In the last 25 years, the American obesity epidemic has grown from less than 10% of the population to over 30% in many states. What is the root cause of this epidemic? As health professionals, we often blame sedentary lifestyles, caloric intake, and nutrient deficiencies.
The calorie is often thought of as the very basic unit of weight-all foods store an amount of energy that can be released, which we refer to as calories. Health professionals used to cite Max Rubner's isodynamic law: that obesity was a basic result of calories in minus calories out. If this is true, weight maintenance should be a "piece of cake." However, obesity and Type-II diabetes rates continue to rise, with more and more states passing the 30% threshold.
How can ACSM professionals look at this rise in preventable obesity and obesity-related conditions and turn it into an opportunity for education? We believe that energy burned should be fueled in a calorie-balanced manner through proper, whole food based nutrition. Unfortunately, the term "diet" has been confusing health practitioners and clients alike. Too often, diets are assumed to be a restriction of one nutrient group or extreme limit on calories as a whole.
Instead, we should focus on altering personal nutrition plans to work with a client's current diet, but also balance the calories consumed with calories burned through exercise. The end goal would be clients who are not only less hungry, but also less focused on food. Eating for weight loss or maintenance is less "fun" and "celebratory", but we must assume that all people are either obese, or pre-obese, waiting for age and lifestyle to take their toll and result in weight gain. Balancing calorie intake and burning early on can result in a long-term plan for success.
But should extreme calorie reduction, as a tactic for weight loss, be considered among obese patients who want to see results? A drastic drop in the amount of calories consumed can cause the body to slow its metabolism and store fat for long-term usage. This can then lead to a cycle of weight-loss and weight-gain as a patient naturally goes from normal calorie consumption, to well below normal, and back again.
The key to effective weight loss is balancing your clients' caloric intake and burning. The focus should be to encourage clients to eat better on a daily basis, a diet based on whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein. At the same time, raise their metabolism through regular physical activity, until a balance is found to either result in weight loss or maintenance.