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Exercise and Nutrition: A Balancing Act

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

May is Exercise is Medicine Month, an annual initiative of the American College of Sports Medicine to emphasize the essential role exercise plays in an overall plan to promote good health and prevent chronic disease.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist who taught in a cardiac rehabilitation program for 13 years alongside an exercise physiologist, I know firsthand that nutrition and exercise go hand-on-hand to support heart health. And in my own life, I also realize the importance of balancing nutrition and activity to maintain good health, feel better and allow flexibility in my food choices.

Six years ago I needed to lose about 20 pounds, so I downloaded a smart phone app to track my food intake and physical activity. The app calculates your calorie level to lose weight. As you enter your exercise, meals and snacks it keeps a running total of the calories you’ve consumed and expended along with the number you have left for the day.

 By recording my food and exercise, I successfully lost 20 pounds in four months. Once I reached my goal, the app gave me a “raise” of about 500 calories/day. The good news is I continued to track my food intake and activity every day so I’ve maintained the weight loss within ±2 pounds for six years.

And, no, I don’t feel deprived! The app makes it easy to indulge sometimes and balance it by eating fewer calories at another meal or exercising more. For instance, I love soft-serve ice cream with real sugar so I make room for a 4-ounce portion several nights a week. On the other hand, I like drinking diet soda so I save the calories I would consume in a regular soda to use for something else. If I overdo one day, my goal is to come out even on exercise and food calories at the end of the week. 

With summer right around the corner, warmer weather and longer days will make it easier to be active outdoors. Challenge yourself to move more so you can enjoy summer’s barbecues and picnics without gaining weight. Just be sure to balance the calories you eat with adequate exercise.


Neva Cochran is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition communications consultant in Dallas, Texas. A veteran media spokesperson and popular speaker she was also a 20-year freelancer for Woman’s World Weekly magazine. She is a past president of the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.

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