The body doesn't lie.
We've all eaten a little too much. If we've done any exercise, then it is likely standing in line during Black Friday (or clicking the mouse on Cyber Monday). We should not be shocked about some weight gain. Although my patients find it hard to believe, the body doesn't lie and are stunned that they continue to gain weight in subsequent office visits. It can't be due to anything they are doing.
It must be due to a medical problem. Aside from hypothyroidism, low thyroid levels which can be determined by a simple blood test, or other even less common illnesses like Cushing's disease, the reality is that the vast majority of individuals I see who are overweight or obese simply due to their dietary and caloric intake. Simply put, they eat more than they burn.
It isn't necessarily due to a lack of willpower. The majority of patients who are obese (body mass index or BMI of 30 or greater) report to me that they were normal weight at the end of high school. Decrease activity, disability, and pregnancy are some reasons patients are heavier than years past. Many not only are surprised about their weight gain, but also on how difficult it is to lose.
Why is it more difficult to lose? Caloric intake or eaten exceeds that which is expended or burned off. It doesn't take much.
A typical American is supposed to take in only 2000 calories per day. Sounds like a lot, but it isn't. An In and Out cheeseburger with cheese, fries, and a soda is 1100 calories. A Subway 6" cold cut combo, mayonnaise, soda, and chocolate cookie will add another 950 calories. Eat one for lunch and the other for breakfast and one has already exceeded the 2000 calorie daily limit. Not a lot of food.
Many of my patients who work construction don't realize how many calories they eat when going out to lunch. A typical Burger King double whopper with cheese, large fries, and large regular soda equals 1890 calories! Yet, they don't feel like they overeat. Nevertheless, the body doesn't lie and neither does the scale (although many of my patients swear that our office scale isn't accurate).
Portion sizes have increased over the past couple of decades. Despite well meaning public initiatives like having nutritional and calorie information available on menus, it is doubtful that alone will help change behavior. What is needed isn't the calories, but how much physical activity one needs to do to burn off the extra calories.
Image if a slice of pizza came with the disclaimer, each slice requires a 30 minute walk. With activity listed rather than calories, individuals would begin asking themselves whether second helpings, supersizing meals, or even finishing the entire meal (rather than taking it home) would be a good idea.
Since it only takes 3500 calories to equal a pound. Any calories left unused the body dutifully begins storing for a rainy day (which doesn't occur as much industrialized countries as it does other places around the world). Since the rainy day never comes, your increased fat stores result in a heavier weight.
Unless the food and restaurant industry voluntarily decreases portion sizes, then expect more Americans to be heavier and less healthy. Cases of obesity and type 2 diabetes are occurring at an alarming rate. It is expected that children born since 2000, will be the first generation of Americans not to live as long as their parents. While type 2 diabetes affects about 1 in 4 adults over age 65, for children born at the beginning of this century the rate will be 1 in 3.
Is it the food and restaurant industries fault for the obesity epidemic? Regardless of what you believe, it is unlikely that significant changes in health will be the result of those organizations making substantial changes. Americans demand cheap food that is quick and convenient.
So the world is against you in maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if you are overweight or obese).
What can you do? Some simple ideas:
- Purchase some frozen lunches / dinners with the Weight Watchers, Healthy Choice, South Beach labeling. Save the containers and use those as your new plates. Don't pack in the food. Don't go for seconds.
- Switch to diet sodas or zero calorie drinks like water or tea.
- If drinking fruit juices, consider diluting the amount with water.
- Never ever supersize anything. Consider having children sized meals or smaller versions.
- Avoid packaged foods like chips, cookies, candies etc., and opt for fruits.
- Hold off on second helpings (and don't simply double the size of the first helping).
Learn more about calories and more importantly how much activity you must do to burn off the calories to maintain or lose weight by reviewing the Portion Distortion quiz by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and other information by the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services.
Remember, the body doesn't lie.
Check with your doctor if you have special dietary needs or diabetes whether the above dietary adjustments are safe to do. Make the changes permanent. It's a lifestyle change. Don't expect friends or family necessarily to follow suit. It really is building a system that you can do consistently daily in response to a society which encourages more food and calories.
Any other helpful tips or ideas?