As I mentioned last week, according to a recent study, although the percentage of American adults who are overweight or obese keeps climbing upward, the percentage of Americans who are attempting to lose weight is now on the decline. The reasons for this decline remains open to speculation, but recent news of the percentage of overweight and obese people who relapse following a dieting plan surely plays a role in creating both discouragement and a sense of resignation for those struggling with this issue.
The highly publicized result of a recent study of contestants on the TV series "The Biggest Loser" is a case in point. Six years after dropping an average of 129 pounds over the course of a season, the study found that contestants had regained 70 percent of their lost weight since the show's finale. What is lost in this news is the fact that this pattern is not exclusive to those with serious weight issues. According to experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, as many as 95 percent of people who lose at least a tenth of their body weight tend to gain it back and then some within a year.
Generally, when people go on a diet and voluntarily eat less food, most are able to lose at least some weight. What often happens is that, with the passage of time, for many people body weight creeps back up to the same level as before the dieting began. Experts have long believed body weight to be controlled or maintained by what they call a "set point"; that the amount of body fat and body weight we carry as adults is relatively stable.
In other research conducted by the Mayo Clinic, they note that the number of fat cells in a person's body increases through childhood and adolescence and generally stabilizes in adulthood. Meanwhile, these fat cells seem to only change in one direction, and that is up. Researchers theorize that the fact that fat cell numbers can be increased but not decreased most likely contributes to the body's drive to regain weight after weight loss.
There is also a belief that, rather than being permanently fixed, your weight set point can change. And that brain activity is a major factor affecting body fat set point; that there are brain circuits that, if manipulated, have selective effects on body fat. While current research continues its march forward in helping us achieve healthy weight control, no study has yet to locate where this elusive set point resides and the best way to recalibrate it.
One thing all of this research makes clear is that this notion that people can control their metabolism by merely making a decision to gain or lose weight, that weight control is merely a moral decision, must stop. Lots of factors influence weight beyond diet and exercise. We need to stop shaming people who can't control their weight or shaming ourselves when we fail at it as well; or, for that matter, resist taking on a sense of moral superiority when we succeed.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. We're all in this together. We all need to do everything in our power to achieve and maintain a healthy weight as a quality of life issue. And what we can control is to do all in our power to eat well and move around as much as we can.
Being overweight and obese is associated with a higher risk of heart problems. Yet when considering overweight and obese people who also exercised regularly, a current report the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that their heart disease rates were similar to those of normal weight people who also exercised. Exercise, in effect, canceled out the negative effects of weight when it came to heart disease. This is significant when you consider that, according to a study, low fitness by itself is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States.
Another study found that for those trying to lose weight or to keep it off, the temptation to overeat was strongest when eating with others in social settings. People tend to change weight when the food environment changes. Not only can unhealthy habits spread from person to person, but healthy habits as well; habits like exercise and smart food choices. According to Dan Childs, managing editor of the ABC News Medical Unit and co-author of "Thinfluence," a growing body of research points to how social contagion (connecting with friends who share your goals) can serve as a basis for the transmission of healthy lifestyle habits.
In that spirit, let's start by exercising daily and cutting back on sugary drinks, on junk food and highly processed carbohydrates. When you reduce processed carbohydrates your insulin levels decrease and insulin is considered by nutritionists as the ultimate fat cell fertilizer. Increase the protein in your diet as well as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You can do it. Let's not give up.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.