Approximately seven out of every ten millennials are on track to be overweight or obese by the time they reach middle age. In fact, millennials weigh more on average than any generation before. Although there are various reasons for this phenomenon, research suggests that circadian rhythm disruption may be an important factor in weight loss for millennials that warrants further investigation.
Weight Loss for Millennials: Can Diet and Exercise Cure All?
As a society, we are more overweight than ever, but the latest generation of adults struggles with their weight even more than their parents and grandparents did. Because being overweight can increase the risk of a variety of diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cancer, doctors and researchers from a variety of disciplines have been working tirelessly to identify the primary causes of this issue as well as possible solutions.
Many who strive to maintain a healthy weight resort to the “calories in, calories out” mentality, which holds that reducing calorie intake while burning more calories via exercise is the answer to weight loss. While this may be true in a general sense, caloric intake and output are not the only factors involved in today’s obesity epidemic: Genetic, environmental, socioeconomic and lifestyle factors are all known to influence a person’s weight. These universal factors notwithstanding, studies suggest that millennials who eat the same amount as their ancestors will still be heavier.
What does this mean for modern young adults? Losing weight and keeping it off is a much more complicated proposition for them. While the “calories are all that matters” dieting advice is given to the new generation, scientists scoff. Jennifer Kuk of York University points out:
“That’s similar to saying your investment account balance is simply your deposits subtracting your withdrawals and not accounting for all the other things that affect your balance like stock market fluctuations, bank fees or currency exchange rates.”
In fact, millennials are far more active than ever while eating just slightly more than generations before. However, higher stress levels and unhealthy sleep patterns, both of which contribute to unwanted weight gain, tend to be particularly common among this generation.
Modern Phenomenon Change the Way Millennials Maintain Their Weight
Today, previously absent circumstances are changing the way young adults gain weight and the rate at which they do so. More young adults take antidepressants, steroids and other medications that can lead to weight gain. Nowadays, even when eating the same amounts of macronutrients, more of these calories come from meat and sugar, both of which may disrupt intestinal bacteria that help regulate metabolism.
A fast-paced lifestyle which makes the prevalence of processed foods convenient to millennials also promotes obesity, as the typically high levels of carbohydrates and added sugars found in these types of foods cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels, both of which can tip the scale towards obesity.
Ever-present technology and screens have created a generation of couch potatoes. At the same time, social media, nearly impossible to avoid, adds a new dimension, cultivating anxiety, depression, negative body image and an unhealthy relationship with food.
Possibly the most important factor in weight loss for millennials is that modern people live in an epidemic of circadian rhythm disruption. Researchers in chronobiology have found that a lack of sleep disrupts the circadian rhythm and leads to hormonal disruptions that can pack on the pounds. Leptin is a hormone that makes people feel full and also helps to stoke the metabolism, while the hormone ghrelin has just the opposite effect. When people do not get adequate sleep, leptin plummets while ghrelin increases, turning down the metabolism. These hormones are affected not just by the amount of sleep one gets, but by the quality and regularity of sleep as well.
In addition, people who don’t maintain a healthy circadian rhythm are more likely to participate in unhealthy snacking rather than to eat healthy meals. This often means choosing less nutritious foods that don’t increase metabolism, contributing to challenges in weight loss for millennials.
How to Lose Weight in Modern Times
Losing weight may be especially challenging for people nowadays, but that does not mean it cannot be done. In addition to watching caloric intake and getting plenty of exercise, there are a few lifestyle changes that should be considered.
Understanding the value of real, unprocessed food containing an abundance of high-quality ingredients is crucial. Eating less meat and sugar and more nutritious colorful fruits and green, leafy vegetables allows for a healthy metabolism and gastrointestinal tract.
Harnessing the power of chronobiology and the understanding that maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm affects your metabolism and overall health can be the biggest key to maintaining a healthy weight. Find the daily rhythm that works best for you and your metabolism. Go to bed at the same time every night, avoid bright light in the evening and avoid alcohol, caffeine and other drugs that interfere with melatonin production. Exercise at the right time of day for optimal calorie burning and fat metabolism.
Weight loss for millennials is more difficult now than ever before due to the challenges of modern life. Making healthy lifestyle changes and tending to the health of your circadian rhythm are the keys you need to achieve and maintain not just a trim figure, but true, whole-body health.