Eat less, exercise more. Is it really that easy? You may not be surprised to hear that losing excess weight and keeping it off goes way beyond such one-dimensional recommendations. In fact, the concept of calories in and calories out may be the biggest misunderstanding people have about weight. It turns out that weight gain and shedding extra pounds are not as black and white as many seem to think.
Let’s look beyond fad diets at a functional approach to weight loss. We’ll explore some lesser-known factors affecting weight and metabolism that you need to know if you want to lose weight and keep it off.
The Top 4 Factors That Contribute to Weight Gain
#1: Insulin Resistance
Insulin’s job is to help us transform food sugars into energy. But when we consume too many sugary foods and drinks, our body starts to lose its ability to respond to the insulin in our system. The pancreas tries to bring down blood sugar levels by pumping out more insulin, and as insulin resistance goes up a vicious cycle is created which over time can raise blood sugar and blood insulin to dangerous levels.
That extra sugar in the bloodstream that cannot be converted into energy is stored as abdominal fat and creates an addiction to sugar. This is called insulin resistance and it is widespread, affecting 1 in 3 Americans and in many cases leading to Type 2 Diabetes.
Do You Feel Full After Eating?
The hormones leptin and ghrelin control how full we feel after a meal, and the strength of our food cravings. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excess leptin signaling your body to eat more as you aren’t feeling full. It’s a vicious cycle!
How is Your Thyroid?
Your thyroid regulates your metabolism, managing the speed at which you burn calories. When the thyroid is underperforming, it can cause fluid retention, weight gain, constipation, among other issues, making it nearly impossible; to manage your weight. The stats are shocking as 5 out of every 100 people have a low functioning thyroid in the US.
When your estrogen and progesterone hormones are out of balance, that is called Estrogen Dominance, even if levels of both hormones are low. Having too much estrogen in the body relative to progesterone causes a myriad of symptoms, including weight loss resistance, bloating, mood swings, PMS and heavy periods.
Elevated Cortisol Levels
Our adrenal glands rule how we respond to stress by regulating the body’s stress hormones. Chronic stress leads to wildly fluctuating cortisol levels, which means more weight gain and water retention.
Genetic testing can tell us a great deal about how and why we gain weight, and can be the game-changer for people who have tried everything.
The FTO Gene Variant
One gene that is particularly well documented, the FTO gene, is also known as the human fat-mass and obesity associated gene. It controls leptin, ghrelin (the satiation hormones mentioned above) and adiponectin (which regulates glucose levels). Several other genes affect how we metabolize fats, carbs and proteins.
Genes that impact stress play a big role in weight management too, especially if you’re a stress eater. These genes impact reward pathways, which can affect how you use food to reward yourself.
Toxins that are present in our environment can be so dangerous that our body needs to protect us by, “walling them off” in a casing of fat. The more toxins we have, the more fat cells we need to imprison them. Get rid of the toxins, and the excess weight may well follow.
Lifelong Sources of Toxicity
Current exposure to toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides aren’t the only concern. Research shows that even early-life exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) can increase fat levels, and with microplastics having recently been found in the placentas of some women, the concern is legitimate.
Many toxins are major contributors to thyroid dysfunction, potentially leading to hormonal weight gain.
Are you ready to step out of the diet roller coaster? I hope this post answered some of your questions and inspired you to try something different. Share in the comments what you can do to take better care of yourself!