Weighing in on Health
Many of us point to the numbers on the scale as something to focus on in the new year, but science is beginning to show that this single-minded focus on weight may be misplaced. Although dropping another pant size is always a welcome side effect, the health benefits of doing so may be primarily derived from the lifestyle that includes good nutrition and regular exercise rather than the actual weight loss.
In a landmark 2012 study, researchers looked at a sample of nearly 12,000 American adults to answer the question: “Do healthy behaviors do as much good for overweight individuals as they do for thinner people?(1)” The participants were divided into three groups based on their BMI (normal, overweight, and obese) and further separated according to their adherence to four healthy habits: meeting guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake, regular exercise, moderate alcohol consumption, and refraining from smoking. They were then compared based upon their risk for early mortality. The data produced some fascinating findings. If you do not follow any of the healthy habits, your risk for early mortality is significantly influenced by your weight; those who were overweight and obese and exhibited unhealthy lifestyles were at far greater risk than their thinner unhealthy-living peers. As more healthy habits were practiced, the variance in early mortality risk between weight groups became progressively smaller. For those practicing all four healthy habits, risk for early mortality was almost equal between the weight groups.
If you are truly concerned about optimum health, focus on those small and sustainable lifestyle changes rather than on arbitrary numbers on a scale, and approach every day as an opportunity to build a better you. No matter what your weight is, healthy habits are the greatest determinant in quality of life and lifespan.