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Why it’s harder to lose weight now than it was in the 70s

If you’re in your 20s or early 30s and feel like it’s been particularly hard to break through that weight plateau, there’s a reason. Millennials in general are having a harder time losing weight than the generations before us.

We’re exercising more and eating less than people who were our age in the ’70s and ’80s, and yet it’s doing less than it would have 20 and 30 years ago. According to a new study conducted by York University, millennials’ weight is being impacted more by environmental and lifestyle elements that weren’t as present decades ago.

This is yet one more area in life where our parents had it easier. They came into adulthood during an economic surplus, when there were actually a proportionate number of jobs available to those seeking employment. They didn’t have social media running every minute of their lives. Now we learn they could work out half as much as we did, not think about their diet constantly and still lose more weight than us. At least I feel justified in having repeatedly said “life’s not fair” growing up.

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The researchers looked at the dietary history of 36,400 American adults from 1971 to 2008 and the physical activity history of 14,419 adults from 1988 to 2006. While they found that physical activity increased over the years, so too did calorie intake. That alone might account for why millennials weigh more than their predecessors, but then the research revealed something surprising. Millennials who eat the same amount of calories daily as their age group did in the ’70s weighed 10 percent more. They were 5 percent heavier than those who exercised just as much in the ’80s.

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So what exactly is going on with our environment and lifestyles that’s having such an impact on our waistlines? Scientists say it has to do with several differences in how we live our lives today. Professor Jennifer Kuk in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science told Science Daily, “Weight management is actually much more complex than just ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out.'” Today, millennials are dealing with a lot of job stress, more medication intake, higher levels of pollutants, technology-disrupted sleeping patterns and unusual eating schedules, just to name a few. All these factors put together lead to an unhealthier lifestyle no matter how healthy we eat and how often we go to the gym.

So yes, staying slim and healthy may be more difficult for the younger generation, but what can we do about it? In the long run, it’s about remembering to be good to our bodies. It’s about learning how to manage stress and giving ourselves real time away from work to recharge. We can eat smarter and more regularly, turn off our electronics and focus more on reducing our carbon footprint, for starters.

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