At its crux, losing weight is a math problem: energy given out should be more than energy taken in.
The answer then, is really a question for the individual: On which side of the equation can you be more disciplined?
In an ideal world, we should develop knowledge in both, because in the real world, diet and exercise are two very constant variables.
If you studied a science in school (physics, chemistry or biology), you’ll probably have done an experiment or two that required you to control a variable to see the change in the thing you want to see.
Whether it was the titration of a base or finding the focal length of a lens in response to a light source (if you know, you know), the easiest and most accurate way to see change is by changing one thing at a time.
In this case, from my perspective as someone who understands the physiological side of the human body more than the chemical side, I’m of the opinion that my clients start their work in the gym, not the kitchen.
Let me explain why.
It’s easier to control one hour of your day when you first start.
Baby steps! Chances are, people are coming in to seek help because they’re usually at the end of the road. There is so much information out there that confusion usually reigns. Having a new client trust me with an hour of their time is much easier to kickstart their journey. All they have to do is show up and be present.
It’s more than energy out, it’s learning the ability to continue moving.
The energy out/energy in theory is a great starting point, but it’s an oversimplification of the matter. One of the things a good coach should be able to do is stretch that hour in the gym. By learning how to push and pull with the upper and lower body, twist and breathe while doing everything, you’ll find yourself with more energy outside the gym to live a more active lifestyle.
Food is more than just energy, it’s emotion too.
Dictating what someone eats, even giving someone guidelines to follow is something I hesitate from prescribing, because food is a lot more than just energy in. Food often means family and food represents community for many people, so taking away from that tends to open a can of worms too early, too fast.
All this being said, I’ll say that the first step to seeing change starts with exercise, simply because an hour three times a week is more actionable at first.
As change starts happening, intrinsic motivation will then set in and then tackling the bigger puzzle of what someone eats becomes a bit more feasible.