How We Get Fat: JAMA Study Sheds Light

How we get fat is devastating because it’s so insidious.  It is a failure of a several small things which gradually creep their way onto our bodies.  From what we eat to how we move, a study of over 120,000 people shows us that it’s death by a thousand cuts, not one big event.

This quote from the lead researcher blew me away …

“This is the obesity epidemic before our eyes,” said study author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and the division of cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “It’s not a small segment of the population gaining an enormous amount of weight quickly; it’s everyone gaining weight slowly.”

How We Gain Weight

Here are some bullet points focusing on the main culprits.  The below is a combination of lifestyle and food choices, and the weights listed reflect gains over the course of a four- year period …

  • People who sleep less than six hours per night or more than eight gain weight
  • We gain on average 0.31 pounds per hour of TV we watch each day
  • Eating potato chips regularly can cause 1.69 pounds of weight gain
  • Eating french fries results in 1.28 pounds
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages add on another 1.0 pounds (this means soda and other “power drinks”)
  • Unprocessed red meats equal 0.95 pounds
  • Processed meats are 0.93 pounds (think deli meat)
  • One alcoholic drink per day is 0.41 pounds

How people keep it off

No shocker here; the foods that were the most effective at preventing weight gain were fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.  It’s not like we don’t know what to do.

I feel the need to defend the potato here a little bit.  It’s not the actual potato that is the culprit, it’s what we turn it into with french fries and chips.  Clearly we need to leave the potato chips in the grocery store and order the side salad instead of the fries at the restaurant.

All these little things that we do, that we think won’t do much harm, actually do add up.  The fact is we need to eat more healthfully and exercise more.  We need to turn off the TV and go for a walk around the block instead.  Better yet, a jog.

One last little kicker: the article also mentioned caloric intake has increased by 10% for men and 22% for women between 1971 and 2004.  Kinda makes the obesity epidemic obvious, doesn’t it?

A Challenge

So what are you doing to do about it?  Are you going to think twice before you reach for the chips the next time you’re in the grocery store?  Are you going to pick a salad instead of a deli sandwich for lunch today?  We are each in control of our own destiny and our own waistline.  You have some simple, but consistent, choices to make.  Are you going to do it?