For #WellnessWeds: Study Links Small Habits to Weight Gain

Have you heard of calorie creep?

Calorie creep is when weight gain increases over time – like gaining 3 pounds in 4 years, for example. Watching TV, drinking sugary drinks, eating unhealthy foods, lack of exercise, and lack of sleep all contribute to calorie creep.

A recent study conducted by Harvard concentrated on the relationship between eating, exercising and sleeping.

What Not to Eat

Researchers want to stress that the quality of the food we choose – not just calories – contribute to slow weight gain over the years. The Harvard study showed that when these foods are eaten on a daily basis, weight gain was inevitable for the participants:

  • Potato chips
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Unprocessed red meat
  • Processed meat

These findings are not surprising. Throughout the years, we’ve heard that eating these types of foods – even in moderation – is not healthy. These types of foods increase weight, which in turn can lead to a number of health problems including:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure

The study also confirms that those who ate minimal processed foods – choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts instead – had the least amount of weight gain.

So, foods that give us nutrients, vitamins and minerals essential to the body’s function are the best choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love an occasional treat and allow myself to indulge at times, but only once in a while. And, it is clear from this study that the types of foods mentioned above should not be eaten every day for weight purposes and overall health.

Other Contributing Factors

Besides the types of food the participants ate over the study duration, sleep and exercise/activity were also investigated. The findings were that:

  • Participants who watched at least one hour of TV each day added .31 pound per 4 years. Add that to unhealthy food calories and not getting the right amount of activity or exercise and this can cause an increased weight gain much faster.
  • Participants who slept for 6-8 hours each night were less likely to gain weight than their counterparts who slept for less than 6 or more than 9 hours a night.
  • Participants who increased or maintained their physical activity throughout this study gained less weight than those who didn’t exercise at all.

Reading this study had an impact on me for a couple of reasons.

  1. This study focused on small changes that most anyone can follow, and
  2. The results are real and are what we have been trying to teach Americans – obese or not – for years now.

Small changes do make a BIG difference. Did the study results surprise you?

Photo credit: nertzy 

Editor’s note: #WellnessWeds posts will appear each Wednesday, and the series kicked off last week . We encourage you to join the conversation and share your thoughts by tagging your health-related Twitter posts with #WellnessWeds or leave a comment here on A Healthier Michigan. You can check out the latest discussions on Twitter here.

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