There’s a new term being thrown around in research called the “energy gap”. This energy gap was coined to estimate the degree of change in the energy balance point required for success in body weight goals. The higher the energy gap the greater the weight gain. In essence, if you want to maintain your current weight, the energy gap must be zero.
Research has looked at this energy gap within the population and has led researchers to believe that we have a 2 lbs a year energy gap. Meaning, the environment we live in currently has created a positive energy gap slowly leading to more overweight population, 2 lbs a year.
They believe there are two fundamental reasons for this energy gap:
- Easily availability of good-tasting, inexpensive, energy dense foods, coupled with a lifestyle that demands convenience.
- Reduction in total physical activity in part due to reduction in jobs that require physical labour and more time spent in sedentary leisure activities.
There is a theory behind this; it has been suggested that our ancestors worked extremely hard over the years to create a better life for themselves and their children. This meant that people would have access to affordable food and the amount of physical hard labour would be reduced and as a result and people could enjoy leisure time. As a westernized culture, I can completely appreciate not having to go to the local pond to get water, boil it to remove bacteria, and then drink. Now if I could just get my kids to appreciate that.
The consequence: a positive energy balance. Scientists are formulating a hypothesis that if we can close this energy gap we can slow the increase in the number of people becoming overweight in our population (there are many moving parts to this from biology to legislation). If changes in our culture as got us here, then changes in our culture could get us back into a neutral energy balance.
I agree with all of this, I know we have to make changes in our environment, from a population level, and I do think that our governing bodies need to look into how we can creatively change this “energy gap”. I like to look at this as a macro view. As a group researchers have suggested “It is not likely that we will ever return the environment to one in which such cognitive control of body weight is not required”. I’m not sure I want to go back to getting water from a pond. I do think that if we could change the small environments each of us live in we may not always have to think about food. We must inspire people to make personal behaviour and environment changes (micro-environment) within our current environment that are sufficient to resist the push of our macro-environment.
This micro-environment change isn’t a diet. Diet’s don’t focus on the changes in the current environment that we live. It just simply removes you from your current environment and places you back into it (the same environment that put us in a positive energy balance to begin with).
This is why we need to inspire others not to lose weight, but rather to make changes in our behaviour and environments that make our current weight impossible to stay at, just as much as our ancestors did unbeknownst to them. Lets resist the diet! Lets rally together to inspire others to make healthy changes in their lives rather than focusing on weight loss. Join us in this rally. You are our Health partners. Partner with us to embrace and sustain healthy living, changing the diet mentality to an environment that supports health.