I’ve devoted a lot of time here in the Reality Health Check to debunking some of the myths that are driving our country’s obesity crisis. And the “calories in, calories out” misconception that frames modern dietary advice remains one of the most persistent.
But weight loss—and weight gain, for that matter—isn’t nearly so simple. Failing to account for the many other contributing factors is just one of many mistakes that have made reversing the obesity epidemic appear increasingly hopeless.
And now, new research supports this stance better than any lecture from me ever could…
You can’t outrun obesity
Exercise researchers from Brigham Young University recently recruited 120 new college freshmen for a step-counting experiment.
Over their first six months of school, subjects walked either 10,000, 12,500, or 15,000 steps for six days a week. Meanwhile, researchers kept track of the students’ calorie intake and weight.
The goal here was to see whether increasing step counts above the minimum of 10,000 steps per day would help ward off weight gain. Subjects wore pedometers around the clock, and averaged around 9,600 steps daily, prior to the study.
By the end of the study, average step counts ranged from 11,000 to 14,500 steps per day.
But in the end, it made no difference whether the students walked more—even if they were topping 15,000 steps a day. Because the study participants gained an average of about 3.5 pounds over the course of the study anyway.
So, the takeaway here is clear: Increasing your steps may keep you more active. But relying solely on exercise isn’t enough to keep your weight from creeping up.
And let me remind you: These are college freshman! Sure, they’re up against the dreaded “freshman 15.” But I don’t have to tell you that staying trim only gets trickier from there, especially once you hit 40.
A better way to battle the bulge
We all know by now that taking 10,000 steps a day is an important metric for good health—and as I’ve explained here before, even adding a mere 2,000 extra steps a day has the power to save your life.
So needless to say, these findings don’t mean that exercise doesn’t matter. Because it does matter… a lot. Sitting disease is as real as it ever was, and a sedentary lifestyle kills.
In this case, subjects in the highest step groups reduced sedentary time by as much as 77 minutes per day. Which is why I always tell you that, if nothing else, at least make time for a 20-minute walk after dinner every night… and get up and move every chance you get.
But the ugly truth when it comes to the obesity epidemic is that the modern food supply is the main culprit. And if you want to keep weight off—much less lose it—your journey needs to start with your diet. (No matter what story the spin doctors over at Coke’s headquarters try to tell you.)
The list of weight saboteurs runs the gamut—from sugar to diet sodas to ultra-processed food. All of which I’ve tackled here at one time or another.
But there’s also the simple fact that it’s a whole lot easier to consume calories than it is to burn them off. And all too often, dieters will use a vigorous workout as an excuse to “reward” themselves with a treat that sets them two steps—if not much, much farther—back.
So if we really want to eliminate obesity in this country? Focus on a healthy, balanced diet. And throw out the “calories in, calories out” nonsense. Because the fact is, counting calories just isn’t going to cut it.
Luckily, a better approach is making its way to the table lately—and new research shows that this one particular change might actually be effective. But I’m all out of space for today, so tune back in tomorrow…
P.S. Obesity can lead to a whole slew of chronic health issues. And now, research suggests that six different cancers are striking earlier than ever, as I disclose in the October 2019 issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter (“Cancer diagnoses in younger Americans reach a terrifying, all-time high”). Not yet a subscriber? Become one today!
“10,000 steps a day: Not a magical formula for preventing weight gain: Even far eclipsing 10K steps didn’t prevent weight gain for college freshmen studied.” Science Daily, 02/13/2020. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200213160107.htm)