“Facts” about Obesity
There is so much information (and misinformation) about nutrition that it makes my head spin. Last week, the New England Journal of Medicine published a review article, “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity.” I was curious to read how this article was summarized by so many health journalists – an almost exclusive focus on Table 1 – “Seven Myths about Obesity.” After reading the entire article, I feel that Table 3, “Facts about Obesity” is just as important to share with those who struggle with their weight. Although I cannot copy and paste the authors’ entire table directly into this post, I will summarize four key concepts that apply to adults seeking to control their weight with their own resources. Quotations are statements made by the authors.
Genes are important, but they are not your destiny in terms of weight. “If we can identify environmental factors and successfully influence them, we can achieve clinically significant reductions in obesity.”
People lose weight with a lower calories intake. People do not necessarily lose weight by “going on a diet” – the key is to consume fewer calories. “…energy reduction is the ultimate dietary intervention required and approaches such as eating more vegetables or eating breakfast daily are likely to help only if they are accompanied by an overall reduction in energy intake.”
Regular exercise aids in long-term weight maintenance but the “dose” needs to be adequate.
Note: The authors did not define “sufficient dose” but other studies have reported an association between weight maintenance and 60-90 minutes of moderate intensity most days of the week (not controlling for calories tracking). For those of you who track calories, you will have an edge in this regard since you can tweak to balance calories intake with calories expended.
“Exercise offers a way to mitigate the health-damaging effects of obesity, even without weight loss.” So, even if exercise is not helping you lose weight, it is still important to do it.
Keep On Keeping On
“Conditions” (e.g. behaviors, food choices, etc.) that supported your weight loss will need to be continued in order to maintain that weight loss. Think of obesity as a chronic condition that requires lifelong management. This will ring true for those of you who have successfully lost and then maintained your weight over the long-term (e.g. years).
Ultimately, you need to discover what works for you, the individual, in terms of weight loss and maintenance. Tracking is a valuable tool for those of you willing to do it consistently and accurately. Even if you dispute the 3500 calories rule, you will still lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn over time. The cool thing is that you can run your own experiment using your own data. Tracking will open your eyes to the incredibly high caloric content of so many foods as well as provide a more realistic picture of how many calories you burn from exercise.
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Kathy Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
Consulting Dietitian for MyNetDiary
Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.