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NCHPAD - Building Healthy Inclusive Communities

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Individual Lifestyle Influencers


By: William H Neumeier, PhD

Presents have been unwrapped, the leftover food has been eaten, and decorations have been returned to the attic.  The holiday to-do list is complete, and now we contemplate the arrival of a new year.  Over the holidays, many of us ate more than we usually would, or ate foods we would usually avoid.  We may have traded time at the gym for time with family.  This leads us to a common thought for the beginning of a new year – “I need to lose some weight.”  Anyone who steps foot into a gym at the start of a new year must realize this is a shared line of thinking. 

There can be a lot of pressure to maintain or lose weight, so I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone of factors that influence weight loss and weight management. 

An adage is defined as a statement that expresses a general truth.  The adage for weight loss has been, “eat less and exercise more.”    How well does “eat less and exercise more” fit the definition of adage?  Eating less in conjunction with moving more almost certainly results in weight loss, so the advice meets the criteria for expressing a truth, but I would like to point out that the definition for adage uses the phrase “general truth.”  I emphasized the word, “general” because eating less and exercising more generally results in weight loss.  However, there can be a great amount of variation for how much weight is lost.  Every individual is unique, and experiences unique settings, unique lifestyles, and of course, unique genetics.  All of these unique qualities can influence the rate and amount of weight lost.  So while “eat less and exercise more” may be great for one individual, it may not work nearly as well for the next individual. 

Variation in response to weight loss strategies is commonly observed in research studies.  Eat less and move more is a strategy aimed solely at creating negative energy balance, or what could also be referred to as burning more calories than you take in.  Some studies that have attempted weight loss by reducing calorie intake and increasing energy expended have reported individuals that are resistant to weight loss via this method.  These studies believe a resistance to negative energy balance is likely due to genetic factors, but these genetic factors are still unknown.  In addition, other parts of our lifestyle or health, such as medication or job stress, may also influence one’s weight.  Aspects of our environment, such as the temperature in a room, may impact our weight.  There is a large variety of influences on an individual’s weight.  In fact, one researcher has listed 104 potential influences on an individual’s weight (http://www.downeyobesityreport.com/2015/10/the-putative-104-causes-of-obesity-update/).  Clearly, weight loss and weight management isn’t as simple as “eat less and exercise more.” 

The phrase “eat less and exercise more” is still an adage, meaning it is generally true.  It’s highly likely that consistently reducing your caloric intake and increasing your physical activity will have an effect on your weight.  However, it is almost certain that the rate at which your weight will change will be different than someone else’s.  If you have trouble shedding pounds yet feel like you’re working harder than anyone else at it, don’t blame your behaviors.  Realize that everyone is different and therefore responds differently.  Please don’t beat yourself up about it.  I encourage everyone to focus on the positive aspects of a healthier lifestyle, such as feeling better, socializing more, and of course, improved health.  I hope 2018 is a healthy year for all of us. 


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