Should we focus more on counting calories or counting reps at the gym? Many of those who are trying to lose some pounds probably ask themselves this fundamental question. Can we lose weight without exercising? Or, on the other hand, do we have to watch what we eat when exercising regularly? The answers to these are not as obvious as it may seem.

Is diet alone enough to lose weight?

Surprisingly enough (at least for me), many people claim one can lose a considerable number of pounds by strictly controlling their calorie intake alone. Diets are still one of the top topics in the weight loss discourse.

Probably, there is some evidence and experience behind promoting those diets. I’ve never been on a strict diet myself, neither a quality nor a quantity diet, so it’s not my place to judge here. I’ve been wondering, though, if I limited my calorie intake so drastically and didn’t engage in any organized physical activity, wouldn’t I feel weak and upset all the time?

Wouldn’t I just be thinking of the things I have to NOT do (or more precisely, NOT eat)? I wouldn’t dare say that the diets don’t work in terms of physiology, but what about motivation? Basically, an achievement in dieting isn’t about what we did, but about what we didn’t do (or: eat). I can only imagine that such a situation is rather depressing.

And remember that losing weight is the way up a hill. But we don’t want to struggle all the way up for just a few minutes of enjoying the view from the top (just to go back down as we finally reached our goal). On the contrary, we want to stay there and enjoy the views for a really long time. So it shouldn’t be depressing, but enjoyable.

Is exercise alone enough to lose weight?

Well, I can say it’s enough when it comes to keeping a good shape, if done regularly. But of course in losing weight, watching what you eat along with exercises will bring better and faster effects. The importance exercise will depend on how often you exercise, what kind of activity you engage in.

Some cardio in combination with strength training will let you burn fat and tone the muscles at the same time. This way, as you lose a significant number of pounds your body won’t look ‘drained’ but supple. After all, it’s not about the numbers on the scales but about the visual effect and feeling good in the end, isn’t it?

It all depends on your shape and capabilities

The more often you exercise, the better. But don’t rush at the beginning, especially if you’re more than a few pounds overweight. Your body has to get used to the physical effort you’re serving it. So first, take up some low-impact activities like walking or swimming. These two won’t overstrain your joints.

Running and jumping rope, on the other hand, are great ways for losing weight but should be applied when your overall physical shape improves a little and your overweight won’t be that significant.

Say, if you’re 20 lbs over the weight proportional to your height and gender, plus you’re quite fit, go for running and/or jumping. If you’re 40 lbs or more overweight, focus on watching your calorie intake in the first place and take up some low-impact activities that won’t overstrain your joints. When you’re at a level when you can jog for 10-15 minutes without stopping, you may try HIIT for better effects.

But workout, regardless its type and intensity is very important from the motivational point of view. While working out, we stop thinking about losing weight, as there are so many other things to pay attention to. It’s a great area for setting new goals and mile stones which keep you focused and determined. In workout you strive to DO things.

Either way, it takes time

Whether you decide to focus more on diet or workout, losing weight always takes some time (sometimes even more than you initially thought, or more than it took other people applying the same methods). So don’t get discouraged after first week or two.

If you feel like the methods you’re applying don’t work well, try to combine the dieting and workout and modulate the proportions. Remember that you need energy to exercise effectively. So even if you’re aiming at calorie deficit, don’t aim to low.

You should feel healthy when losing weight, both in terms of diet and workout. You may feel a little sore after first sessions, or after a session when you pushed really hard. But DOMS is not an illness.

Mix it up in proportions proper for you

No matter what you focus on more in the struggle to lose weight, combining both exercise and diet will get you on the fastest track to your goal. Remember that you’re an individual, so what’s working for others will not necessarily work for you. Try to become more self-aware, both in exercising and eating, and discover your own path to your own unique goal.

About Cathy Patalas

The sports soul and the alleged specialist in words of 52Challenges.com. The main 52C Blog writer. A diligent student at the English Department of the University of Wroclaw, majoring in applied linguistics. An ex-acrobat and aerobic gymnast with the 13-year long experience in „training for winning”. A multiple medallist of Poland nationals in acrobatic gymnastics, and academic nationals in aerobic gymnastics. A fan of gymnastics of every existing type. Personally, finds making everyday choices in a healthy lifestyle even more demanding a challenge than making everyday sacrifices in the athlete’s lifestyle.