Stop Gaining More Weight
Overall, babies are not born obese. With (too many) exceptions, we enter this world healthy. That tends to remain the norm as we suckle breast milk and continue to grow. But at some point diet and lifestyle change away from healthy eating. We eat processed food that is loaded with fats and salts that we crave naturally. We eat for stress. We eat for social interactions. We skip meals. We binge. How can stop gaining more weight and get back to the balance with which we were born?
Here’s what Bleich wrestles with: We are almost powerless to fight an industry that profits from loading foods with sugar, salt, and unhealthful fats that we are hardwired to crave. Telling people what to eat — and what not to eat — often backfires.
“We know that about a third of adults and a fifth of kids are overweight or obese,” she said. “We know that if you have excess body weight, it increases your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, along with a host of other adverse health conditions. As a result, obesity is very expensive: $150 billion a year in direct medical costs.
“To actually make a difference, we have to look at the broader environment, specifically all these cues that are trying to get us to eat more and exercise less. How can we make the environment healthier? What can we do to keep people from gaining more weight?
”The first food items you see when you walk into the Dollar General not far from Bleich’s Radcliffe office are racks of supersized bags of Lay’s potato chips, Hostess snack cakes, and mini-donuts. It takes some searching to find a single unprocessed food. There is no fresh produce. The most eye-catching green is on a large, cold case of Mountain Dew.
Gluten-free, keto, or paleo may be cool, but to Bleich, calories are key. “If you look at adults in the U.S. and across the developed world, we’re getting bigger because we eat too much, not because we exercise too little,” she said. “Of all the single behavior changes you could make, there’s probably the most evidence that drinking fewer sugary beverages would reduce your risk for obesity.”
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