Five Things You’re Getting Wrong About Weight and Weight Loss

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If I’m thin then I’m healthy, right? Wrong. There are several misconceptions people have about weight, losing it and what’s healthy. Here’s the low-down on some myths we’re better off busting.

Kids have to lose weight to shed obesity: As children grow, they put on weight, but how much is normal, and how much is excessive and potentially a hazard to their health? In the latest study, published in the journal Lancet, researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health developed a mathematical model to differentiate between healthy weight gain and the extra pounds that contribute to obesity. The model takes advantage of more accurate assessments of how many calories heavier children take in, as well as how quickly and efficiently they burn off those calories, and the ratio of fat to muscle in their bodies. The resulting model shows some kids can outgrow their obesity around puberty even if they don’t lose weight. That’s because obesity is a measure of not just weight but the ratio of height to weight known as the body mass index (BMI), and as children grow, they transform fat into muscle, which can weigh as much, if not more than fat tissue. So kids with a high BMI that might suggest obesity may not actually be overweight.

Still, the researchers say that teaching children about portion control and balancing what they eat with  physical activity to burn off excess calories are important lessons to learn early.

(MORE: 6 Weight Loss Tips Straight from the Nation’s Premier Spas)

You can’t be fat and still be fit: A person’s level of physical fitness, as well as his weight, matters for overall health. A study in 2012 showed that overweight and obese people were at no greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease or cancer compared to normal weight people, but only if they were as metabolically fit as their slimmer counterparts. When it comes to premature death, it’s less about how much fat a person carries, but what kind of fat. Visceral or belly fat, for example, is considered more metabolically harmful than fat that sits just under the surface of the skin. Visceral fat, which is embedded more deeply within muscles and organs like the liver, release agents that can disturb the body’s energy balance, shunting calories into fat. Lean people can have high levels of visceral fat in their tissues, while overweight individuals may be carrying more subcutaneous fat and therefore could even be metabolically fitter than those who are slimmer.

Most people who put on weight, however, don’t enjoy a fit status for long. Eventually, the excess weight can contribute to higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

You can eat what you want and just exercise to lose weight: Cutting calories by adjusting what you eat is actually the most effective way to lose weight. Ideally, consuming fewer calories and exercising is a more efficient way of dropping pounds, but for most people, passing up the chips is easier than sweating it out on a treadmill for an hour. Downing 140 calories from a can of soda, for example, takes only a few minutes, but would take half an hour of moderately intense walking to burn off. “You can greatly undermine weight loss efforts and general health by not considering the quality of the foods you eat. It is important to consider calorie density and nutrient density of foods to maximize exercise performance and improve health status,” says Gayl Canfield, the director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center.

(MORE: The Secrets to Weight Loss: Keep a Food Journal, Don’t Skip Meals, Eat In)

Long bouts of low-intensity exercise are best for losing weight: Fitness experts are trying to de-bunk the myth that pounds melt off faster with low-intensity aerobic exercise than higher intensity workouts. “It’s true the body burns proportionally more fat calories than carbohydrate calories at a lower training intensity, however, should you increase your exercise intensity into the cardiovascular zone you will burn more overall calories,” says Scott Danberg, the director of fitness at Pritikin Longevity Center. Mixing in some short bouts of high-intensity exercise can translate into benefits on the scale.

Eating protein is the best way to feel full and keep calories in check: Lean protein is indeed a good way to get filled up, but fiber is even better, because it comes with fewer calories. To make sure you’re not feeling hungry but still getting all your nutrients, load your plate with fruit, vegetables beans and grains.

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This article is bs. recent studies of shown that shorter and more intense exercise is far better at burning fat than longer less intense exercising. We are talking 3x 20 min High Intensity Interval training per week.

Eating protein is key. But paragraph immediately following the headline completely contradicts it by saying you should load your plate with fruit and vegetables and grains.


Grains are the key problem here. We eat far too much of it and that is what is making us sick. Fruit really isn't that much better considering how it is loaded with sugar.


betsys2003
betsys2003

I realize that BMI isn't perfect (in either way - some of us would be overweight when we're still easily in the normal range), but generally, there are not THAT many body builder kids out there who just have so many muscles that they are in the obese category with 5% body fat. This is generally true for all adults, but especially so for kids, who are rarely that muscular. 

If you or your kid falls into that category, it will be obvious, and your doctor will know it too. The problem is, a lot more people seem to think they do. I can't tell you how many people I have heard say "Oh, BMI is so flawed - it says I'm overweight!" and I think well yeah, because you are. A lot of people have a skewed perception of "normal" because everyone they know is overweight.

Two of these things don't really work together, though. Pointing out that people can be in good shape and still be overweight, and then saying you can't exercise away fat. Well, that's true to an extent, but you can exercise your way to better health, even if your weight doesn't follow. Since health is more important anyway, shouldn't that be the point? The second thing seems to make it sound like if you aren't going to diet, you might as well not exercise either, because you probably won't lose weight. When that's exactly what we should NOT be telling people. EVERYONE should exercise, whether or not they ever lose weight from it.

RekkaRiley
RekkaRiley

@betsys2003 The problem with the BMI is that it doesn't separate fat from any other type of mass.

Your skeleton alone accounts for at least 15 lbs, but the BMI still counts that as exactly the same as 15 lbs. of fat.  Your brain is another 3-4 lbs. (it uses up 1/3 of all the calories you consume each day), give about another pound or so for your heart, and I haven't even started on the other internal organs or muscles.  Or hair and skin; those add up too.

It also doesn't take into account your build, where you carry the weight, how healthy your heart and lungs are, etc.  Proportion is also an important factor; someone with the exact same muscle mass as me, on a taller frame, would have a much more "normal" BMI and would appear almost supermodel thin.  And I'm talking muscle here, not fat, though the same principle of proportions applies there too.

There is absolutely no flexibility to it, which is why a lot of doctors are shying away from it.

According to the BMI, a 5' tall female like myself should never weigh more than 112 lbs...yet according to my doctor, if I dropped below where I'm at now (125 lbs), I would appear extremely anorexic and malnourished.  I'm fairly skinny in the torso (26" waistline), but a bit stockier in the lower body (hips, legs, etc.).  Which is actually how women are supposed to carry a healthy level of weight:  too much fat around the stomach is bad, but the same amount of fat centered around the hips and thighs is perfect.  In fact, most of that fat consists of the fatty acids necessary for a growing fetus to develop healthy brain tissue.  My stockiness in the legs isn't just fat; it's a healthy layer of fat over very well-developed muscle from not having a car and walking everywhere.

You are very right in that everyone should exercise, not because of losing weight, but because it keeps the rest of the body healthy.  Kids and obesity kind be tricky because of how growth spurts work; kids do tend to pack on a lot of fat just before they shoot up a few inches, to make sure they have enough energy stored up to support their metabolism as it speeds up.  I've seen a few kids who are seriously pushing it, but until about halfway through puberty it can be really hard to tell. 

No, they're not hiding a lot of muscle that makes them "appear" fat; a child preparing for a growth spurt actually needs the extra fat, because they'll burn it up within a matter of months, possibly a matter of weeks, the second their bones and muscles start stretching again.