Physical Fitness, P.E. and Recess: Our Kids Need Your Help Getting Active
By the age of 16 I weighed over 220 pounds. All my life, from the time I was a small child I struggled with my obesity. Then, one day I made a change. I went from one mile on the treadmill to running marathons and, in the process lost over 70 pounds. Today, just like me, nearly one in three children in the U.S. is considered overweight or obese. The rate of childhood obesity has nearly tripled over the past thirty years. Obesity puts children at increased risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure and dramatically increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Obesity related health care expenses and losses in productivity cost Americans more than $100 billion each year. Over 300,000 people die of obesity-related illnesses each year and will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. In addition to the physical health effects, obesity takes a toll on children both emotionally and psychologically. Studies show that obese and overweight children are often socially ostracized and can lead to low self-esteem, decreased academic performance and impeded social development. Experts agree that inactivity combined with poor eating habits are at the root of these problems. While we come together here, on this blog, to improve the food our kids eat, it is but one piece of the puzzle.
Federal guidelines recommend 150 minutes of physical activity each week, yet less than 30% of U.S. elementary kids reach this goal. However, even this number can be deceiving as researchers have stated that the increased activity level of preschool and kindergarten age children artificially inflates this number. In reality, far fewer children, on average, are performing adequate physical activity. This explains why, after the age twelve, the percentage of kids achieving the recommended amount of physical activity plummets to only 8%.
Schools, unfortunately, are not taking enough action to combat this problem. Physical education classes in elementary schools are rapidly vanishing and, recess periods, where available, are wholly inadequate in providing children the recommended physical activity. In a 2006 study, the most recently published by the U.S. government, ONLY 3.8% of our nation’s elementary schools provided a daily physical education class during the school year. This number was down from 8% of schools in 2000. Only 14% of elementary schools provide physical education classes at least 3 days per week. Add to these abysmal numbers the fact that of those elementary schools that do offer physical education classes, even if only one day a week, an overwhelming 68% of them teach only dodgeball or bombardment! It is clear our children are not being given the opportunity to reach their physical activity requirements through school physical education classes.
On a slightly more positive note, school recess numbers are surprisingly on the rise, albeit very slowly. While only six states mandate that schools provide recess, this number is up from only two states in 2000. Further, a majority of elementary schools, 79%, provide daily recess for all grades in the school, though it is not clear how long the average recess is, and represents an almost 8% increase from 2000. Despite the fact that the majority of schools provide some form of recess and the number of such schools is on the rise, it is not enough. Research has shown that during an average 30 minute recess, children receive merely 3 to 6 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Thus, over a regular five day school week, kids, on average, bank only 15 to 30 minutes of their recommended 150 minutes of physical activity. Further research suggests that children need outside encouragement and prompting to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity. Recess alone is not the answer to our children’s fitness needs.
It is more important now than ever before to take action to get our nation’s youth active and, once again, put physical activity back in the schools and we need all of YOU to make it happen! This fall I have the honor and privilege of running in the 2010 ING New York City Marathon as a part of Team for Kids (TFKs), a community of adult runners from across the country and around the world who race to raise funds to support the New York Road Runners Youth Programs.
NYRRs Youth Programs provide free and low-cost running based fitness and nutrition programs to schools and after-school community centers, promoting physical fitness, good nutrition, character development and personal achievement. Currently, NYRRs Youth Programs serve over 105,000 children a week in hundreds of schools and community centers in all 50 states and in the Cape Town region of South Africa. NYRR has set a goal to serve an additional 10,000 children during the 2010-2011 school year. During the 2009-2010 school year, NYRR kids generated over 50 million minutes of physical activity and recorded over 2 million miles ran! In 2009, TFK raised $4.2 million for NYRR Youth Programs. By 2015, NYRR hopes to raise $10 million annually to be able to serve 500,000 children each week.
If you do but one thing, I ask you to take the time to support a wonderful grassroots organization that is making a difference in our children’s lives. No matter how small, every donation is vital to supporting this cause. No child should be forced to endure the harsh existence of a childhood spent overweight and unhappy, as I know all too well.
Be a part of something bigger – do something today to make a change. Visit http://www.HayleeRunsNYC.com/ to donate today or to learn more about Team for Kids, New York Road Runners or the Youth Programs.
24 thoughts on “Guest blogger: Our kids need your help getting active”
Research has shown over and over again that obesity is not caused by lack of exercise. Read the latest research findings in this BBC News item http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10545542. But you can be sure that the fact that obesity is not caused by inactivity will not stop people, including many 'obesity experts', from continuing to urge overweight/obese people to take more exercise in order to lose weight, or to combine exercise with dieting. These 'experts' are not interested in evidence or in facts. They have been conditioned to believe, despite lack of supporting evidence, that obesity is caused by a surfeit of calories. They believe that the marvellously complex human body and the multitude of many-faceted problems caused by obesity, can be explained by a bit of arithmetic about calories in and calories out. – Beware these simpletons! They are never sated. – If you don't do as they say (i.e. eat less and move more), you are lazy and greedy. If you do do as they say and it doesn't work (because it doesn't work!) then they will tell you you are a liar, or you did it wrong.
When children become fat it is essentially because they are eating salty food. Children are especially vulnerable to salt because of their small size and small blood volume, and because their blood vessels are weaker than those of adults. Salt, and the water it attracts to it, can more easily distend weak blood vessels than fully mature ones. The resulting increase in blood volume and other fluid retention results in weight gain, as well as higher blood pressure and many other undesirable consequences. The smaller the child, the less salt they should have – and a baby, of course, should have no salt at all. – Babies can die if they are fed salty food.
Because children have much smaller bodies than adults it would be best if they had no more than half as much salt as adults. Most children, however, have much more than this because they eat so many snacks and instant foods. Just one cheeseburger, for instance, contains almost double the recommended daily salt maximum for children. There are high amounts of salt in packet soups, instant noodles, ketchup and sauces, sausages, burgers and savoury snacks. Fat children will lose weight fast if they eat less salt. And even faster still if they eat plenty of fresh fruit and unsalted vegetables, because these are rich in potassium, which helps to displace sodium from the body. Overweight children should not be put on a diet; dieting is harmful and unnecessary and does not usually result in weight loss. Once children start dieting it is often the beginning of a lifetime of yo-yo dieting and increasing weight and ill-health.
Unfortunately bread contains a lot of salt and most families eat quite a lot of bread because of using it for sandwiches in packed lunches, and for toast, etc. Because of its high salt content bread is not a healthy food for little children or for anyone who is overweight. Some bread manufacturers have lowered the salt content of certain loaves, but most bread still usually contains 0.5g or more of sodium per 100g. This is too much. – Always check on the packet; look for the lowest sodium content.
Cheese is often recommended as being good for children because it contains calcium, but cheese is not really good for children because it has a high salt content. So don't give them a lot of it. Children can get plenty of calcium by drinking milk and by eating yogurt (but avoid the sort of yogurt that has lots of chemical additives).
There are no calories in salt – but if you cut down on salt you will easily lose weight. If you cut down on calories you will not lose weight.
I remember having two recesses (morning and afternoon) in elementary school and then one after-lunch recess in middle school. Once I got to high school, we had an extended lunch period where we were allowed to go off-campus. I also had a gym class up through high school where you had to fulfill only so many credit hours within the 4-years.
I really enjoyed these breaks. Whenever sitting and listening to a lesson got too overwhelming, I re-centered myself with the knowledge that we would get a break soon! I couldn't imagine a childhood without recess – my how things have changed in just a little over a decade!
(P.S. I ran the Long Island Marathon a couple years ago and am familiar with the Road Runners. Unfortunately, I didn't live around NYC long enough to take advantage of their held spots for the NYC Marathon, but I definitely watched it and was inspired by it during my training. They're a great group – good luck for your run!!)
I was wondering – how much time do elementary school children spend in school each day? Why is their daily physical activity only measured on the basis of recess length – don't they have time to exercise after school, for example?
Willow, it's true that cutting down on salt will help you get rid of excess water and make you look and feel less bloated, but water in itself does not make fat. Fat forms when the body stores the excess calories you consume each day, so it does matter what and how much you eat if you don't want to be overweight or obese. Parents should develop a healthy eating plan for their children, making sure they get a lot of protein, calcium, microelements and vitamins – carbs are much less important in a child's diet, so parents shouldn't obsess about their kid eating less starch than they think is normal.
And by the way, you can get rid of the excess salt in cheese by simply putting it in a tupperware or jar of water, and not by limiting the amount you give to your kids. This way, they will get the calcium without a three days' worth of sodium. For a high-calcium alternative, I highly recommend plain yogurt (the real thing, with live cultures and no flavorings, HFCS or tons of sugar).
Food and exercise are important to feeling one's best, and I think it's important to get children interested and educated about this starting at younger ages.
Even if the amount of physical education and movement is decreasing in school children, I think that there is a large group of children, and later adults who will be unaffected by this. The curriculum in PE does not encourage lifelong exercise. There are some individuals who will never be runners, and many more who when told to run a mile or fail will never be runners. The other aspect of my PE was organized/team sport type activities. Organized sports are wonderful and I'm glad I participated in them in high school, however it's not always realistic or possible to be involved in organized sports as an adult.
In my opinion (and others will likely vary), PE, particularly as children get older, should be about discovering ways to stay active throughout life. I lift weights, I go for long walks, I sporadically rock climb, kayak or hike. There are many activities not approached by PE classes that would be more adventitious than broom ball or some of the sports I played in PE. Now maybe that's just a function of the program I went through, but how about making PE class fun for the non-athletes. Athletes are getting their exercise already, let's get some other options in there too!
love the guest post! I am a former P.E. teacher and cannot agree more, that Physical Education and Recess is NOT enough. However, sometimes it is all a child gets as far as physical activity-meaning, it is not happening in their home. Unfortunately, here in Texas we stress so much of our time in the classroom on TESTING, that we have taken away from health and wellness in our schools. It's sad, but at my former school, the parents held morning running clubs, after school activities and frequent parent/child 5k's put on by the P.E. teachers and PTA. We ALL must do more as parents to get our kids active once and for all!! Great GUEST POST, Haylee!
As a former personal trainer I agree with you, Willow, that the conventional "calories consumed versus calories burned" formula to explain weight is far from accurate. But your explanation of the factors influencing weight is also oversimplified.
Genetics actually plays a much bigger role in weight than most people understand. Then there's the fact that we consume lots of chemicals that impact weight in ways we don't fully understand yet. Hormones in meat and dairy products, chemicals in our environment that act as endocrine-disruptors, etc, are all factors in the "obesity epidemic." These are issues along with large portion sizes, the dominance of highly processed foods in our diets, as well as, for many people, a lack of sufficient daily exercise. Let's face it, we evolved as gatherer-hunters who were always on our feet scrambling to survive, and now most of us sit behind a desk all day. This hardly counts as optimum conditions for health.
But I think the best thing we could do as a nation is leave off with the hysteria about weight, and focus instead on just being healthy. When I was a trainer I had lots of skinny-flabby clients who couldn't briskly walk a mile without collapsing in exhaustion, and I had some fat-healthy clients who could run marathons. If you asked most Americans which of these clients was the healthy one, they would point to the skinny-flabby one. But you cannot tell how healthy someone is by looking at their weight alone. Exercise and good nutrition should be about health first, not adhering to some jacked-up beauty standard. So I think that striving to maintain a moderate balanced diet with a healthy dose of exercise while lowering your toxin load really is going to be our best bet in terms of health. In my experience, once you get healthy, the weight issue takes care of itself. That doesn't mean everyone who's healthy is going to look like an anorexic supermodel. But that's why we should focus on health rather than weight.
I'm also not so sure about focusing exclusively on running as the best form of fitness for kids. Lots of people hate running, and it puts them off of fitness altogether. One thing you spend a lot of time doing as a trainer is helping people through their "running anxiety" and convincing them that you can be physically fit without ever stepping on a treadmill. Kids can get great exercise by playing vigorously with peers on most playground equipment you'll find at parks and school playgrounds. They can develop their own games, hike with their families, ride their bikes or rollerskate , play hopscotch on the sidewalk, ride skateboards, play soccer or baseball with friends, etc. I agree that we need programs to help kids be active, but I hesitate to give them one limited and kind of boring form of exercise and tell them "this is what fitness looks like." Some kids will love running, and others will hate it. And let's face it, most kids' parents could use the exercise too, so I would focus on encouraging people to get out and get active as a family whenever possible.
Haylee, thanks so much for sharing your story and raising this important topic. In my opinion, schools should have to include certain minimum P.E. and recess requirements in their curricula in order to receive any type of federal funding. It really shocked me to learn that many schools, even elementary schools, no longer have recess. I just don't understand why recess has been cut in some places.
When I was a kid, if it was not a school day, we ran out the door after breakfast and didn't come home until lunch and then we ran out the door again as soon as we ate. We played outside until it was time to come home for dinner. We rode our bikes, roller skated, jumped rope, played tether ball and kickball, climbed trees, shot basketball, and swam at the neighborhood pool. With the exception of seeing kids at our town pools and at the beach, I almost never see kids playing outside anymore. I have to assume many are inside sitting in front of a TV or computer. It's a sad thought.
Willlow, I think Haylee's weight loss story is evidence that exercise can help with weight loss. I hear you that kids are often fed too much sodium today, but reducing sodium will only help alleviate water retention, not help with losing excess fat. I wish losing weight were that simple.
Hi Zhana Sandeva
I agree with you that plain yogurt (the real thing, with live cultures and no flavorings, HFCS or tons of sugar) is an excellent source of calcium and I eat it every day myself. But I don't think you'll get many takers for reducing salt in cheese by putting it in tupperware or a jar of water! Yuk!
In fact salt intake does promote fat retention in vulnerable groups, and that includes small children. See http://www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk/fatretention.html
Reducing salt intake and increasing calcium, magnesium and vitamin D reduce fat retention and reduce excess weight.
Shouldn't health, wellness, phys. ed. and all the regular requirements be part of educating the "whole students"????
I think Rachel may be my new BFF! She said about everything I wanted to say only Better!
You Go Girl! Love the get healthy and the rest will follow idea and I plan on using it!
PE, for me as a child was a form of torture. I was near sighted in one eye and none of us knew it because I compensated…so my hand eye coordination during games wasn't great…I've always had trouble running distance, the 50 yd dash, though…watch out. But I was not good at team sports, was always one of the last picked for games and if the teachers choose there were always groans from the other kids when those of us who weren't great got on their teams…if you've been there you know what I mean.
After School was different when I was growing up, we got home and out the door we ran. We road bikes, played hop scotch, pickle, mother may I, climbed trees and ran from yard to yard.
Now kids are in after school care. Have a few hundred TV stations to choose from instead of 3. They can play video games instead of making friends and playing outside games. Sad really.
I don't run at all. But there are lots of other things that I can do to stay fit. I don't always do them, but I could… 🙂
Kids are so active and really should be outside more than they are. Children's lives used to be 70% outside 30% inside (before TV of course). Now it's 10% outside, 90% inside. I think it's really bad for our brains.
Marissa: I live in Texas too, and I believe (according to my child's school) that PE is mandatory for a specific amount of minutes.
To my amazement, we do NOT teach our kids dodgeball in our district. It is a "liability" and, instead, our kids are taught various skills and games that are non competitive. It is not until middle school that they are taught actual sports. My oldest just finished 6th grade. More often than not, upon being asked about PE, she would say, I sat on the bleachers talking to my friends. The reason? Too many kids, not enough space or PE teachers! How can a state determine a minimum number of minutes for activity, but not give the schools the resources to accomplish the task properly? Crazy.
We are outside, sporty people. My kids get plenty of exercise. We also eat right (mostly). We bike and walk our dog, play frisbee and football in the front yard, swim 9 months of the year, etc etc.
Here here for being good for the brain as well as the body! Lately I've been pulling looong hours at work where I sit in front of a computer and CODE all day (I'm a physicist but there is no other way to data mine 🙂 ).
Riding my bike home clears all the jammed-up-I've-thought-too-much-today feelings out of my head. Even if it's two a.m. I still look forward to those rides. Otherwise, the days just run together in a really bad way.
And there's even gathering evidence for the brain-exercise benefit and the underlying mechanism at work (hey, you gotta read something while that code compiles!):
Thanks Viki. =)
I have a one-TV-show-a day-policy with my kids. When you tell them it's time to turn off the TV after their one show they act disappointed and look around blankly for a minute, but soon you hear all kinds of laughter and activity coming from the backyard. When the weather's too cold to be outside they play games or build intricate systems of railroad tracks all over the upstairs. I seriously think they have more fun when the TV's off, but they would never turn it off themselves.
To Willow: I guess I should've specified 🙂 Putting cheese in water only works for feta cheese, which tends to be really salty. That's my first association when I think "cheese", because I'm not American. As for low-sodium alternatives to cheddar, I'd probably suggest mozzarella or cottage cheese…or make your own with a cheese-making kit.
And thanks for the link! Only, it would be nice if they could explain the mechanism by which excess salt depletes calcium in the body. Just stating that it happens is not very convincing. But in any case, I do agree that too much salt is bad for you, any way you choose to look at it.
And I totally agree about running! I used to hate doing that at school. (And I still don't like it because it feels really boring). I preferred doing badminton or dodgeball, but sadly, they never tested us on those. We had to run, do long jump and sit-ups. Now I like dancing to keep fit – I think social exercise like this is more effective than running alone on the treadmill, because it takes your mind off from exertion and focuses it on your interaction with the other dancers and the enjoyment of the activity.
When I was growing up, we had recess every day after lunch and it was spent outside. The only time we stayed in for recess was inclement weather or temperatures below freezing. Even during the winter, we had to don our winter gear and go outside to "play". We loved playing "King of the Mountain" on the snow mounds that were created when the playground had been plowed. We also had a Physical Education (P.E. or Gym) class, but that was only once a week.
At home . . . we were outside, especially in the Summer. We were allowed a certain amount of television time, and then out the door we went. And we were gone ALL day . . . there were fields nearby that had fruit trees, wild berries, and a creek that ran through the fields. We played in those fields all day . . . lunch was literally "off the land" – we ate the fruit and berries. We hiked along–and in–the creek . . . following it to wherever it would go. It went as far as (and beyond) the elementary school, so we would stop at the school and use the playground equipment . . . swings, slides, hopscotch, monkey bars . . . We would eventually head home, in time for supper, then after supper we were out again playing some more with our neighbors. We would ride our bikes around the neighborhood, play freeze tag, ghost in the graveyard, Red Rover, Red Rover, Mother May I . . . and head home (if not at your own home) when the street lights came on.
Then there were the family hikes . . . there is a large, local park system here that has a river that runs through it, and we would go on family hikes. My Dad would pick out walking sticks for each of us and we would go hiking–along and in–the river. We saw a lot, learned a lot about nature, the outdoors and survival, and spent good, quality time together as a family. We still have pictures that were taken of us (the kids) standing with our hiking sticks.
Unfortunately, there aren't many fields available today for kids to play in . . . and there are some safety issues today that didn't seem to exist when I was growing up. Unfortunately, some school districts are cutting recess and physical education programs. Unfortunately, too, there are TVs in every room of houses today (my family had ONE), video games, computers, Wiis, etc., that keep kids from going outside and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
Even considering that, there has to be some consideration given to diet, as well. Yes, we were active; but, growing up, I didn't have a processed meal (at least, not served at home) . . . my Mom cooked and baked everything–EVERYTHING–from scratch.
At the least, I, and my siblings, have many fond memories of our childhood and we have passed on those same traditions and values to the next generation.
I thought I would remind readers that my school has no recess at all. Gym once per week.
Hi Zhana Sandeva
With regard to cheese, the cheese that most people buy is high in salt. So as far as children are concerned it is better not to feed them cheese at all as it contains a lot of added salt.
I don't know the mechanism by which the bodies of people with salt problems get depleted of calcium, but it is a definite fact not disputed in any way. I do, however, know the route by which it leaves the body. It is excreted in the urine. Some people express this as 'peeing your bones away!'. – Not at all for anyone's health, but especially children's health. Children need to be protected from salt and salty food as an absolute priority.
ALL food and drink, even plain water, contains a tiny amount of sodium, and this is all that our bodies require. They do not need the added salt that food manufacturers put into their products. Our bodies evolved without added salt – Stone men and women had no recourse to the salt pot or to processed food – so low salt intake is what is best for our species.
Potassium displaces sodium in the body, so helps a bit to counter the bad effects of the salt we eat. Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium. This si one of the reasons they are good for us.
BTW, I am not against exercise. I am just against people claiming that it is good for weight loss, because it isn't. Exercise does not reduce obesity/overweight. People may be interested to read http://www.drbriffa.com/blog/2010/07/09/sedentary-behaviour-does-not-lead-to-weight-gain-its-the-other-way-round/ Dr Briffa is a medical doctor who goes by evidence rather than accepting the conventional 'wisdom'.
And maybe people would be interested to read my own Mensa article on Obesity and the Salt Connection http://www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk/obesity_and_the_salt_connection.html or to read this webpage about the groups of people who are vulnerable to salt: http://www.wildeaboutsteroids.co.uk/vulnerable_groups.html
Apologies for the typo-itis in my previous post! – I meant 'Stone age men and women had no recourse to the salt pot or to processed food', of course, not 'Stone men and women had no recourse to the salt pot or to processed food.'
Sorry about that.
Willow, I wish you would have mentioned though that the research is pretty clear that there is a definite correlation between exercise and body fat percentages.
Whether there is a definite correlation between exercise and body fat percentages was not at the forefront of my mind. How is it helpful to know that? I am trying to be helpful about safe, effective ways of losing weight.
The relationship between exercise and body fat percentages is not relevant to the error that I was correcting. I was wanting to make clear that exercise does not help with weight loss, despite the constant claims that it does. People often try to bully fat children into strenuous exercise when the children really don't want to do it – tiredness, embarrassment, lots of reasons. Their lives are difficult enough already. They and their parents need to be informed about the effective ways to lose/prevent excess weight to save them from a lot of unnecessary suffering and a life damaged before it has really begun.
But Willow, I think one of the issues here is that weight loss that isn't healthy weight loss is useless, because weight alone is not a great indicator of overall health. Everyone – child and adult alike – should integrate exercise in some form into their lifestyle because it is in fact healthy. Cardiovascular health is central to overall health, and all the systems in your body function better when your cardiovascular system is in good shape. This requires exercise, plain and simple.
Beyond that, there is some correlation, generally speaking, between calories burned and weight retention. Exercise is only one piece of a fairly complex puzzle, and it is nowhere near as central to weight loss as it's held to be in our culture. You're totally right about that. However, salt intake is also not the only factor influencing weight. All of these things play a role, and to produce kids with healthy habits, we should take a holistic approach that incorporates good habits in exercise and diet, as well as a reduction in exposure to various obesogens.
I have already said that I am not against exercise. Exercise is good for people in many ways – but it does not reduce weight. Obesity is not caused by excess calories and it is not reduced by calorie restriction. – I know we are constantly told that, but there is no evidence to support the calorie theory of obesity.
It is not necessary, or even desirable, to diet to reduce excess weight. Dieting is harmful.
More and more people are becoming obese because we are constantly fed the calorie explanation of obesity and that explanation is wrong; it is not supported by evidence. It is a hypothesis that is disproved by reality. Time and again, obese people try to lose weight by following the calorie advice. The result is that they HAVE to give up the diet because they are constantly hungry and are eating insufficient food for their body's needs.
To lose excess weight safely, effectively and healthily, it is necessary to give up dieting, which as well as being harmful is a major cause of weight GAIN. Calories are not the guilty party. Fluid retention is the initial cause of weight gain, then fat retention usually follows, because the fluid retention causes loss of calcium and insufficient calcium prevents the body from excreting excess fat.
Slim people are slim not because they eat less than fat people, but because they have healthy veins and kidneys that enable them to excrete in the urine any excess sodium and the water that always accompanies sodium in the body, and because they are not short of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D and so they excrete excess fat in their faeces.
You may not believe this, but it is the truth. It is more complicated than I have stated, but I have stated the essential, the most important facts.
Every obese person who seriously follows my advice loses weight safely, easily and fast. – And once they've lost weight they'll have much more energy and inclination to exercise and won't feel embarrassed and hot and bothered by how they look, and by the jeers of people who like to make fun of fat people.
If you read the information on my website you will understand my points better and you will read how the side-effects of very commonly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs frequently cause morbid obesity and should be avoided, but I'll not go into that here. It is a completely safe website. It does not sell anything. It has no sponsors or advertisers. It just saves people from unnecessary suffering and from premature death.
I'm afraid we're not really communicating at all here. I am not advocating that people diet to lose weight, and I thought that was fairly clear from my earlier comments. Let me repeat: I am not advocating that people diet and exercise to lose weight. At all. But having a healthy diet, including a relatively low sodium intake and good amounts of things like vitamin D from natural sources (ahem…the sun) and exercising are basic factors in human health. And believe me, I've read tons of research on this stuff as well, and your claim that caloric intake has absolutely no correlation to weight is also not supported by the evidence. Lots of things have a certain degree of correlation with weight, and caloric intake is one of them. And in fact, your body uses calories when you exercise. So clearly caloric intake and diet do have some correlation with weight.
If this wasn't true, then the practice that you see in countries like Mauritania of forcing young girls to consume large amounts of calories while restricting their physical activity in order to force them to quickly gain weight in order to be marriageable wouldn't work. But it does. They become obese very fast, which is the goal. Google it. If there was no correlation between caloric intake and weight, then those who suffer from anorexia wouldn't be so terribly thin.
I absolutely agree with you that our weight loss industry and the dogma that accompanies it are harmful. I absolutely agree that our cultural ideas about weight are vaguely inaccurate at best and downright wrong and harmful at worst. But that doesn't mean there's no truth to the fact that diet and exercise play a role in weight. Salt and calcium and vitamin D are also important factors. But so are genetics and environmental toxins. And applying a tunnel-vision view to this aspect of life isn't going to help anyone. As far as I can tell, a holistic approach is always your best bet.
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