Unfortunately, the science of caloric intake and caloric expenditure is not as simple as it sounds. For years, we have been taught that burning more calories than you eat will result in weight loss. It is really not that simple. As a professional in the wellness industry I have always protested the idea that, "a calorie is a calorie". Really? Come on. You mean to tell me that if a head of broccoli and a Pop Tart had the same amount of calories they would affect my body the same way? Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in broccoli versus a laundry list of processed unpronounceable ingredients? Seems like common sense to me.
The good news is JAMA released an article this month solidifying just this. "Lifestyle Weighed Down by Diet", tells us that, in fact, low quality foods do affect our bodies in negative ways. "Food affects hunger, hormones, and even genetic expression in ways that cannot be explained by consideration of caloric balance alone". The journal article goes on to say that studies show the type of foods we eat may affect the number of calories burned. And, of course, people who regularly eat low quality foods are at a substantially increased risk for obesity and diabetes.
We don't need science to point out how we feel when we eat junk. How do you think you will perform, at work, after eating a candy bar at 2pm versus carrots and hummus? Fueling your body with nutritious food does just that- it fuels it. The fact is our bodies are a lot like cars. If we put regular gas in a sports car that takes premium it isn't going to run very well. The same goes for our bodies; highly processed sugary food products start to cause problems before they even hit our digestive system. We simply were not created to digest potassium bromate.
So speaking of potassium bromate, an additive that is known to cause cancer in rats and is banned in every other industrial country (with the exception of Japan) yet approved by our FDA, the question is who do we blame for this problem? My personal opinion is everyone. It starts with the individual who has two choices every time they eat. They can choose the best fuel option available or they can chose to malnourish their body with some low quality food product. If you are a parent, YOU are responsible for making that choice for your child. Being that our child obesity rates continue to grow, too many parents are making the wrong choices setting their own kids up for a life of obesity related diseases, unaffordable health care, and potentially an early death. Secondly our physicians are to blame. They have the license to prescribe- why not prescribe a healthy lifestyle? There are way too many prescriptions being written for conditions that could be improved or cured with a healthy diet and exercise. And lastly, it is our government. Don't get me started. When are they going to stop allowing food companies to market junk food to kids when they know it is killing them? It goes so much deeper than this, but I will stop here.
So guess what folks? The life expectancy in America nearly doubled from 1850 to 1980 but then came to a screeching halt. The 1980's began the rise in obesity; however, treatments and drugs prevented the decline in life expectancy and simply held steady. But because we continue to depend on pharmaceuticals rather than changing the way we eat, as predicted, the life expectancy decline has begun for the first time in over a century. We are in a sad state.
The good news is, you get to choose. I believe we are making some progress. Health food stores and farmers markets are becoming more convenient in some areas. Healthy restaurants do exist and cities are rooting back to their community parks and greenways. Some people DO get it. But we all have to. We all have to take responsibility. You can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution. It's your choice.