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7 Reasons Why Weight Management Is So Difficult

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

Just eat less and move more. Has that worked for you? We've been told this for decades, yet people around the world are still gaining weight.

It's applying physics to physiology. It works for a precious few. Our bodies are an amazing, complex array of systems that don't always know about weight loss formulas. And everybody is different. First of all, we are emotional beings, we have careers, commutes, and kids. Let's take a look at why weight loss is so difficult.

Reason #1 – Our culture and the age we live in Food sources have changed. A bit of history is in order. Believe it or not, reducing sugar and refined carbohydrates was known as a viable solution to lose weight in the late 1800s. By the 1940s & 50s heart disease had become the leading cause of death. In 1977 the U.S. government released the McGovern report, which recommended a low-fat diet to combat heart disease by reducing calories. Low-fat calorie reduction eventually became the advice the world over. It was precisely at this time that we really started gaining weight.

The food industry responded immediately. In order to make food tasty and addictive, they replaced fat with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is very cheap, sweeter than cane sugar, and extends shelf life, among other things. It's no wonder food manufacturers went to town with it. High-fructose corn syrup helped manufacturers. It hasn't helped us.

Let's talk about wheat. During the industrial revolution, the steel milling process replaced stone grinding and removed all the nutrients to give us the fluffy white flour that produces the foods we love to eat today. In the 50s and 60s synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetic modifications contributed to high-yield dwarf wheat varieties that literally saved millions of people from starvation. But sadly, wheat was changed forever. Nonetheless, many of the foods we eat are made from flour. Now we have an increase in celiac disease, gluten sensitivities, and of course obesity.

Food culture is different today. Food is everywhere! Serving sizes, our dishes, even, cutlery is bigger than 30 years ago. We have fabulous kitchens and cooking is becoming a lost art.

Cooking and preparing more food at home supports healthy eating habits and reduces reliance on highly processed foods.

Reason #2 Hormones According to Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist in Toronto and author of The Obesity Code, obesity is a hormone imbalance, not a calorie imbalance. Hormones are chemical messengers that communicate with the cells in our body. Ghrelin and Leptin are hormones involved with hunger and satiety. If you don't sleep well these hormones can be out of whack so you don't get the message in your brain to stop eating. Leptin resistance is now believed to be one of the main biological contributors to obesity.

Getting enough sleep is one of the many important strategies to help with weight management. Sleep has an impact on many areas of your life.

Insulin is another hormone that plays a leading role in weight management. Insulin allows your body to use sugar. Chronically elevated Insulin caused by a variety of reasons, including overeating, can lead to leptin resistance and insulin resistance, which leads to Type 2 diabetes.

Cortisol is a hormone that is released when you're under stress. When your brain perceives danger it signals the body to prepare for fight or flight. Cortisol and other hormones are released. That's a good thing. But today's stressors are chronic, like marriage, mortgage, and children. Unfortunately, excess cortisol causes weight gain right at your waist. And fat at the waist is a contributor to insulin resistance.

Reason #3 Stress I think it's fair to say we have more stress today (this age we live in) with a work culture that for many people, never turns off. Stress also causes us to stay up later to get more done, which leads to ghrelin and leptin malfunction as noted above. If we had good coping strategies they might go out the window when we're stressed. We stop exercising, eat poorly and cravings and emotional eating might kick in. Ironically, when we're stressed is when we want to take really good care of ourselves. Getting lots of sleep and eating well, for example, will support us through difficult times.

Have you ever craved pork chops? And when you have pork chops do you keep eating more and more pork chops? Probably not. When we consume protein and fat our satiety hormone, leptin, tells us we're satisfied and we've had enough. So we stop eating. Yet when it comes to cookies, pasta or potato chips we can easily make room for more and binge on those foods. That is because refined/processed foods do not trigger leptin, the satiety hormone.

Whole foods in their purest form are always best for you because the nutrients act together. Research on the brain shows that for people who use food to cope, food has the same effect on the brain as substances to someone struggling with addiction. It activates the dopamine/reward systems in the brain, providing comfort. Dopamine is another hormone. Science shows it really does make you feel good for a short time.

Developing healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits (such as mindful eating), recognizing food triggers and developing more appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress are critical. Happiness does not come from outside of us, it comes from within. Find another form of comfort or reward that isn't food or substance related.

Reason #4 – Genetics Not one gene, but over 100 genes contribute to the determination of our size. Dissatisfaction with our bodies and unrealistic expectations for weight loss can get us in a lot of trouble. Not everyone can be 5'9" or a size 6. Your worth has nothing to do with how you look. Self-loathing and resistance contribute to your stress, which is not an ideal environment for change. How can you do the best with what you've got? What do you believe about how you should look? Where did you first develop that belief?

Reason #5 - Beliefs A belief is a repeated thought that becomes your rule or way of living, consciously or subconsciously. E.g. "I don't deserve to lose weight. I can't afford to buy all new clothes. My friends and family will hate me if I am smaller than them." Beliefs become our biology. They cause us to unknowingly self–sabotage or criticize ourselves.

Say you've lost weight so you buy a new, smaller size 10 top. And you have this fearful thought, consciously or unconsciously, "I've never worn a size 10." What happens? You gain the weight back because your mind and body are not aligned and it can be hard to cope with change.

Reason #6 - Medications Antidepressants, anti-psychotics, steroids, and ironically insulin, used to treat diabetes, can all cause weight gain, among other drugs. We have to choose what's best for us.

By making your goal focused on well-being instead of lost pounds you stand to be more successful vs struggling against what you might not be able to change. Reason #7 - Years of dieting Diets dictate rules to restrict calories - what or how much you should eat or not eat. Years of dieting and fluctuating weight can wreak havoc with your metabolism due to your "animal brain" that is wired for feast or famine. It's your animal brain's job to keep you alive. When you restrict calories the brain goes into survival mode and holds onto every calorie. You may have experienced this as a plateau. Dieting also prevents you from trusting yourself to make good decisions about food because you've always trusted the diet to tell you what to do. You've unintentionally lost the subtle cues of hunger and satiety because a diet doesn't compensate for that. Ignore it! Just do what the diet says!

It's time to stop beating yourself up for not having more willpower to eat less and move more. That doesn't help. Perhaps you should give yourself a warm hug instead.

Successful weight loss programs focus on the whole person, not just the body. Enhancing self-worth and self-acceptance will provide you with the confidence to make healthier choices about your life and your weight.

Reach out to your EFAP for support or to access a 12 Weeks to Wellness health coach that can assist you to assess your weight loss challenges and goals. We're here to help.


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