Food Choices Cause Weight to Creep Up 7 Pounds in 4 Years

Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study that identified the factors that help prevent weight gain. They are: food choices, getting enough sleep, watching less TV, and getting enough exercise. In the study they found that paying attention to these things may have a positive impact on avoiding gaining the weight in the first place. Weight gain and obesity happens as a result of calorie and energy imbalances in the body. If you are taking in more calories that you are using each day then weight gain will be the result. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a calorie is defined as a unit of energy supplied by food. A calorie is a calorie regardless of its source. Whether you're eating carbohydrates, fats, sugars, or proteins, all of them contain calories.

Whenever I talk about weight issues or maintaining weight with my patients I have to talk about food choices, and this is one of the major findings of this study. The study looked at over 120,000 Americans over 20 years in 4-year time blocks. During a 4-year time frame the researchers found that a few foods caused weight gain in adults. For example, potato chips caused about a 1.69 pound weight gain, potatoes caused a 1.28 pound gain, sugar-sweetened beverages caused a 1 pound gain, red meats caused a .95 pound gain, and processed meats caused .a 93 a pound gain. So what that means is that if you regularly eat each of these foods daily--for example, a lunch of a sandwich with lunch meat, chips and a soda and dinner of a burger and fries, over the course of 4 years you would gain about 7 pounds. It stands to reason that if you are not eating these meals every day but several times a week you would still gain weight over a 4-year period of time.

In the study the participants who lost or maintained their weight ate a different diet of unprocessed foods, including more fruits, vegetables and grains. The researchers presumed that the more normal weight was because the healthier choices were being eaten instead of the weight-gaining foods. In my next article we'll look at other lifestyle issues that impact weight gain over time, like not enough sleep or exercise, and too much TV.