Weight management is a multi-billion dollar industry in this country alone. However, most “diets” or “weight management programs” have a less than 5% long term success rate. Yes, people who follow any of these lose weight, BUT the vast majority gain it back over anywhere from a few months to 5 years. Often, the weight that is lost is mostly water and muscle and very little fat, while the weight regain is at least 25% fat.
Obesity has been shown to be associated with many health problems. BUT, weight is only one symptom that MAY be due to unhealthy lifestyle habits. What if we focused on changes in lifestyle and understanding our body’s hunger and fullness cues and totally ignored weight? That is a radical thought in this society, but more and more people are getting on board with a non-diet approach to “weight management” (check out the health at every size website http://haescommunity.com/haes/).
Lifestyle Issues Associated with Poor Health AND Weight gain
Let’s look at things that can make us unhealthy and put us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancers, and yes, may cause weight gain…..
Low Physical Activity: There is no argument that low levels of physical activity are major factors in many chronic diseases. Increasing activity can reduce health problems whether or not we ever lose a pound! If physical activity could be made into a pill and bottled, it would be the most prescribed medicine there is.
Poor Sleep: The National Sleep Foundation (https://sleepfoundation.org/ ) tells us that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Inadequate sleep is related to many health and behavioral issues. Some of these are heart disease, metabolic syndrome, lack of alertness, learning difficulties, attention deficit disorder, accidents as well as excessive weight gain in adults and children. Whether our lack of sleep is due to problems getting to sleep and staying asleep after we go to bed, OR just not getting to bed early enough, it is putting us at risk for poor health. Poor sleep is definitely something you want to discuss with your physician!!
Mindless eating: When we are eating on the run, in front of our computers or TV, as a way to deal with emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, frustration…); or, if we graze instead of eating regular meals and snacks, we are eating “mindlessly”. We end up eating foods that are low in nutrients but high in calories. We can actually end up being overweight, but malnourished; and, we never really know when we are hungry and when we are full. Eating at the table for all meals and snacks, and with other people when possible can help us to eat more healthily.
High calorie processed food intake: Eating a lot of highly processed foods results in low intakes of many vitamins and minerals and fiber and high intakes of refined carbohydrates, sugar, salt and saturated fats. A high processed food diet puts us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, constipation, and GI problems such as diverticulosis and diverticulitis. This is a common problem in our society, because our busy lives make it difficult to take time to prepare and eat healthy, balanced meals.
What can we do?
Each of the above problems cause a variety of health issues as well as weight gain. If we focus on physical activity, adequate sleep, healthy eating, eating mindfully and tuning into our body’s hunger and fullness cues many of our health issues will improve or resolve. We will feel much better about ourselves, whether or not we lose weight. If we go on some diet and lose weight but do not fix the above lifestyle problems or learn to understand our appetites, any health benefits will evaporate as we regain the weight.