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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Bari Levine

You Can't Burn Off a Bad Diet

For those of you who may have fallen off the physical fitness bandwagon during the pandemic, I have good news. Your diet is a better indicator of body composition than your exercise regimen. This is not to discount the importance of movement; physical activity is a critical component of cardiovascular and mental health. But if we're focused specifically on weight loss, then "calories in, calories out" is still the rule: you need to burn more calories than you consume. And according to the Mayo Clinic's Dr. Donald Hensrud, "For most people, it's possible to lower calorie intake to a greater degree than it is to burn more calories through increased exercise."

This point is illustrated by Craig Ballantyne, author of "The Great Cardio Myth", in which he writes that "approximately 50 percent of American have met the federal guideline for aerobic activity since 2009. Yet, 68.7 percent of the adult population is overweight." Unsurprisingly, Ballanytyne advises that we ditch what he calls the "cardio confessional"--the idea that by working out we can burn off the calories we consume from a binge meal or overall unhealthy diet. Not only does it take far less time and energy to consume a couple Girl Scout cookies than it does to burn off the calories in them, but linking diet and exercise in this way can lead to negative associations such as having to earn your meals or punish yourself for them.

So while diet and exercise together is the best recipe for fat loss, investing your time and energy on eating better will have a greater impact on how your body looks and feels.

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