You will soon be hearing about a new study about “junk food” that has been conducted at Cornell (see summary: Study on Junk Food) Because the press and the public tend to want to draw some huge conclusion and generalize findings of studies such as this, I wanted to be sure to share my thoughts.
According to a Summary by Katherine Baildon researchers reviewed “a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States and found that consumption of soda, candy and fast food is not linked to Body Mass Index (BMI) for 95% of the population. The exception is those who are on the extreme ends of the BMI spectrum: those who are chronically underweight and those who are morbidly obese. Given that there was no significant difference in consumption of these indulgent foods between overweight and healthy weight individuals, the researchers concluded that the overwhelming majority of weight problems are not caused by consumption of soda, candy and fast food alone.”
What does this mean for you? I have noticed the tendency for people who diet to lose weight is to be a bit “black and white” in their thinking. People want to think there is a specific reason they can’t lose weight. They are typically searching (some for many years) for the perfect “diet” or plan to solve their weight issues. The diet industry makes a lot of money taking advantage of the importance of body shape, size and weight in our culture. We jump on anything new (just in case it could be the answer).
The same holds true for when people are tired of dieting. Dieters often break out of their Diet Jail just by having one bite of a forbidden food (aka junk food). Does this study mean that healthy eating does not matter? Does it mean you should stop caring about what you eat?
The good message of the study is that your weight is not affected by any single food (not a chip or carrot has any power over your body size). No, you won’t gain weight by eating french fries with you burger. Actually, this study provides more fuel for the “non-diet” approach to weight. There are many more factors than food that contribute to health (and yes, body size). For instance:
- Genetics-if high cholesterol runs in your family, you are more at risk. Nothing to do with body size.
- If you are sedentary, chances are your body is not the healthiest it can be (and you are less likely to be at your natural body weight). This does not mean you have to join a gym or work out like a lunatic. It just means that your lifestyle matters and doing fun active things that you love is more important than having (or trying not to have ) a candy bar when you really crave one.
- Sleep-if you don’t get enough, your body just plain won’t function the way it is supposed to. Again, your weight will be affected because lack of sleep messes with your appetite (increases it).
- Stress-mental health is just as important as physical health. Many people overeat or under-eat because they are stressed. This does not promote a healthy body.
- Nutrition-yes, you need your fruits and vegetables and protein and water and fiber and vitamins and minerals. Focusing on health verses counting calories, dieting, weight and never eating junk food is what gives you your healthiest body.
So the bottom line is, yes, you can have junk food. We have been saying that all along. A perfect diet is not normal eating. Keep on the path of listening to your body, healthy eating, enjoyable movement, decreasing stress in your life, and accepting where your weight falls wherever it may be. Feeling good and having energy and being happy are possible, even if you have a french fry.