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The single issue that every one of my patients who come into my office ask for help with is weight. Many people find that their weight has gone up over the past 15 to 20 years. By the time they are returning to their 20th high school reunion they have gained 20 or more pounds and they didn’t realize how gradually their weight has increased.
While it is true that my patients usually need education about the best foods for them and their particular health situations, many people do not understand the various factors that contribute to weight gain over the course of several years. Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study that identified the factors that support preventing weight gain. They are: food choices, sleep, watching TV, and exercise. In the study, they found that paying attention to small changes in food choices, the amount of TV watched per day, and the amount of sleep and exercise adults were getting had a positive impact on avoiding gaining the weight in the first place.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines overweight and obesity ranges for adults by using weight and height to calculate a number called the "body mass index", or BMI. BMI is used because, for most people, it correlates with their amount of body fat on their bodies. An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. The reason we care about overweight and obese populations is because they have an increased incidence of chronic diseases and other health problems.
I am thrilled that the Harvard team has created a study to confirm lifestyle issues that impact people’s weight over time. I have been working with my patients for years on making small consistent behavioral changes that can help them lose and maintain a healthy weight. In the next several articles I will be go more in-depth about how these lifestyle areas help prevent weight gain.