How much harm can one little soda do?
Turns out, it’s the little things that add up to a wider waistline. A new Harvard study shows that small habits add up to big weight gains over the long term. The study draws on data from over 100,000 people collected over a 20 year period.
The news from this massive study is really that there is no news. The big culprits for gradual weight gain aren’t surprising. Drinking soda every day will pack on the pounds. Ditto eating potato chips. Watching TV makes you gain weight, increasing your physical activity prompts you to lose it. Getting enough sleep is paramount.
What’s surprising is how little it takes of these things. The research shows that even a small amount of potato chips and soda will cause creeping weight gain over time. Habitually sleeping too much or too little does the same. And watching just an hour of TV a day is worth an extra couple of pounds over a 20-year period.
It’s not just how many calories you consume that affects your weight. It’s what form those calories take. Potatoes are especially bad in this respect. Least likely to make you gain unwanted weight: yogurt. TIME quotes the researchers as saying:
“For diet, conventional wisdom often recommends ‘everything in moderation,’ with a focus only on total calories consumed,” says Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and lead author of the study. “Our results demonstrate that the quality of the diet — the types of food and beverages that one consumes — is strongly linked to weight gain.”
This seems to jive with common sense as I know it: eat moderate amounts of healthy food and exercise regularly. Which is easier said than done with small kids underfoot, of course. Still, the point of the study seems to be that small gestures matter. You don’t have to be hitting the gym 4 days a week and living on yogurt and grapefruit to stay healthy. You just need to make a lot of small smart choices. Starting with turning off the TV and skipping the soda.
What little things do you do to stay healthy?
Need more reasons to work out? We’ve got 8 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise!