Many people, every year, month, day, hour are trying to lose weight. And yet, more than ever before in history, we are becoming more and more obese. This is no accident. There are a myriad of factors which prevent people from losing weight, some you may be aware of and others not so much. Beyond that, why are we so obsessed with weight? There are more factors to this than you may realize, and we, as a society, have many reasons behind our body and image obsession. There are some scientific, some societal, and some personal reasons that all explain why you’re not losing weight. But what are they?
1. Too Many Calories
To start with, we are simply eating too much. Our society has ballooned with portion sizes, stress, digital fascination, and hyper-palatable foods. On top of that, we have increased our marketing for junk foods, fast foods, and soda to an alarming degree. All of these elements cause us add weight, and make it doubly hard to actually lose weight. At the same time, what do we see on television, in magazine ads, and online? Skinny, happy people, which can add a psychological element that is extremely difficult to overcome.
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Even though we may get older, many of us are still stuck in high school when it comes to what we think about looks and bodies. A superficial fascination can lead many to eating disorders, disordered eating, or just simply with an unhealthy relationship with food. But back to the calories. We are now eating an average of 57 pounds more meat than we did in the 1950s. But that’s just meat.
Overall, we have seen an increase of over 20% in total calories consumed since the 1970s. What’s important to keep in mind, is that our bodies and need for calories have not changed during that time despite eating more than we ever have. Even children and infants fall into this problem. How can we stop consuming so many calories? Well, the first thing to do: cut out all liquid calories. Not only is it easy to over-consume these, but they contain very little nutrients – just a whole lot of sugar.
Once you’ve done that, it does make things easier to eat a Paleo-style diet. By eliminating grains, legumes, and dairy, you take away the exorphins and also the poorly available nutrients. Once you’ve done that, you are left with quality fats, quality protein and better sources of carbohydrates. This also eliminates excess sugar, which is a huge concern when it comes to over-consuming calories. Sugar is addictive, added to foods for palatability, and is completely unnecessary. A sweet potato on the other hand, contains lots of nutrients, is low in calories, and low in sugar – providing a great alternative to liquid calories and other poor food choices.
When it comes to restaurants, order anything that is “kid sized”, or listed as an “appetizer”. This will bring the portion size to a much more reasonable level. If you are intent on ordering from the “regular” menu, save half for later. And if you’re wondering what food choice to make, go for wild-caught seafood, or something simple, like grass-fed steak or organic chicken. And if you want to order a salad, make sure you add some high quality protein to it, and only have extra virgin olive oil as a dressing. These simple changes add up over time, and soon you will be much leaner than you ever thought possible. That is, assuming you don’t fall victim to our next point.
2. Too Much Stress
Stress. We all know it, we all suffer from it, and yet many of us let it get the best of us. Eating chemically rewarding foods is a big problem for our world and we are much prone to consuming these when we are stressed. If you work in an office, or at a desk job, you know how easy it is to grab an extra cup of coffee or an extra doughnut when you get stressed, but all this consumption adds up over time. Soon you may have gained 10 pounds without realizing it.
Stress eating is a huge problem, and the only way to fight it is to fall back on strategies. For me, it works to remember that the stress will still be there, regardless if I eat the doughnut or not. Since I don’t want to add another stressor (like being sick and fat) to my plate, this helps me skip the doughnut, no matter how much I may want it. I suggest you try a similar strategy if you suffer from stress eating, as many of us do. We must remember that stress, the environment, and the media all combat to make us want to simultaneously over-consume and be overly obsessed with being fit. It is not a pretty combination.
Potato chips, pizza and doughnuts are three of the biggest offenders when it comes to obesity. These foods also contain very few – if any – nutrients. It is easy to see how cutting these foods out, even when extremely stressed, can help us to lose weight and, perhaps more importantly, become healthier overall. Since weight loss mostly results in a loss of subcutaneous fat and muscle, we must consider the underlying problems as well. Visceral fat is a big issue when it comes to disease and losing weight doesn’t necessarily get rid of it.
3. Lack Of Sleep
However, we can all agree that most of us are grossly overweight. What are some other factors? Well a big one these days is sleep. Or more accurately, a lack of sleep. We are under-sleeping, sometimes to an alarming degree, and it is leading us to make poor diet and lifestyle choices as well as resulting in a stream of biochemical and hormonal changes. After a few days of sleep loss, we have mentally adjusted to the changes – but our body hasn’t. This puts us in a dangerous “limbo” situation, where we think we are well-rested but in actuality are not. From here, it is easy to put on weight, and again it may happen subtly, without us realizing it.
4. Hormone Problems
The factor that may be less under our control is leptin resistance. Those that are overweight are usually insulin resistant, but leptin resistant is another matter, though closely related. Since leptin is your “satiety” hormone which helps to regulate the amount of fat you store, being leptin resistant is not a good thing for those looking to stay lean. And yet many of us are leptin resistant. In the below video, Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D, gives a great lecture on what may be causing all this leptin resistance.
In short, leptin resistance is caused by a variety of things. Too much sugar is certainly one of them. While eliminating refined foods is certainly the best way to cut out sugar quickly, it must also be stated that eating too much fruit on a Paleo diet can cause similar problems. Granted, it would have to be a fairly large amount of fruit. Nonetheless, we must look at this possibility, as I see it in clients more often than you might expect. The official adult guidelines for sugar consumption fall to about 25 to 30 grams of sugar per day. This is less than one can of soda. From here, it is easy to see why the first thing one should do is to cut out liquid calories.
Leptin resistance also results from too much fructose, specifically. This means fruits which are higher in fructose should not be consumed on a regular basis. Once in a while, sure, but not every day. The only real exceptions to this are blueberries and blackberries, which are so nutrient dense, that it is worth taking the little bit of fructose that comes with them. An example of a fruit you may want to avoid on a regular basis is grapes. Sometimes referred to as “little bags of fructose” grapes aren’t nearly as beneficial as other fruits.
Another choice that would be good to cut out are apples. They are probably the lowest nutrient dense fruit that there is and they’re also pretty high in sugar. As you can see, obesity and weight issues are not what they may at first seem. By simply substituting better choices for ones you may be making, and giving it enough time, you may never have to worry about weight loss again.
Another point: real, significant weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, and it takes a little bit of effort. In the beginning, a week spent really focusing on the essentials will go a long way towards getting a good reference point for the rest of your life, and how you can plan for healthy eating.
Lastly, we must mention sedentary lifestyle. If you’re not exercising right now – start. Even walking for 45 minutes per day is a step in the right direction. Don’t be lazy – it’s not just a reason you’re not losing weight, but it will actually kill you in the end.
How did I do? Do you understand more about weight loss than when you started reading? Let me know in the comments.