Millennials are the first cohort to be born into an obesogenic world - from birth, they have been surrounded by cheap, highly processed, high-calorie tempting foods, and an ever-present marketing machine that promotes them. As young adults they are fatter than their parents at the same age, and are projected to gain 35 pounds in the first 15 years after they finish high school, much earlier and faster than their parents. Once this weight is on, it's hard to shed, and it increases their risk of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
But some in this cohort are resistant to the temptations of high-calorie foods and eat a clean, healthy diet.
A new study in Obesity Reviews, tries to find out what makes a young person, ready to leave home and live independently, into the kind of person that can stay thin and healthy. Learn that, and you can devise a plan that helps others prevent the pitfalls of a lifestyle that causes disease and a lifelong struggle with extra weight.
Looking for what helps and what hinders a young adult from following a trajectory of weight gain, the researchers, led by Margaret Allman-Farinelli, extracted data from 34 research articles, that altogether included about 14,000 young people.
This is what I learned from studying their findings
If you aren't female, have them in your life:
Men, especially young ones, care a lot less about health, or, as the article phrases it: "men adopt machismo and nonchalance towards healthy eating to promote a masculine identity and disassociate from femininity." Men, in general, are less receptive to messages about health, and care less about their weight. Young men: Here's a call to listen to women, to heed your mom's advice.
Surround yourself with people who eat well:
Eating behavior is contagious. Young adults are especially prone to peer influence, and when friends suggest going for fast food and one imagines them drinking sugary drinks and eating poorly it becomes the norm. If, on the other hand, your friends have healthy habits, and post yoga poses on their feed, that will nudge you towards carrots and a glass of water. This is true not just for face-to-face encounters, but also for your social media interactions. Instagram and Snapchat affect food and exercise patterns, too, so choose well and mind the company you keep in your digital life.
Don't fall into a lifestyle just because it's convenient and cheap:
Unhealthy eating is convenient, and many young people eat lousy food because it's so much easier, it's the first thing that comes to mind (ads work!) and it's cheaper to order high-calorie fast food, than to shop for produce and prepare a healthy meal.
The expense of eating cheaply is charged later in life, though, and the price tag is a shocker.
To overcome the current food environment young people need to first be aware of the implications of poor nutrition and of the crucial importance of acquiring good habits, they need to have food preparation skills, and they also need the time and facilities to prepare healthy meals.
Yes, quite a few tall obstacles to overcome for a young person with many other responsibilities and stuff on their mind.
Vanity has its purpose:
Yes, it's all about what's inside: character, values, intelligence and good deeds. But when it comes to motivation to eat well and keep healthy, caring about esthetics, good looks and attractiveness are major incentives.
The desire to look good, in this case, serves as strong motivation that helps overcome those very many hurdles in the way of a young person's healthy eating.
What's your personal food advice to young people?