People gain weight and get fat when they consistently eat more calories than their bodies require to meet daily demands. When excess calories get stored as fat, it is the body’s way an adaptive evolutionary response inherited earlier days when food was less plentiful and people had to put in a great effort just to feed themselves.
People who were able to store food in the form of fat when food was available were more likely to survive and reproduce during times of scarcity. Because of this advantage, we still have that built in urge to eat a lot of food when it is available.
Despite being able to store body fat efficiently, ancestral humans were rarely obese as they had to work hard just to eat and in the process burned up whatever calories they consumed.
The vast agricultural and technological changes of the past two thousand years have made food extremely easy to obtain and evolution has not been able to keep pace in the short time span.
While the reasons we gain weight are myriad, there are about some primary reasons we gain weight. Most of these are a result of modern processed foods and the problems they can cause. Lets take a look at these avoidable foods:
1. Refined flours
Our ancestors didn’t eat grains, at least not in the form we eat them today. In 1970, the average American ate 85 pounds of flour, 84 pounds of sweeteners, 8 pounds of fried potatoes, 39 pounds of cooking oil and 25 pounds of high-fat diary.
While it sounds like a lot of food, let’s remember that these numbers were before the obesity epidemic really took hold. By 1997, each of us was consuming 122 pounds of flour, 105 pounds of sweetener, 18 pounds of potatoes, 43 pounds of cooking oil and 40 pounds of high-fat diary .
That’s almost a pound of knowingly bad-for-you foods per day! But clearly, the reason many are overweight.
Processed white flour (alias “enriched wheat flour” or “wheat flour”) is missing the two most nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the seed: the outside bran layer and the germ (embryo).
A diet of refined foods leaves many people malnourished, constipated, jumpy, irritable, and vulnerable to chronic illness. And, refined/bleached flour and wheat products fuels high blood sugar levels.
The more refined foods a person eats, the more insulin must be produced to manage it. It turns to glucose quickly in our systems, which stimulates the body to produce insulin. Insulin promotes the storage of fat, making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, which can lead to heart disease.
Don’t be fooled by the term “enriched flour,” because only four vitamins and minerals are added back, compared to the15 removed, along with most of the fiber and other beneficial substances like antioxidants.
2. Not enough protein
Protein’s benefits go way beyond waistline trimming. The brain and its neurons are essentially made of fat, but they communicate with each other via proteins. The hormones and enzymes that cause chemical changes and control all body processes are also made of proteins. Carbohydrates, while essential as the brain’s main source of fuel, can make you feel tired-and hungry for an energy boost-because they increase the brain’s level of the amino acid tryptophan, which in turns spurs production of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin.
Protein, on the other hand, prompts the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, chemical messengers that promote alertness and activity.
Not all high protein foods are created equally, though. Grass-fed meats are far superior type of protein than commercial meats with their optimal omega 3:omega 6 ratio, CLA and more easily digestible and usable protein. Raw grass-fed dairy is vastly different than
commercial dairy products; much easier on the system and more readily available to the body.
Include fatty fish and organic meat, such as free-range organic chicken and turkey.
Previous research from the University of Washington showed that simply increasing the amount of protein in your diet helps you lose weight even if you don’t avoid carbohydrates one bit. Protein makes up 15 percent of most Americans’ daily caloric intake, while fat accounts for 35 percent and carbohydrates for 50 percent.
In the study, subjects bumped up their protein intake to 30 percent and reduced their fat intake to 20 percent. Within three months, they were 11 pounds lighter on average, even though half of the calories they ate still came from carbohydrates. The group also reported feeling satisfied with less food. In other words, they lost weight because they consumed fewer calories, but were easily more satiated when eating more protein.
To figure out just how protein achieves this special effect, a study fed rat a protein-enriched diet and measured metabolic changes. They found that the regimen sparked production of glucose in the small intestine, and that this increase, sensed in the liver and relayed to the parts of the brain involved in the control of appetite, caused the rats to eat less. Since the human intestine also synthesizes glucose, glucose metabolism may be a new target in the treatment of food intake disorders, the researchers concluded.
3. High Fructose Corn Syrup and other Sugars
In 1980, an average person ate 39 pounds of fructose and 84 pounds of sucrose (table sugar). In 1994, however, the average person ate 83 pounds of fructose, and 66 pounds of sucrose, providing 19 percent of total caloric energy.
In 2009, approximately 25 percent of the average American’s caloric intake comes from sugars-mostly high fructose corn syrup! That’s 25% of the diet filled with not only empty, but also harmful calories!
The next time you’re at the supermarket, pick up five random bottled drinks – including juices and enhanced waters – and read the label. 9 times out of 10, the first or second ingredient will be HFCS.
Now for a real education: look at the labels of other items in which you would never expect to find any sweeteners, like ketchup, tomato sauce, cereal, and crackers. HCFS is everywhere; in one day it is entirely possible that 80% of the processed food you consume is chock-full of HCFS. Is it any wonder there is so much obesity in the US?
What is high fructose corn syrup? Corn syrup is chemically altered by enzymatic processes to yield a different balance of monosaccharides (simple sugars) than that found in ordinary corn syrup. That chemical alteration changes the extracted corn syrup from a compound that is mainly glucose (a simple sugar), to one that is a mix of monosaccharides. Depending on which HFCS formulation a manufacturer of a given food product chooses to use, particular HFCS grades generally run between 42-55% fructose (though some can range as high as 90% fructose), with the remainder being glucose and other sugars.
A study in 2004 reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cites the increase in consumption of HFCS to be 1000% between 1970 and 1990! They calculated this to exceed any equivalent increase in consumption of any other food or food group.
Furthermore, in studying this increase – and the nearly identically corresponding increase in obesity in the US – these researchers took into account the differences in the way the body responds to different sorts of sugars.
Another study proposes that because fructose doesn’t trip our sense of satiety as sugar would, we are, perhaps, eating more sugars to compensate, and upping overall caloric intake in the process. Further, they extrapolate that because HFCS is usually higher in fructose than table sugar, HFCS can be correlated with parallel increases in obesity.
Fructose is converted to fatty acids by the liver at a greater rate than is glucose. When consumed in excess of dietary glucose, the liver cannot convert all of the excess fructose in the system and it may be malabsorbed.
Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. This may be one of the reasons Americans continue to get fatter. Fructose raises serum triglycerides significantly. As a left-handed sugar, fructose digestion is very low.
There is another difference between fructose and glucose metabolism. Glucose enters the cells through the action of insulin; fructose enters the cells through the action of something called a Glut-5 transporter, which does not depend on insulin. This transporter is absent from pancreatic B-cells and the brain, which indicates limited entry of fructose into these tissues.
Glucose provides “satiety” signals to the brain that fructose cannot
provide because it is not transported into the brain. Once inside the cells, fructose facilitates the formation of triglycerides more efficiently than does glucose.
Obvious to say, but HFCS is responsible for the big jump obesity and other health issues.
4. Food sensitivities, allergies and addictions
The sight of the fast-food restaurant, the smell of fried foods, and a brightly lit soft drink vending machine all activate some people’s cravings for junk food. But what we didn’t know is that they also activate a true addictive mechanism. It is now understand that our brain chemistry is affected by food addiction and the disease of obesity.
Both issues directly activate our brain chemistry and the addictive pathways of its biological structure. These are the same issues that are affected by drug abuse. It’s no wonder we diet and diet and often fail. We’re being triggered into a state of highly addictive cravings every time we experience one of these stimuli, and our brains become too out of balance from excess consumption to fight off the cravings.
For now, we need to understand is that it’s not enough just to avoid certain foods. You won’t lose weight if you just give up french fries but continue to order the soft drink, even in its “diet” version. We need to avoid all addictive foods all the time. We also need to avoid the full range of triggers in our environment. By doing so, you will finally be able to quell the cravings that otherwise lead you back into the insanity of poor food choices.
Many, many people have hidden food allergies, which become addictions. Food allergy reactions are not always immediate and severe, but often subtle and delayed. Food allergies, even subtle ones, set off a chain reaction in the body, including a “high” from the addictive allergenic food-at first. Other reactions may show up later as bloating and swelling in the hands, feet, ankles, abdomen, chin and around the eyes.
Sometimes its itchy, dry scaly skin, pimples, irritability, depression and indigestion. Other symptoms of food sensitivity can include headache, heartburn, fatigue, joint pain or arthritis, canker sores, chronic respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, sinus congestion or bronchitis, and chronic bowel problems such as diarrhea or constipation.
Much of the weight gained is fluid retention caused by inflammation and the release of certain hormones. In addition, some foods do not break down and digest properly, particularly carbohydrates, in the intestines which can result in a swollen distended belly and gas production.
Often one of the best ways to detect a food sensitivity or delayed allergy reaction is to look at the foods that you eat every day, all the time. Can you go without them? Think about it-if you cannot live without your daily bread, bagel, cereal, etc., its highly possible it is because you have a sensitivity to that food and most likely it is producing a negative reaction in your body, in addition to causing you to overeat. Sometimes an allergy will cause a feeling that you cannot get enough of that particular food.
5. Chemicals and preservatives in foods
There are many chemicals and flavor enhancers in processed foods and many of those are addictive. MSG is one good example. People who use monosodium glutamate, or MSG, as a flavor enhancer in their food are more likely than others to be overweight or obese even though with the same amount of physical activity and caloric intake, according to a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health study published this month in the journal Obesity.
Researchers at UNC and in China studied more than 750 Chinese men and women, aged between 40 and 59, in three rural villages in north and south China. The majority of study participants prepared their meals at home without commercially processed foods. About 82 percent of the participants used MSG in their food. Those users were divided into three groups, based on the amount of MSG they used. The third who used the most MSG were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than non-users.
“Animal studies have indicated for years that MSG might be associated with weight gain,” said Ka He, M.D., assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health. “Ours is the first study to show a link between MSG use and weight in humans.”
Because MSG is used as a flavor enhancer in many processed foods, studying its potential effect on humans has been difficult. He and his colleagues chose study participants living in rural Chinese villages because they used very little commercially processed food, but many regularly used MSG in food preparation.
Most low-calorie foods cut calories by removing refined cane sugar and replacing it with artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Sweet’n’Low, Splenda, and a dozen other sugar-like compounds. These artificial sugars contain less (in some cases, zero) calories, but they are incredibly dangerous in other ways.
Artificial sweeteners have been linked to… cancer, migraines, depression, birth defects, infertility, seizures, thyroid problems, and weight gain. In addition, low-calorie diet foods are usually loaded with processed ingredients that the body doesn’t know what to do with – so it stores these ingredients as wastes in fat.
Among the most common processed ingredients are refined/enriched flour, colors, preservatives (which go by hundreds of different names), and chemical flavorings – which may legally be called “natural flavors” even if they include MSG, known to cause migraines, cravings and weight gain. (As a side note: most varieties of processed or “textured” soy protein (TSP or TVP) use MSG for flavor and call it “natural flavors.”)
Some experts believe that the more refined a food is, the less satisfying it will be. Because the body is unable to receive what it needs from denatured, highly processed junk foods, it craves more nourishment. Sugar stimulates appetite and increases cravings for sugar – and so do most artificial sweeteners.
Even the best companies, whose apparent goal is to promote health and wellness, are still in business to make a profit. Corporations selling diet products and low-cal foods are hardly motivated to make a product that really helps people consume less and lose weight. If they did, their captive audience – people who are overweight – would disappear, taking their money with them.
Weight loss products are highly suspect for their harmful and addictive artificial ingredients, and for the elusive promise of “quick, easy” weight loss they promise but almost never fulfill. The only certain way to lose weight is to focus on healthy nutrition such as grass-fed meats , poultry and dairy products, an active lifestyle, and creating balance and harmony in our lives.
Along with certain processed foods, there are a few other things that affect weight that are the result of technology, processing, manufacturing, poor health and prescription medications. Most of these things are avoidable or can at least be mitigated to some extent, by changing lifestyle, adopting a healthier diet, and considering the following:
6.Eating the wrong type of fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in grass-fed meats, fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, certain plants, and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development.
Essential fatty acids are good fats that are needed by the body to make hormones and maintain the body’s metabolic rate. A deficiency may cause cravings, particularly for fatty foods.
The first signs of deficiency are often dandruff, dry hair and dry, scaly skin. Deficiency is also associated with arthritis, eczema, heart disease, diabetes and premenstrual syndrome.
Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.
Clinical studies suggest that overweight people who follow a weight loss program that includes exercise tend to achieve better control over their blood sugar and cholesterol levels when proteins rich in omega-3 fatty acids are a part of their low-calorie diet.
Omega 6 oils are far more plentiful in our diet than they should be. Omega 6 oils are found in oils such as: canola oil, sunflower seed oil, soybean oil, corn oil, and safflower oil, to name a few. Our diet contains about 20 times more Omega 6 oils than our ancestors ate.
We know is that an imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 promotes inflammation. Given the role of inflammation and weight gain, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that same imbalance may promote weight gain.
Researchers are finally getting around to pondering the obvious. A new study from the University of Nice in France has now identified Omega 6 to Omega 3 imbalance as a new risk factor for obesity.
How do you get an imbalance of Omega 6 to Omega 3? Eating a lot of processed foods appears to be one of the main causes, and one of the primary causes of long-term weight gain is inflammation.
If you want to get beyond cycling weight loss and weight gain, you have to understand inflammation, and how inflammation promotes weight gain and prevents weight loss.
Inflammation plays a vital role in glucose metabolism. Diets high in processed carbs promote a condition known as oxidative stress, where the natural defenses the cell has against oxidative damage become unbalanced. When this happens to white fat cells, this sets off a series of signals within that cell that promote an inflammatory response.
The inflammatory response of white fat cells BREAKS the mechanism that controls how those cells respond to insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to pull sugar from your blood into the cell.
When inflammation of white fat cells impairs insulin signaling in those white fat cells – two things happen within those fat cells.
First, fat within the cell gets broken down and tends to be released into the bloodstream. Excess free fatty acids in the bloodstream are an underlying cause of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Second, glucose within the blood gets stored as fat instead of used as energy.
As you can see, inflammation is the tinder that creates a firestorm of metabolic and circulatory problems that ultimately mitigate your weight loss attempts. If you want weight loss to be PERMANENT, you have to deal with the underlying problems. Controlling inflammation is VITAL for weight loss and long term weight management.
You know it for a fact — Americans are overweight but undernourished. Obesity is a major health problem, increasing the risk in almost one out of every three Americans for heart disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, stroke, gout, gall bladder disease, osteoarthritis, some forms of cancer, sleep apnea, etc.
Countless educators have tried to convince Americans that all they have to do is to eat a “balanced diet” (pray tell what that might be) and reduce their calories. But these educators don’t live in the real world. They ignore the fact that the average American eats too much junk and not enough whole foods. They ignore the fact that the average American eats too much fat and calories, and can’t stop eating at the suggested limit.
Poor nutrition in the way of processed foods with additives will starve the body, no matter how much is eaten. The body craves the natural nutrients it needs to remain strong and healthy, and without these, it will not be satiated. Cravings will appear, and until the nutrient-starved body is fed with processed foods, real hunger will not go away.
However, on a proper healthy, natural diet of real food, it takes much less food to satisfy the body’s cravings. So the message here is simple: put whole, nutritious, natural foods in your body, and you will eat less and give your body what it needs.
8. Loss of metabolism, inactivity and loss of muscle mass
Over the course of 20 or 30 years, the average American will lose 20-30 pounds of muscle and decrease his metabolism by 120-180 calories per day.
This equates to a weight gain of 19 pounds in 30 years. Fortunately, this drop in metabolism is preventable through regular strength training.
In the March/April 2006 edition of ACE Fitness Matters magazine, Chief Exercise Physiologist Cedric Bryant stated that “The average person (following a strength training routine) usually gains about 3-5 pounds of muscle mass every 3-4 months.”
During the course of a year, a person who strength trains will build enough muscle mass to increase their metabolism enough to burn an additional 54-120 calories per day. At first this doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up over time. Taking into account only muscle mass, compare the metabolism of two 180 pound people with very different body compositions:
The strength trainer will burn 90 calories per day more than the sedentary person, amounting to 32,850 more calories burned per year or 9.4 pounds of potential weight loss. In addition, these numbers don’t take into account any muscle the strength trainer will continue to add throughout the course of a year.
There are three ways strength training can increase metabolism.
- the workout session itself
- the post-training oxygen consumption following exercise
- the addition of lean muscle mass.
How much strength training will increase metabolism will vary depending upon the amount of muscle tissue involved in an exercise and the level of resistance weight that is used. For example, doing squats using your leg muscles will require far more energy than doing bicep curl’s using your arms.
The more muscle mass an individual has the greater the post exercise oxygen consumption. When strength trained individuals were compared to non-trained individuals, there was no difference in post exercise oxygen consumption per pound of muscle. However, since the strength training individuals have more muscle mass, they burn more calories during the post exercise period.
Many medications that are prescribed have a profound influence on our weight.
Hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptives containing estrogen can cause fluid retention and increased appetite. Other drugs that can cause weight gain are steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and diabetic medications.
While no one knows exactly how many prescription drugs can cause weight gain, but experts estimate the list includes more than 50 common medications.
Steroids such as prednisone, older antidepressants such as Elavil and Tofranil, and second-generation antipsychotics like Zyprexa are the biggest — and most recognized — promoters of weight gain.
Some other common offenders, include the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft, the anti-seizure medication Depakote, diabetes drugs like Diabeta and Diabinese, and the high blood pressure drugs Cardura and Inderal. Heartburn drugs like Nexium and Prevacid may also cause drug-induced weight gain.
Medication-associated weight gain can be modest — or as much as 30 pounds over several months.
Making matters more complicated is that some drugs, like Prevacid and Nexium, can cause weight gain in some people and weight loss in others.
Not all drugs have the same side effects for all people. You have to work with your doctor to find the drug that’s right for you.”
Certain types of drugs can cause weight gain. But in almost every case, the doctor will be able to switch you to another medication that has the same desirable effects but which will not cause weight gain and may even help you to shed a few pounds, he says.
For example, while some drugs used to treat depression and other mood disorders can cause weight gain, the antidepressants Wellbutrin and Prozac tend to help people lose weight, says Aronne, who is also clinical professor of medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Ditto for diabetes medications. “Yes, some can induce weight gain, but Glucophage and Precose are both weight-neutral, while two newer drugs — Byetta and Symlin — can actually help you lose weight,” he says.
As for medications used to treat seizure disorders and headaches, Aronne says that Zonegran and Topamax are good alternatives that are both associated with weight loss.
Aronne recalls the case of one 190-pound woman being treated for migraine headaches who came to his obesity clinic. His team tried a variety of measures, even a liquid diet, to help her shed the unhealthy excess weight, but she stabilized after losing only 10 pounds.
“Then we switched her to a different medication, Topamax, for her migraines,” he recalls. “She lost 50 pounds and has stabilized at a healthy 133 pounds. I can offer dozens of more examples just like this.”
Fernstrom says you should suspect your medicine cabinet is at the root of your problem if you gain five or more pounds in a month without overeating or exercising less.
“You have to look at your lifestyle carefully and then if you still can’t explain those extra pounds, you should begin to suspect it’s your medication, particularly if you recently started a new medication,” she says.
At that point, you can check the package insert or ask your pharmacist if weight gain is among the side effects of your medication. But the insert may not be as helpful as you might think, often simply listing weight gain as a “frequent” side effect, along with a dozen or so other side effects that may include weight loss, says George Blackburn, MD, PhD, an obesity expert at Harvard Medical School.
10. Health related problems such as hypothyroidism
Thyroid hormone deficiency can decrease metabolism of food, causing appetite loss and modest weight gain. Weight gain is from fat accumulation and fluid retention caused by protein deposits in the body.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism can include fatigue, lethargy, swelling of the face or around the eyes, dry, coarse skin, decreased sweating, poor memory, slow speech and hoarse voice, weakness, intolerance to cold and headache.
Ok, now what do I do then?
STEP 1: Avoid processed carbs
If you can’t pick it from a tree or pull it from the ground, limit your intake of carbs like this.
Excess insulin production from high energy dense carbs is a foundational cause of inflammation. If you do nothing else, do this.
STEP 2: Take an Omega 3 supplement or get LOTS of Omega 3 in your diet.
Eicosanoids from Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory. Eicosanoids from Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory. It’s common to have too much omega 6 in the diet and not enough omega 3.
STEP 4: Eat grass fed vs. grain fed meats
Grain fed beef promote more omega 6 intake. Grass fed beef promotes more omega 3 intake. Where possible, opt for grass fed.
STEP 5: Daily Dose the Super foods.
There are numerous anti-inflammatory properties in super foods. When you combine the above protocols with daily doses of super foods, you are promoting an physiological state much less conducive to chronic inflammation.
An emerging risk factor for obesity: does disequilibrium of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism contribute to excessive adipose tissue development?
Ailhaud G, Guesnet P, Cunnane SC.
2004-2008 LOOKCUT, INC. Weight Loss and Longevity-Based Fitness
Sally Fallon Morell and Rami Nagel
The four foods that make us fat
By Joan Ifland
Published March 21, 2009
An emerging risk factor for obesity: does disequilibrium of polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism contribute to excessive adipose tissue development?
Ailhaud G, Guesnet P, Cunnane SC.
Diet Foods and Weight Gain
Artificial Ingredients Trigger Cravings and Sabotage Weight Loss
© Victoria Anisman-Reiner
Jun 7, 2007
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Released: Mon 05-Jun-2006, 09:15 ET
Embargo expired: Mon 12-Jun-2006, 16:30 ET
Trans Fat Leads To Weight Gain Even on Same Total Calories