Exercise vs Diet – A Live Debate (May 12 @ uOttawa)

Which is more important for weight loss and weight maintenance: diet or exercise?  It’s a contentious issue that monopolizes headlines with annoying regularity.  On May 12th (next Thursday) Dr Yoni Freedhoff and Dr Bob Ross will attempt to put this issue to rest once and for all with a debate at the University of Ottawa titled “Forks vs Feet – Which is More Critical To Obesity Treatment and Prevention”.   Not surprisingly, it is shaping up as an exciting event for anyone with a personal or professional interest in body weight and health.

Drs Freedhoff and Ross will likely be familiar names to regular readers of Obesity Panacea. Dr Freedhoff is Director of the Bariatric Medical Institute here in Ottawa, Chair of Family Medicine for the Canadian Obesity Network, and uber popular blogger.  Dr Ross is one of Canada’s most well-known obesity researchers, publishing seminal studies on the relationship between exercise, body weight, and body fat distribution.  He is a Full Professor at Queen’s University, and the Director of their Centre for Obesity Research and Education.  (Full Disclosure: He was also the supervisor for my MSc, and Peter’s MSc and PhD)

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of hearing both Dr Freedhoff and Dr Ross speak on numerous occasions, and they are both highly entertaining and charismatic presenters.  Although this debate will focus on the science behind weight management, it will be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject – if you read Obesity Panacea or Dr Freedhoff’s blog Weighty Matters, this debate will definitely be of interest to you.  In particular, if you are a dietitian (or nutritionist), personal trainer, physician, nurse practitioner, or any other health care worker who deals with obesity and weight management on a regular basis this event will be extremely useful to you.

The debate will take place from noon until 1:30pm on May 12 in Room 2005 in the Roger Guindon building at the University of Ottawa Health Sciences Complex (the building is sandwiched between the Ottawa General Hospital and the CHEO).  For a map of the site, click here.  The event is FREE, and light refreshments will be provided.

If you are in the Ottawa-Gatineau area (or within driving distance), then I highly recommend that you come to the event in person.  These two men are two of Canada’s most highly respected obesity experts, and it’s an amazing opportunity to hear them debate this topic live.

For those who can’t make it to Ottawa on the 12th, we will also be live-streaming the event using Talk Shoe.  The live-stream will begin at 11:55 am on May 12th, and you can logon here.  We are working on live-streaming video of the event as well, but this is a bit more technically challenging – if we manage to get the video stream working I will be sure to let everyone know where they can tune-in.

UPDATE:  We will now be live-streaming the video through Justin.tv.  You can see the debate live at Justin.tv/travissaunders, or simply watch it on the video player that I have embedded below.  The broadcast will begin at about 11:55 to make sure that everything is up and working before the debate itself gets going.

Watch live video from travissaunders on Justin.tv

We will also be recording both video and audio of the debate, which will be posted here following the event.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the 12th!  We are expecting a good turn-out and have limited seating, so please come a few minutes early if you want to make sure you can find a seat and a free snack!


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12 Responses to Exercise vs Diet – A Live Debate (May 12 @ uOttawa)

  1. If you come with low expectations, I promise not to let you down!

  2. WRG says:

    Coke or Pepsi?

    I think it’s the wrong debate.

    Since we know that for 95% of people, diets don’t work in the long term–or even the medium term–or often, even in the short term and since we know that in many (most) cases, people end up weighing even more after dieting than before the diet started, why are we asking this question?

    On the other hand, we know that even moderate, regular exercise yields tangible results in terms of overall health, though it probably does little to bring about significant weight loss.

    So why aren’t we encouraging people to do moderate, regular exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet that stresses good nutrition rather than weight loss? They probably won’t lose much (or any) weight, but they’ll definitely be healthier.

    I’d elaborate more, but I just don’t have the time.

    • Scott L says:

      I wish I could make it to this debate. But I hope the consensus is that both nutrition and exercise are important to weight loss and maintenance. Ideally, people should focus on both aspects as this combination is a winning combo.

    • Travis says:

      I should clarify – when we say diet we’re not referring to “a diet” (Atkins, The Zone, etc), we’re referring simply to a healthy, balanced diet.

      We’ve spoken quite a bit with both Yoni and Bob, and I think you’d probably be happy with the direction of the discussion. We’re trying to leverage the fact that the media is always setting up this “diet vs exercise” dichotomy as an excuse for Yoni and Bob to discuss what actually works, both for health and for weight management (e.g. not just weight loss but also weight maintenance). I don’t think anyone expects that either diet or exercise alone is the answer, but since it’s typically framed that way by the media we thought it would be an interesting jumping off point.

  3. WRG says:

    Sorry I can’t be there. You need to come to TO some time!

  4. Queen's University CONSNP Chapter says:

    For those in Kingston, the Queen’s University Chapter of the Canadian Obesity Network – Student and New Professionals will be showing a stream of the event in Room 103 of the Kinesiology and Health Studies Building (corner of Division and Union)

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for spreading the word! We’re doing a dry-run tomorrow to test the video and audio. I’ll keep you posted!


      • Queen's University CONSNP Chapter says:

        Let me know if you want me to try and access the stream from here (it’s Atif).

  5. edSanDiego says:

    If you are trying to lose a lot of weight, exercise is the first option because it lifts the mood and gets metabolism up, creating a positive attitude.

    This is essential as being overeat is a depressive event for people and it can drag down their motivation. Being active feels like you are making progress and helping to change your circumstances.

    Research shows that you can be overweight or obese (BMI over 25) and be biologically healthier than someone who is within what is regarded as an ideal weight range (BMI between 19-22) if you exercise.

    Without exercise, physical health significantly reduces, on average, beyond a BMI of 28. This is where the figures linking BMI and mortality are flawed, exercise is the key determinant.

    So for health and weight loss reasons exercise trumps diet (except for those that allow themselves to believe that they can eat more because they are using more calories up – they tend to gain weight with exercise).

    However, the classic Canadian study into the impact of television shows that people naturally gravitate to sedentary lifestyles given freedom of choice.

    On this basis, for ordinary lifestyle purposes diet trumps exercise, where the majority of the population choose to avoid excess physical activity.

    If you can sustain a healthy eating plan and work it into everyday life, and maintain portion control, over time the body well gravitate down to an approximate preset that is particular to the individual (there is no such thing as a fixed preset weight for everyone).

    Weight loss diets don’t work because they fight against the body’s homeostatic and allostatic defenses, in particular the closely monitored ratios of leptin and insulin in the hypothalamus and the stimulation of adrenal steroids because excessive dieting is stressful.

    Specific weight loss plans simply change what someone is doing for a period of time, but they revert back to old habits because you can’t live your life on a prescribed weight loss plan.

    Over the longer-term, a slow controlled decent of weight is best and the dietary components of the Mediterranean Diet have been scientifically shown to be the best overall style of eating for health and weight management, for Western preferences (Japan style diets are best overall) – http://www.mediterraneandiet.tv is targeting American and Canadian conversion to this concept.

    By adding exercise that is built into everyday life activities, versus goal directed exercise for the sake of it, and you have a happy middle ground between diet and exercise.

    I would be surprised if you find anything different.


    ps., When it comes to food, keep it real :-)

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