Trying To Lose Weight? Forget Exercise. Everything Depends On What You Eat.

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Eating healthy is important. That doesn’t sound like breaking news. Yet the message isn’t breaking through the bad habits of millions who are hoping to compensate for their bad habits by running a few extra miles on the treadmill. And now a team of experts is hammering that message home. What you eat is the key to weight loss and good health.

The well-sourced editorial appeared in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The authors (three doctors who have built careers studying health and human biology) aren’t fad-diet pushers hoping to convince you that drinking a shake for breakfast will change your life. They recognize the role of exercise. “Regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia and some cancers by at least 30%.”

Exercise is good, and a crucial part of living healthy. Yet there’s a bigger part. “Physical activity does not promote weight loss,” they remind us. For that, you have to balance what goes in with what you burn. They note that the obesity epidemic is increasing just as our emphasis on activity has also increased.

“According to The Lancet global burden of disease reports, poor diet now generates more disease than physical inactivity, alcohol and smoking combined. Up to 40% of those with a normal body mass index will harbor metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity, which include hypertension, dyslipidaemia, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cardiovascular disease.”

So who’s to blame for this perception that exercise is the cure for everything? “This false perception is rooted in the Food Industry’s Public Relations machinery, which uses tactics chillingly similar to those of big tobacco.”

“Coca Cola, who spent $3.3 billion on advertising in 2013, pushes a message that ‘all calories count’; they associate their products with sport, suggesting it is ok to consume their drinks as long as you exercise. However science tells us this is misleading and wrong. It is where the calories come from that is crucial. Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger. Fat calories induce fullness or ‘satiation’.”

Sugar. Advertising. Experts talk of sugar addiction being as hard to kick as drugs like cocaine. And to cut the body’s reliance on sugar, you also have to cut out carbohydrates (which the body converts to sugar).

“The public health messaging around diet and exercise, and their relationship to the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been corrupted by vested interests. Celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks, and the association of junk food and sport, must end.”

While the message here is clear, there’s very little chance of that happening in a system driven by free-market capitalism. So we will all have to learn to think for ourselves. In the end, as the editorial’s authors point out, it is up to you.

“It is time to wind back the harms caused by the junk food industry’s public relations machinery. Let us bust the myth of physical inactivity and obesity. You cannot outrun a bad diet.”