As an athlete, you are likely lean and fit. But with more than 60 percent of Americans being overweight or obese, you undoubtedly know someone who struggles with how to shed undesired body fat. Nutrition researchers presented alternatives to the standard "eat less and exercise more" diet advice at the American Dietetic Association convention. Here's some food for thought on non-dieting ways to tackle weight problems.
Curbing the Obesity Epidemic
Denver's Dr. James Hill believes we need to focus on stopping weight gain, as opposed to advocating for weight loss. One simple way to limit weight gain is to eat 100 to 200 fewer calories at the end of the day. This small calorie deficit contrasts to standard diets that severely restrict calories and are no fun. People on strict diets tend to stop losing weight after six months. Hill believes they dislike the drudgery of always being on a diet.
Yet, during the first six months of dieting, most dieters create new health habits—such as regular exercise—that they maintain. Exercise helps prevent (or reduce) weight regain. Surveys with "successful losers" indicate they include exercise as part of their daily routine. For some, exercise offers spiritual benefits. For others, it provides a handy opportunity to socialize with friends. Some diet-and-exercisers even become "athletes." (Sound familiar to anyone you know?)
Dr. Hill also recommends addressing the obesity epidemic by changing the way people think about weight. For example, Denver wants to become known as "America's Healthiest City." City leaders are working to create a culture where healthy eating and daily activity are the sustainable norm. Healthier employees will hopefully attract businesses to Denver because of lower healthcare costs.
Curbing Mindless Eating
Dr. Brian Wansink PhD of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab is campaigning to end mindless eating. You know, munching entire tubs of popcorn without even being hungry; nibbling on M&Ms while waiting for someone; unknowingly finishing the kid's leftovers. Just 100 extra mindless calories a day can contribute to gaining ten pounds of undesired body fat a year.
Dr. Wansink recommends we curb weight gain by making mindful decisions about the calories that end up in our mouths. Wansink reported we make about 250 food decisions a day. We decide not only what we eat (turkey or tuna sandwich? Low-fat or regular mayo?), but also how much (half or whole sandwich?). He has determined that we eat 92 percent of what we serve ourselves. Think about it: When do you stop eating? Chances are, you stop eating when your plate is empty. That means, we eat with our eyes, not with our stomachs--we don't always stop when our stomach signals it is full.