Weight Creep: Are You Unknowingly On Your Way to Obesity?


Most diet studies focus either on dramatic weight loss or those who are already obese, so the latest Harvard University study is a pretty refreshing take on the current research. The current study sought to determine the specific lifestyle changes that average-sized people need to make in order to prevent “weight creep.” If you haven’t already heard the term, then it’s time to get familiar. You, like most of Americans, are in major danger of weight creep and don’t even know it.

If you’re of “average” weight, there’s a good chance that you partake in the weekly or even daily food indulgence. You think it doesn’t matter because you’re not seeing a dramatic change on the scale, but that’s exactly how we get ourselves into trouble later on in life. Remember the hot girl who peaked in high school but you run into her 10 years later and it seems that she gained a person overnight? Enter weight creep!

It’s a scary thought, but Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health explains, “Because the weight gain is so gradual and occurs over many years, it has been difficult for scientists and for individuals themselves to understand the specific factors that may be responsible.” Until now, that is. Thanks to Mozaffarian and other Harvard researchers, now we know what causes that scary one to two pound a year creep that leaves us wondering, “how did that happen?”

This was no small study the team analyzed data on 120,877 men and women, tracking lifestyle and weight changes every four years for 20 years. They found that, on average, participants gained 3.35 pounds during each 4-year period and 16.8 pounds at the end of the 20-year period. But what factors led to the gradual gain?

Foods that added most to weight creep (pounds over four years)

  • Daily consumption of potato chips (1.69 lbs)
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (1 lb)
  • Unprocessed red meats (0.95 lbs)
  • Processed meats (0.93 lbs)

Lifestyle choices that added to weight creep (pounds every four years)

  • Watching one hour of TV per day (0.31 pounds)
  • Less than six hours of sleep or more than eight hours causes weight gain
  • Participants who increased their physical activity gained less weight

In a way, the study changes everything we’ve ever been taught about good foods, bad foods and eating in moderation. Apparently we can’t eat anything we want in moderation. According to the above research, even that handful of potato chips can lead to weight creep, but it’s up to you to decide if that salty goodness is worth a couple of pounds over four years…