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Unraveling the Mystery of Weight Loss


If you try to stay current on the latest insights on weight loss, you quickly realize how multifaceted the issue is. Like a three-dimensional kaleidoscope, the picture is constantly changing.

The following items provide insight into obesity as the new social norm, the impact of yo-yo dieting, one person's 300-pound weight loss and the surprising success of virtual weight-loss programs:

Is Obesity the New Norm? Surplus weight and sedentary behavior are becoming increasingly common among Americans, yet our oversized bodies concern us less than ever. According to a national survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation, personal focus on weight loss is at an all-time low. In addition, participants surveyed reported less activity in 2011 than in 2010, and many of the participants said they don't count calories. Even more surprising, although fewer participants acknowledged being overweight, statistical data suggests that participants had packed on more pounds than they realized.

Yo-Yo Diets Better Than No Diet at All: In a recent reversal of longstanding warnings about the dangers of yo-yo dieting, researchers found that losing and regaining weight is less damaging to one's health than a sustained high-fat diet. In a study conducted at Ohio University, mice that dieted on and off lived 25 percent longer than mice that consumed a constant high-calorie diet. While these findings are encouraging, some dietitians and health professionals are urging caution. "Often these quick-fix diets cut out major food groups and can be socially isolating," said consultant dietitian Sian Porter, of the British Diet­etic Association. Commenting further, Porter noted, "Mice aren't people. I think this falls into the category of very interesting but it would be more interesting if replicated in humans."

Woman Loses 300 Pounds the Old-Fashioned Way: If you weighed nearly 600 pounds, how much courage would it take to even try to lose weight through eating less and exercising more? Shannon Davis lost 300 pounds the old-fashioned way-through diet, exercise, determination and commitment. When questioned about her approach, Davis replied, "There is no magic bullet." She added, "It's not easy. It's simple sweat equity." Davis also emphasized the importance of associating with like-minded fitness friends. "It's so important to surround yourself with the best people, people who won't sabotage you, won't say, 'I don't think you're going to make it today, won't put you down.'"

Virtual Weight-Loss Programs Just as Effective as Traditional Programs in Promoting Weight Loss: Researchers are surprised to find that online or virtual weight-loss communities are just as effective as real communities in helping individuals who want to lose weight. In addition, the studies indicated some surprising findings: members of the virtual communities tended to develop healthier habits than their real-world counterparts. "The virtual world program was at least as beneficial as the face-to-face program and in some ways, more effective," said Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor of kinesiology at Indiana University. "It has the potential to reach people who normally wouldn't go to a gym or join a program because of limitations, such as time or discomfort with a fitness center environment."

With the increasing financial toll rendered by an increasingly oversized population, hundreds of scientists around the globe are seeking insight into how we can gain control of our weight and improve our health. Surely with weight loss receiving this much attention, we'll experience a breakthrough in the next decade. In the meantime, researchers will continue to piece together the fascinating bits of this colorful puzzle.

Photo credit: Jennifer C. on Flickr.

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