Weight loss is an cultural obsession. The national conversation about it has become a cacophony of claims and inducements for products and diet programs, and promises from their providers.
Information from experts—real and self-proclaimed—flows forth on a daily basis, with each new “discovery” or study contradicting the one preceding it. In such a chaotic environment, many distortions, half-truths and total falsehoods have become repeated so often that far too many people accept them as gospel.
You’ve undoubtedly heard people say many times, in many variations: “I eat like a bird and my husband eats like a pig. But I’m fat and he’s not. My metabolism is too slow.”
On the contrary, as body weight goes up, so does your metabolism. Big people have high metabolisms, and small, thin people have low metabolisms. We’ve known for decades that resting metabolism isn’t the cause of obesity. Data from as far back as the mid-1980s has shown the relationship between weight and basal metabolic rate.
The researchers found that persons from families with lower resting metabolic rates were no more obese than persons from families with higher metabolic rates. Subsequent research has confirmed these results.
Millions of people continue to hold onto the idea that if they just exercise hard enough, they’ll lose those pesky last 10, 5 or—yes, even 1 pound. At no time in history have people been so aware of the benefits of exercise, or had as many opportunities to work out. And yet every year we grow more obese.
Many factors control weight gain or loss. It is true that any overweight person can lose weight if they increase their energy expenditure over a sustained period of time, and that regular exercise can help them lose weight. However, there are many factors that influence whether or not an individual becomes obese, as well as whether they are able to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Such factors that have been established by scientific studies include genes, early life experience, learned behaviors, cultural and socioeconomic factors, and motivation.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that there’s a huge variability in the amount of weight lost among people doing the same routine. In the battle of the bulge you have two fists--diet and exercise. You jab with exercise, but the knockout blow comes through control of the diet. And, while he supports exercise for its myriad health benefits, adding 30 minutes of walking per day to your lifestyle, for example, typically results in very little weight loss for the average obese person.The engine of weight loss is “eating less and keeping food intake low or moderate.”
And, while it is possible to burn more calories than you can eat, you have to do an awful lot more exercise than most people realize. To burn off an extra 500 calories is typically an extra two hours of cycling. And that’s about two doughnuts.
The study followed the progress of hundreds of overweight women on exercise programs for a six-month period. One group worked out for 72 minutes each week, a second group for 136 minutes, and a third for 194. A fourth group kept to their normal daily routine with no additional exercise.
The results were shocking: There was no significant difference in weight loss between those who had exercised—some of them for several days a week—and those who hadn't. Some of the “worked-out” women even gained weight.An 18-month study focusing on childhood obesity returned similar results. Researchers found that, when the children in their experiment exercised, they ended up eating more than the calories they had just burned, sometimes 10 or 20 times as many.
As we understand more about the human genome and the powerful influence of our genes on many aspects of our body, mind and behavior, people are tempted to exaggerate the sway of our chromosomes in self-serving ways.
While our genes are most likely not responsible for the prevalence of obesity, they may give us a leg up (or down), weight-wise.
While genes strongly decide the shape of your body, peoples’ lifestyle (primarily eating too much and moving too little) is by far the main reason they’re fat. Research has shown that our eating and exercise habits are heavily influenced by the people we spend time with the most, which is likely the main reason we see obesity running in families. Genes have an influence, but it’s relatively minor for the vast majority of humans.
The truth is that because we’ve only been deconstructing the genome for a decade or so, there simply isn’t enough research to make unimpeachable claims about the genetics-obesity connection. But so far there’s no evidence that our ancient ancestors are responsible for our need for plus-size jeans.
The researchers concluded that the evidence that genes could affect the proportions of the human body had been overestimated and couldn’t explain the increase in obesity over the past 70 years. They also suggested that environmental factors, such as habitual diet, must therefore play an important role in the obesity epidemic—and there was very limited evidence that genes influenced diet.
Some future anthropologist might be able to tell a lot about our culture just by studying the extreme number of fad diets that have appeared over the past 40 years. Many people looking for a quick fix will try any new diet that comes with the appropriate media buzz, only to discover that if it seems too good to be true, it is.
Why are so many people keen to embrace the latest dietary fad? More than likely they hear about them via the media. This, of course, doesn’t make it correct.“Remember any diet is only as good as your ability to keep the weight off.”
Fad diets don’t work for many reasons, largely because they:
The research showed that the people who are most successful at weight loss were eating a diet that was roughly 20 percent protein, 25 percent fat, and 50 percent carbs. This is a diet recommended by almost all behavioral weight-loss programs.
Some obese people may still be able to live active lives and move relatively well. Others may have heard in passing of the “latest” study that downplays the health problems that they’d been told would befall them. A third group, perhaps younger, has the natural sense of immortality. Regardless, their inertia will not help them in the long run.“Next to smoking,” argue researchers, “being obese because of bad diet and exercise habits carries the heaviest disease burden.” Excess weight due to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle has a greater effect on everything from your major organs and body systems, to your hormones, bones, joints and even your sleep.”
There have been countless studies on the deleterious effects of obesity on overall health.