Have you ever wondered what makes you fat and why thinking about losing weight doesn’t get you anywhere. You want to lose weight naturally and without much effort but you can’t unless you address the underlining factors that made you fat in the first place.
Our society values health and fitness. However, at the same time encourages us to overeat and consume more of processed and fast food.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot break shackles from this. People use all their willpower to lose weight and become healthy, only to regain it back after few months.
Very few people succeed to keep off the excess weight and stay healthy for life.
I was faced with the same roadblocks as many of you who are trying to lose weight. I found a way to overcome these by educating myself on these things and focusing on the goal.
Roadblocks That Prevent You From Losing Weight
1. Abundance of food
Modern technology has revolutionized food production. Today food is available in abundance and it’s everywhere. Whether we are working at our desk or enjoying a movie at a theater, we are always chewing or sipping something. Calorie counting doesn’t make sense if you are grazing all day.
According to FAO, global food consumption is on the rise mainly due to the abundance of food. Today, an average American consumes around 3800 calories. Britain is not too far behind at around 3500 calories.
We are consuming 50% more calories than that required to maintain a healthy body weight. The average body weight of people has increased in proportion to the increase in food intake.
2. Variety of Food
There has been a remarkable increase in food variety in last 2-3 decades. Every time I go to a supermart, I find myself overwhelmed with the number of options available even for simplest of things like whole milk. Oh, I am not even talking about packaged foods yet.
Several studies have shown that when food variety increases, we tend to eat more even if we are not hungry.
When we go for a brunch or lunch buffet, there are so many options. We feel guilty if we don’t taste everything. Every bite that we put in our mouth is about 25 calories. This quickly adds up and we end up exhausting an entire day’s calorie budget in one single meal. If you tend to go overboard, it can easily be 2 days worth of total calories.
What do you think happens to all those extra calories. They get pushed into our fat cells and we keep adding inches to our waistline.
3. Portion size
According to this study, food portion sizes have increased over the years. This directly translates into an increase in energy intake and accompanying weight gain.
The food plate that we use today is at least 3/4 size larger than the food plate from a couple of decades back. Today, even the burgers that we pick from the roadside food joint have been super-sized. So are the beverages. Many times, the food that we eat today in one single meal is equivalent to an entire days calorie budget. All this has change happened right in front of our eyes and we didn’t even realize it.
When you sit down to eat a meal at a restaurant these days, it is more common than not to have a huge plate of food set in front of you. If you are a member of Clean Plate club then more than likely you will finish it all.
Our body gets accustomed to a certain volume of food. If you eat more food, the body demands more on a consistent basis. The threshold to eat food and reach satiation keeps progressively increasing. Before we know it, we are blessed with a fat belly.
You should cook more meals at home and invest in smaller plates and glasses. This will not only help you to normalize the portion sizes of meals but over will also help to feel satiated by eating the right amount of food.
4. Fast Food
This one is quite obvious. The moment we step out of the house, we are surrounded by fast food joints and restaurants. These foods are very calorie dense – making it very easy to overeat. Fast foods are not only available in abundance but are also very cheap. Compared to whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats, these are more easily accessible. For an average Joe on a limited budget, the obvious choice is to go for something which is not only cheaper but tastes good as well.
According to this study, it was found that there is a close association between obesity and the proximity of fast food restaurant.
If fast food forms the majority of your daily meal, you should switch to home prepped meals comprising mainly of whole foods. Though eating whole foods might cost you extra, in the long scheme of things, it will pay off. You will be less likely develop any health disorder when eating nutritious whole foods and save on medical expenses.
According to USDA, an average American consumes about 86 grams of added sugar daily. That’s about 21 teaspoons of sugar.This is more than three times WHO‘s recommendation for sugar intake, which is 25 grams (6 teaspoons).
Ideally, no more than 5% of our calories (based on 2000 calories) should come from added sugar. Yet, we consume more than 15% of calories from sugar (mostly added sugar). For children and adolescents, this number is even higher.
Recent studies have shown that sugar has a similar response to other addictive drugs like cocaine. In fact, it was found that sugar and sweet can be more rewarding and attractive than the addictive drugs. Sugar, when taken in such large amounts, can cause havoc with our metabolic hormones, in particular, insulin.
Being continuously exposed to hyper-palatable foods that are high in sugar, it is very difficult to control consumption of foods high in sugar.
I know this, as I have been a victim of sugar myself. It took me a lot of willpower to say no to sugar and sugar based foods.
Added sugar doesn’t have nutritional value. You can start by cutting down on foods that have added sugar, mainly baked food, and soft drinks.
6. Processed Food
When I say processed foods, I am not referring to pasteurizing of milk or enriching it with Vitamin D. I am concerned with the processing of food that removes fiber and micronutrients and adds harmful chemicals like trans fats and artificial flavor.
What’s missing in processed food?
- Fiber acts as a prebiotic and maintains healthy gut bacteria. It also helps to regulate insulin and keep us satiated for long. Unfortunately, this fiber is removed during processing of food.
- While processing, the food is heated to high temperatures. This destroys most micronutrients naturally found in the ingredients that make up this food.
What’s makes processed food bad…
- Canola, Palm, Soyabean and Sunflower oils are highly processed unnatural form of vegetable oil. These have high concentration of omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids or PUFA is known to cause inflammation and oxidation (death) of healthy cells.
- Trans Fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oil that are synthesized by food manufacturers are added to processed foods to increase the shelf life of food. These have severe implications on our health, even when taken in small quantities.
The foods that make it to the list of highly processed foods are:
- Pizza (refined flour, loaded with processed meat and cheese)
- Chocolate bars (corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil and artificial flavors)
- Potato chips (starch, vegetable oil and added salt)
- Cookies ( high fructose corn syrup, refined flour, and vegetable oil)
- Ice cream (High fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial color and cellulose gum)
If you are serious about changing your life for better, you should completely remove processed foods and substitute them with real foods. If you are unable to remove them completely because of your current lifestyle, you should minimize the consumption to 20% of daily food intake.
7. Soft drinks
Many people blame junk food for the recent obesity epidemic. What if I told that soda pops and diet soda are equally guilty, if not more.
Studies have found that drinking soda pops daily results in weight gain and obesity.
Soda drinks are loaded with sugar and many people often substitute these drinks over regular water – drinking multiple times a day.
A canned soda drink has about 40 grams of sugar and 200 empty calories. When we drink calories, we don’t even compensate by eating less. Over a period of time, all these extra calories add to our growing waistline.
These beverages do not have any nutritional value but are very addictive – blame it on sugar and caffeine combination.
You might think, diet sodas are better as they have zero calories. That’s not the deal. Diet sodas do not have sugar but they are loaded with artificial sweeteners. Our body is good at processing naturally occurring food. When you drink diet sodas, our body doesn’t know how to metabolize it.
They do not affect the reward center in our brain in same as sugary drink does. However, there is an emotional response to drinking diet soda. We think that we have created room to eat more by drinking diet soda instead of regular soda pop and end up overeating and gaining fat.
Diet sodas also affect neurotransmitters in our brain, sometimes causing depression and anxiety. Drinking diet soda can also make you diabetic much like regular soda pop.
If you are serious about losing weight, you need to start substituting soda drinks with green tea or water. It can be difficult to adopt initially, but if you give it a couple of days to a week, your craving for soda pop will disappear.
8. Emotional Eating
In today’s fast-paced world, being stressed out is a normal thing. However, we use certain food to get over this stress or anything that is bothering us. This is also called comfort eating.
Foods that are rich in both sugar and fat are comfort foods. When we eat foods loaded with sugar and fat, the brain releases dopamine which helps us to counteract stress hormones like cortisol.
Eating comfort food sometimes becomes habitual and we react to stress by eating comfort foods. When we eat comfort foods or binge, we don’t account for the amount of food we are eating or amount of calories we are consuming.
All our efforts to lose weight and become healthy goes down the drain.
Exercise is very effective in overcoming daily stress. Both strength training and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) are good stress busters. Meditation is another great way of relieving yourself of stress.
9. Distracted Eating Habits
We have forgotten table manners. Oh wait, we don’t even sit on dinner table these days. We eat in the comfort of our living room and get entertained while eating.
When you are distracted or multitask while eating, you do not pay attention to what you are eating. We do not register the taste/quantity of food that we eat in our brain and end up eating more to reach satiety.
I had been victim to this myself in the past but now I eat mindfully. I take time to swallow food and enjoy the taste of the food.
Avoid watching Television and youtube while eating. Think of eating as an important task. You should enjoy the taste of every food that you put in your mouth. Remeber while restricting calories, it’s important to satisfy yourself, otherwise, it’s easy to go overboard.
10. Addiction to certain foods
Processed or Junk foods are engineered to be highly potent and addictive. They are very easy to chew and swallow. You can even feel them melting in your mouth.
Research has found that combination of simple carbs and fats, make food very addictive. It is very easy to overeat food that has been perfected to be hyper-rewarding.
We get hooked on to certain foods like a bee on a honeycomb.
My weight gain had a lot to do with addiction to sweets and rice-based savory foods. When I took up the challenge to lose weight, I had to quit them completely. Now, I treat myself to these foods occasionally and I am confident I will never go down the rabbit hole again.
You would need to start looking at food from a nutrition standpoint. When you know what you are putting in your mouth, you will be inclined to stay away from food with empty calories or very little nutrition value.
With the number of engineered foods loaded with chemicals that enter our body, we have totally messed up our hormones. In particular the metabolic hormones like insulin and leptin. Hormonal imbalance in the majority of people is the main cause of the current obesity epidemic.
Consumption of food that is rich in sugar and refined grains makes us both insulin and leptin resistant. Most of the food that we eat preferentially gets shoved into fat cells due to the high amount of insulin flowing through our blood.
We don’t even realize when we are full as our leptin’s signaling to the brain is messed up. This results in overeating and binging.
Intermittent fasting protocols have proven to be very effective in overcoming insulin resistance. You can start by pushing out your breakfast initially and then by skipping it completely.
12. Food Marketing
Food manufacturers not only make the food hyper-palatable but also to make them attractive. Engineered foods with added chemicals are also cheap compared to whole foods.
Billions of dollars are spent every year to market these food items and establish the demand.
Food marketers use advertising across multiple channels – internet, in-store, in movies, television, game sponsorship or organization of events, in the street, and so on.
We are programmed from childhood through television advertisements to opt for junk food over whole foods. Grocery stores and Supermarkets position processed foods in such a way that it is almost impossible to not pick anything while walking down the aisle
Exposure to food commercials has been linked to preferential consumption of calorie-dense foods in children and adolescents.
Studies have shown that both food price point and aggressive marketing influences not only what we eat but how much we eat.
Food manufacturers don’t care about our health and their sole focus is to make more profit. They do this at the cost of our health. They seldom eat such food themselves.
While we cannot stop the amount of planning that goes behind the scene to market junk foods, we can start looking at the nutrition label. Every time you go to a grocery store to pick something to eat, read the ingredient list. Anything that has more than 3 ingredients, doesn’t need to be on your plate.
13. Toxic Chemicals
It may sound strange but BPAs and other chemicals around us, also have an effect on our weight. BPA in plastic is impossible to avoid. They are found in food packages and consumable goods. They can also be found in the inner lining of pipes in our household water supply. Drinking water is also contaminated with BPAs. Although exposure to these chemicals only lasts for few hours in our body, this can have a dramatic effect on the small children when compared to adults.
Opt for BPA free food containers and water bottles. Glass containers are even better.
14. People around us
Friends and family influence not only what we eat but how much we eat. It’s difficult to make a healthy choice at home or eating out when people in our lives do not follow the same ideology. Most people don’t realize they are fat or obese until they have a medical condition. Some people may even be more immune to diseases or have a very high metabolic rate that prevents them from getting fat. However, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of developing a heart disease, type 2 diabetes or cancer. As long as you keep putting foods with empty calories in our mouth, you are always at risk.
You can only change people around you, once you change yourself. Start by making corrective changes in your lifestyle and your approach towards certain foods.
15. Physical activity
Advancement in science and technology has made us physically less active. We take a car or a two-wheeler whenever we step out of the house – no matter how close is the destination. We use elevators instead of stairs. This though saves us some time, has made us completely dependent on them. We do not even want to walk few hundred meters down the road or use stairs at all. There were no health clubs a few decades back but people were much lean and healthier as they were physically active. There was no need to subscribe to a health club to be physically active.
Even if you don’t have time for a daily workout routine, try to stay as much active as possible by walking or taking stairs when you get a chance.
The pharmaceutical drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect. Medicines are basically chemicals that have been found to relieve symptoms of a certain medical condition. Every medicine has a ton of side effects. Many of these side effects are not even listed on the pharmaceutical drug label.
17. Food Politics & Misinformation
The food industry and the politics surrounding it has created an environment that has naturally programmed both our mind and body to eat more of junk food. Today, food stuffed with sugar and unhealthy fat is being marketed as a healthy food. There are claims made that these highly processed food products are even healthier than their whole food counterparts.
Most of us are confused about what to eat and stay healthy. If you are fighting some health disorder then things are even worse.
There is a lot of misinformation and myths surrounding food and general health. The most common myth – “Fat makes you fat” originated decades ago and it was only recently it was found that food in fat is not what is making us fat – it’s the sugar. Many of these myths are driven by public Food and Health Organization who are sponsored by food manufacturing giants.
Guidelines from these organization are not to promote public health but to protect the interest of these large organizations who fill their pockets.
Hope one day, we will be able to turn things around and make these organizations start prioritizing our health over profits.
Let me know in the comments below, your struggles and what you had to overcome to lose weight.