Here’s why clean eating is a must if you want to lose weight

It’s true that you can’t out train a bad diet. Catherine Bongiorno is living proof.

We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t out train a bad diet.” It’s the truth, dang it. I am living proof.

“You are so active and energetic. You must be able to eat anything you want without gaining weight.” The number of times I have heard these words from clients, friends, even family are too numerous to count. Due to my fitness profession and deep love of exercise, I am without question more active than most.

Surely the hours of cardio, weightlifting and jumping around I put in each week (sometimes each day) allow me to consume anything and everything without repercussion.

Imagine that. Why, I could start each day with pancakes and bacon, snack on chips and dip, wolf down a colossal burger for lunch and swing by the AM/PM for a package of Ding Dongs after my evening exercise classes. Dinner? A pepperoni calzone. And a pint of ice cream for dessert.

Like anyone else, if I eat crappy food — processed and refined carbs, sugar, heavy saturated fats — I gain weight. No one is immune to the consequences of unhealthy eating, exercise or no exercise.

Is this reality dreadful? I don’t think so. When we eat poorly, the consequences go far beyond an expanded waistline and wider hips. Though we all fret about the viewable weight gain that occurs when we don’t eat smart, we tend to disregard the less visible damage done not just to our bodies, but also our spirit and mind.

I have less energy for my workouts when I don’t make clean choices with my diet. I feel lethargic, grumpy, even anxious — and I am noticeably hungrier than usual. I get down on myself for not taking care of me. This quickly snowballs into me skipping workouts (why bother when I’m eating so poorly?) and judging myself all the more. Oh, how inertia breeds inertia.

Clean eating is a must for weight loss, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage clients not to let their appearance be the sole reason for embarking on a healthy living program. Hating your body is a terrible motivator. Yes, it’s OK to want to improve upon your appearance, but this reward is just icing on the cake. The foundation of health is how you feel when your body is strong and capable — and when your diet nourishes you rather than poisons you.

Don’t put in hours at the gym each day in hopes that you can quaff down a six-pack of beer and a super-sized fast food meal without consequences. Honor your body with wholesome food and effective workouts — not just to shrink your gut, but to benefit your heart, your blood, your arteries, your brain, your spirit — all the things we can’t see that keep us alive and ticking.

All this being said, when I eat healthy, yes, I can eat a lot without gaining weight. If you ask my husband, he’ll say “Catherine eats like a gavone.” (I haven’t mustered up the courage to Google the word “gavone,” as I am certain it is an unflattering term.) My muscular physique and active days enable me to eat ample amounts, so long as the food I consume is healthy and supports my lifestyle.

Eat clean, build muscle. Move your body as much as you can. The excess weight will come off, and you’ll love not only your appearance, but yourself.

Catherine Bongiorno is a personal trainer, nutritional therapist and owner of Lift To Lose Fitness & Nutrition. Email her at or visit for more information.

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