As you may know, obesity in the U.S. has become such an astronomical problem that it is now─quite literally─an epidemic. From 1980 to 2012, adult obesity rates have doubled, but even more shocking is that childhood obesity has more than tripled! All this carries significant health consequences, as obesity factors into more than 30 major diseases.

Dr. Carson C. Chow, an investigator at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is taking a novel approach to the problem. He’s deploying mathematics to better understand why 1 in 3 Americans are overweight. In a presentation entitled “Illuminating the Obesity Epidemic With Mathematics,” Dr. Chow revealed a simplified model for weight change, based on different calorie densities of fat, carbohydrates, and protein.

This “math model of a human being” incorporates variables that play into obesity─such as height, weight, food intake, and fitness level─and then predicts what a person will weigh. He explains that the same factors don’t apply to everyone. For example, the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. Thus, an extra 100 calories a day is more likely to be stored as fat in an obese person than a slim one.

Another factor in the equation─which is especially important for yo-yo dieters to understand─is that when you reduce your calorie intake, your body strives to find a set-point, but this takes longer than most people realize. His model predicts that if you cut out 100 calories a day consistently, in 3 years you will have lost 10 pounds, a loss you’re very likely to maintain.

Dr. Chow created an interactive version of his body weight simulator model at bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov which allows people to determine how many calories they can consume, as well as how many they need to burn through exercise─and approximately how long it will take─in order to lose weight for good. He refers to this as “applied mathematics in action.”

There’s another consideration we can add to the work of Dr. Chow, which is equally important for healthy, lasting weight loss. Rather than simply counting your calories, make them count! Emphasizing lean protein, fresh produce, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, as well as unprocessed grains in moderation will prevent you from junking out─and consequently filling out.

Low calorie, nutrient dense, complete protein─rich in all 9 essential amino acids─should be top priority, as it offers the greatest satiety factor of all foods, keeping you going long and strong and preventing the blood sugar imbalances and mood swings that invite unhealthy eating.

There’s a great saying, which is that “lesser people than you have overcome greater obstacles than this.” It’s a great message for those struggling with extra pounds. But it does have to be a conscious effort, and like any worthy endeavor, one that we work on consistently until we achieve it. Would you not agree?

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