I usually think of diet and exercise as two completely different but complimentary things. With losing weight, diet is the thing that matters because I can’t out-exercise a crappy diet. Believe me, I’ve tried. I've realized lately why exercise can be such a good mental health compliment to dieting.
Losing weight is so, so passive. Most of it consists of NOT eating. The cupcakes at the office, the cookies at a friend's house, whatever. There are also so many evenings after dinner, when we’re just hanging out in the apartment, and I realize the only thing I need to do, or can do, in order to have a good weight loss day is to not eat. That’s a hard way of thinking sometimes - the best way to accomplish your goal at the moment is to NOT do something.
For a five hour evening, I could not eat for four hours and fifty-six minutes, and then somewhere in those last four minutes, eat three candy bars or a handful of chocolate chips. Five hour evening, and those four minutes of overeating completely calorically overwhelm the other four hours, fifty-six minutes. In another scenario, I could sit for an hour at a table with a cake on it after dinner with friends. I don’t pick at the cake for fifty-seven minutes, but then those last three... 200 calories in a single swipe of frosting and those first fifty-seven minutes kind of don’t matter.
That’s why, at least for me, working out is so good for the weight loss mentality. I see it essentially as a separate component of health. Working out makes me feel strong. It makes me feel like I’m actively doing something for my health. My favorite instructor likes to tell us how we're changing our bodies as we struggle through leg lifts. It’s not about the calories (though those are a huge perk that definitely get me to push myself), it’s about being fit. It’s about being that 90-year-old pole dancing instructor who spins circles around her 24-year-old students. She's my role model.