Sunday, December 2, 2012


The other day I learned that my place of work is offering training for individuals who want to run a 5K as part of a heart healthy program. I was interested because it’s always fun to meet new people and exercise as a team instead on my own. I have ran in many 5K races, so this is nothing new. I am really doing it for the social aspect as well as getting a little more exercise in each week. So a couple of us have signed up for the training program. 

As I was talking to one of my co-workers we began discussing the importance of exercise vs. diet. They seem surprised when I told them that on an average I work out only 2-3 times a week at the gym. However, my weight has continued to drop (slow and steady). I made no bones about it and quickly said “It’s all about the food.” 

You see, I realize that exercise is important, but for me it’s mostly about nutrition. I can’t emphasize enough how important nutrition is and the ability to lose/maintain an ideal weight. This might go against traditional viewpoints. Let me refer to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. In his study groups he did not include an exercise program because he wanted to show what diet modification alone would do with diseases like coronary artery disease.  Here’s what he had to say about exercise:

While I recognize there are benefits to meditating, relaxation, and exercise in my original group, I left it optional. My concern has been that each of us has just so many behavioral modification units within us. I wanted all my patients’ focus to be on nutrition modification. Most exercise on their own to the degree that worked for them…I feel exercise is a very important component of a healthy lifestyle and urge my patients do as much as they can.

I too am a firm believer that exercise is an important component of health but exercise alone will not reverse heart disease (or any other disease). There are plenty of studies out there supporting that. In a study published for the American Diabetes Association they followed thousands of vegans and found them to be on an average 40 pounds lighter than those eating meat. The same study also carefully measured the activity levels of the those vegans and found that they exercised much less than the meat eaters. Now don’t get me wrong! I am a strong proponent of exercise, but exercise alone will not make you healthy. 

In May of this year a study was published by the International Food Information Council Foundation called 2012 Food & Health Survey - Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health

The study found that most Americans are evenly split in whether they believe it is more difficult to consistently eat well or exercise. In other words, Americans place the importance of food and diet equally (50% diet and 50% exercise) in the role of weightloss. But the facts do not support this. In fact, the equation stating that weight gain cannot occur if energy input and energy output are balanced was found to be flawed. The truth is that what we put into our mouths (energy input) has a far greater determinate of weight than does exercise (energy output). 

The same study also found that Americans believe their physical activity and sleep have more of an impact on their health than their diet. While exercise may make one feel more in control of their health, if you couple exercise with only moderate changes in diet the progession of coronary artery disease will continue. I am living proof of this. I was exercising vigorously 5-7 times a week and following the Mediterranean Diet. My heart disease progressed to the point of having a second stent placed in my heart. While most American’s focus on vigorous exercise the focus is misplaced to say the least. 

And lastly, Half of Americans feel that enjoying their food is more important than worrying about what’s in it. Again my words: “It’s all about the food” ring loud and clear. Food either kills or heals. For me I want the food I eat to taste good but I am more concerned whether it is healthy and healing. I cook all my own food and take my lunch so that I know exactly what I’m getting. I feel best when I eat healthy food and know all the ingredients. This is very important to me and to my health. 

Starting this week I will begin exercising 3-4 times a week--after all I do have a 5K coming up--and I will continue to eat a low-fat plant-based diet. 

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