image I am glad that many of you have joined health clubs or restarted your exercise routine after the New Year. You can almost smell the turkey and cookies melting away in the cardio center of my place. However, if you have not made significant changes to your diet, it might be a wonderful exercise in futility. A recent Loyola study found that despite all of your hard work, you can’t compensate enough for the pounds you pack on from a bad diet. I thought this passage was particularly simple to understand and to the point:

“…researchers from Loyola University Health System and other centers compared African American women in metropolitan Chicago with women in rural Nigeria. On average, the Chicago women weighed 184 pounds and the Nigerian women weighed 127 pounds.

Researchers had expected to find that the slimmer Nigerian women would be more physically active. To their surprise, they found no significant difference…People burn more calories when they exercise. Thing is, they compensate by eating more…

"We would love to say that physical activity has a positive effect on weight control, but that does not appear to be the case," Cooper said.

Diet is a more likely explanation than physical activity expenditure for why Chicago women weigh more than Nigerian women, Luke said. She noted the Nigerian diet is high in fiber and carbohydrates and low in fat and animal protein. By contrast, the Chicago diet is 40 percent to 45 percent fat and high in processed foods…”

The reason is simple math. Let’s assume that you have decided to “get into shape” for good this year. You weigh 160 pounds, and you are going to jog for one hour per day on a treadmill, five days a week. Congratulations! You will burn 2920 calories. However, any ONE of the following combinations will quickly negate your efforts:

One beer per day (7 x 142 = 994) and one Chipotle burrito (1179) in one week.

One order of cheese fries from Outback Steakhouse (2900)

A Grande, White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks every other day (4 x 720 = 2880)

The point is that you cannot ignore your diet. I admire your tenacity at the gym. Keeping up with five days a week on the treadmill, or any other activity, is a noble effort. You will get quickly frustrated from a lack of results from the hurricane level damage that you can do in just a few minutes with a fork in your hand or straw in your mouth.

What should you do?

  1. Know what you are eating. I provided the links to the foods I used in the examples above.
  2. Make a plan to compensate for days where eating badly cannot be avoided. I do not expect you to miss every Super Bowl party or cocktail event at work, but you need to compensate for it throughout the day by eating lighter and making good choices.
  3. Come to grips with reality. There is a limit to how much exercise you can do. There is almost no limit to how much, or how badly, you can eat. If you think your bullheaded will power at the gym will make up for that “love of wine and cheese” issue that you have, think again.