Whether you like it or not, there is no silver bullet for weight loss.  Eating crackers for lunch doesn’t cancel out your chocolate shake at dinner.  Rather, it’s overall dietary quality that really matters.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that modest changes in specific foods and beverages, physical activity, TV-watching, and sleep habits are strongly linked with long term weight gain and loss.

Over a period of 12 to 20 years, the researchers studied the habits of over 120,000 nurses, doctors, dentists, and veterinarians, all of whom were free from obesity or chronic diseases at the beginning of the study.

During the study, study participants gained an average of 3.35 pounds during each four year period.  That translates to about 17 pounds over the 20 years.

“This study shows that conventional wisdom- to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods- isn’t the best approach.” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the lead author of the study.

It turns out the difference isn’t the number of calories consumed but the kinds of calories.

Good vs Bad Foods

The foods associated with the most weight gain included potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed meats, and processed meats.  With the innovation of frozen processing in the 1950s, processed potatoes (French fries, dehydrated, canned) now account for 64% of total potato utilization in the US. On the other hand, there were several foods associated with less weight gain, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.

So, where’s the magic bullet?  The researchers concluded that none exists, adding that food industry claims have been wrong.

“There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less,” said Dr. Mozaffarian.  “The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”

Physical Activity and Nutrition

Their findings held true even when study participants exercised regularly.  Though those who were most physically active gained fewer pounds, the kinds of foods people ate had a larger effect on their weight.

You can’t become overweight overnight, but as the pounds creep on slowly you can increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, breast cancer, and colon cancer.  Even if it’s only one pound a year, that's 20 pounds after 20 years.

Change your diet and take control of your weight today.

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