Person on scale holding a donut in one hand and an apple in the other

Does Diet Really Matter for Weight Loss?

If you want to acheive a total-body transformation and think you can eat healthy only 80% of the time, think again.

When people come to me and seeking fitness and nutrition advice about achieving the best body transformation results, they often want to know the magic equation of diet vs. exercise. Is diet 80% of the equation and exercise 20%? Is it 70%-30%? I think what most people are really asking is, do they have to eat good/healthy 80% of the time if they are trying to lose weight and get super fit?

If you're wondering the same thing, the truth is, you may not like my answer. Why? Because there is no way to quantify an exact percentage due to all the variables involved.

So to answer the question: diet is 100% of the equation for a total body transformation. That's right, 100%. How can it be 100%? What about exercise? My response is simple: if your diet and calorie intake are not where they need to be, it doesn't matter how active you are. Thus, 100% diet. You have to have this mindset to achieve optimal results for yourself. If you think you can eat healthy 80% of the time and eat crappy food the other 20%, your body will respond in kind and you'll be missing 20% of your best results. 

The cost of getting leaner means there isn't much room for a weekend filled with beer and pizza with the expectation of getting great results during the week. Can a "treat meal" be consumed on occasion and most goals be met? Sure, but if you think a part-time diet is going to do the trick, you're going to be disappointed.

Here's the thing. A few small, easy changes to your diet and exercise routine will get you results if you are just starting your fitness journey. But if your end goal is to look like a magazine cover model, you'll need to incorporate a much more consistent and strict approach to your nutrition process. Losing the first 10 pounds is not the same as losing the last 10 pounds. It usually requires much more effort/consistency as your journey to get leaner continues! 

Now, don't start assuming that getting healthy and losing body fat always involves massively painful periods of deprivation and heartbreaking sacrifice. That's not TRUE! Even small adjustments to your daily choices can add up to noticeable improvements, which can change your quality of life; perhaps even SAVE your life!

Exercise certainly has its place. I'm not trying to downplay its importance in a healthy, balanced lifestyle. If anything, I just want to emphasize to everyone how important diet and nutrition truly are. If I had to pick one area to focus on to truly alter a physique, it has to be diet. For your health, for your energy, for your quality of life, healthy nutritious foods in the right amounts have to be the foundation of your plan and starting point.

Slim woman in big jeans

2 Total-Body Transformation Principles 

Following are my two basic principles I share with people if they're wanting to do a total body transformation. What you decide to change and how much you decide to change the variables are up to you. What's most important here is that you understand what it actually takes to accomplish your goals. Educate yourself. Invest in yourself. You can do it. 

  1. If you want to continue making changes to your body, you'll need to continue to tweak/change behaviors and actions. You cannot simply continue with the same activity and same calorie consumption and expect a different result. It just doesn't work that way. Time does not always guarantee new results if new stimuli or strategies are not implemented. Plateaus are real! 
  2. The leaner you want to get, the more of your behaviors you'll have to change. I'll stress this even more now: no excuses, no shortcuts, no compromise. Once you reach a certain body fat level, depending on your genetic make-up and age, you'll have to suffer a bit to get truly lean. No, it's not sexy and doesn't sound fun, but the reality is if being lean and turning heads is your goal, it's going to require sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is not incredibly comfortable.

Steps for Starting Out Small

Here are five relatively small, easy-to-implement changes to encourage you in the next steps of your journey:

  1. Reduce or eliminate soda or alcohol each day. Don't drink your calories. They add up quickly.
  2. Save dessert or fast food for only one night per week. Everyone needs a treat, just not every day.
  3. Wake up each morning and drink two glasses of water right away. Continue to consume water throughout your day to ensure your body is hydrated. Dehydration is the enemy.
  4. Prioritize eating a solid serving of protein with every meal. Protein has a significant thermogenic effect. It aids in fat burning and encourages satiety.
  5. Pick two meals per day that have at least one serving of fruit or vegetables in them. Vegetables and fruits are typically low calorie, rich in fiber and packed with valuable antioxidants that can contribute to optimal health.

Once you have your food intake dialed in, weightlifting and cardiovascular training can be the perfect complement to achieving the best you! Ample scientific research and common sense will dictate your food intake as the most important part of a transformation. The food we eat plays a vital role in how we look and feel. Regular exercise is important, but nutrition has the largest impact on achieving your body's transformation.  

You cannot "out-exercise" a poor diet. Nutrition is king. So, my answer to all of those curious minds asking how big a role diet plays in body composition, I say, it's everything! Dial it in, make a few extra sacrifices, and watch your body achieve a level of fitness and health you never thought possible!

As always, if you need help figuring out the right nutrition plan to achieve the lean physique you've always wanted, stop by your local NUTRISHOP® store and speak with a knowledgeable, caring nutrition coach! 

– By Amy Jo Palmquest, a NUTRISHOP® store owner/spokesperson, an ACE-certified personal trainer with a degree in exercise science and nutrition, a wife and mother of three. Learn more at