I personally see them both as of equal importance. But I also see other life choices that are as important. Getting the right amount of sleep and rest, managing stress effectively and ultimately living a healthy and balanced life – mentally as well as physically. To me, it isn’t so much a case of diet and exercise as two sides of the same coin; it is more of a puzzle with lots of different lifestyle factors to consider.
I often tell clients that I find many of the health, diet and exercise messages that are communicated in society and the media incredibly confusing to the layman. We are inundated with how much exercise we should be doing, what we should be eating, how obesity is affecting society etc. but it seems to me that the more information we have at our fingertips the harder it is to find the right path for us. Looking at it positively we have never had the ability to exercise and look after ourselves as easily as we can now. Which seems ironic, as we have never lived more busy and stressful lives with less balance as we currently do. We seem unable to marry the theory with the practice as life keeps getting in the way. Sadly, no matter what we say and think, it appears that our health has never been less of a priority and the really worrying thing is that we aren’t even aware. Many of us are walking around thinking that we are being as healthy as we possibly can be but are making mistakes left, right and centre.
Anyway, to get back on track let me go back to where I started – diet and exercise. As I have already said I see them both as of equal importance, but I understand them both and I enjoy them both. But, unlike many people, I don’t see either of them as short-term projects. They are both an integral part of my life. I exercise daily and have done for many years and I follow a healthy and balanced diet that works for me. But I didn’t get to this point overnight and I don’t do either to be a certain weight or look a certain way, I simply do it to feel good and for my body to stay as healthy as it can. I personally wouldn’t go on a calorie-restricted diet to squeeze into an outfit. I am a great believer in if you adopt a healthy and balanced lifestyle then you will look and feel good as a consequence. I still think too many people look at diet and exercise on a short-term basis. The January detox, the month avoiding alcohol, starving yourself for a holiday/wedding/party. Even people training for exercise events such as marathons and triathlons. Of course you have many people who take part in sporting events regularly, but often I meet people who will devote x amount of weeks and months training and dieting for a one-off event and, as soon as they have crossed it off their to-do list they slip back into their unhealthy habits and never really progress. I am not saying that everyone needs to go out and embark on a schedule to make them an ultra athlete, I am simply saying that it makes much more sense to moderate your diet and exercise, approach it in a balanced fashion and make it part of your long-term life.
The problems we are facing with obesity could, in part, be due to the fact that we are still not looking at health from a long-term perspective. I actually think more people would succeed in managing their health and weight over a longer period if we stopped tackling diet and exercise at the same time. Changing your exercise regime (or simply starting to exercise when it isn’t something you commonly do) at the same time as completely overhauling your diet doesn’t always make sense. If we look at lifestyle as a whole – work, family, hobbies, exercise, diet, rest – then trying to tackle two pretty major things at the same time seems optimistic at best and foolhardy at worst. How we behave and what we spend our time doing is in part down to habits we have formed. Habits are not broken and formed overnight. They take time to cultivate and enjoy and should be tackled slowly and over a long period. If you change everything at once you are unlikely to stick to it as you will simply feel that you are depriving yourself of too much, have too much pressure to ensure that you don’t fall off the wagon, feel miserable and give up.
Maybe by looking at one at a time we may start to see a greater level of success and compliance. I maintain that the two are inextricably linked and both need to be adhered to help guarantee long-term health, but that doesn’t mean that applying them at the same time in the same way is going to work for everyone. The facts speak for themselves, we need to eat a balanced diet and we need to exercise, but maybe we need to change the way in which we approach them.