The headline last year said it all, “US Waistlines Expands Despite More Exercise”. So if we’re exercising, why are so many of us overweight or obese? Isn’t exercise the “cure”? As a personal trainer and fitness professional, I’d like to say yes. However, Americans can’t lose weight until we become honest about how we eat.
Here’s an example. Google “Dunkin Donuts Donut Breakfast Sandwich”, and you’ll find the web abuzz with rave reviews and many touting “Only 360 calories!” You’re thinking, 360 calories isn’t bad for breakfast. I can eat that! Hold on a minute. Let’s see what you’re getting from the ingredient list:
Glazed Donut: Donut [Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Iron as Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Enzyme, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Palm Oil, Water, Dextrose, Soybean Oil, Whey (a milk derivative), Skim Milk, Yeast, Contains less than 2% of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda), Defatted Soy Flour, Wheat Starch, Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts and Beta Carotene), Eggs], Glaze [Sugar, Water, Maltodextrin, Contains 2% or less of: Mono and Diglycerides, Agar, Cellulose Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Artificial Flavor]; Fried Egg: Egg Whites, Water, Egg Yolks, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Sauteed Flavor (Soybean Oil, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Natural Flavor), Salt, Artificial Butter Flavor (Propylene Glycol, Artificial Flavor), Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Coarse Ground Black Pepper; Bacon: Pork, cured with: Water, Sugar, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Smoke Flavoring, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.
While you’re Googling, look up any of the above bold type ingredients. Reads like a Materials Safety Data Sheet, doesn’t it? Now let’s check the nutrition. Of those 360 calories, 180 come from FAT. Math wasn’t my strong subject in school, but that’s HALF of the calories coming from fat. 20 grams of fat, 720 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of sugar. Now, let’s break that down into visuals:
20 grams of fat = picture or measure out 5 teaspoons of Crisco
720 mg sodium = appx a 1/3 teaspoon of salt
13 grams of sugar = measure out 3.25 teaspoons of sugar
I’m not trying to pick on Dunkin Donuts, or planning a march on Dunkin Donuts and demand they close their doors, or saying that you can never eat anything like that in your life. However, if your goal is to lose weight or be healthy, why would you? Why would you want to start out your morning like that, especially if you have a stressful job? I can guarantee it won’t help you cope with a rotten day any better after you’ve fed your brain fat with, salt, sugar, and chemicals!
We seem to think that a little exercise can undo the fat, sugar, and salt that we put into our bodies. Honestly, it can’t! There are very few individuals out there who burn enough calories in their workouts to right the wrongs. 30 minutes of lugging away on an elliptical or treadmill will not burn off the triple cheese pizza, beer, and hot wings that you ate the night before. Believe me, I wish I could easily burn off the homemade cookies and candy I ate over the holidays that quickly! Again, I’m not saying that you have to be perfect and eat all the right foods all of the time. None of us are perfect and I don’t trust the ones who say they are! However, you do have to change your eating to include REAL food. Meat, fish, chicken, veggies, fruit, whole grains. lowfat dairy, water, those foods that don’t require us to Google the ingredient list.
There is a saying in the fitness world that “bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym”, which means 70% of your weight loss efforts are from eating right and 30% are from exercise. Some will quote 80% is from the kitchen. Let’s be honest. How much of your weight loss efforts are truly, consistently put into eating right? In a world that tempts us thousands of times a day with quick food that is loaded with sugar, salt, and fat, it isn’t easy. The obesity rate and rates of chronic disease such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, for both adults AND children, not to mention skyrocketing healthcare costs, proves that we’re in a battle for our health. We live in a high stress society that too often turns to food and drink for relief and comfort. In our busy but sedentary lives, we sit all day at work, get into our cars, hit the drive through, pick up a meal for the family on the way home, and dig through the paper bag on the kitchen counter for dinner in 5 minutes before we run the kids to practice. While exercise IS a very important part of our health and well-being for many reasons, we can’t expect to lose weight and improve our health if we don’t take a good look at what we eat, why we eat it, and work to change the way we eat.