Overweight?

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Overweight?


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology


Cut the Snacks and Get More Exercise

THE MAIN REASON SOME people get fat isn't because of genetics or how much they eat, says a Cornell University obesity researcher. It's because compared with thinner people they snack more often during the day and move about a lot less.

The best way to slash the country's skyrocketing medical costs associated with obesity is not through dieting but by persuading people to exercise more, says David Levitsky, professor of nutritional sciences. He says that the government should take a more aggressive role in ensuring that employers offer workers more opportunities to stretch their legs and exercise and provide more noncompetitive sports for children as well as after-school programs in inner-city neighborhoods where children often can't play outside safely.

"And forget dieting it just doesn't work," Levitsky says.

Levitsky's studies with former undergraduate students Lisa Jias and Amy Lanou have shown that when people are not allowed snacks, they still eat about as much at mealtime as when they do snack. And people who skip a meal or don't snack do not compensate at the next meal by eating more. That means that the less often you eat, the fewer calories you consume, he explains.

America, he says, needs to slow the trend of adults and children becoming fatter, and to achieve this he has several messages:

"The popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are just gimmicks," he says. They work temporarily because they comprise fewer calories, but the weight comes right back because the diets are nearly impossible to stay on indefinitely. Such diets, on a long-term basis, could be linked to higher risks of cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure, he says.

"The ideal weight charts send the wrong message to consumers; it's not your weight that counts but what goes into your weight. …

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