If you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to try harder.
Sorry, but it’s true.
Dropping those pounds is more difficult than ever – and science says so.
A study from our very own York University, published recently in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice examined dietary and exercise data for tens of thousands of Americans over the past four decades.
What they found wasn’t exactly encouraging.
When the researchers compared people with the same diets in 1971 and 2008, the latter was 10 per cent heavier on average. Assessing physical activity data (which was only available between 1988 and 2006), those born later were five per cent heavier even if they exercised just as much people two decades earlier.
“Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight is now more challenging than ever,” said Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at York and co-author of the paper, in a statement.
So, apparently, it goes beyond good, old-fashioned diet and exercise.
Great news, right? Ugh.
“Weight management is actually much more complex than just ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out,’” said Kuk in the statement. “That’s similar to saying your investment account balance is simply your deposits subtracting your withdrawals and not accounting for all the other things that affect your balance like stock market fluctuations, bank fees or currency exchange rates.”
So, what are these “other things?”
Though they’re still only hypotheses, Kuk and her team outline a few factors that may make it more difficult to manage our weight than it was for people in the past; lifestyles, chemicals, prescription drugs, and diet changes.
When it comes to lifestyle, we’re sleeping less and are more stressed out, according to the study (not that we need to tell you that), as Kuk told The Atlantic. She also points to our exposure to particular chemicals that impact the endocrine system and metabolic processes. Things like plastic packaging, pesticides, and persistent organic pollutants (aka: mostly synthetic toxins that bioaccumulate through the food web) can impact the way the body processes and stores fat.
Kuk also told The Atlantic that prescription drugs could be playing a role. The study highlights the fact that spending on prescription drugs doubled between 1999 and 2008, according to the Centre for Disease Control. Antidepressants – which have been linked to weight gain – were the most commonly used drug. Things like pain medication, allergy medications, and steroids can also impact weight gain.
Diet changes also likely play a role. Apparently, you can blame your “microbiomes,” the mix of tiny organisms that live in your intestines and play a role in processing food. These bacteria may make weight loss harder. Things like an increase in the consumption of meat and artificial sweeteners are known to impact the bacteria in our bodies, which affect how we extract energy from our diets.
While the specific role that each of these factors contributes to is the subject of further research, the facts remain the same: it’s more difficult to manage weight than ever before.
So don’t feel so bad the next time you look at pictures of your parents when they were your age – it was a lot easier for them to be “bathing suit-ready” back then.