I've known for a long time that weight loss and maintenance for me are primarily about "diet": controlling calories IN is more effective for me than boosting calories OUT.
Exercise is very very important, of course: both physically (strength and toning, cardio, flexibility) and psychologically (sustaining my typically upbeat and happy mood).
But I could exercise plenty and stay pretty hefty. I can never exercise enough to eat whatever I want -- not even when I was routinely running 10 km a day (and grinding out my knees and hips in the process). Even burning all those calories (which I thought justified eating pretty much whatever I wanted the rest of the day), I was a size 12 and weighed about 20-25 pounds more than I do today.
So you can imagine that today's article about the "feet versus fork" debate in the Toronto Globe and Mail was of great interest to me: here's the link if you want to read the whole thing (and it includes a further link to the actual debate at University of Ottawa).
What's it say? In a nutshell, what you'd expect: exercise IS important; diet matters too; but for many people, diet may matter more.
You're more likely to be heavy if you eat more meat; more likely to be slimmer if you eat more fruit. True, the more you run, the less likely meat eating will be a factor . . . but that may be because running more affects the body's tendency to burn fat. In addition, the runner who eats a high fat meal is more likely to adjust subsequent calorie intake for the rest of the day because exercise affects appetite: and so the runner is also more likely to burn off the excess fat intake. An obese person who eats a high fat meal is more likely to keep right on chowing down for the rest of the day and to store the excess fat as . . . yeah, right. So the factors are intertwined, for sure.
The term researchers are using for the tendency of the obese to store rather than burn excess fat, all factors (calories IN and calories OUT) being equal? "Metabolic inflexibility".
Dunno whether the fancy term helps or not. My metabolism, I'm pretty sure, is by its nature both super-efficient AND inflexible. So if my stretching exercises at the gym assist with physical flexibility, I'm thinking that the gym more generally is helping with the innate and inherited tendency to metabolic inflexibility as well.
The fun factor is key for me in staying the exercise course. Loved my 10 km running mostly because it was outside and with friends: ditto cross country skiing last winter. Yesterday's golf game -- four hours twenty minutes -- in cool temperatures, trotting around at a very brisk pace, and taking more swings at the ball than would have been optimal: all that added up to a nice change from the gym, and resulted in me clocking up a more satisfying calorie burn.
Plus, I saw a bluebird!!