100 lb. Club - NYT article: Mathmatical Challenge to Obesity

05-16-2012, 06:51 AM

The interesting parts:

That the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.

Also, there’s a time constant that’s an important factor in weight loss. That’s because if you reduce your caloric intake, after a while, your body reaches equilibrium. It actually takes about three years for a dieter to reach their new “steady state.” Our model predicts that if you eat 100 calories fewer a day, in three years you will, on average, lose 10 pounds — if you don’t cheat.

One of the things the numbers have shown us is that weight change, up or down, takes a very, very long time. All diets work. But the reaction time is really slow: on the order of a year.

People don’t wait long enough to see what they are going to stabilize at. So if you drop weight and return to your old eating habits, the time it takes to crawl back to your old weight is something like three years. To help people understand this better, we’ve posted an interactive version of our model at bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov. People can plug in their information and learn how much they’ll need to reduce their intake and increase their activity to lose. It will also give them a rough sense of how much time it will take to reach the goal.

05-16-2012, 09:29 AM
Interesting, thanks for sharing!

I'm not sure if I get exactly what they mean by 3 years, though? Are they saying that the calories that you'll need/day to maintain your current weight will only settle down after three years? Or that your weight loss will finally stop after three years of changing your daily calorie intake? It seems fairly vague in the article...

05-16-2012, 04:26 PM
My understanding is that it takes a couple of years to stabilize at your maintenance weight, even after you stop "dieting".

05-16-2012, 06:23 PM
I got what Synger got - it takes time to stabilize. I find it interesting that they also focused on the fact that food production is high, therefore food is cheap and readily available, making fast food cheap and readily available. That certainly is a pretty obvious statement, I guess, with McD, BK, etc., on every other corner in a town of any size all over the US.

I will take this information to heart as I struggle through maintenance! I guess the trick is to hold on to the loss for 3 years or so and hope for the best! I think in that amount of time we do balance out. I liked the concept that they felt weight stayed the same over the course of a year, regardless of daily caloric intake - as long as the average is kept constant. Sort of like the really long version of calorie cycling for the week that I often do.

Very interesting - thanks for posting it.


05-16-2012, 06:57 PM
Very interesting article Jitterfish; thanks for sharing. I think he makes a lot of good points.

The only thing I really disagreed with is his theory about how long it would take to re-gain weight. I think if I ever went back to my old way of eating I would reach 272 much sooner than three years!

05-16-2012, 10:38 PM
I love the little application they wrote and included in the article... if I want to weight 199 by September 1, I have to eat 1400 calories a day without cheating.

1400 calories on most days I can do. But every day between now and September? Now that's a challenge!


05-18-2012, 05:40 PM
There’s no magic bullet on this. You simply have to cut calories and be vigilant for the rest of your life.

He sums up his findings with that tidbit -- something that we already know. I could have told them that for free. Since the 50's & 60's, we have more high-calorie, cheap food readily available, so people are eating more. They really don't know how much they are eating (the calorie value, I mean).

Before that, people made and ate their food at home; plus many people had gardens and bought foods direct from farmers. They had to -- money was tight. They ate mostly whole non-processed foods. Obesity was rare. Even being overweight wasn't that common. I recall that there may have been only one student who may have been classified as obese, and only a few that were overweight (around 20 lbs).

Like the interviewer said, when I was growing up there were no fast-food places in our town. People ate out very rarely, if at all. I never had fries until my early teens; pizza until in my mid-teens; and hamburgers in my late teens.

I worked in stores during that time; and I remember how much the food products changed over the years. Even in the 70's when I worked in a grocery store, they didn't have a whole aisle for junk or bread products; just a small corner. Now there are whole aisles and aisles of the stuff. Whole aisles of pop; whole aisles of junkies; whole aisles of cookies; whole aisles of ice cream, whole aisles of baked goods, and so forth.

Our government (in Ontario, Canada) is now going to require that restaurants disclose how many calories are in all the foods they make. Sadly, we're just catching up to the US in this regard.

One of the most telling things for our family was this -- when we were children, we had 3 homemade meals a day; and small ones at that, with no snacking at all, and none of us were overweight at that time. All of us were normal weight children ... UNTIL ... we had more food available.

At first, we were just a little plump; but when we started working in stores where we had junk foods available to us, and the money to buy them, we gained a lot of weight. Then, add in the fast foods, and our weights went up even more. :o

There's where the problem started, but for many people today, this has become the "norm" for them -- they eat fast food and junk all the time. So, why are we so surprised that we have an obesity epidemic? :dizzy:

05-18-2012, 08:23 PM
So if you drop weight and return to your old eating habits, the time it takes to crawl back to your old weight is something like three years.
Truthiness! Around Thanksgiving I was 25 pounds close to my highest weight. How long had it been? Four years. I think it didn't take 3 years because in the first half there was a lot of diet hold over (like not eating bread) and a couple diets in between. WOW.

salsa chip
05-20-2012, 11:36 AM
Wow, that's very interesting. Thank you for posting it :)