Dr. David Samadi: Trump’s right – Diet “trumps” exercise for weight loss

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Dr. David Samadi: Trump’s right – Diet “trumps” exercise for weight loss

No matter how many medical experts have chimed in that President Trump would benefit from more exercise to lose weight, Trump has declared he already gets plenty.  He emphatically stated “I get more ‘exercise than people think.”  Even though he has no regular daily fitness regimen he follows and to save time he prefers riding a golf cart when golfing, Trump quipped he already walks from building to building all day long.

One of the top concerns cited in the media since the revelation of his physical exam, is that of his weight.  Standing at 6 feet and 3 inches and weighing 239 pounds, Trump is borderline obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 29.9 – a BMI of 30 would place him as “obese.” He was advised by Dr. Ronny Jackson, White House physician who performed his physical, that losing weight, eating a healthier diet and breaking a sweat would do him good.

He may not have the motivation or is ready – yet - to increase his physical activity, but he did at least hint he is apparently open to making some dietary changes.  Reducing portion sizes and cutting back on fattening ingredients were two suggestions Trump himself made.

Surprisingly, Trump called it right. Smart dietary changes actually “trump” exercise every time in winning the battle of the bulge. Here’s why:

A combination of a healthy diet and a well-rounded, consistent exercise routine are ideal for weight maintenance. But when it comes to losing excess weight, what you are feeding your body is more important than movement. 

No one denies that exercise is crucial for achieving health.  Each of us should make exercise a priority in our daily lives. Our heart and lungs benefit, our immune system is enhanced, our muscles and bones become stronger, the severity of mental anxiety and depression are decreased, and it may possibly lower our risk of certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.

But when it comes to weight loss, exercise is not the main driver for it.  Our diet or food choices are in the driver’s seat when it comes to peeling off pounds.  Once weight loss is achieved, to sustain the loss, then physical activity gets behind the steering wheel.

A 2015 study from the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that exercise does not help you lose weight – at least as not as much as we think.  The study showed that when exercise is increased, our appetite increases and we compensate by eating more food.  It’s all about the calories and the amount we consume as being the main force for weight loss. 

Even in children, a 2016 meta-analysis found that their level of physical activity was not the determining factor for weight but rather their food choices.   

Look at it like this – there are many ways we can burn 200 calories.  Running for 20 minutes or an hour of a brisk walk would most likely burn off this amount of calories.  But the problem is it takes time to burn off a significant amount of calories even with strenuous activity. Compare this to 200 calories in a chocolate candy bar. If you ate it, you would have to walk for an hour just to use up that extra energy.  Or better yet, just simply not eat the candy bar.

Here’s another viewpoint - which sounds easier to you?  Running for 30 minutes every day or cutting out those two cans of soda containing 150 calories each? 

For weight loss to be successful, sustainable and long-term for achieving a healthier body weight, the answer is cutting back on high-calorie, high-sugar, and high-fat foods.  Exercise is still important.  The human body is meant to move.    

The best advice for President Trump is to make the healthy choice the easy choice.  He needs to create new routines. If he follows through and actually starts choosing nutrient-rich foods the majority of the time, it will become as automatic as brushing his teeth.  Once that healthy habit is established, then he can focus on what form of physical activity he likes best.