Posts Tagged ‘Dieting’

Adults, obese and otherwise

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

PIck well and cut back your waste/waist

In my last post I explained the concept and the math behind the body mass index (BMI) approach to evaluating if your weight was normal or not (your BMI is very  well in synch with the most scientific methods of determining body fat percentages). Now I want to expand on that a bit  with some recent statistics and some thoughts on how we can lose weight if we need to. Unfortunately, some of us have lots of extra pounds we should shed if we want to have our best shot at leading long, healthy lives.

The Feb 1, 2012 issue of JAMA had a number of interesting articles on obesity. I've previously mentioned several on childhood and adolescent obesity; today I'd like to zero in on two whose focus is American adults.

Four CDC staffers, led by Katherine Flegal, PhD, published the most recent statistics from a recurring national survey with the daunting acronym NHANES. This national health and nutrition survey (the E stands for examination) started in 1971, but from 1999 on has been released results in two-year cycles. The current article from the National Center for Health Statistics, looking at the 2009-2010 NHANES data had a little good news and lots of bad news.

After 1980, until the turn of the 21st century, the prevalence (scientific term for percentage) of obesity in our population kept zooming up. Now it appears to have leveled off. I guess that's something we should be happy about, except now over 35% of adults in this country are obese. Men and women have about equally high rates of obesity and men have caught up to women in this regard over the last twelve years. Some subsets, by sex and racial groups, are even more likely to be obese or very obese.

The worst news from this article was that no group--men, women, non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics or non-Hispanic blacks--had a decrease in the prevalence of obesity in this most recent data set.

So which exercise and diet should we try?

getting enough exercise is difficult when your joints hurt

Many adults report "No Leisure-Time Physical activity." Overall, more of us are exercising, but the data vary from state to state. Those who have arthritis, fifty million in the US, need special attention or are even more likely to get no exercise. The CDC has worked with the Arthritis Foundation to develop ideas for this huge group. Going back to my review of articles on youngsters, I think for the rest of us, we could begin with simple steps, parking at the far end of the parking lot and substituting some walking for part of our screen time as two examples.

Harvard Medical School's free online HEALTHbeat publication had a review of pros and cons of various diets in its Feb 7, 2012 edition. The bottom line still is if you want to lose weight, you must cut down on your calories. The Mediterranean-style emphasis on fruits and vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates, nuts, seeds and fish may be the most effective in reducing cardiovascular and diabetic risks.

My New Year's Resolution is to keep my weight under 150 pounds. I have to work at it as I like to eat, but most of the time I've stayed away from splurges.

How about you?





Getting it off versus keeping it off

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

What should you do when your scale calls for help?

I saw an interesting New York Times article on the 26th and kept it on my Kindle. It mentioned an article which just was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on why people who succeed in losing weight often find it difficult to not regain the pounds they've lost. Prior studies have speculated that a dieter's metabolism changes with altered hormone levels bringing about increases in appetite.

I just looked at the short form of the NEJM article online; I don't subscribe to that publication anymore and will have to get the whole article at the local hospital's medical library. It's a small but significant study, done by researchers in Melbourne, Australia utilizing fifty overweight or obese patients on an extreme ten-week diet, measuring levels of a number of hormones involved in appetite both at the end of the diet period and one year later.

The goal was to have the subjects lose ten percent of their body weight. Then they were to go on a maintenance diet to keep the weight off. Only thirty-four finished the diet period with the goal weight loss, some quit the study and others lost less than 10%.

So it's really a very small group, thirty-four successful dieters, who were followed for an additional year. They started at an average of 209 pounds, ate only 500 to 550 calories a day for the initial ten-week study period and lost an average of 29 pounds (14%) of their initial weight. A year later the average patient had gained back half what they had lost and the hormone measurements, especially of leptin, ghrelin and peptide YY, all involved in appetite one way or the other, were still not totally back to normal.

Maybe that's the reason so many people gain weight back after dieting. This may not have  been a large-scale study, but it speaks volumes.

Eat a healthy diet, not a 500-calorie/day plunge

The Los Angles Times commended on the article and on dieting in general. They noted that four out of five initially successful dieters regain their weight, sometimes more than they lost by dieting. Of course most of them hadn't gone on such a stringent diet. It makes much more sense to me to lose weight gradually, a pound or so a week is a reasonable goal.

I did that back in early 2009, losing ~30 pounds, and this morning I was still 27 pounds down. I also decided to make exercise a must in my busy schedule and go to the gym six days a week on the average. I can burn ~550 calories on the recumbent bike before I do stretches and work on a few machines. I also walk our new dog twice a day for 20-30 minutes.

Many people say they can't find that much time in their day and yet they find time for TV or movies or their email.

I think it's time to change priorities; take some of the time you spend sitting and walk or exercise instead. Gradual weight loss combined with an increase in calories burned makes much more sense than going on 500-calorie diets. I'd like to see measurements of those same hormones in a group who try this approach.

Otherwise you're just paraphrasing Admiral David Farragut at the 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, "Damn those hormone levels; full speed ahead."