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Is the Junk-Food 'Addiction' Study Junk Science?


"I'm fat because of Oreo cookies!" screamed the woman as she entered the weight-loss class I was coaching last week. In hand, she waved the press release from Connecticut College, which blared the warning, "Oreos are just as addictive as drugs!" 
 
 
"I am addicted to certain foods, just like those rats were addicted to Oreo cookies," she continued on.  "It's supposed to be worse than being addicted to cocaine. How am I ever going to be successful with my weight loss?"
Posted 10/23/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 65 comments   16,533 views
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Should Obesity Be Classified as a Disease?


Yesterday, at their annual meeting, the American Medical Association decided to classify obesity as a disease. They hope this change will help doctors to better treat the complex condition and aid in the fight against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While The New York Times reports that the AMA's decision has no legal authority, some medical professionals think the outcome will result in sweeping changes. 
Posted 6/19/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Megan Patrick : 137 comments   19,832 views
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8 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight


Sometimes, people can diet and work out and track their calories and do everything right—but still not lose weight. I can't begin to tell you how often members, friends and even acquaintances ask me why they're not losing weight despite doing X, Y or Z. It's one of the most common questions I get as a trainer. Sometimes, the answer isn't that easy to come by.
 
But usually, when someone seems to be doing the right things but not making progress, a list of possible problems runs through my head. These are the most common scenarios I tend to see that stop people from getting results—and they could be the culprits for your weight woes, too.
 
So here are a few cold, hard truths about why you're not losing weight.
Posted 4/28/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 127 comments   1,606,226 views
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How Much Exercise Do You REALLY Need to Lose Weight?


New guidelines issued from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) state that 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week might not be enough. In 2001, ACSM recommended that overweight and obese adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to improve their health. 200 to 300 minutes per week was recommended for long-term weight loss. But will this amount of exercise really help you lose weight and keep it off?
Posted 4/10/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 1117 comments   744,982 views
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Does the Prejudice against Obesity Motivate You to Lose Weight?


It’s no secret that being obese can make you the target of some very negative and stigmatizing attitudes. Many people have been subjected to public ridicule and cruel remarks, lost jobs or promotions, and even been blamed for large-scale social problems like climate change and rising health care costs—all because of their weight.

As reported in this article, even doctors and health policy professionals get in on the act. Ms. Brown reports that, in one study, more than half of the 620 doctors questioned said they viewed obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” Another study shows that higher BMI scores translate into doctors having less respect for patients and spending less time with them during appointments.

With all the evidence that, in most cases, obesity is a complex condition caused by the interaction of many different genetic, biochemical, and environmental factors, you’d think that medical professionals, especially, would be less likely to fall into the trap of viewing obesity as some sort of character flaw and stigmatizing obese patients.

Ms. Brown raises the possibility that many health professionals and policy makers believe that being stigmatized can motivate people to lose weight and improve their health. But, as she notes, the question is whether this approach actually works.

Posted 3/20/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Dean Anderson : 321 comments   34,754 views
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Food Addiction is Real (and 6 Ways to Deal)


Greetings to everyone. I'm thrilled to share this guest blog on DailySpark.com to share my wit and wisdom on all things healthy living. The SparkPeople community is a powerful and potent network of wonderful folks supporting one another as they strive to achieve mental and physical fitness through a healthier lifestyle. Kudos to all of you for doing your best to live the rich and rewarding life each of you so deserves.
 
This blog is all about the brand new science of food and addiction. As a physician and scientist and Pew Foundation scholar in nutrition and metabolism, I have devoted years to studying this issue and am thrilled to see that scientists around the globe continue to produce brilliant work to help people manage what is now emerging as a major problem in the field of weight management. Even the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, noted in a recent pronouncement that a new and significant cause of overweight and obesity is food addiction.
 
SparkPeople has done a masterful job of enlightening the community about this cutting-edge new science. I've been following the personal journeys of so many people who are struggling with cravings, binges and addictive urges for what we now call the hyperpalatables--sugary/fatty/salty/refined/processed food combinations.
 
Let's meet Samantha, one of my patients, who is featured in my book, The Hunger Fix,  which described the new science in consumer-friendly terms.

The beast never went away, it was just hiding, waiting to strike. I was blindsided, and by the time I really consciously realized what was happening, it was too late. A clear consciousness of what was happening didn't emerge until real physical terror— I woke up choking, because stomach acid was running up my throat into my mouth from my anxiety. I had bought bags of candy, intending to make Christmas cookies for everyone, but suddenly I had to feed the beast. I hid candy in the freezer, the car, even wrapped in a sock strategically placed through- out the house. I felt ashamed, tricked, embarrassed, mortified, and angry. The anger fired me up and gave me strength to face the beast. I'm nauseous just admitting my darkest moments of addiction— my friends, family, and husband would be shocked to know!  The Hunger Fix, pages 166-167

Thanks to the advent of specialized scans that allow researchers to peer into the brain, we've discovered what is now believed to be the basic mechanisms underlying all addictions. This is what is happening inside your brain:
  1. Your Reward Center is Hijacked: In any addictive state, we now know that the reward center in your brain undergoes organic changes. In the case of food, it's usually the hyperpalatables that cause most of the problems. Overexposure to them causes too much dopamine (the brain chemical that helps you feel reward and pleasure) to flow, overwhelming the brain. The brain can't handle this long term and a primal mechanism kicks in resulting in a decrease in the total number of dopamine receptors (the only way to feel reward is when dopamine bonds with its receptor). The bad news is that as a consequence of this downshift in receptors, your own perception of reward significantly decreases. One cupcake is not enough. 2, 3, 20 can't do it. There's no period to the end of that sugary/fatty/salty sentence. This is how the addictive cycle begins. If you have addiction genetics in your family line, this entire process is magnified. You do not have to have addiction genetics to become food addicted. You just need that overexposure from your living environment.

  2. Your Executive Center is Impaired: People with food addictions are constantly told "just use moderation for heaven's sake!". The problem is that the brain center that controls impulses (prefrontal cortex or PFC) is also where your willpower and discipline is housed. Scientists have discovered that in all addictions, the PFC is damaged and impaired. Try telling a food addict or an alcoholic in the middle of their respective binges to use moderation. This is not an excuse to stay out of control. It's just a scientific fact that is taken into consideration when a detox and recovery program are created.
What does this mean to you? Here are some tips to help you get started on your own path to lifelong recovery.
Posted 2/13/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 30 comments   35,104 views
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Poll: Is 'Shame' a Helpful Weight-Loss Motivator?


A prominent bioethicist is making headlines this week with his unconventional (and, some say, mean-spirited) plan to curb obesity rates and related health-care costs. Dr. Daniel Callahan recommends taking a tactic similar to one that was employed in the fight against smoking: attaching a social stigma to it. Callanan, who at age 82 is not overweight but was a smoker, proposed in a new report that strong social pressure could be brought against those who are overweight. He says that it worked for smoking and could work for obesity, too, but his opponents are calling it "fat-shaming" and bullying.

In the abstract of his report, he poses some heavy questions: "How far can government and business go in trying to change behavior that harms health, what are the limits of market freedom for industry, and how do we look upon our bodies and judge those of others?" We'd like to know what you think. Would that work? Did you ever feel shamed because of your weight? What was your reaction?

Posted 1/28/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 220 comments   19,118 views
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How Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic Harms Public Health


I've started blogging over at Huffington Post Healthy Living, where twice a month I'll write about the latest headlines in nutrition and weight loss.

This week I'm addressing the issue of downplaying the severity of the obesity epidemic in the media. I'd love it if you could read the blog and let me know what you think:

Why Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic, Even in a Single Story, is Hazardous to Public Health
 
Posted 1/25/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 84 comments   20,146 views
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Avoid the Self-Fulfilling Fat Prophecy


A recent study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology adds to an existing pile of evidence that if you are normal weight but see yourself as overweight, you are much more likely to become overweight. So, the next time you're in a fitting room at the mall and a friend does the ol' "I'm so fat" thing, you might want to let her know that if she keeps saying that, it might in fact turn out to be true. 

Researchers surveyed normal-weight teenagers to see if they felt overweight or not, and then followed up with them 10 years later as young adults. Of the teenage girls who had seen themselves as fat, 59 percent did in fact become overweight, as measured by BMI. But using waist circumference instead of BMI as the measure, 78 percent had become overweight as young adults. And, we can probably guess that 100 percent of subjects who had become overweight were pretty upset about that.

In contrast, 31 percent of the girls who did not consider themselves fat during adolescence were found in the follow-up study to be overweight, as measured using BMI. That number was 55 percent as measured by waist circumference.

There are a few explanations for why perceiving yourself as fat can actually make you fat.
Posted 10/26/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   19,576 views
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Does Fitness Matter More than Weight?


Which is better:  being fat and fit, or thin and unfit?  The first reaction might assume that carrying excess body fat is more harmful to your health, even if you exercise regularly.  But is that true?  Opinions will differ depending on who you ask, but some of the latest research seems to contradict what we’ve typically been lead to believe.  Size is not always the best indicator of health. 
 
Newer research has been exploring the “obesity paradox”, a term used to explain how overweight and obese people tend to live longer with chronic illnesses than those who are a normal weight.  For example, “One study found that heavier dialysis patients had a lower chance of dying than those whose were of normal weight or underweight. Overweight patients with coronary disease fared better than those who were thinner in another study; mild to severe obesity posed no additional mortality risks. In 2007, a study of 11,000 Canadians over more than a decade found that those who were overweight had the lowest chance of dying from any cause.”
 
Scientists have validated these results in a variety of medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.  Although research has yet to find a definitive reason, there are theories as to why those who are overweight and obese fare better with these chronic illnesses.  One theory is genetics (the illness presents itself differently in those who are thin versus fat.)  Another theory is that doctors don’t treat thin patients as aggressively because it’s assumed their bodies are able to deal with the disease more effectively.  Or maybe the real problem is that we are assigning blame to size, when really there are other factors causing these diseases.    
Posted 10/16/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 74 comments   14,306 views
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Healthy Teens Equal Smarter Teens


Whether you’re young or old, a balanced diet and regular exercise makes it much more likely that you’ll live a long, healthy life.  As if that wasn’t enough reason to get up off the couch, research has shown that the complications that come with an unhealthy lifestyle affect not only your body, but your mind, too.  Although most of us didn’t worry about these health affects when we were young (because we were invincible, right?), it’s never too early to be concerned.  Studies on adults have shown metabolic syndrome (a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes) is associated with brain changes in adults.  New research shows the same effects on the teenage brain.
Posted 10/9/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 3 comments   8,136 views
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The Problem of Childhood Obesity: How You Can Be Part of the Solution


The topic of childhood obesity is interesting to me, both personally and professionally.  My job is to help people create a healthier lifestyle, and I’m also the mother of three small children.  But I’ll be honest, when I see stories on the news about the latest obesity statistics, it’s easy to start tuning out all of the depressing facts and figures.  Mainstream media talks a lot about the problem (that’s become an epidemic), but not as much about the solution.  What can we start doing today, right now, in our own homes and communities to help turn this around?  What can we do to make sure the next generation isn’t the first one to have a shorter lifespan than their mothers and fathers?
Posted 9/18/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 14 comments   7,592 views
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How Prevalent is Obesity in Your State?


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adult obesity rates have doubled over the past two decades. With more than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) being classified as obese, the nutritional state of our nation is not strong.
 
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released new information for self –reported obesity rates among states. Colorado (20.7%) wins the prize for the state with the lowest prevalence of obesity while Mississippi (34.9%) has the highest. Overall, adult obesity prevalence across the U.S. in 2011 continues to vary by region. The South has the highest percentage of obesity prevalence (29.5%) while the Western part of the nation has the lowest (24.3%) prevalence. See if your state made the healthiest or the heaviest top 10 list.
Posted 9/3/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 27 comments   7,104 views
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Are New FDA-Approved Diet Drugs Worth the Risk?


Within the past month, the FDA has approved two new prescription weight-loss drugs.  While neither drug is being touted as a “magic pill” that will make weight loss a quick and easy process, they are still marketed as an aid to help those with significant weight loss goals.  It’s important to understand what these drugs do and how they work so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to your health.
Posted 7/31/2012  6:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 104 comments   37,971 views
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Could AC Be Making Us Fatter?


Temperatures in Cincinnati and across the country reached near-record highs over the past few weeks. I live in a third- and fourth-floor walk-up apartment just north of the city's center. According to my thermostat, it was 96 degrees Fahrenheit on the top floor of my apartment at 10 p.m.

I very rarely use air conditioning. I turned it on once this year when our fridge overheated and I needed to keep all our food on ice for 24 hours, and we used it the weekend it was over 100 degrees for three days straight, though we set it to 85.  I use it in the car sometimes when driving on the highway--I don't like so much wind blowing on me at high speeds--but even on the lowest setting I have to turn it off after a few minutes. Otherwise, I avoid it as much as I can.  

I'm a naturally cold person, requiring at least a sheet on even the most stifling of summer nights, wearing socks year-round, and shivering in the car, the office, and pretty much anywhere else that central air is in use. Going to a movie theater or the mall in summer leaves me with goosebumps and chattering teeth. When dining out during the warmest months, I opt for al fresco dining; it's no fun to shiver through your meals.

I grew up living in old houses, none of which had central air. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I went to school in buildings without it. My dorm room freshman year didn't have AC, but sophomore year it did, though I had moved to France by spring quarter, when we would actually need to use it. In France, neither my room nor my host mom's house was "climatisée" (air-conditioned) but we had heavy wooden shades that we could pull in to keep out the heat. I noticed there that some businesses or offices were air conditioned, but that didn't mean the entire building would be; the hallways, restrooms, and other communal areas often did not have AC. Most restaurants and small offices, even government ones, were not air conditioned; neither was my university.  No one seemed to mind its absence, so I soon stopped noticing.

Two weeks ago, I had to take my car in for a tune-up, in an area of town that offers little more than car dealerships, fast-food joints, and industrial sites. It wasn't exactly the ideal locale for a walk (on another 90+-degree afternoon) so I sat in the waiting area and responded to emails.

I carry an emergency sweater with me from May through September, which feels slightly ridiculous when walking about but is a lifesaver when blasted by Arctic air in a restaurant or store. Unfortunately, that day my sweater was in my car, which was then being worked on. I shivered, watched the goose bumps rise, and crossed my fingers for quick service. When I returned outside, I felt ill--it was SO hot. Too hot. My body didn't like the drastic fluctuation, and I ended up with a headache.

I just don't get it: Those of us in temperate climates anxiously await summer's sunshine and high temperatures, then the minute the mercury rises, we combat it with freezing-cold air conditioning. Why do we avoid the heat when we've been waiting for it all year?

People think I'm weird for avoiding AC and complaining about being cold in summertime, but as it turns out air conditioning might be among the modern conveniences taking its toll on our waistlines.
Posted 7/23/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 84 comments   9,029 views
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