The New York Times had a story this week with the headline, “To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More“.
The basic point of the article is that if your primary goal is weight loss, eating less is a much more effective and efficient way to accomplish such a goal, than exercise. This is not to say that exercise is not an important part of a weight loss program. In fact, research shows that for sustainable (long term) weight loss, a combination of dieting and exercising offers the best results.
The author of the article does make the point that while exercise may not play a primary role in weight loss, it does have many other benefits.
Physical activity can improve outcomes in musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, neurological diseases and depression. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges recently declared exercise to be a “miracle cure”.
Given the way the article is written, readers could be left with the impression that proper eating is only good for weight loss, while exercise is good for many things. While I certainly agree that exercise has multiple benefits, so does “conscious eating”.
To me, conscious eating simply means giving some thought to what you are eating, and not just following the “Standard American Diet.” Eating consciously requires self-education, a willingness to change, and initially some sacrifices. But in the long-term, the benefits can be life-changing.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the book that opened my eyes and led me to completely change my eating habits was John Robbins’ “The Food Revolution”. The book highlighted the many positive impacts that a vegan/plant-based diet can have. The message resonated so strongly with me that I went 100% vegan the day after I finished the book. That was almost nine years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
So what are these benefits from eating consciously, and in particular, adopting a vegan diet?
- Health benefits: lower risk of cardiovascular disease; lower incidence of certain cancers, particularity colorectal and prostate; lower weight (which has its own whole set of health benefits); better sleep; healthier skin; more energy; fewer allergies (while there are many sources of such info, here is a brief one)
- Environmental benefits: less land required for meeting the needs of a vegan diet compared to SAD; less water required; reduced carbon footprint; reduction in overfishing; reduced deforestation (here is a useful source of some of this info)
- Animal Rights benefits: showing respect for the lives of all animals, not just those we consider “pets”; reduction in animal cruelty; animals get to live more natural lives; reduced use of antibiotics in our ecosystem
The above is just a brief look at the many benefits of a conscious approach to eating, which in my case led to adopting a vegan diet and lifestyle.
I’ve also noticed that it helps to be aware of these multiple benefits. I think many people adopt a plant-based diet purely for health reasons, and then when it gets a little challenging, the health benefits alone aren’t enough to keep the commitment. But when you think of the other benefits such as environmental and animal rights, I think it makes it much easier to keep my commitment.
So imagine the power of combining exercise, which has a multitude of benefits, with the power of plant-based/vegan diet, which also has a multitude of benefits.