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The Complexity Of Obesity: It’s Not (Just) About The Calories

The Complexity Of Obesity: It’s Not (Just) About The Calories

It’s not a secret that weight gain is a source of frustration and concern for many, especially when weight gain leads to obesity. Obesity is now a worldwide problem. It’s common, serious, and costly - and it affected about 93.3 million U.S. adults in 2015 and 2016. That’s a prevalence rate of 39.8%.

While weight issues are now well-recognized health issues, addressing them is difficult. But why? Mainstream knowledge tells us that weight is a simple equation of calories taken in and calories spent. In reality, however, obesity is not that simple. It’s incredibly complex and personal - and the solutions need to be, too.

When thinking about weight loss, the majority of people immediately think about how to change their diet or exercise routines. However, this approach to losing weight is severely limited - and one study highlights this better than any other. A 2015 study revealed that people today are 10 percent heavier than they were in the 1980s - even with the same diets and exercise regimens.

So why is this? Because there is an incredible interplay of the genetic, developmental, hormonal, environmental, and behavioral factors that contribute to obesity. Researchers are still studying these factors to try to better understand them. But so far, we do know that:

  • Our bodies are wired to keep weight on. Historically, human beings were hunter-gatherers. Our bodies are still designed to live this ancient lifestyle, which often had periods of “feast or famine”. Of course, many people today have no problem accessing calories to keep their bodies running - but our bodies don’t know that. So if you try to lose weight, your body goes out of its way to do what it was designed to do: keep you alive. From slowing your metabolism down to boosting your hunger hormones, your body will work to get what it wants - and that’s to keep weight on you.
  • Every body has different nutritional needs. Chances are that you know at least one person who did well on a diet that did nothing for you. Unfortunately, this is a common problem people run into - and it happens because every body is different. While our basic nutritional needs are fairly standard, we all digest different types of foods in different ways. You can see this phenomenon in people with gluten sensitivity; they feel better when they avoid a certain food group, even though they aren’t diagnosed with an illness like Celiac disease. Their digestive system is the reason behind this. Unfortunately, despite ongoing research into the ways bodies metabolize various macronutrients, medical experts don’t have answers for why some bodies process foods differently than others. Nutrition, like obesity overall, is just another complex layer in our healthy living efforts.
  • Our lives are saturated with chemicals. Let’s be clear - chemicals are not bad by themselves. Water, for example, is a vital chemical that we need to survive. But changes in our environmental exposures to various compounds around us are still a potential influence when we talk about our weight. And thanks to various changes in health and safety protocols, our lives are surprisingly full of chemicals that are meant to help us in some ways - but may be hindering us in others. From flame retardants in our furniture, to pesticides in our produce, to the additives in packaged foods, there are a number of things we are now exposed to. And they could potentially be affecting functions such as energy use, fat storage, and so forth. On top of these various environmental changes, many adjustments in pharmaceutical dosages and ingredients took place in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And many of them have side effects that make us crave food or gain weight. 
  • We’re living longer - and we’re stressed out. Yes, believe it or not, our lifespans are also playing a part in our weight. More and more of us are living for longer periods of time than our ancestors. That opens the doors to various physical influences on our weight - including the hormonal changes that happen as we age. Arguably the best-known example of these hormonal changes are those found in post-menopausal women. That’s not to say men are immune from hormonal issues, as stress can also cause hormone changes that may affect our weight. And thanks to our 21st century lifestyles, none of us are strangers to stress.

Each of these factors is a contributing piece to the weight gain puzzle. This is not to say that diet and lifestyle changes aren’t part of the solution to address weight gain. But it does mean that it’s unreasonable to expect the average person to drop excess weight through calorie-based measures alone. 

Of course, it’s also ridiculous to suggest that because of factors out of our control - such as our environment and genetics - we cannot lose weight. No single factor in weight gain and obesity is a definitive roadblock. It’s merely another fact in the broad picture of your health. Understanding this broad picture behind weight gain is the first step to addressing it, and starting to lose weight.

If you are struggling to tackle weight gain in your own life, please consider contacting us to help you address the many factors affecting you. Right Weight Center is a physician-directed medical weight loss program that offers affordable help. We work every day to address the 'big picture' factors behind your weight with metabolic boosters, fat burning boosters, lipotropics, and other custom services focused on your weight goals. 

With our board-certified staff, custom plans and FDA approved tools, our team can help you stay focused and achieve your weight loss goals. Ready to get started? Just call us at 301-345-7885, or walk in during our office hours!

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