Still, the underlying question remains: are diet and exercise a reliable cure for obesity? Modern-day obesity researchers are skeptical — achieving thinness, they say, is not simply a matter of willpower. Research suggests that weight may largely be regulated by biology, which helps determine the body's "set point," a weight range of about 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. that the body tries hard to defend. The further you push you weight beyond your set point — either up or down the scale — some researchers say, the more your body struggles to return to it. That might help to explain why none of the women in Jakicic's study managed to lose much more than 10% of their body weight. After two years on a calorie-restricted diet, keeping up more than an hour of physical activity five days a week on average, most were still clinically overweight (though much less so than before). But what Jakicic and other obesity researchers stress is that a 10% reduction in body weight represents a tremendous boon for overall well-being, lowering blood pressure, improving heart health and reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. For the obese, the end goal should not be thinness, but health and self-acceptance, which are more realistic and beneficial objectives. "The women's health was absolutely improved," Jakicic says.
Regardless of whether it contributes to substantial weight loss or not, exercise does lots of other things for your health. If women could only be as excited about improving health as they are about improving appearance according to society's standards, imagine how healthy we all could be!