New research calls for a rethinking of the traditional approach to health – eschewing the obsession of losing weight for an overall focus on fitness (specifically increasing physical activity). The study argues that fit bodies can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and a body with some fat on it can still be healthy and fit.
“We’re not necessarily against weight loss; we just think that it shouldn’t be the primary criterion for judging the success of a lifestyle intervention program,” says study co-author Glenn Gaesser of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University, as reported on ScienceDaily.com.
Published in the journal iScience, researchers looked at the effects on mortality risk reduction. They concluded that increased physical activity and cardiovascular fitness provided a more significant impact on health than weight loss.
This approach can also break the cycle of yo-yo dieting (or “weight cycling”), a practice where people lose weight and gain it back (often more than they initially lost) repeatedly. Only 20% of dieters keep their weight off over the long term, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This kind of cycle carries many health risks as obesity, such as muscle loss, fatty liver disease, and diabetes.
A similar study found that physical activity and exercise were more important than continued dietary restrictions when it comes to maintaining weight loss over the long term.
“This study addresses the difficult question of why so many people struggle to keep weight off over a long period,” said Danielle Ostendorf, Ph.D., in a study published in Obesity and reported on ScienceDaily.com. “By providing evidence that a group of successful weight-loss maintainers engages in high levels of physical activity to prevent weight regain – rather than chronically restricting their energy intake – is a step forward to clarifying the relationship between exercise and weight-loss maintenance.”
So does this mean diet doesn’t matter?
Of course not. Overall physical fitness still includes a nutrition component. We need to eat healthy foods – with sufficient micronutrients – to fuel our bodies, stay healthy, and feel good. But the research indicates that a continued physical fitness routine – as part of a healthy lifestyle – can help maintain a healthy weight even if our diets aren’t perfect.
Evan Lee, FitTrack’s Head of Fitness Programming, believes the key is to create a healthy lifestyle built on sustainable behaviors, healthy habits, and finding joy in the things you do.
“The brain is incredibly moldable, and we can learn positive health behaviors,” says Lee.
A former athlete and now trainer of athletes, Lee views food and exercise as symbiotic partners in wellbeing. “Movement is medicine for our bodies, and food is the fuel,” he says.
Your partner in health
FitTrack’s smart scales and new MyHealth app help you build these habits. Lee explains that they establish a baseline of data, allowing you to learn more about your own unique body and how various changes affect that body.
“They help you build awareness and accountability to set you up for success.”
With food scanning capabilities, customized workout programs, and the ability to track progress and measure 17 body metrics, “the app has the pillars and programs you need to be successful,” says Lee.
Lee’s Top 7 Tips for Building a Healthy Lifestyle
Creating and maintaining a lifestyle that values fitness and wellbeing is a slow, deliberate process. His recipe for success? Lee uses the snowball metaphor – starting small and continually adding new habits until you have an overall lifestyle that supports your goals.
- Step on the scale every day. Lee is a big proponent of transforming a traditionally negative experience (looking at a number on a scale) into an empowering one. Learning about your body through a FitTrack smart scale gives you the data you need to reach your goals. Making this a habit means arming yourself with practical knowledge every day.
- Find your ‘why.’ Lee is big on getting honest about why you set specific goals. “Success with a stated goal is anchored in human emotion,” says Lee. “It’s about understanding why you want to make a change.” Knowing your ‘why’ helps you keep going even when you don’t see immediate results or when things get tough. It also lets you figure out what’s important to YOU – not your friend, coworker, or what the media says.
- Celebrate small wins. Did you go for a short walk when you felt like doing zero exercise? Leave the bag of cookies on the grocery store shelf? Force yourself to go to sleep at a decent time when you want to watch another episode of Squid Game? Notice when you make positive choices, even if they seem small, and celebrate them. Doing so helps build good habits and healthy routines – and helps you feel better because of it.
- Build a routine. Believe it or not, humans thrive in a predictable environment. “I eat the same healthy breakfast almost every morning, so I don’t have to think about it,” says Lee. “And I know that I’m creating a good baseline for the day.”
- Focus on macro and micronutrients. Shift your thinking from calories to what your calories are composed of. Eating nutrient-dense foods means you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to function and thrive.
- Ditch the idea of “good” and “bad” foods. Overly strict eating isn’t fun and can take the enjoyment out of food. It also sets you up for guilt if you eat something on your “no-no” list – and that’s simply not a sustainable way to eat.
- Remember that moving your body also supports your emotional well-being. Think of exercise as medicine for your body. With training, you’re helping combat numerous conditions – inflammation, stress, anxiety, diabetes, and more. Knowing that you’re doing your body (and mind) good will go a long way to helping you stick to a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining the motivation to work out every day and to eat well most of the time isn’t always easy. But being kind to yourself, celebrating your victories, and keeping the endgame in mind will help keep you focused on what’s important to you, and you’ll be better equipped to stay the course when you hit a rough spot or setback.