Friend and joint venture partner in our luxury home delivery health boxes, Shannon Bennett knows better than most about the temptations of eating badly.
Every day at his Melbourne restaurant, Vue de Monde, he is surrounded by food – much of it healthy, some of it not.
To deal with the temptation of overeating and work stresses, he runs – and often, about 40 kilometres a week.
Unlike some celebrity chefs, Bennett, 35, keeps trim and in shape. ”I’m now at that age where if you don’t do something out of work you soon put on the pounds,” he says.
”The main reason I took up running was to find better peace of mind for myself. I wanted to drop some weight, I wanted to feel healthy and I wanted to get fresh air.”
He gives equal attention to his diet for next month’s City2Sea charity run. ”It’s about good fresh ingredients done simply,” he says. ”I’m never about heavy sauces and loads of butter. I’m conscious of it all the time when I’m cooking.”
But which is more important for losing weight: diet or exercise? While many runners favour exercise, recent studies suggest you may be better off cutting kilojoules. One US study in 2009 tested four groups of overweight women: three of them had to exercise each week for 72, 136 and 194 minutes respectively, while the fourth did no exercise. After six months, women in all four groups had lost the same amount on average, regardless of exercise.
The Dieticians Association of Australia argues that cutting kilojoules is the best way to shed weight, while exercise will help maintain those losses.
”Often you find that people lose 1000 kilojoules on a long walk or a jog and it really doesn’t take a lot to consume 1000 kilojoules in food,” says a spokeswoman, Melanie McGrice.
”All they have to do is put another 100 grams on their plate for dinner and they’ve eaten more than they’ve burnt off. The problem is that Australians are now consuming such high-kilojoule diets that the amount of exercise they’d have to do is unrealistic.”
But Tim Crowe, a nutrition lecturer at Deakin University, takes a different line. Exercise can deliver weight loss, as long as you are prepared to work.
”Realistically, the amount of exercise needed to make an impact on weight loss is between 60 to 90 minutes a day. Yes, that will work, but for most people that’s not realistic at all.”
Cutting kilojoules as well as exercising is the best approach, he says. ”It makes obvious sense: eat healthier, eat less and get active.”
Many people do neither: the proportion of adults who exercised regularly fell from 31 per cent to 28 per cent between 2001 and 2008, the Australian Bureau of Statistics says. The proportion with a healthy body mass index fell over the same period from 47 per cent to 42 per cent, while those considered obese increased from 16 per cent to 21 per cent.
Bennett, who aims to run the 14-kilometre City2Sea in less than an hour, believes exercise should be matched by healthy eating.
”If you are overweight you’ve got to run to lose weight,” he says. ”But you’ve got to still be disciplined after you’ve done your run. Running is only half the discipline. If your body is craving food, then just eat good things – bananas and apples and salads.”
Men are especially at risk, he says. ”Men are always the ones who will go for carbohydrates, processed carbohydrates and we’re all guilty of that.”
There is one source of kilojoules he especially avoids: ”Alcohol is the one thing I find that does upset my metabolism and energy levels.”