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Good News! You’re Not Losing Weight … Because You Overeat

“Why am I not losing weight?”

It’s a question that people ask themselves when they change to a healthier diet, but don’t see noticeable results.

Turns out it’s not the quality of the food that is making you fat. Rather, eating too much food — the quantity — is what puts pounds on the scale.

Revolutionary, right? Well, maybe not, but a new study out of Cornell University confirms that the “intake frequency,” e.g. consumption, of “indulgent foods and beverages,” including candy, soda, and fast food, has no correlation to body mass index (BMI) except in the 5 percent of people who are most overweight and underweight.

“Simply put, just because those things can lead you to get fat doesn’t mean that’s what is making us fat. By targeting just these vilified foods, we are creating policies that are not just highly ineffective, but may be self-defeating as it distracts from the real underlying causes of obesity,” said Professor David Just, who along with Professor Brian Wansink of Cornell’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management examined national data from 2007-08.

The study may not put to rest the debate over whether 20-ounce sodas should be banned (but the courts have already ruled on this one) but the findings do demonstrate that, once more, individual decision-making has a lot to do with how people achieve results.

The researchers do warn against using their study as a justification to chow down on some Snickers or french fries. Indeed, there are definite downsides to eating unhealthy food, including nutritional imbalances, acne, and heart disease, among others. But the study notes that what we think may be good for us isn’t necessarily good in excess. Interestingly, the study notes that the height of the American obesity epidemic came during a major increase in the consumption of grains.

Indeed, nutritional balance is a key factor affecting everyone. Energy levels, cravings, digestion are all impacted by food choices. More so, performance of many athletes and highly active individuals is extremely impacted by the input-output model. You virtually never see nutritional tips for athletes that include mini-pizza and pigs in a blanket.

But even athletes’ diets can often conflict, and need to be determined by what works for each individual. And certainly some of the most popular advice for eating right during training has been debunked.

Of course, not everyone is an athlete. Most people just want to keep off the extra pounds and feel good throughout the day. The good news is you can do that without having to ward off all indulgences. The key to #winning starts with the “m” word — moderation.

So enjoy all those Thanksgiving dishes, but don’t pig out. Cornell’s study doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is a win for common sense.

Cornell University junk food and obesity correlation infographic

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