Is Diet More Important Than Exercise?

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I learned the hard way that I couldn’t outrun my fork after spending years walking/running/biking daily to keep the weight off. It worked for a while until I exhausted myself and learned some discouraging facts. But, in the process, I also learned what true fitness is.

diet more important than exercise

I’ve shared my story as a guest author for T. Colin Campbell’s Center for Nutrition Studies.

Exercise to control weight

Around 1995, I was twenty-eight years old and somewhat overweight. I began an excruciating exercise program of power walking/ jogging 35-40 miles per week, in addition to biking 20 miles weekly.

Did I lose weight? Sure. Think of the calories I was burning! I thought I was eating healthier too, but learned later that what I thought was healthy, really wasn’t.

I was even featured in Shape Magazine’s Success Stories in July 1998. Yep, that’s me on right.

diet more important than exercise
Shape Magazine July 1998

A few years later, I started gaining a little bit of weight back, even though I was wearing myself out with exercise. I came across an article that said as we age, our metabolism slows down due to natural muscle mass decreases, so we need to increase our calorie-burning exercise. If we don’t, we gain 10 lbs every few years, even though we are still exercising.

I remember thinking, “WHAT?!” I was exercising myself to death to keep the weight off, and now I’m going to need to continually increase the intensity and distance, just to keep from gaining? That discouragement was the beginning of the end of my exercise-warrior days.

My weight increased and my health declined

I gradually began to put the weight back on and gained many more pounds in addition. Over the years, my health began to decline–high cholesterol, high blood pressure, swollen and painful joints, and hormonal issues.

I was only in my forties, and my lack of health had become a source of great stress. I couldn’t imagine what I would be like in my 60s. My joints already hurt so much! I discussed the health issues I was dealing with on my About Page.

Then in February 2013, everything changed for me. After a year of my daughter asking me to watch the documentary, Forks Over Knives, I finally did it. That changed everything.

I learned that I had it backward all these years! Optimal health wasn’t all about exercising more. It was about eating the right foods! Not chicken and fish like I had thought, but whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits!

Although I had thought chicken and fish were low-fat, the truth is that while the leanest cut of beef is around 28% calories from fat, white skinless chicken is nearly the same at 24% of calories from fat!  Tuna is 21% and salmon 40 %! Eggs 70% fat!

My weight loss efforts were failing because I was doing everything wrong!

Nutrition is key

I have found over the years that nutrition is indeed the key–the 80% of the equation–while exercise and stress management are also important–constituting the other 20%.

I have been able to lose all the pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Not with jogging 35 miles & biking 20 miles a week, even though I’m much older and should have a slower metabolism now–but by eating PLANTS!

Walking & yoga

Now, my exercise consists of walking and hiking with my German shepherd daily for 30-45 minutes and doing gentle yoga 4 days a week. That’s all it takes– not an exercise warrior mentality!

Every good fitness program starts with walking. Walking, by far, is the most underrated form of exercise. Not only does it burn calories, but it also reduces stress and helps regulate your wake-sleep cycle, especially if done outdoors. Not just strolling, but a good pace walk.

diet more important than exercise. blood pressure reading
Perfect blood pressure and completely medication-free.

And my blood pressure? Well, see for yourself…and NO meds for it. And my joints…they’re excellent! No more inflammation and pain. I no longer worry about a slowing metabolism as I age or needing to forever increase my exercise program.  These days, I’m older and smarter. I know the truth.

Exercise and stress management are very important pieces to the health puzzle, it’s not whole without them. But, nutrition is the biggest piece of the picture. “You can’t outrun your fork.”

I’m back in control of my weight

I finally have control of my health! IT’S THE FOOD! –Dr. John McDougall.

Even if I knew my life would not be extended by one day, I would still make these healthy lifestyle changes, because now I know what feeling truly good at this stage in my life feels like. I don’t want to just live longer, but to live better.

informational graphic that has a fork and says that fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.

My Vlogs

More inspirational whole food plant-based diet success stories

plant based diet before and after
Plant-Based Diet Success / Before & After

Research on Diet vs. Exercise for Weight Loss

This short video shows the latest research on diet and exercise to control weight.

About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…


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  1. Excellent article! I used to beat myself blue as well, and the body always seemed to need more. How depressing is that? Thanks for all your recipes and help in general that you offer daily. I love you for it. Your time is precious and you share so freely. Much appreciated!

    1. Judy, I’m so glad that we are smarter now and know how to keep the weight off. Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

  2. I finally got the message through watching Forks over Knives also, but have been slow in completely changing my eating habits due to the lack of flavor in foods with no oil, salt or sugar. Thanks to you, I’m doing much much better now – I can’t thank you enough for posting so many of your recipes for all of us to enjoy for free.

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