March 30, 2010, Vol. 8 Issue 3
I’m sure I’m not the only woman who was discouraged to see the story last week about women, weight and exercise. A sample headline: “Older Women Need 1-hour Workouts to Fend Off Flab.” The story said that at least an hour a day of moderate activity is needed for women at a healthy weight who aren’t dieting. If already overweight, even more exercise is needed to avoid gaining weight without eating less. Just when we think we’re doing a good job, getting that hour in, we’re told it isn’t enough. That, and the constant bantering that diets don’t work. What’s a woman to do?
Thankfully, there’s more to pay attention to here, like this, for example: the over-arching benefits of regular exercise reach far beyond the issue of weight control. The idea behind the study was actually to see if there are ways to get ahead of the obesity problem. “Because the average U.S. adult gains weight with age, developing ways to prevent unhealthful weight gain would help them avoid having to lose weight and then trying to maintain that loss. Compared with the vast body of research on the treatment of overweight and obese individuals, little research exists on preventing weight gain,” the authors wrote.
Weight A Minute: Women, Weight & Exercise
The objective of the study — published in the March 24/31 issue of the Journal of the AMA — was to examine the association between different amounts of physical activity and long-term weight changes among women consuming a usual diet. The findings were based on 34,079 middle-aged women who were followed for about 13 years. For women consuming a usual diet, physical activity was associated with less weigh gain only among women of normal weight. Women successful in maintaining normal weight averaged approximately 60 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity throughout the study. Brisk walking, leisurely bicycling and golfing are examples of moderate exercise.
The study concluded: “These data suggest that the 2008 federal recommendation for 150 minutes per week, while clearly sufficient to lower the risks of chronic diseases, is insufficient for weight gain prevention absent caloric restriction. Physical activity was inversely related to weight gain only among normal-weight women; among heavier women, there was no relation, emphasizing the importance of controlling caloric intake for weight maintenance in this group.”
To access the full study, go to JAMA.
For this issue, I asked four of our speakers, who are all experts on weight and diet, and who have read the study critically this last week, for their insights on the study’s findings. The four – each of them a Registered Dietician and an excellent speaker – are Elizabeth Somer, JoAnne [Dr. Jo] Lichten, Anne Fletcher, and Zonya Foco. Here’s what they replied:
Elizabeth Somer is a registered dietitian who has carved a unique professional niche as a dietitian well-versed in nutrition research. For the past 25 years, she has read more than 100 studies a month, packaging that information into her newsletter Nutrition Alert, easy-to-read books, magazine articles, lectures, continuing education seminars, spokesperson projects, and practical news for the media.
“The study is nothing new,” Elizabeth said. “The old recommendations to get 30 minutes most days of the week are only to help lower heart disease risk. Research has shown for some time that in order to maintain a healthy weight, especially as we get older, there is more of a time and energy commitment required. In addition, the National Weight Control Registry, an ongoing study from Brown and the University of Colorado that follows people who have successfully maintained a significant weight loss, found that once you’ve been overweight, it takes 1 1 /2 hours of exercise most days of the week to maintain a lower, healthier weight. Weight gain must alter body metabolism in some way that it takes more effort to keep the weight off.
Elizabeth agrees with the premise for the study. “So, the bottom line is – don’t gain it in the first place, and that takes some effort. The good news is, you can chalk up some good movement time by just strapping on a pedometer and walking 10,000 steps a day. Take the stairs not the elevator. Walk up the escalator rather than riding it like an amusement-park ride, park farther from the store door and walk across the parking lot, walk up and down the hallway while you talk on the phone and brush your teeth, etc.”
JoAnne Lichten is known as “Dr. Jo” — America’s On-The-Go Health Guru. She is an accomplished author, speaker, freelance writer and media spokesperson whose goal is to help busy people stay healthy, sane, and productive.
“Instead of ‘exercise’, think of it as play. Because if it isn’t fun, you won’t keep it up for long. In my program, ‘Eat, Play, Laugh,’ we consider all types of movements including dancing in the privacy of your living room, hoola hooping, roller blading, skipping with your kids, Zumba dancing (an aerobic class with Latin dance moves), belly dancing, and much more.
“If you want to move more, remember you don’t have to do it all at once. You could take a short walk after breakfast, another after lunch, and take the whole family out for a walk after dinner.
“It also helps to become more conscious of what you eat. Most of us never really taste our food. We’re too busy reading, watching TV, or driving. Instead, give yourself permission to enjoy your food. Without any distractions, take small bites, put your utensil down between bites, and really savor every bite. Most people find they eat less when they pay more attention to their food.
“In my book, Dr. Jo’s No Big Deal Diet, I encourage people to make those changes that are ‘no big deal’ to make. These could include switching to diet beverages, eating on smaller plates, parking farther away from the store, and walking more briskly. Every little change does make a big difference!”
Anne M. Fletcher is an award-winning health and medical journalist who is frequently sought out for her knowledge about and creative solutions for weight management, behavior change, and addiction.
“My reaction to the finding that women who started out at a healthy weight and maintained it over the course of the 13 years (only about 13% of the more than 34,000 women in the study, so non-maintainers are far from alone!) engaged in about an hour of moderate-intensity exercise a day, which sounds like a lot to most people:
“Does this surprise me? No. As a society in general, we are incredibly inactive – we spend most of our time as ‘seat time’ – that is, in front of the TV and computer screens, texting, etc. Many of us need to go out of our way to be physically active. When it comes to aging, which was a focus of this study in women, we know that people tend to become less active as they grow older – you’re not chasing little kids around, maybe you can afford to have someone mow your lawn, clean your house, etc. As calorie needs drop, few people subsequently start eating less.
“Moreover, metabolic rate declines somewhat as we age because we lose muscle mass and our bodies become proportionately higher in fat – and muscle burns more calories than fat. One way to offset this metabolic decline is to be more physically active.
“What can I say to encourage those who are discouraged about the fact that an hour a day of exercise appears necessary to prevent weight gain as you get older, even if you’re not overweight to begin with? The type of exercise done by the non-gainers in this study wasn’t necessarily marathon-running. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include walking at a rate of 3.5 miles per hour, bicycling (less than ten miles per hour), hiking, light gardening or yard work, light weight lifting, and golfing (if you walk and carry your clubs.)
“Note, too, that the hour of exercise doesn’t have to done all once. You could split things up by walking the dog for 30 minutes in the morning and going for a bike ride with your husband or a friend after work. My best advice is for women to think of this as part of their self-care routine. (Note, too, that this study was based on self-report and people do tend to over-report how much exercise they do. Thus, it’s possible that the 60 minutes a day may be somewhat inflated.) Also, if you choose to do higher-intensity exercise, such as running, you can do it for less time.
“What about the finding that exercise didn’t seem to prevent further weight gain or lead to any loss in women who were already overweight or obese, which really describes about 2 out of 3 American women? It suggests that even more exercise than 60 minutes a day is necessary to lose weight and/or avoid gaining weight without eating less. The solution for those who don’t have that much time to devote to exercise? Step up activity and eat less at the same time. We already knew from other research studies that exercise alone is not particularly effective for weight loss. It’s the combination of eating less and exercising more that helps people shed pounds. And research has quite consistently shown that exercise is one of the best predictors of who’s going to keep the weight off over the long haul. While it may be easier said than done, we’ve been learning a lot about people who have maintained weight loss by eating less and exercising more and how they make these habits a way of life.
“P.S. A shortcoming of the study is that it only looked at the women’s diets at the beginning of the study and did not have “repeated measures of diet over time.” As such, it’s possible that some of the differences in the groups of women can be explained by what they ate – for instance, perhaps the overweight women ate more calories when they exercised, which would explain why, as a group, there was not a correlation between physical activity and weight maintenance or loss.
Zonya Foco, a Registered Dietician, is an expert on nutrition and wellness, television personality and author. She is a certified health and fitness instructor with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional). She has made it her mission to make nutrition exciting, fun, and life-changing.
“This study kept referring to a ‘usual diet.’ You have got to be kidding! Clearly, the ‘usual diet’ for Americans is more than they can exercise off. We have ‘tricked’ written across our foreheads. We must learn to beat restaurants that are constantly over-feeding us and resist the plethora of hidden liquid calories. Plus, also eating when we’re not really hungry (bored, restless, lonesome, etc.) Eating smarter is not optional. It goes hand in hand with being more active. Pure mathematics shows once we’re eating smarter, 30 minutes a day of exercise can be plenty for weight maintenance. (60 minutes a day to lose weight).”
On another note, Zonya adds that The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5, 2, 1, 0. 5 Fruits and vegetables a day (at least), no more than 2 hours of screen time a day and at least 1 hour of physical activity, and zero sweetened beverages. This is a direct and simple start to helping America, young and old, get balance on their calorie intake and energy expenditure.
Elizabeth Somer: Eat Your Way to Happiness
Okay, that’s enough about exercise and calories. Let’s talk about food and happiness. Elizabeth Somer has been studying the link between what we eat and how we feel since the early 90s, when her first book on this topic, Food & Mood was published. In her newest book Eat Your Way to Happiness (Harlequin non-fiction 2009), Elizabeth shares how your energy, mental clarity, mood, and, of course, waistline, are all directly connected to what you eat. In Eat Your Way to Happiness, you’ll learn that healthy eating is a lot easier, and less expensive than you think, and that making a few simple changes and additions to your diet can have amazing results.
“Most people know there is a link between what they eat and their physical health. But it takes years, even decades of diet abuse to produce physical problems, while the link between what you eat and your mood and memory is much more immediate,” says Somer. “Literally, what you eat or don’t eat for breakfast will affect your happiness quotient by afternoon.
“Eat junk and you’ll feel like junk. Eat right and you’ll be amazed how good you can feel,” says Somer. “I can’t tell you how many times people have taken the advice I layout in Eat Your Way to Happiness and come back to me saying, ‘I never knew I could feel this good!’”
While based on a thorough review of the research, the book is easy-to-read and user-friendly. Each chapter begins with a promise of the benefits to mood, memory, stress-reduction, and weight the reader can expect by following the advice laid out on the page. There are menus, a shopping list of the top 100 foods in the grocery store, recipes, and mood-boosting ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
Elizabeth is a sympathetic but firm cheerleader on the road to healthier eating and living. She offers sound advice and healthy habits that are easy to incorporate successfully into daily life. With healthy yet indulgent (and delicious) recipes, checklists to help keep the plan on track, and clear-headed advice that’s easy to follow, Eat Your Way to Happiness is a weight loss and energy and brain-boosting plan for life that anyone can follow.
She just finished a 14-city book tour, and an appearance on the Dr. Oz show. “I promise that people will feel better, think faster, lose weight, sleep better and reduce their stress if they follow the guidelines in the book,” Elizabeth says. To bring Elizabeth to your city, give us a call at 503-699-5031 or visit our website.
Win a $25,000 Grant for Good Health
Aimed at empowering individuals to take initiative in improving their communities, the Post Grant for Good Health will award $25,000 to the plan for the best health and wellness community project.
From planting public gardens, to building a playground to creating a fitness center, applicants can submit their 300-word essay until May 17, 2010. Post and the National Wellness Conference will help select the top finalists, who will be featured on www.PostNatural.com, where the public can vote for the project they find most meaningful from June 1 to July 12, 2010. The winner will be announced at the 35th Annual National Wellness Conference in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, July 22, 2010.
Have an idea for improving your community? Get started by visiting www.PostNatural.com for entry details.
Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this e-news is designed to help you make informed decisions about speakers and the programs they offer. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by a doctor. If you suspect you have a medical problem, seek competent medical help.