If you've ever tried to lose weight, we bet you've wondered: Is diet or exercise more effective?
Spoiler alert: The answer is both, done together.
Only work out and you'll have a hard time losing inches or pounds. Only diet and you might end up skinny-fat. Together, they have a symbiotic effect. It's not just doubling your results, it's turbocharging them. Let's break it down so you can explain to your roommate, spouse, coworkers, or barista why you can't skip your workout and why you're passing on the muffins. And so you don't talk yourself into thinking eating them is a good idea when your willpower is flagging.
I hate the word "diet." It makes me think of ordering off the part of the menu that has the iceberg lettuce and the cottage cheese. It isn't appetizing (OK, admittedly I really hate cottage cheese) and it feels like punishment. What I mean by "diet" is the way you eat. What you put in your body is your diet. A healthy diet generally means eating clean and staying hydrated. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and lots of water. And, of course, the occasional real treat—like real chocolate, full of sugar and fat and deliciousness. It's not a diet; it's your diet!
Let's look at a few reasons you should make your diet healthy.
You need to exercise. It doesn't matter if you're at your goal weight or not. The human animal is built to either move or fall apart. Here's what the CDC recommends at the very minimum:
This isn't very hard. Do any Beachbody® workout program and you'll surpass those recommendations. Even if you're doing the Ultimate Reset®, which recommends only gentle exercise, you'll still exceed it. And it will change your life in so many ways. Let's look at a few.
By now, you hopefully understand how important it is to eat right and work out if you want to live a happier, healthier, life. But, there's even more benefit to combining the two. A healthy diet helps you exercise better. It provides your body with the energy it needs in a workout so you can push harder, and it helps you recover quicker. In return, exercise helps you eat better. You start craving healthier foods to fuel your body and you become more in tune with what your body needs. Perhaps most importantly, doing them both at once greatly speeds up results. Numerous studies (as well as Beachbody test groups) show that the synergist effect of combining exercise and diet isn't 2+2 = 4, but more like 2+2 = 10!
Not sure how to get started? Go to Beachbody.com to find an exercise program that fits your lifestyle, or visit TeamBeachbody.com to see hundreds of healthy recipes.
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There's an old culinary expression that goes something like, "It's not the firmness of your zucchini, it's the way you cook it." In other words, buying (or growing) the right foods is crucial to good health, but if you don't prepare them properly, you'll throw all that grade-A nutrition out the window.
Whether we're talking organic fruits and veggies, grass-fed beef, or whatever else you're feasting on tonight, the trick is to keep both fat and cooking time to a minimum if you want to retain the nutrients in your food.
While dropping foods in boiling water is better than dropping them in boiling oil, it's not ideal, given it tends to leach nutrients and taste. Steaming keeps food above the water, so the nutrients—and flavor—are more likely to stay put. It's also a good way to slightly break down fibrous foods for people with digestive issues, ranging from Crohn's Disease to general gassiness. Almost any food that can be boiled can be steamed. All you need for steaming is a metal colander for holding the food and a tight-fitting lid for the pot.
Traditionally an Asian cooking technique, the difference between stir-frying and regular frying is that you're cooking small pieces of food at high temperatures—therefore you don't need as much fat or oil. In fact, instead of cooking oil, you can use broth or wine. Although using a wok is an ideal way to stir-fry, it works in any pan, provided you use high-heat and minimal fat, and you chop up your food into small pieces so that it cooks faster. An important tip—if you're using a nonstick pan, don't use a metal spatula. It will scratch the Teflon and make the pan unsafe to use.
These great American cooking methods are winners, when done right. When you expose food to direct heat, it leaves it crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This helps seal in flavor and nutrients. It doesn't require cooking oil, and excess fat drips away. (If you're grilling, you'll need to clean up those drippings at some point, which is kind of a pain, but let's not worry about that now.) There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, avoid charring as much as you can. The blackened (i.e., burnt) bits can actually be carcinogenic (cancer causing). Second, avoid charcoal grilling since the smoke is also carcinogenic.
Best bets for grilling and broiling are meats, poultry, and certain fish and veggies. If you're having problems with veggies or flaky fish falling through the grill, invest in a fish and/or veggie basket, which will hold your food in place so it doesn't get lost in the cracks.
Yes, we know we just dissed boiling, but poaching—which is basically just a fancy word for boiling—can be okay in some situations. Gently simmering meats, poultry, eggs, or fish in water or liquids such as wine and broth adds flavor and prevents them from drying out. It also avoids the fats needed for frying and the charring that comes from grilling. And if you poach those foods in a soup or stew, you still get all the nutrients because they leached into the broth.
Think of your pressure cooker as a holistic microwave. By steaming foods under pressure at extreme temperatures, cooking happens super-fast, keeping nutrients in and making this medium a real time-saver. In less than a couple hours, you can turn a pile of tomatoes and veggies into a big pot of healthy, delicious pasta sauce that you can freeze in individual containers for months. In addition to sauces, pressure cooking is ideal for legumes, grains, and meats. Be careful with veggies though because they can easily become overdone.
Sorry, we're not talking about baked cakes and pies. Instead, think seafood, poultry, lean meats, and veggies. You don't need added fat to bake or roast and it's a great way to intermingle the flavors of produce and/or meats.
Not only are you adding fat to your food, but it's probably really, really bad fat. High heat oxidizes polyunsaturated fats in, well, almost all vegetable-based cooking oils, killing their nutrients and potentially turning them carcinogenic. Coconut oil is a notable exception because, since it's a saturated fat, it doesn't oxidize. But still, by frying in it, you're adding a lot of fat to your meal, making it difficult to balance your daily fat intake with protein and carbs. Also, deep-frying decreases the antioxidant nutrients in foods, nullifying one of the main reasons we need vegetables.
This one is nearly as bad as deep-frying. In some situations it can be even worse because if you do it at too low of a temperature, your food will absorb even more oil.
Microwaving is, by far, the most controversial cooking method around. There's plenty of debate as to the health benefits—or detriments—of vibrating food molecules to heat food up. We don't microwave for two reasons. First, it doesn't do food any favors from a culinary perspective. Second, microwaves didn't come into general use until the late sixties—not even a generation ago—so how can we know their long-term effects? Between that and all the contradictory research, it's just not worth it to us.
On the other hand, we don't know of any truly compelling research causing you not to use them and they do cook food quickly without added fat. So the choice is yours.
However, there's no denying that microwaving in plastic is bad news. The plastic can actually leach into the food. Especially troubling are meats and cheeses because their fats absorb a carcinogenic chemical in plastic called diethylhexyl adipate. The FDA requires pretty stringent testing for "microwave-safe" plastics, so if you see this claim, that means the leaching falls within an "acceptable" amount. Personally, we find using a pressure cooker even more "acceptable"—and delicious.
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We don't all need or want to look slimmer, but dressing to enhance your body works, no matter what shape you're in. So even if that cheat day extended a few extra…decades, there are ways to hide it as you prepare to embark on the journey back to the land of the toned. Let's look at some wardrobe tricks to make you appear slimmer, which will ease your transition from flab to fab.
"It's important to be aware of your body shape at the moment—not 10 years ago," says Atlanta-based wardrobe stylist Robert Ballew. "That includes knowing how to hide or accentuate the good and the bad. Some people hang onto things that no longer fit because it signifies something they're having trouble letting go of from their past," he adds. "They might also have hopes of getting that small again. But we need to change and grow as we age—not get stuck." For instance, bellbottoms are not coming back in style for a third time. (We hope.) So those can make the trip to Goodwill.
This doesn't mean dump everything in your closet. Instead, select some clothes that can work for you in the interim. Ballew suggests, "Consider getting those clothes altered once or twice to keep the longevity of the look until you reach the next level of your weight-loss goal."
Here are five tips to help you look thinner until you actually are thinner:
Layering up shouldn't make you look like an overstuffed throw pillow; done properly, layers will create a distraction from less-than-flattering areas.
"If you're top heavy and you're layering with a sweater and jacket, you're going to look heavier," Ballew explains. "Instead, try laying with a soft-colored V-neck shirt, blouse, or cami." V-neck tops can draw attention away from your midsection and give your torso a longer appearance. Just don't allow the V-neck to plunge too low. A way men can create this look is by wearing a shirt with a collar.
Not surprisingly, anything too baggy—a tent-like sweater, for example—will make you appear shapeless and bedraggled. Not ideal when your objective is to look svelte. "A big boxy sweater creates more mass," Ballew says. "You're better off going with something that gathers at the bottom and at the sleeves in order to create shape; that way you won't look like a giant sweater."
Colors like light blue and beige don't disguise bulges. "Darker colors like emerald green, navy, and gray can hide things better," he says. When adding color, let your accessories do the legwork. "Pops of color can come out in a scarf, cuff, blouse, or shoe; this can help draw the eye up and down instead of side to side."
You know if you're lugging extra baggage. And if you are, own up to it. That means staying away from clingy, pinchy clothes like Dri-FIT shirts or tank tops. "Women also need to choose the right undergarments," he says. "Wearing the wrong bra can cause things to roll, tuck, and do weird things." According to Ballew, both sexes can benefit from Spanx or Manx—slimming "shapers" that come in the form of bras, panties, boxer briefs, and undershirts. "They're great because they're soft, comfortable, and made from material that breathes," he says. "They'll take an inch off while you're working out toward your weight-loss goal."
Whether you're shaped like a beanpole, basketball, or hexagon, a tailored suit or garment will unquestionably spruce up your look. "Something off of the rack may have arms that are too long or shoulders that are big, and that will cause you to look a mess," Ballew says. "Especially for men, a tailored fit will make you look like a million bucks." Also, as you lose weight, be cognizant of the size and fit of your pants. Far as we know, nobody in history has ever been promoted in ill-fitting trousers.
A 2012 experiment from a University of York psychologist1 may have debunked the myth that horizontal stripes make you look wider. Using two drawings of the same woman wearing outfits with vertical stripes and horizontal stripes, participants found the figure wearing horizontal stripes to look more slimming. A second experiment using the same method replaced the drawings with 3D objects and achieved the same outcome. Also, thinner, black-and-white stripes were more slimming than wider stripes.
However, don't use that as a hard-and-fast rule for choosing stripes. And just because you've heard a zillion times that vertical stripes help elongate the body and draw the eye up and down doesn't mean it's true for you. Go with your (shrinking) gut: If you think the stripes you're wearing make you look as broad as a tractor-trailer, you're probably right. If you're hell-bent on avoiding stripes altogether, go with diagonal stripes or zigzag patterns, which can trick the eye into looking at non-problematic areas.
Yes stripes DO make you look fat: Unless they're narrow, black, and horizontal. Confused? Here's how to make them work for you.
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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