Diet & Exercise Will Achieve Better Weight Loss

For people who want to become healthier and get into shape, making one change at a time is the usual advice.  A new study suggests that the best results are when people take on their exercise efforts and food intake simultaneously.

“It comes down to making them both priorities and thinking about both throughout the day,” says lead researcher Abby King, professor at the Stanford (University) Prevention Research Center.

King and others helped 200 mostly overweight folks with sedentary lifestyles.  The group was generally 45 and up, consumed too much saturated fats from animal sources, and were lacking in vegetables and fruits in their diets.


This study was published online in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, and shows participants divided into four groups: One learned to make diet and exercise changes at the same time; another learned to make diet changes first and then a few months later began working on their exercise habits. A third group changed their exercise habits first, then their diet later. And the fourth group learned stress-management techniques but did not get diet and exercise guidance.

The goal of the group was just to live healthier lifestyles, not necessarily lose weight.  Health coaches met with them at the beginning of the year and then called them once a month to help them along their way.

The goals were for participants to meet the government’s physical activity guidelines of doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day and keep their saturated fat intake to 10% or less of daily calories.

The findings after one year: Those who made changes in their diet and exercise habits at the same time did the best at meeting all three goals — eating enough fruits and vegetables, limiting saturated fat and exercising enough to meet the government’s guidelines.

Participants who started with exercise first also did pretty well at meeting diet and exercise goals, but not quite as well as the group that did both at the same time, King says. Those who started with diet first managed to meet dietary goals but not their exercise goals.

She says the results were surprising, because doctors and nutritionists often encourage people to make one change at a time. “For some people, that may be the best approach, but we found that you may get the most bang for your buck by making these changes together.”

This was not a weight-loss study, and participants were not taught portion control and other strategies important for weight loss, King says. However, some people did drop pounds, and researchers are studying those results now.

Tim Church, director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, says, “This provides really strong evidence that you might as well do both from the beginning of your program.”

Felicia Stoler, a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist in Holmdel, N.J., says when she works with patients she gives them both a nutrition plan and a physical-activity plan. Many people would rather change the foods they eat than their physical activity, she says. “But when people become more physically active they feel better about themselves, and they often no longer want to put bad food in their system.”

If you want more information on how to achieve your weight loss goals in the Jackson or Paris, TN area, give us a call at (731) 256-0035.