I like to eat healthily, not only when it’s convenient and the opportunity presents itself, but all the time. I compromise if there are no good options, e.g. when I’m travelling. But whenever I have the chance, I go for the most nutritious food I can find. I’m lucky that I can afford a high-quality diet, but I also make it a priority among my expenditures. Does that mean I’m obsessed with my eating habits? Hardly.
More people pay close attention to their physical health and well-being, and yet obesity rates and diseases stemming from weight problems continue to rise. While healthy eating and regular exercise have become commonplace among the educated and affluent, the less fortunate show little signs of improvement regardless of efforts by health experts and government policy makers to change their fate. In fact, studies find that the gap between the fit and the fat keeps widening.
Most of what we achieve in life is based on compromise. Getting exactly what we want is rare. Usually it’s give and take. Conflicting interests make it necessary to bargain constantly. However, we also haggle with ourselves when no one else is around to limit our options – often unconsciously. As behavioral scientists tell us, even under the best of circumstances, smart and regrettable choices balance each other out over time.
Nutrition counselors have arguably the lowest success rate among all healthcare professionals. We have plenty of repeat customers, especially after the holidays, but we are also faced with a large percentage of “drop-outs,” meaning clients who eventually give up on weight control, regular exercise, and improving their lifestyle choices. Some say, it’s not the people who are failing to heed our advice, but that the messages we give are failing the people.
When it comes to treating weight problems, even experts believe that similar methods can be applied almost universally: Put your patients on a diet, have them engage in regular exercise, and, if all else fails, recommend some surgical procedure. What gets rarely looked at are the differences between overweight individuals that may have led to their unhealthy weight gain in the first place. Only one such study has recently been published, and the results are eye-opening.
When I first started working as a registered dietitian, I gained 10 pounds in just a few short months. I was surprised, and a bit embarrassed. After all, considering my profession, I should know better, right? Even worse, my office is smack in the middle of a fitness center. So just what the heck was going on, why was I packing on extra weight? My eating habits hadn’t changed, and I was probably working out even a little more than before. But then it hit me: The pounds I was accumulating were a direct result of my new job.
A recent study published in the medical journal Obesity revealed that late night snacking may lead to weight gain. The study’s findings have been covered extensively in the news media, with most of the coverage focusing on the reports that night owls tend to eat fast food, drink sodas, and eat less fruits and veggies compared to those who go to bed earlier.
When a person begins to put on weight, especially lethal belly fat, his or her biology shifts out of balance, veering into the unstable and unhealthy territory of disease, which in turn adds more fat. A vicious, sometimes deadly, cycle ensues unless countermeasures are taken.