A new study reveals that younger generations gain weight faster and have a harder time dropping pounds than those in earlier eras

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Corbis Images

If fighting the battle of the bulge is feeling harder these days, it may not all be in your head. According to a new study from York University in Ontario, it is biologically more difficult for millenials to lose weight than it was for their parents in their 20s. Basically there's a reason your grandma never exercised a day in her life and wore a tiny wedding dress that you could never hope to fit into-even though you run marathons.

Somehow saying, "It's not fair" doesn't even begin to sum up our feelings about this. And while it may not be fair, it is reality, say the researchers. "Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you'd have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight," said Jennifer Kuk, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and co-author of the paper.

In fact, her team found that if a 25-year-old today ate and exercised the same amount as a 25-year-old in 1970, the millennials today would weigh 10 percent more-that's 14 pounds for the average 140-pound woman today and often enough of an extra load to take someone from the normal to overweight category. (Since you have to be extra careful, be sure these 16 Diet Plan Pitfalls That Can Be Easily Prevented are on your radar.)

Kuk emphasized that this is more evidence that "there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise." As evidence of that painful reality, the CDC released new numbers today in their annual State of Obesity report, which breaks down trends of weight gain by state. There isn't much surprising data in the latest charts-Arkansas has the highest percentage of obesity, Colorado the lowest-but what is interesting (and supportive of Kuk's point) is the unrelenting, steady climb upwards on the weight charts for every single state.

Kuk explained that weight management is much more complex than just the calories in/calories out model. "It'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," she said.

Kuk points to previous studies that show our body weight is impacted by our lifestyle and environment, including things the fact that previous generations didn't have to deal with (at least as much) like medication use, environmental pollutants, genetics, timing of food intake, stress, gut bacteria, and even nighttime light exposure.

"Ultimately, maintaining a healthy body weight is now more challenging than ever," she said.

But this doesn't mean you should give up on being healthy. Plenty of research has shown immense health benefits for getting consistent exercise, eating whole and unprocessed foods, getting enough sleep, and decreasing stress in your life. All this new study means is that you shouldn't judge your success solely by the scale-or pictures of your grandma!

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