What’s One Less Cookie?

Amplify’d from well.blogs.nytimes.com

In Obesity Epidemic, What’s One Cookie?

The basic formula for gaining and losing weight is well known: a pound of fat equals 3,500 calories.

That simple equation has fueled the widely accepted notion that weight loss does not require daunting lifestyle changes but “small changes that add up,” as the first lady, Michelle Obama, put it last month in announcing a national plan to counter childhood obesity.

In this view, cutting out or burning just 100 extra calories a day — by replacing soda with water, say, or walking to school — can lead to significant weight loss over time: a pound every 35 days, or more than 10 pounds a year.

While it’s certainly a hopeful message, it’s also misleading. Numerous scientific studies show that small caloric changes have almost no long-term effect on weight. When we skip a cookie or exercise a little more, the body’s biological and behavioral adaptations kick in, significantly reducing the caloric benefits of our effort.

But can small changes in diet and exercise at least keep children from gaining weight? While some obesity experts think so, mathematical models suggest otherwise.

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