Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

The other day I was watching “The Doctors” and someone asked which was better: exercising or eating well?  Despite being an avid exerciser, I immediately shouted, “Eating well!”  As a certified health coach, personal trainer, and running coach, it has become increasingly clear over the years that what we put into our bodies is far more important than exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, exercise is essential to a healthy life.  But you can’t out exercise a poor diet, and you can’t outrun unhealthy eating.


Sure, we have all put in an extra hour at the gym before, or run a few extra miles after a less than stellar day of eating.  And while that is a great way to bump things up when we fall behind, you certainly can’t rely on doing that every day.

Truth is, we need to eat well most of the time and exercise too.  There should also be some time for rest and relaxation, along with enjoying some indulgence as well.  I prefer the 80%/20% rule with this.  Keep it healthy 80% of the time and enjoy and indulge the other 20%.

When it comes to diet and exercise, what you put in is what you will get out.  If you eat poorly, you will get poor miles or poor results.  You can’t outrun a bad diet.


This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  While I have been busy Netflixing, I spent a few hours watching documentaries.  Last year I had a client who told me she watched “Food Choices” and it changed her life.  She was focused on a plant based diet.  I watched the documentary and it hit me hard.  But it didn’t completely change my mind.

Earlier this fall I caught a bit of a segment on NPR where a doctor was discussing how Americans eat far too much meat.  He said that if you eat meat every day, you should work to go one day without meat each week.  If you eat meat once a week, you should aim for once a month….and so on.  Basically, he discussed how it causes inflammation in our bodies and Americans consume much more meat than most other countries.  I was intrigued, but still didn’t do much about this.

I don’t recall why, but I ended up watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a few weeks ago.  This documentary emphasized again how we eat too much meat and showed a correlation between weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other issues.  As a health coach, I also know that if any diet can be recommended to clients, the Mediterranean Diet is the heart healthiest.



This information continues to show up and it was starting to make me consider what might happen if I adopted not a vegetarian lifestyle, but more of a plant based emphasis each day.  So while Rock was out of town for work last week, I set about finding recipes.

Here is what I found:  My grocery bill was so cheap!  I thought it would be much more expensive to just buy fresh fruits and veggies.  But the reality was, between produce and some canned and dried options, I was leaving the grocery store with a lot more money in my pockets.

While this wasn’t my main goal, I ended up dropping a few pounds almost immediately.  It was  a pleasant surprise.  One day I was walking by a mirror and noticed that my face looked a bit more thinned out and my muscles looked more noticeable.

A few days in, I was cruising along on the treadmill and found myself bumping the pace up because it felt good!  I was hesitant to run at this pace because I figured I would hit a wall.  However, I suddenly noticed that I was maintaining this pace and I wasn’t tired.  I really did just feel good.

It didn’t end there either.  I was watching the new season of “Grace and Frankie” and I was having such a fun time that I didn’t want to stop running.  My mileage soared and I felt so good, I didn’t even realize that I forgot to take a day off.  I ran eight days in a row and averaged 8-10 miles each day.  I didn’t have a super long run in there, but there was some really great mileage and my muscles weren’t complaining.  In fact, I made a mistake in an earlier post this week.  I actually ran 58 miles last week!

The Verdict:  I still love meat.  I’m still going to eat meat.  But we as a family have agreed that we are going to focus more on plant based meals.  My body felt good and I enjoyed what I was eating.  I made a delicious Indian curry that warmed my body and had some awesome anti-inflammatory spices added in.  The whole house smelled amazing!


Chickpeas, Onions, Tomatoes, Spinach, and spices over rice.  So fast and so good!

Everyone needs to do what is best for their own lifestyles.  But there is a lot of evidence that adding more fruits and veggies and enjoying even a little bit less meat can make a big difference in your health.  I highly recommend checking out “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Choices” if you are curious about this.

Do you love a good burger like me?  Any thoughts on eating a little bit less meat?

12 thoughts on “Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

  1. “ You can’t outrun a bad diet.”

    That is such a good and important mantra – so very true. Last year I ran more miles than ever before – and yet ended up 5 pounds heavier at years end than the start … and I had started out wanting to drop 5 pounds!

    So far this year I have dropped more than the 5 pounds I wanted, simply through portion control and limiting wine intake. I am using MyFitnessPal, which helps … but the big thing is portions. When I run I eat healthier anyway, so I am focused mostly on the Mediterranean diet. My tendency is generally mostly vegetarian, but my family (Lisa in particular) can’t handle too many of the fruits and veggies so we balance with meat. (Plus Lisa is nut and apple/pear allergic, which limits loads of things).

    I do most of the grocery shopping, so for me the big thing is to have a plan, to have a menu I am shopping against, and to get ‘treats’ but have them be focused things we can have in portions. That saves us money and has us eat better.

    Ultimately it is always important to remember that your intake determines the outcome more than anything else.

    • Thank you so much for sharing all of this. You are so right that portion control and what you are putting in make such a huge difference. I had a similar experience right after I had Lucy. I was so careful about eating well during pregnancy and gained minimal weight. After she was born and I started running, I began putting on weight. I was enjoying more “fun” foods and was less concerned because I was running. It can creep up on you!

      The Mediterranean Diet is a really great way to look at foods. I think it is good to enjoy food but find a way that you can balance it all. And finding a way to make it work for your family is key. Sounds like you guys have a great approach!

  2. So many good points. I’ve never been a full vegan but for years I’ve eaten soy meat just because I liked it. I love “mock duck” (seitan usually) with Thai food. I still buy the occasional package of sliced turkey (I really like it on my salads!) and maybe chicken once in a blue moon, but I don’t find myself needing meat all the time. Most of my dinners I try to make the veggies the main ingredient. Like my pasta dishes are a boatload of broccoli and cauliflower with half a portion of pasta mixed in. The pasta is more of a garnish. And I JUST bought some curry paste and have been loving adding that to diced tomatoes! I’m having that tonight. Your pic made me wish I’d bought chick peas though. 🙂

    • You’re making me hungry just reading this. Pasta with broccoli and cauliflower sounds so good. Curry is such a great winter warming meal. I’ve never had mock duck. Going to have to look into this!

  3. I know that it’s completely unrealistic for me to eliminate meat–we’re having a Carne Asada Super Bowl party this weekend, LOL!!!

    BUT, I do know that my diet sucks and there are MANY areas where it can get cleaned up. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as my running has progressed that the next step for me if I choose to keep trying to improve, is to work on my food intake. I know that I can’t outrun my diet and even though I haven’t altered my food choices this cycle and am running well, if I want to get better, I’m going to have to make some changes.

    • I think for most of us it would be hard to eliminate meat. And a carne asada party sounds heavenly! But you are right that good as fuel will definitely improve running. The good thing is though that with the internet, there is access to so many recipes and tools that make healthy yet delicious food. However, as I type this I am on a road trip and chomping on Doritos. So yeah, it’s all about balance!! 😏

  4. An important point for women that decide to eat less meat is the need for iron and how much harder it is to get enough iron through a plant-based diet. Several years ago I started eating a lot less meat and I became severely anemic. I wasn’t taking a multivitamin with iron in it, though. That was one lesson I learned the hard way and now emphasize to all pre-menopausal women, take a multivitamin with iron every day and get your iron levels checked regularly.

  5. Interesting. I started reducing my meat intake too. From twice a day to once a day and now only once a day about 4 days a week. I don’t eat red meat so it wasn’t too hard a transition. I am a bit obsessed with monitoring my fat, carb and protein amounts though as I like to hit a 25-30/60/15 ratio though. That seems to work best for me. I like that my meals have more variety too if it’s a meatless day.

  6. That looks delicious! Hmm…maybe I’ll make it for dinner Sunday.
    Also, I finally learned I can’t outrun a bad diet, and it’s changed my running for the better. : )
    Finally, agree about eating less meat. I probably have it once a week, just on special occasions and for the b12. It really is more expensive, though!

    • It’s crazy how much more expensive it is. I’m totally with you though about avoiding the notion that you can’t outrun a bad diet. It took me a long time to really come to terms with the idea of eating less meat. And I’m honestly enjoying it.

  7. I think a lot of the bad press meat gets as well has a lot to do with the types, preparations, and quantities of meat we eat as well. Maybe not everything has to be wrapped in fat and bacon? Our meat (as you probably know by now) is almost always lean, wild meat (deer, moose, etc.). Far healthier choices I think. Increasing vegetable intake is problematic here because my wife eats about 3 vegetables. Pretty boring. But I still eat my share otherwise.

    • That is an excellent point. Being aware of where your meat comes from and how you prepare it is so important. Yikes, 3 veggies!! My brother is the same. Family meals are interesting!

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