Competency: Weight Control
Haven’t you heard that all your life? Everything in moderation! Another version is, “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.” Simple physics! Turns out both are wrong. This is the key to the vast majority of us getting overweight. In a gigantic landmark study that data mines the three largest ongoing health and nutrition studies out of Harvard that are following 120,877 health care professionals, Dr. Mozaffarian found some critically important ideas that turn a lot of our biases on their heads.
First of all, he started with folks that were normal weight. He examined just what it was in habit and lifestyle that tended to pack on the pounds over the years. The average person in the study only gained 3.4 pounds every 4 years. After 20 years, however, that was 16.8 pounds. And those who ate potato chips regularly gained the most (1.69 pounds), or potatoes (1.28 lbs) or sweetened beverages (1.0 pounds) or red meat (.95 pounds) or processed meat (.93 pounds) compared to folks who didn’t eat those foods.
What this identifies is that a calorie is not a calorie. That concept doesn’t take into account what your body thinks of that calorie. How much does it sate you? How much does it tempt you to have a little more? This has big implications. It debunks the old saw that “all foods are ok in moderation.” They aren’t. There are some plain bad foods. Those that don’t fill you up, that raise your blood sugar too fast and force your body to store those calories, that alter your metabolism in an inflammatory way are bad foods. It’s denial to say they are ok.
And this study proves it. It took the massive size and time of this huge ongoing study to show the process that most of us suffer through.
But it wasn’t just food that showed a gradual calorie preserving effect. Sleep was also identified as an issue. For those who got less than 7 hours of sleep a night (or more than 9) also tended to gain weight. And just watching one hour of TV a day showed up as a .31 pound weight gain. Can’t you see it coming? “Honey, don’t watch CSI or you will gain 5 ounces……over the next 4 years.”
And of course, those who exercised regularly didn’t gain anywhere near as much!
WWW. What will work for me. Well, my Grandma used to cheerfully say, “It’s all good in moderation.” I think she was talking about the carrots on my plate. Not the icecream I was waiting for. This study was with normal weight people who gradually got a bit pudgy. And it shows how they got there. The implications for those of us who are a bit pudgy and would like to go back….. no more potato chips. Eating almonds, nuts, fruits replaces baloney and pizza. Now if we could just get our kids to go along. My proverbial 41 year old mother with two kids……they do want sugar, cake, baloney and pizza. Can you sneak in walnuts, broccoli and play outdoors?
Reference: Mozaffarian, NEJM, June 24, 2011