Eat Healthy / Exercise More

It’s clear that the eat healthy/exercise more solution isn’t working now. If you were born after 1970, you probably still think that it did.

You must have heard about those days long ago when Americans ate home-cooked, nutritious meals of lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits. And we walked everywhere.

Except we didn’t! 

We ate greasy burgers, fries and full strength soda at White Castle. We drank frozen juice concentrates diluted with tap water. The “fresh” vegetables were canned or frozen, except in summer. And lots of Crisco, of course—every home had a tub of it. That’s why the fried chicken, fried potatoes, grits, piecrusts, and cakes tasted so good!

Okay, so the trimmer bodies of the Fifties weren’t due to more wholesome meals. Then how were we so much skinnier you ask? Let’s take on the myth that we were exercising. Well, health clubs didn’t start until the 1970s, and even then most women didn’t go. Sweating was unfeminine! So we sat and played Canasta or Mahjong, read a book or wrote letters. Fun times, right?

Yet these Moms from the Fifties delivered four kids and still managed to get back into pre-baby wardrobes. Then why are we fatter than our grandparents?

The simple, unvarnished, scientifically researched answer from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that we just plain eat more. In 2006, the CDC reports that women now eat 22 percent more than women did in 1971. Go back to 1958 and the number is 30%! And we’re not talking apples to apples, unless we are actually eating apples. Today we have hundreds of calorie-free beverages and reduced-fat foods.

So if overconsumption got us into this mess, why didn’t we all just eat less? Because in the 1980’s, legions of fitness gurus and diet experts—some of them physicians— became media savvy and perfected their messages. They convinced us that we needed the magical trifecta: eat only foods that are healthy (translation: eliminate fats then carbs); exercise (beat up your body and “burn” calories) and drink water (at least eight glasses a day).

The result was that eager Americans embraced the “go for the burn, no pain no gain” body-damaging exercise to get rid of the extra calories.

Bad choice: the Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently determined that exercise is NOT a weight loss solution. A six-month study proved that dieting alone reduces weight just as well as dieting and exercising. People who cut calories 25 % by only dieting and those who cut with half exercise, half diet, lost the same amount of weight. And both groups experienced the same decrease in muscle mass and basal metabolism! Don’t stop moving however; your heart, muscles and bones need exertion.

What about eating?

Well the diet industry convinced us that grazing, formerly known as snacking, was healthier than eating regular meals. This meant that consuming food anywhere at any time wasn’t just acceptable, it was downright medicinal. As for quantity, we want to believe that if it’s “good” food, you can’t eat enough. Except that reason tells us that the more often your stomach is stretched, the more you must shovel in to feel sated.

Finally came the glorification of water, which led us to believe that we could drink away our hunger or even “wash” away those calories. In 1976, each of us annually drank only a gallon of bottled water. Today we each drink 28 gallons. Now we know there has been some climate change—obviously made worse by the need to dispose of billions of plastic water bottles. Yet we drink as much as we can, though we don’t live in deserts today and we weren’t dying of thirst 30 years ago.

What’s the current word from the experts who gave us all this flawed advice? Now researchers are distancing themselves from past weight loss theories. Now, we really know what the problem is and how to fix it. If you’re overweight, it’s not your fault, of course. Blame genetics, set points and stress hormones for your problem! We now believe we’re born to eat more?? We don’t exactly say we have mutated in just 50 years, but the implication is that we don’t have control over our bodies because after decades of gaining and losing and then regaining, they aren’t co-operating.

It’s a complicated situation and we’re burnt out from all the talk and failed solutions. And maybe being thin is overrated, now that 7 out of 10 of us are not. Yet just when we’ve given up along comes the Recession. We’re closing our purses. Can our mouths be far behind?