Looking at Energy Balance

July 13, 2012 in Exercise, Health, Mediterranean, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

The report from the University of Colorado School of Medicine obesity researchers suggests replacing the current battle plan against obesity - which emphasizes widespread food restriction and weight loss - with a plan that emphasizes "energy balance" at a healthy body weight. You might recall Dr. Grandma using the term "energy balance" in her blog Feet, Forks, Fat - Protecting Our Children. I've also written about it in my blog post Enjoying a Splurge.

James O. Hill, PhD. and colleagues at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine explored the debate over whether excessive food intake or insufficient physical activity cause obesity. The research team concluded that it is not an 'either/or" situation. As Dr. Hill explains, "What we are really talking about is changing the message from 'Eat Less, Move More" to 'Move More, Eat Smarter.' The research team wants to advance the concept of a "regulated zone," in which activity and the quality of the food eaten establishes a balance to overcome the body's natural defenses towards preserving existing body weight.

According to the researchers, obesity can not be reduced by focusing only on reducing food intake. As both Dr. Grandma and I talked about in our respective blog posts last week, All Calories Are Not Created Equal and Lowering Diabetes Risk, new research shows that what you eat is more important than the number of calories you eat. The research showed that a low glycemic index diet similar to the Mediterranean style of eating is the most sustainable, effective eating plan to maintain weight loss. It actually aids in burning calories while avoiding some the issues associated with low-carb diets such as an increase in cortisol and an increase in inflammation, which is associated with an increase risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, more insulin resistance, and higher cholesterol. The Mediterranean lifestyle includes walking and other activities that contribute to energy balance.

The human body is a highly complex system. Many components are involved in its balance: food intake and exercise as well as adequate amount of sleep (see Burning the Candle at Both Ends and Getting Enough Sleep) and managing stress (see Stress). You can't just manipulate one component. Enlisting the help of your brain can further enhance your chances of success.

According to new research reported at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), novel cost-effective strategies can help weight-conscious consumers make better choices. The study, conducted at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, indicates that adding words related to health and weight on posters, restaurant menus, or recipe cards can stimulate healthy food choices. The technique is dubbed as "primes" or "goal primes" which subtly remind weight-conscious people of their weight related goals. An example of a prime is a poster announcing a diet recipe on a butcher shop door. One key to the primes is that they only work on people who are weight-conscious and have set health-related or weight reduction goals.

This is the reverse of the food cues that Brian Wansink talks about in Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. According to the studies conducted at Utrecht University, the primes work subconsciously, similarly to food cues. Although the research dealt with primes at such places as grocery stores, restaurants, and the butcher shop, it seems to me a person could use the cues within their home to remind themselves of their weight related goals. The study found that goal primes can neutralize or counteract food cues. People could also incorporate exercise primes in addition to food primes. This is a low-cost and easily implementable system to help people effortlessly achieve their health-related goals.

Dr. Grandma's blog posts, library articles and recipes provide excellent information for you to set your health-related goals and write a concrete plan of action for achieving them. Take some time to explore our website and start your journey to a healthier lifestyle. You will be glad you did.