Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight and Keep It Off?
It does seem incredibly hard to sustain weight loss. On average, most dieters are able to lose weight but appear unable to remain at goal weight for an extended period of time. The author of a recent column in the New York Times, Dr. Jean Adams, from the Centre for Diet & Activity Research, Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, wrote the column in response to recent data suggesting that the UK is following the same trajectory of obesity as the U.S.
Similar to consumers in the U.S., the UK populace is eating way too much processed foods, fat, salt, sugar, and not enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The result of that diet has been a significant uptick in obesity. The doctor suggests that there are two ways to deal with dietary change. Experts can provide education, support, encouragement, and suggest an outline for a healthy daily diet or efforts can be made to make eating a healthy diet more accessible. The UK Chancellor recently announced a tax on sugary drinks, pretty much taking the UK community by surprise. It’s believed that the extra cost will discourage frequent purchases.
This latest step follows a Change4Life campaign that started in the UK in 2009, pushing a message of “eat well, move more and live longer,” which also featured colorful messaging and cartoon characters. Dr. Adams contends that calorie labeling on foods and menus is smart, but people still have to be willing to notice and read the information, and they need to be able to find foods that are tasty and affordable and meet the dietary criteria of “calorie-wise and healthy.”
This all requires three important realities – time, motivation and energy. And the person has to be willing to make food choices with those three guiding principles, each and every time they eat. That is a pretty tall order for most people. You know who is going to do it? It’s likely not going to be the average person struggling with weight, but rather dedicated health fanatics and researchers motivated by their food findings.
That’s sort of the problem with offering this heavy load of education and information and telling people exactly what to eat. It’s probably lost on those who need it most, and works best for the people who have loads of motivation and are already doing it. Researchers have found that food labels and menus with calorie counts have little impact on lower socioeconomic groups, who are likely to be overweight or obese and who are mostly eating a high calorie, unhealthy but cheap diet.
To be fair, financial challenges, the cost of fresh produce, the stress of dealing with day-today stressors and the need to “feel full in the moment, in case the next meal doesn’t come,” favors cheap, unhealthy food choices. These same challenges exist here in the U.S. By no means should the effort to educate consumers be limited or cease; nor should the effort to provide easily readable food information. But other elements need to change including:
• Restrictions on unhealthy food promotions and advertising, in all media sectors.
• Limiting the number of fast food restaurants in lower socio-economic neighborhoods
• Promoting safe outdoor exercise and playtime
Programs like HealthCorps and HCU which are offered in select inner city schools and schools located in economically-challenged neighborhoods, supply education and support to the teen population struggling with obesity and these difficult economic realities.
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