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What impacts weight? (Hint: It's not just diet and exercise)

I’m not a fan of diet trends and fads for several reasons, but probably the biggest reason is because it leads people to believe their weight can be distilled down to eating (or not eating) a particular food, plus exercising (or not exercising) in a particular way.

In one foul swoop it manages to make the complex too simple, and the simple too complex.

How much we weigh throughout life is a reflection of many, many factors. Certainly, some factors are more influential than others. But it’s not quite as simple as the old “eat less, move more” guidance that is often provided. In fact, it does a disservice to individuals that feel like they have failed time and time again at losing weight. If we don’t consider all the potential factors impacting weight, then we can’t provide appropriate, meaningful guidance.

So what does impact weight?

The most important takeaways from understanding the complexity of weight are these:

  • Weight is very individual – there is no one-size-fits-all in which we must seek to fit.

  • If a weight change will be beneficial for one’s wellness (like improving blood sugar, or increasing mobility), then change will rely upon addressing the variety of impacting factors, not just diet and exercise.

Stay tuned for follow-up articles which will discuss these factors in more detail and how we can address them.


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Brockman GA, Tsaih SW, Neuschl C, Churchill GA, Li R. Genetic factors contributing to obesity and body weight can act through mechanisms affecting muscle weight, fat weight, or both. Physiol Genomics. 2009; 36: 114-126.

Jeffery RW, Utter J. The changing environment and population obesity in the United States.

Luppino FS. Overweight, obesity, and depression. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010; 67(3): 220-229. Obes Res. 2003; 11: 12S-22S.

Ma Y, et al. Association between eating patterns and obesity in a free-living US adult population. Am J Epidimol. 2003; 158: 85-92.

Torres SJ, Newson CA. Relationship between stress, eating behavior, and obesity. Nutrition. 2007; 23: 887-894.

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