Focus on weight-loss may harm health

Feb 07, 2011

Focusing solely on weight loss may be less beneficial than setting goals based on improving health.

Diet and exercise may be the keys to weight loss, but there is no guarantee they will unlock the door to good health, according to University of California at Davis researchers.

A recent study, published in UC Davis' Nutrition Journal, shows that a preoccupation with weight loss may cause other undesired medical and social problems. Though diet and exercise lead to short-term reductions in weight, it is often gained back. The excess weight can contribute to social problems such as low-self esteem and weight discrimination or medical issues including eating disorders and other illnesses related to obesity.

The authors, Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor, advocate an approach called Health at Every Size. This method involves focusing more on more biological indicators of health, such as blood lipids, blood pressure, body image and self esteem. Though the authors concede these may result in some weight loss, the primary goal would be living a happier, healthier lifestyle. This method is more successful at producing favorable outcomes for both health and weight and "without the contraindications associated with a weight focus," according to Bacon and Aphramor.

Becoming healthier may have an additional benefit that the authors didn't mention. Those in good health are often eligible for lower health and life insurance premiums.  

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