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Beyond Fitbit - What the Research Says About Weight Loss That Should Drive Wellness...

I'm feeling all wellness-oriented these days.  A while back, I posted on the opinion that FitBit and similar wearables don't do a damn things for wellness.  The people who exercise aren't your problem.  Here's the money quote from that post:

"Well, Kris - I'll tell you the deal we learned about Fitbit.  We've got over 10K employees.  We've got 1K of those who are actively trying to use a Fitbit.  Here's the problem - about 965 of those were people who were already into fitness - they're already working to stay in shape, etc.  So I got 35 people to change their lifestyle?  That's great, but there's no impact to the bottom line of my healthcare cost."

Is food calorie consumption your problem when it comes to wellness?  Well, that's an interesting question for HR and wellness leaders everywhere...Here's some notes from Aaron Carroll at the New York Times:

"Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.

2011 meta-analysis, a study of studies, looked at the relationship between physical activity and fat mass in children, and found that being active is probably not the key determinant in whether a child is at an unhealthy weight. In the adult population, interventional studies have difficulty showing that a physically active person is less likely to gain excess weight than a sedentary person. Further, studies of energy balance, and there are many of them, show that total energy expenditure and physical activity levels in developing and industrialized countries are similar, making activity and exercise unlikely to be the cause of differing obesity rates.

Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite. After all, when you burn off calories being active, your body will often signal you to replace them. Research confirms this. A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake."

Translation - controlling weight and health is easier accomplished by opting not to scarf the Snickers bar, rather than rationalizing that you'll burn it off.

We could probably make a lot more headway into wellness by offering people a variety of behavior modification techniques related to food rather than funding Fitbits.

I'm a gadget guy.  FitBits are cool.  But saying no to calories you don't need is where the money is at from a wellness perspective.  

Comments

MattL

Free uppers for all!

But seriously, if it were as easy to just saying no to calories that you don't need, we'd all be a healthy weight. Hard problem. I'm sure different people will respond to different programs, but which program for which people?

--Matt

Ted Tucker

Hi Kris,
As I've shared with you many times before, I'm a huge fan of our work. In my opinion achieving or maintaining an optimal weight is really not about "energy balance", it's about eating whole foods without consuming added sugars. If you haven't already seen "Fed Up" the movie, I highly encourage you to check it out and spread the word as you do so brilliantly. It's a really powerful film - even the 2 minute trailer could change lives. It's also on Netflix.
http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/home

Aloha, Ted Tucker

Ted Tucker

Uh...that's fan of "your" work...

MattL

It's a hard problem. No easy answers.

Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds

http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/

KD

From a reader via email:

"My suggestion. Instead of putting calories on a menu put how many miles you would have to walk to work off the meal. For instance if there are 1,100 calories in a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast you would put: You will have to walk eleven miles today to work off this menu selection. I can get my head around walking eleven miles more than I can 1,100 calories."

Fitness center software

Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh: that means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein....

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Regina

I agree and support the fitness centre comments.

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