I get asked this question a lot by my clients. To put it simply, the answer is no.
While exercise is an integral part of health and wellbeing – keeping your bones and heart strong, clearing your mind and relieving you of stress – you can’t outrun a bad diet.
Getting up at the crack of dawn and going for a 20km run just so you can have a large double-cream caramel latte, or thrashing yourself at the gym for an hour or two before you pick up two curries, rice, a large garlic naan and a bottle of wine on your way home, isn’t going to save your health.
You’ll end up exhausting yourself, feeling lousy and possibly becoming even hungrier due to over-exercising and eating poorly. You might also end up becoming dependent on exercise to burn off the extra kilojoules you eat from junk food.
I do have some good news, though. It is possible to have a healthy lifestyle, choose nourishing foods and still have a few extras, treats or the occasional junk food on the side, without stacking on unwanted weight. It’s all about budgeting your food choices.
Each person’s kilojoule budget is different – age, gender and activity having the greatest effect on it. When you’re young, active and have sizeable muscle mass you’re a fuel-burning machine, meaning you can eat more.
As you age and slow down, so does your metabolism and ability to add extra treats and junk food to your diet before they start to have a “weighty” effect.
Warning: too many highly-sugared, highly-refined foods will only fuel your desire for more and you may miss out on the essential nutrients that keep you healthy. Try not to succumb to junk food too often, choosing natural whole foods that nourish instead. Your body will thank you for it.
Here are some examples of how to substitute in a treat without throwing your energy intake out of whack.
How to budget in a treat…
HEALTHY OPTION: 2 eggs with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and 1 slice wholegrain toast.
SWAP IN A TREAT: Replace toast with 2 rashers of bacon OR 1 waffle.
HEALTHY OPTION: Large mixed salad with zesty dressing and roast chicken in a wholemeal wrap.
SWAP IN A TREAT: Replace wrap with 4 chocolate squares OR 1 handful of hot chips.
HEALTHY OPTION: Grilled salmon with greens and 2 tbs potato mash.
SWAP IN A TREAT: Replace the potato with 1 chocolate biscuit OR 1 scoop of ice-cream.
Exercise is hard. Discipline is harder. It’s all-too-common in this day and age for people to get into a health kick. Nutrition and exercise is now just as cool and sexy as smoking was in the 1950’s, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t so simple. Trainers and athletes will attest that it’s not motivation, but discipline that’s needed to reach your goals. That includes early starts, late finishes, strict dieting, good rest, and consistent activity. Seems doable in the first week. Then the excuses come rolling in. Credit: Various via Storyful