burger and forego the gym. You could head home and, in about 20 minutes, you could have a juicier, tastier, 350-calorie cheeseburger made with the finest ingredients and seasoned just the way you like it. Will the portion be smaller? Probably, but so what? Cornell University research shows that eating satisfaction is derived from the flavor intensity and visual impact of a meal, not necessarily the amount served. Plus, you’re left with extra cash in your wallet, you’ve saved 45 minutes and you’ve “burned” more than 600 calories.
You Can Work Exercise into Your Daily Routine
Think of all the opportunities you have to be active throughout the day. Do you take advantage? Try taking the stairs over the elevator, walking across the office instead of sending an email, or riding a bike instead of taking a cab. In essence, you can cheat your gym session. But food? There’s no cheating there; it’s only good when it’s made fresh. Researchers at the University of Minnesota determined that compared with cooking for yourself, consuming more restaurant and ready-made meals—think frozen dinners and carryout—could have a negative impact on your overall health. So food should come first, and dedicated gym time second.