It has been said that abs are made in the kitchen, but how many of you have had the experience that no matter how clean or low-cal you eat, it's only by exercising can you slim down?
Lyndsay, you are taking that phase out context. The phrase is used by fitness enthusiasts to emphasize that you cannot out train a bad diet. It was not meant to imply that you can eat a clean diet and you'll get abs. Everyone with abs worked for them through a combination of the two.
You cannot get abs without a high insulin sensitivity. Diet can only reduce insulin resistance if you are already insulin resistance. Exercise serves to improve insulin sensitivity. That is how I see it and the two are subtly different.
Yeah, I'm pretty much my leanest when I run regularly. I've read the stuff against chronic cardio but I incorporate sprints when I run. Actually, instead of listening to music or having a completely blank mind, I pretend that I'm doing some hunting so I sprint, walk, jog, etc. I have to take my dog out twice a day to do her business so it's the best way for me to exercise and get plenty of sun while I'm at it! I've completely stopped lifting weights (which was what I used to do and I thought I was getting pretty chunky) and have focused more on doing bodyweight exercises such as planks, squats, etc. and I'm seriously noticing myself get slimmer, without much change to my really strict diet. I love running.
I actually lose weight if I stop exercising. Working out makes me very hungry, which makes me gain weight (from excess eating, and building muscle). If it stop working out I eat less, lost weight (fat and muscle).
I think if you are truly at a caloric deficit and not losing fat, then you are either (or both):
Setpoint theory (if you buy into it) would say that your body shifts between burning fat and the above 1 and 2 depending on if you're above or below your body's natural body fat setpoint (as well as adjusting appetite). It may be that based on your genetics, age, diet, activity level, etc you are currently at your setpoint so even if you eat less, your body is trying to maintain the setpoint by doing 1 and 2 instead of burning fat.
Lots of different theories on how to change the setpoint. I think Stephan's food reward theory is an interesting one (though I know many here don't buy into it). He argues that eating a lower food reward diet can lower the setpoint. I think this is a big part of why paleo makes many people leaner - because paleo foods tend to be a lot lower food reward than SAD engineered foods. But even within paleo, perhaps there is a range of food reward values.
Anyway if you buy into any of this, I'd be interested to know what you're eating. Perhaps based on your genetics and your age, a completely broad paleo diet does not get your setpoint as low as you'd like. I tried eating nothing but homemade beef stew for 2 weeks as an experiment. I did find my appetite went down while my energy levels stayed high. I lost some weight and don't think a lot of it was muscle (based on performance in gym). Certainly not long enough or scientific enough to be conclusive, but it was interesting.
I've seen some argue that increasing activity level (e.g., taking up distance biking) can lower your setpoint. That seems reasonable, but even if true, I doubt it would be the only way to do it. Anyway, long story short, I think it's possible to lower body fat without heavy exercising, but if you don't use your muscles, they will atrophy over time which will make the job even harder short-term because you'll be burning them for fuel and long-term because your BMR will go down. Not to mention, if you lose enough muscle, you won't look good no matter how skinny you get.
Here's what I like to ask people: Why do you need to see abs? I think my question is an important one for people to consider. The abdominal fat that will kill you is under the abdominal muscles. Judging by your name, I'm guessing you are female (apologize if I'm wrong) - women have to be at a pretty low body fat for abs to show...generally it's a body fat level that isn't natural for what we are built for (havin' babies).
Opposite holds true for me.
I'm convinced there are two camps of people and I belong in the camp of people who can only lose weight via diet. I can exercise like a maniac and still stay the exact same weight because my body seems to be smart enough to calibrate my hunger just enough to cover for the caloric expenditures it made that week via exercise. Basically a calorie deficit via cardio is not something my body wants to maintain. However, I do notice some benefit from some weight training.
Abs are made in the kitchen, except for that last little bit. I did not find the return on investment with regards to exercise very helpful during my weight-loss phase because it tended to increase my hunger. So, I really do think most overweight people should do just enough to maintain muscle mass and not more. My guess is that I am 15% bodyfat and now it takes a lot of work to shave any more points off. I don't think the body particularly likes going into the single digits.
So now I'd have to do some serious exercise.
Going from obese to normal weight, food restriction worked well at first, but became less and less effective as weight came off. To keep losing 2 lbs a week I started exercising. Which made me hungry, making it more difficult to continue restricting food.