Losing weight: Should you diet, work out, or both?

The choice of either going on a diet or working out in a gym can be quite a quandary for anyone wanting to lose weight. It’s not that picking either one is a decision made by design. Most of the time, your personal lifestyle and work schedule come into play. They force you to choose.

It sucks, really. Logic dictates that you do both if you really want to be fit and remain fit. But if circumstances lead you to one path but not both, here’s the skinny on each option.


  1. Dieting is a test of willpower.

The case for diet is if you have no time, money, space, or patience for exercise, it’s really the only option you have to slim down. Over the years, we have been peppered with numerous diet fads from blood type diet, the after-six diet, the Atkins diet, the Weight Watchers diet, the South Beach Diet, the Beverly Hills diet, and other weight loss plans that helped shaved off fat and kept our dignity intact. When done correctly, diet brings tremendous health benefits as it primarily discourages calories and cholesterol from entering your system.

While each diet plan presents a unique scheme, common in each of them is the development of a “control” mindset. That is, control the amount of calories you take. Control the food you eat. Be mindful of when you eat. It’s like telling your left hand to slap your right hand if ever the latter brings food to your mouth. Diet becomes more of a test of willpower to hold yourself back. It’s so easy to be swayed by your officemate offering you fries, or going to the nearest fast food joint and buy a greasy burger, or grab a cup of coke in the office canteen. Just like sex, temptations in food are everywhere (although guys only wish humping a hot girl is as easy as wolfing down a bacon cheeseburger). The key is to remain committed to the goal. A single gulp of soda packs hundreds of calories. Even five sets of dumbbell curls and crunches won’t do much damage against those love handles if you head down to the nearest buffet after each trip to the gym. Do you really want to waste weeks of ignoring your poor, growling tummy in favor of taking a bite (or two, or three) of that mouth-watering pepperoni pizza? Brod, mahilo-hilo ka na nga sa gutom sa MRT kanina dahil sa lecheng diet mo, sisirain mo lang sa isang set ng maanghang at mainit na beef siomai na may kasama pang malamig na juice sa Ortigas station? Kaunting tiis na lang!

The case against diet, on the other hand, is the health risk factors and its sustainability. Just like how insects, no matter how unsightly they are, are important in the ecosystem, each natural food item presents a semblance of nutritional value to the body. For instance, it’s funny how egg yolks carry a bad rep in this dieting scheme when they bring fat-soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids and other nutrients to the body. If it’s natural, it’s good for the body. Just take it in moderation (unless you have health conditions that prevent you from totally taking in certain types of food). The danger in being picky with food because of diet is you deprive yourself of essential nutrients that could prove problematic to yourself down the road. Also, dieters tend to skip meals. This will not only lead you to overindulge later on or wrongfully choosing a substitute (biscuits over your regular rice meal), but it could also lead to serious health issues like ulcer, anemia, or kidney failure.

In addition, folks—especially those preparing for a wedding or a trip to the beach in a few weeks—tend to abandon their diet plans after the said goal has been met. In no time at all, you will be back to your jiggly, fat self. Unless you religiously dedicate yourself to a particular plan to the point that it becomes your lifestyle, most diet plans are not sustainable. One eating binge will quickly break your diet plan. When food is all around wherever you go, whatever you watch and whatever you listen to, it’s easy to fall off the wagon. You have to remain steadfast. If you choose a particular diet plan, stick with it even if the pounds don’t come off as rapidly as before.

Diet need not be too limiting, complicated and expensive. It is quite ironic that eating less sometimes is more expensive than following your regular chow routine. If you can’t afford to have an all-fruits plus egg breakfast over your usual corned beef plus fried rice meal, then just limit the amount of food you take regularly. It doesn’t have to be a South Beach freakin’ diet. Look for healthier substitutes if you can, but otherwise just stick to your regular menu. Eat less but just enough to satisfy your hunger. Maintain a healthy balanced diet. Beyond the fancy diet names is this simple tip that encompasses all diet principles: Kumain ka ng sapat lang, hindi lamon.


  1. Exercise keeps you in a position to do more.

The case for exercise is not only does it release endorphins (the so-called happy hormones) into your system and help relieve stress and boost your self-confidence, but it literally shapes you up faster than any diet could. Whereas diet helps you lose fat by preventing calories from entering your body in the first place, workouts develop muscles that help burn fat that’s already there. Even after you have finished your workout and hit the sack at night, your muscles will work overnight to help burn those nasty flabs.

More importantly, regular exercise keeps you active, energetic and looking vibrant everyday. People notice when you dedicate yourself to your workout routine. “Ang sexy mo ngayon ah, nag gy-gym ka na?” That sounds more appealing than “ang payat mo ngayon ah, nagkasakit ka ba?” Dieters tend to look more haggard and dry compared to those who exercise regularly. Exercise keeps you in a position to do more, while diet leaves you wanting to just sleep your hunger off.

The case against exercise, one the other hand, is time and space. If you are very busy with work and other stuff, you won’t have the time to go to the gym or run laps before or after office. If you live in a cramped space or has family members crawling in every square inch of your house, you won’t have the space to do even jumping jacks. It’s easier to go on a diet than exercise.

It also boils down to a matter of will power. While diet prompts you to hold back, exercise makes you push back and test your limits. But if you have a weak ass spirit, a small amount of body pain from all those lifting, running and jumping will keep you in the shelf for weeks. By the time you go back to your exercise, your body is no longer attuned to the exertion and you’re back to square one. Meanwhile, if you are overzealous even if you are injured, exercise will only aggravate your condition.


So, which is better?

As we have discussed here, diet and exercise each have their respective pros and cons. The common denominator of the two is dedication. No matter how hard dieting or exercise is to you, if you want to achieve your goal and want to sustain it, you will not be denied.

Speaking of dedication, why not do both? No matter how strict your conditions are that prevent you from engaging in a diet and workout, you have to find a way to do both. Diet and exercise complement each other. Since willpower plays an important role in each, you might as well use willpower to combine the two. The only limit is the one you set on yourself.

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