Losing Weight Now Versus The 1980s

October 12, 2015

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When we look back at photos and images of people in the 1980s, do they look thinner than we do today? Or is that just the shoulder pads and Day-Glo causing us to imagine it? It turns out it???s not. The harsh reality is that it???s even harder now to lose weight than 20 or 30 years ago.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice examined the diets and physical activity levels of over 50,000 Americans from the 1970s through the late 2000s. Researchers grouped the data by the amount of food, activity, age, and body mass index (BMI). The results they found are startling.

The data suggests that a person today, following the same exact diet and exercise program as a person of the same age in the 1980s, would have a BMI that was 2.3 points higher, which translates to 10 percent more bodyweight.

As scary is this information sounds, the truth is that life has changed over the last 20 years, and there are more contributors to weight gain than just what we eat and how much we exercise. The authors of the study pointed to a few primary offenders that may be to blame. ??Fortunately for us, we can don???t need a Delorian to take us back to the 1980s, because these factors are all within our control.

Exposure to chemicals. Chemicals found in pesticides, flame retardant materials, and even food packaging may alter our hormones, which influence how our bodies manage weight.

Tip: For some foods, consider buying organic. It may cost a little more, but they don???t come with the pesticides and chemicals found in non-organic foods. Also, try switching your home???s food storage containers by switching from plastic to glass. Some plastic materials have been shown to disrupt normal hormonal functions in the body, leading to weight gain.

Medications that cause weight gain. The use of prescription medications has skyrocketed since the 1970s. Common medications, like antidepressant and other SSRI drugs, can cause weight gain.

Tip: You should consult with your medical provider if you believe your medications may be causing you to gain weight. Your provider may prescribe a different medication or modify your treatment. Never alter your prescription medications without first consulting the provider who prescribed them to you.

Gut bacteria is different now. The bacteria in your gut can make it easier for you to put on weight.

Tip: Our digestive system contains both good and bad types of bacteria. The bad bacteria in our stomachs send signals to our brain that influence our appetite and mood. Refined grains, processed meats, sugary, fatty, and fried foods all stimulate the growth of bad bacteria. Unfortunately, more of the foods we eat today versus the 1980s play right into the hands of bad bacteria. Luckily, we can change our gut bacteria and make it weight loss-friendly by eating foods rich probiotics and prebiotics. Fermented foods, like Greek yogurt, asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, legumes, and high fiber foods all promote the growth of gut friendly bacteria.

Although there are more weight loss challenges than ever before, we have all the tools available to meet them. We can use what we???ve learned from the past to improve our health in the present and future. But let???s make a deal and leave the shoulder pads and JAM pants behind, okay?

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