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Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows

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I'm confused... isn't this totally the OPPOSITE of what we've been told for the last 10 years or so?!?! What about all those charts of supersized meals?? What about everyone pointing out that it's much easier to cut calories from diet than exercise the weight away?

It's not an either/or. Exercise and diet both matter:

Surprisingly, however, the number of calories consumed per day did not change significantly. Nonetheless, diet remains a proven and important component of health, and participants may have been tempted to under-report how much they ate, Ladabaum said.

He added that, although the reported average caloric intake did not change substantially during those periods, it didn’t mean that the number of calories consumed were optimal. “We simply did not detect a substantial increase over time,” he said, noting that caloric intake and physical activity are both important determinants of weight.

Both obesity and abdominal girth, which the team analyzed independently, contribute to a variety of well-documented conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as increased mortality.

In 2010, 61 percent of women and 42 percent of men had too much belly fat, up from 46 percent and 29 percent in 1988. In addition, the waists of even normal-weight women swelled between 1988 and 2010, the study showed.

Ladabaum noted that the study did not follow one group of participants over that 22-year span; instead, the data came from different samples in each survey cycle. But the samples are constructed to be representative of the population.

In an accompanying editorial, the journal’s managing editor, Pamela Powers Hannley, MPH, called the study “a clarion call.”

Obesity is a complex, multifaceted problem linked to a variety of societal factors, Hannley said in an interview. “There are societal and economic forces at work that we must address,” she said. “Take, for example, the struggle of single mothers who are trying to balance work and child care. They may lack the time or resources to exercise. We shouldn’t assume that people are just lazy. Their lives might be overwhelming to them.”

and it's REALLY HARD to exercise when you're fat.  just to move your body is hard.  so i found it works best to start with food reduction (at least until you feel lighter and more mobile) and slowly work up to increased amounts of exercise.

yes!  if you can, walking is a great way to start exercising!  i started with swimming, which was more like bobbing around the pool!

If swimming was bobbing it would be more fun!

I also wonder if "diet" foods have partially been responsible in keeping caloric intake constant, though they are not exactly nourishing.  I've read that artificial sweeteners can actually cause weight gain because they disrupt your metabolism - but your overall intake from a calorie perspective might not be any higher.

that's a great point, patricia.  people get used to eating a certain amount, and just because they've replaced their sugar with aspartame does not mean they've reduced their food or calorie intake.

the real issue, i think, is that people dislike being hungry!  but you'll have to handle hunger if you want to lose weight.

How do you learn to handle hunger? Just power through it?

i just redefine it: hunger is my body's way of announcing it is losing weight!  hooray!

That's good. That's real good! And pain is just weakness leaving the body.

pain is weakness leaving the body

that sounds like giving birth!

I've heard that giving birth is painful but not so painful that all women stop after one child. 

it's guaranteed to end!  so that makes it bearable.

Everything ends but not everything is bearable.

well, birth is intended to be bearable.  it's the only way to make more people!  but other things, yes, might break us.

Actually, if I were designing the universe I would make birth as pleasant as the process that leads to pregnancy. That birth would be something to look forward to!

pregnancy and birth were so awful for me that i cried like a baby when i found out i was pregnant again!

if it felt good, there would be WAY TOO MANY of us!!!

You know, that's a very good point. The pain keeps the population down.

A lot of the past research (and even the research today) looks like someone assumes that obesity is a single variable equation - but our bodies are way more complex than we understand. Exercise has a huge array of side benefits - which aren't well researched.There's no silver bullet here - it's a grind and a lifestyle change and a constant questioning of the literature, ourselves, and what works.

thank you bill, you said that very well!

Is it fair to say many hours each day need to be spent mindfully?

That vigilance is the price of managing our bodies?

it is a lifestyle change for sure.  and you do need to be mindful of what you eat and how much you are moving, but i don't think you need to dedicate many hours a day to it.  in fact, for me, that is when diets become too much work and fail.  my method is to accept that i have no willpower, eliminate ALL the junk food from my house, and make sure i get sweaty from exercise everyday!

"Eliminate ALL the junk food and Get Sweaty from Exercise everyday" is too long for a band name. 

But it might make a fine book title.

Or a tee shirt. 

for a band, we could shorten it to "dump junk food and get sweaty!"

Or just, "Dump Junk and the Sweaties!" :)

This page is getting long:

hahaha!  yes!  the sweaties will be rocking out hard!

"Dump Junk and the Rockin' Sweaties"?

It's a discipline and responsibility until it becomes play. It's also a long term investment - being healthy is way cheaper in the long run.

that's right, bill!  "discipline and responsibility" are exactly the two words my coach used!

Not to be Debbie Downer, but if there are three terms that average Americans avoid the most they would be: discipline, responsibility, and long-term investment.

hahaha!  so true.  it's so easy to talk the talk though!


So happy to hear from you :-)

Let me introduce you to my best friend - FUN!!!

Like many TV hosts before, I've replaced your normal morning libation with.....


Oh, wait, that's a completely different life/timeline...

Like anything - it's easy if you either A) know how or B) can handle tiny experiments (if you answer "no" to both I'm sorry).

Here's how: everything is fun to someone. Anything can be fun to everyone - given the appropriate reward. Opposite world: anything can be horrid given the appropriate punishment....

I suck at discipline, responsibility, and longterm investing - it's always about the fun and reward. 

Anyone can hack their brain - my rates are reasonable.....

this is great, bill!

Let me know when you've convinced the American masses that exercise and a healthy diet are FUN! In fact, you won't even need to let me know because I'm sure you'll be so rich and famous that I'll just admire you from afar. Good luck! Pay no attention to the VAST INDUSTRIES that exist to convince us from a young age that watching movies, playing video games, and eating Hot Pockets is the epitome of fun.

being fit and healthy is like a well-kept secret, one that opens all kinds of doors to fun and opportunity!

hot pockets...  hahaha!  what a name.

Hi Halibut :-)

I think this is one of the "secrets of the illuminati". 

I don't have any evidence (and if I did, I'd have to deny anyway) but since it's working for me, a bunch of aging surfers and rock climbers, ultra-marathoners, and all the gray haired mountain bikers; I think we have a reasonable start. 

If not, I'm happy to be the oldest guy in the lineup.

Just as a data point - my somewhat sloppy following of my own philosophy has given me the following: age 54, no medical issues or drugs, at rest pulse in the low-mid 40s, bodyweight +25 lb chin-ups, bodyweight +25 lbs dips. I suck at squats and bench press :-)

here's my data: age 37, no medical issues or drugs, at rest pulse 69, bodyweight 2 chin-ups, bodyweight 3 push-ups. i don't do squats or bench press, but i do carry around 35-lb toddlers a lot.

don't be jealous of my sweet muscles!

awesome :-)

Although I am delighted at the good health both of you enjoy -- mazel tov for real! -- can I just gently suggest that there is a lot of luck involved? I actually do have serious medical issues and need to take drugs... and furthermore my problems were potentially caused by working out (brain aneurysms often form in young healthy athletes, maybe due to the constant cycle of extremely elevated blood flow and recovery). Sometimes you can do everything right and still suffer from health issues, and you can't tell by looking at someone whether they are healthy.

But also, the truth is I was overall a lot happier when I was fatter. I don't know about you, but no matter how much fun I have doing active stuff... you have a wider group of friends to choose from if you do some non-active stuff too. Also, honestly, the people I know who like drinking wine and eating Italian food are WAAAYYYY more interesting than the gym rats I know (including myself) who sit home with their recovery shakes and kale. What person of intelligence wouldn't rather talk to someone who reads a lot than someone who can squat their bodyweight?!?! Unfortunately it's less of a choice for me than it used to be.

that's a great point, joyce.  i am very happy that you shared that you were happier when you were fatter.  i really did not like being fat, when i was 80 pounds heavier than now, and i kind of just assumed that would be the case for most people.  but we are all different.  we are all on different journeys learning different lessons.  thanks for the gentle reminder!

and the fact that luck and genes are involved reminds me of this:

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