Commentary

June 1, 2012

The weight loss ‘secret’

Commentary by Lt. Col. Anthony Bankes
4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) — Two controversial topics that often dominate the headlines in our country are obesity and weight loss.

We are bombarded day and night with advertisements for weight loss pills, diets and workout contraptions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34 percent of American adults 20 years and older are considered obese, with another 34 percent of adults considered overweight but not clinically obese. An adult is considered obese if they have a body mass index of 30 or higher.

As a health care professional, I am always concerned about the relationship between excess body weight and medical conditions associated with them such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

I am also concerned about the false and misleading information we see in weight loss product and service advertising. The use of deceptive or false information in weight loss advertising is rampant and dangerous. Many promise immediate success without the need to reduce caloric intake or increase physical activity. Numerous supplements are of unproven value or have been linked to serious health risks.

According to attorneygeneral.gov, the market for these products, or schemes in some cases, is staggering, with consumers spending more than $30 billion a year on weight loss products and services. The world of weight-loss advertising is a fraudulent dream world where pounds “melt away,” no diet or exercise is required, and “miracle” substances “seek and destroy” fat.

The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about the extensive use of deceptive claims in weight-loss advertising. A study conducted by FTC regulators found that 55 percent of advertisements made claims that were likely false or lacked proof.

We all want to believe that there is a fast and easy fix when it comes to our weight, but there is not. So what, if anything, are we to believe?

First, use your head when making decisions about how to approach weight loss. Be reasonable and take emotions out of the equation, take weight loss schemes at face value and don’t buy into unreasonable claims.

Second, keep these words from the CDC in mind: “It’s natural for anyone trying to lose weight to want to lose it very quickly. But evidence shows that people who lose weight gradually and steadily are more successful at keeping weight off. Healthy weight loss isn’t just about a ‘diet’ … It’s about an ongoing lifestyle that includes long-term changes.”

Bottom line, there is no such thing as an easy answer to losing weight. It takes work, time and an accurate knowledge of the calories in the food you eat and what it takes to burn them. The traditional McDonald’s Happy Meal, which consists of a hamburger, small fries and a 12 ounce soda, contains 590 calories, or 25 percent of an active adult male’s daily caloric need. It would take the average 170 pound male 4.9 miles of running to burn this amount of calories. To lose a pound of fat per week, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories more than you consume. A regimen of 60-90 minutes of exercise four or more days a week along with a well-balanced diet helps achieve this goal. The true secret to losing weight is having a smart, well-planned 500 calorie daily deficit that promotes healthy and consistent weight loss.

Don’t approach weight-loss and exercise as sidebars to your life; make them a priority. A healthy well-conditioned body allows us to better handle the physical and emotional challenges we encounter every day and looks great for the upcoming beach season.




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(U.S. Air Force Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

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