By Andy Dombro, MD – Physician, Father, Author
When Mark Twain quipped, “All things in moderation, including moderation,” he might have been on to something profound.
We’re bombarded with advice, often contradictory, and often with the bottom line: exercise moderation. On its surface, this seems sensible, especially when it comes to our diet. After all, fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, etc., are fine as long as we practice moderation, right? Even exercise, if done too often and too rigorously, can cause injury. Of course, there are activities that are harmful even if performed in moderation … or at all!
The problem is, one person’s moderation may be another’s over or under indulgence. General advice is not enough.
What do doctors say?
Most would agree that weight loss is mainly about calories we burn being greater than calories we eat. But the types of calories we ingest matters, especially if some medical conditions are present, such as diabetes. It turns out one of the most powerful ways to change habits is to keep a daily log of what we do and eat.
What do doctors do?
As an internist, I found the recent Medscape Internist Lifestyle Report 2014 very enlightening. First, the percentage of internists who are overweight closely mirrors that of the general population. Which diets do they choose? Most follow the American Heart Association guidelines, seconded by Mediterranean type, and then “typical American.” It’s no surprise that this last group had the highest rates of obesity. Eating out often is also tied to higher rates of obesity. And not shockingly, the percentage of internists who exercise at least twice per week decreased as obesity rates increase.
Where does this leave us?
As a physician, father of two active boys (ages 16 and 12), and with a wife who also works, here’s my advice:
- Give yourself a break. Moderation is a good goal but difficult to do every day.
- Exercise awareness. Think about what you’re eating and feeding your kids. It’s OK to occasionally eat out – even fast food – but keep track of how often.
- If you feel that you are overweight, bring it up with your doctor. Sadly, many doctors will not mention it, for fear of embarrassing or angering patients.
- Exercise, even 2-3 times per week. It doesn’t take as much as you think, and is good for body and mind. Hire a trainer to stay on a schedule.
I will leave you with this … “I like to talk about my obsession with french fries because I don’t want people to think that ‘Let’s Move’ is about complete, utter deprivation. It’s about moderation and real-life changes and ideas that really work for families.”
— Michelle Obama
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