ObesityWeek 2014: Are We Making Headway in Obesity?

HealthGal Health Guide
  • Sessions presented at the ObesityWeek2014 conference were hosted by The Obesity Society and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.  In prior shareposts,  A Re-cap of Obesity Week 2014 and Obesity Week Begins with Lessons…. I referenced some of the new studies presented by  researchers from around the country and around the world.  One ongoing discussion is the weight bias that exists among doctors and other health specialists and ways that can change.  Doctors do need to broach the obesity discussion with new communication methods.  Many of the experts agreed that lifestyle basics are the foundation of obesity care.

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    Diet-Exercise-Lifestyle-Behavior Modification


    The equation “calories in, calories out” now has a caveat. The kinds of foods you choose to eat daily, coupled with portion control, headline the formula for preventing obesity, managing the disease, and helping you to maintain your weight. You should consider not just calories but also nutrient density, and aim for foods rich in fiber, like whole grains and fruits and vegetables, to get enough protien and satiation to help build and maintain your muscle mass. These help to fill you up and keep your digestive process optimal.  Limiting red meat and meat choices in general, and adding fish and plant-based proteins (dairy too) to your diet, can support health and weight goals. Following a Mediterranean-style diet can also improve your health and weight profiles .  A new study released after the conference suggests that fast food outlets do seem to fuel obesity (and diabetes) in the inner cities.  Another study suggests that despite all the complaints about school lunches and the changes that have recently occurred, these lunches “beat” home-packed lunches in terms of nutrition quality. Wake-up call for parents, I think!


    Do labels showing calorie and nutrition breakdowns help in the battle of the bulge?  They certainly provide information, but may only help some people like college students, or only help some of the time.   Another new study suggests that labeling plus cost is what really drives healthier decisions.  One expert suggested that parents are models of behaviors that kids will follow, so parents need to realize they are setting a food example whenever they eat.  On the other hand, one of the best ways to get a picky kid to try foods involves exposing them to a group of peers who like the very foods they won’t try.  After several meals, those picky eaters will likely join the “group food mentality.”    

    Sleep, shift work, lack of support for your weight loss plan, and stress, can all contribute to the risk of diet failures, weight gain and obesity.  Meeting your personal needs for sleep, finding ways to manage stress that don’t involve food, and being lucky enough to work regular hours can all help to lower the risk of obesity.  If you do smoke, and you decide to quit, chances are you will replace that habit with……food.  So managing post-smoke cessation behaviors is crucial to maintaining weight.


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    Gut microbes are also a hot topic.  Some people may have a certain microbe pattern in their stomach that predisposes them to weight gain.  Experts also believe that the foods we choose can impact gut microbe balance, causing a shift that results in excess weight gain.   But a new study released after the conference also suggests that the microbiota may actually be lab contaminants and we may be prematurely linking them to disease.


    It should also be noted that a new study just released found that four popular diets – Weight Watchers, The Zone, South Beach and the Atkin’s Diet, all offered modest weight loss among participants, but, most had regained almost all the weight they lost at the end of a two year (study) period.


    The Role of Exercise


    Exercise certainly helps to burn calories and offers a host of other health benefits.  Some experts suggest fitness may be more helpful in maintaining weight once you get to a goal weight, or it may help you to balance out an extra indulgence, now and again. Exercise is also quite tough for the obese or morbidly obese patient.  A walking program, water-based aerobic program, or seated bicycle exercises - coupled with weight training - are feasible options. However, in order for exercise to continue contributing to the weight loss process, you do have to increase the challenge, especially as your body sheds pounds.


    Habits die hard.  Energy balance, behavior modification, and support systems are key habits crucial to the weight loss formula.  Our current healthcare system has moved the pendulum a bit, paying for some of these options short term, but not consistently and not for enough people.  And clearly there are other aspects to obesity we have yet to identify and address.


    Next Up:  Medications and Surgery for the Treatment of Obesity


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Published On: November 16, 2014