gaining weight than losing it, Albaugh notes. So when calories are more scarce, the body responds by expending fewer of them.
On top of that, people generally gain weight as they get older, Albaugh adds. It all means that a middle-aged person trying to shed pounds may be fighting an uphill battle.
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Not just about the number on the scale
The good news, though, is that it’s not all about the number on the scale, Albaugh shares. People can still reap health benefits from eating well and exercising, even if the scale shows little change.
The new findings, published online March 15 in JAMA Network Open, are based on almost 30,000 Chicago-area adults who were followed for over 40 years. At the outset, they were 40 years of age, on average.
Overall, those who were overweight had a similar life expectancy as their counterparts with a normal BMI. But obesity took about two to five years from people’s lives. People who were normal-weight died at age 82, on average, versus age 77 among those with class III obesity in middle-age.
But when it came to chronic health conditions, even overweight people were worse off. Compared with their normal-weight counterparts, they typically spent an extra year of their lives with conditions like heart disease, diabetes or stroke. That increased to two to three years among people who were moderately obese (class I or II) in middle-age.
Khan stresses that “it’s never too early or too late” to make lifestyle changes for the better.
But she also says the burden should not be on individuals alone — especially people with low incomes who struggle to simply pay the rent. Khan says they need the help of policies that, for example, make healthy “whole” foods more accessible and provide “green spaces” for exercise.
Albaugh also suggests that people start with small changes that are achievable and, most importantly, sustainable. That could mean replacing sugary drinks with water, using the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a daily walk around the neighborhood.