The obesity rate in the United States is on the rise – again. Today, about 65% of Americans are overweight and about 35% are obese. Obesity spikes a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and cancer. We as a country know that it’s a problem that needs to be solved, but as the obesity epidemic grows, so do our beliefs in myths and faux-fixes.
Take the first steps to a healthier lifestyle and country by uncovering the truth behind America’s obesity myths!
Myth: Snacking leads to weight gain and obesity.
The facts: It is widely believed that snacking throughout the day contributes to weight gain and obesity. However, studies in which groups were told to snack or not snack throughout the day have failed to make a connection between snacking and weight. Using unhealthy snacks to supplement an unhealthy diet, though, should definitely be avoided. Feel free to snack, but stick to healthier options. Choose raw fruit over fruit snacks or baked chips over their greasier, saltier fried counterparts.
Myth: Regularly eating breakfast keeps you at a healthy weight.
The facts: We’ve been told through magazines, Internet articles, and television ads that regularly eating breakfast leads to a slimmer waistline. However, two randomized controlled studies found no connection between weight and eating or skipping breakfast. So if you’ve never been a breakfast person, don’t worry! It doesn’t increase your risk of obesity or keep you from losing weight.
Myth: People with obesity can’t lose weight because they can’t control themselves.
The facts: Not only is this belief ostracizing and shaming, but it also fails to consider numerous factors aside from eating that we know affect a person’s chance of being overweight or obese. Individuals with depression, anxiety, hypothyroidism, and certain forms of cancer are much more likely to be overweight or obese than those without these illnesses. Children with divorced parents also tend to be heavier than children whose parents are happily married. Society and clever advertising also play a role in the obesity epidemic. One study found that kids eat more goldfish crackers when they watch junk food ads than when they watch other types of commercials. Another study found that just showing women a fast food commercial is enough for their brains to light up with hunger signals, even if the women just ate.
Myth: Eating more fruits and vegetables, without making any other changes, will lead to weight loss.
The facts: If you’re one of the lucky people born with a very specific genetic makeup, you may actually be able to lose weight by adding fruits and vegetables to your current diet without changing anything else. For the vast majority of us, however, adding healthy fruits and vegetables to unhealthy diets will not be enough to lose weight.
Myth: A small change can produce BIG long-term results.
The facts: This antiquated opinion stems from the 3500-kcal rule, which estimated that adding a one-mile walk to your day could lead to 50 pounds lost in 5 years. Unfortunately, the true weight loss of this theory turns out to only be about 10 pounds in 5 years. One small change may not make much of a difference in an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle, but small changes can certainly add up! Someone who starts biking their one-mile commute to work instead of driving without changing anything else in their life is not likely to see much of a difference. Someone who starts biking to work and switches from fast food once or twice a week to once or twice a month in favor of healthier meals made at home, however, is much more likely to see the desired results.
Myth: You’re more likely to gain weight back if you lose it quickly.
The facts: This myth has perpetuated from the idea that the first 10 to 15 pounds someone loses is all water weight and is therefore easy to lose and even easier to gain back. This idea, however, is completely false! In fact, trials have found that individuals who lost weight at a faster rate weighed less after five years than participants who lost weight at a slower rate.
Myth: Physical education in schools prevents obesity.
The facts: The right combination of physical activity, intensity, and duration can definitely stave off obesity and weight gain. Unfortunately, physical education programs in the United States haven’t quite figured out the magic ratio. American children with access to P.E. in school are no more or less likely to be overweight or obese than children who don’t have P.E.
Myth: The problem isn’t that we eat too much. It’s that we don’t move enough.
The facts: Before you believe this weight loss myth, consider sumo wrestlers. Their job is to work out, yet they remain overweight because they eat upwards of 10,000 calories a day. The belief that you can exercise your way to a healthy weight without changing your eating habits also goes hand-in-hand with the idea that you can lose weight as long as you burn more calories than you eat. For most of us, it would be impossible to get that much exercise into our day. Did you have a soda for lunch? You have to jog at a brisk pace for nearly 20 minutes to burn it off. Did you have one slice of pepperoni pizza with that soda? Add 272 consecutive burpees to your workout for the day. Not only is this idea completely impractical when it’s broken down, but it also ignores important factors such as tendencies toward different body types and the fact that our bodies function better on fruits and vegetables than on McDonald’s.
Educating ourselves on the facts of the obesity epidemic is the first step to fixing the problem. As we grow more knowledgeable, our rates of obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses will drop with our efforts. Whether you’re at a healthy weight, on your way there, or just starting to consider weight loss, you can always check your health quickly and easily with Labtest Diagnostics! Make an appointment by calling (314) 522-8378 or by visiting www.dlabtest.com.