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Mailbag: Diet or Exercise

Posted Aug 31 2011 9:39pm

Readers ask me questions, either via email or in the comments section of my previous posts, that I sometimes find thought-provoking and worthy of a more center stage appearance.

Going forward, I thought it would be fun from time to time to post some of the questions/comments I receive that may be interesting food for thought for others, too. <–pun intended

This way everyone can ponder these oh so pressing questions of the Universe and not miss out on anything that was buried in the comments section of old posts.

So with that prelude, Lorin and I got to chatting in my comments section and here’s an excerpt of what we said.

But first, I met Lorin here and that was such a fun meetup with so many other bloggers, too!

Now for our “chat”:

Screenshot of our comment exchange comes from this post

Her main question was, “have I changed from when I did my fitness show and if I still have the same attitude towards how one can get more toned abs?”

You can read what I wrote to her (above) but here are my overall thoughts:

I never changed my diet then.  Didn’t do the high protein, no/low carbs, no dessert thing then in prep for my show and don’t do it now.  I continued on with a plant-based diet and never really stressed out about protein.

My body doesn’t seem to have a high metabolic need for protein and I discussed all of this in Protein FAQ’s, Vegan Sources & Recipes

And I am not a big fan of protein powders, either, for me personally.   They give me a stomach ache and don’t agree with me and I’ve tried rice, pea, hemp.  My favorite is Sun Warrior Brown Rice in Chocolate that I use for things like overnight Chocolate Brownie Protein Oats
(with additional Tips Here ) but I am not really that into them overall.  I was not that person chugging protein shakes in advance of my fitness show nor am I that person now.

Back then I advocated Tough Love for getting abs .  Still believe in that.

I have a set of posts in my Popular Tab under Lifting/Working Out that may be of interest and also detail my progression with exercise, what I did then, what I do now:

Daily Workouts Streamlined – 20 Minutes at Home
Abs: How to Get Them & Tough Love

I also have a chronological series of posts in my Workouts Page showcasing the 3 months leading up to my Fitness Show with progress pictures
The bottom line is that for awhile I was running, lifting, and doing yoga and it got to be way too much.  See the Daily Workouts Streamlined post for how I changed all that.

I like to workout.  I really do!  I love the way it makes me feel (mind, body, and spirit) but even I don’t like to live for working out.

Not to mention, 18 months ago leading when I was preparing my fitness show, I wasn’t working full time or writing 2-3 blog posts a day, either.  Since then, I am working more than ever, and my blog is much more involved, too.  And I have a child to raise!

So I simply haven’t the time or desire to work out that much.

Plus, I have come full circle with my yoga roots

Also see the Fitness Experiments – What I’ve Tried, What’s Worked, What Next post

As much as lifting was fine for me for awhile, I really loved it, it opened my eyes to a whole other genre and type of fitness, and I am grateful that I am not afraid of the gym, of weights, or of a weight room, I will always just love yoga + running.

Easy, I can do them anywhere and at any time, at my own pace, and on my own timetable.  I believe they nurture me and honor me and back to the mind, body, and spirit vibe, they honor what I need. 

Some people need to lift or to skydive or like to bike across the country .  I need running and yoga.  Simple stuff.

In terms of diet, I’ve also posted about this before, but my overall approach is everything in moderation: Desserts & Healthy Living: Everything in Moderation

And also I am not big on “healthifying” desserts: Healthifying Desserts & My Thoughts   If I want it, I have it, in all it’s full fat, full calorie glory, and I don’t try to make a brownie healthy.

Fudgy Nutella Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting anyone?

I eat it for what it is, enjoy it, move on, and that’s that.

That said, it brings me to the final and perhaps most interesting part of my interchange with Lorin and that’s about the importance of Diet vs. Exercise.

She indicated that she’s realized recently that it’s easier to take in more calories/fuel than you are burning and that most people over-estimate what they are burningI agree.

Therefore, it’s wise to be mindful what you’re eating , what types of food you’re eating, and how much you’re eating if your goal is to get cut-up abs or really chisel your physique.

Because as they say in weightlifting and many fitness circles, “you can’t out-train a bad diet” and I agree whole-heatedly with that.

You can workout 3 hours a day but if you are taking in more calories than you’re burning, you are just on a vicious circle and you really won’t see those dramatic results you’re looking for.



1. What works for you?

The intention of this post is to share my opinions only.  If you don’t agree or have a different take on things, that’s your prerogative, of course.

For me, I don’t count calories, I don’t measure or weigh food; I’d say I am more of an intuitive eater but I use that term loosely, too.  I don’t know what I do “exactly” or if it has a label.  I just do it.  

I have spent my entire life tweaking and experimenting with what works for my body.  And my mind and spirit. 

I feel like a plant-based diet, that includes desserts in moderation with some yoga + running (about 30-45 minutes per day of working out total) is what works for me.

No one can give another person a “recipe for success”.  We all have to do our own experimenting, legwork, and trial and error.   That’s my way of urging you not to write me asking for help with your diet or exercise plan.  I can’t help you.  No one else can help you.  Only you can help you find what’s right for you.

2. What’s more important, Diet or Exercise in terms of seeing the results you want? Can you out-train a bad diet?  Can you make up for poor dietary choices by working out?

I believe that diet is much more important than exercise in terms of the effects it has on our bodies.  And no, you can’t out-train a bad diet in my experience.

For example, if someone consumes a 700 calorie bowl of oatmeal topped with dried fruit and nut butter and then that person goes for a 7 mile run (100 calories per mile) they end up back at zero, so to speak

vs. someone else who doesn’t have that bowl of oatmeal, doesn’t run, and ends up at zero, too.

That’s why I think diet plays a much greater role than exercise in terms of weight mangagement.

In terms of our health, our bones, our minds and spirits, the effects of exercise are powerful which is why we need to move, too!

And, overall you can’t work out extra hard because you made poor food choices, i.e. go on a weekend bender of chips and beer and desserts and then go to the gym really hard on Monday.  That won’t negate what you did all weekend.  It may help soften the effects, but it won’t make it go away.  Make better food choices in the future, if you so desire, but you can’t fully “make up for it” in the gym, in my opinion only.

Lots to talk about!  What are your thoughts?

Have a great night.

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