ead The problem of weight gain or obesity is alarmingly common in our society.  In fact, it has escalated to a full-blown health care crisis in recent times. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost 69% of adults in the US are either overweight or obese. Take a moment to wrap your head around it! I won’t blame you if you can’t! It is just an insane number.

Obesity-Statistic-Pie-chart-weight gain
Obesity statistic in United States Population over the age of 20-years

What baffles me the most is the fact that despite an enormous amount of effort, there seems to be no end in sight. It is not like there is not enough awareness about the problem of weight gain either. All our favorite stars, athletes, and heck, even the First Lady is encouraging us to get in shape! When it comes to the ‘fat burning’ solutions, there are a ton of options there as well. Every TV host, TV doctor, and infomercial promise ‘unbelievable results’. So, what gives? Why is the majority of our population is still suffering from weight gain?

Well, it indeed is a complex problem and to expect a clear, simple solution would be too naive. The scientist in me, however, wants to take a different approach. One of the biggest hurdles in solving a problem is a lack of understanding of the problem itself. If you don’t understand the problem, you are never going to find an appropriate solution, right? So, let us try and figure out what leads to weight gain and obesity.

The energy conundrum and weight gain

There are many, and trust me MANY, scientific reasons for weight gain. However, all these reasons lead to a central phenomenon- Energy imbalance.

energy-balance-equation-weight gain
                                        Energy balance equation

Think of the food that you consume as energy that you put into your system. The body uses a part of this energy to maintain itself and a part to fuel your activities. If the input is going to exceed the output, the extra input will need to go somewhere, right? That where fat comes into play. The body uses this extra energy and stores it away in the form of fat, that it can use in case the supply falls short. However, if you maintain this level of imbalance long enough, the excess fat will make its presence known! And boy, does it add up fast!

The Twist

So, yes, if you put in too much energy in the form of food and use too little, you will get fat. But that nothing new isn’t it? You already knew that, didn’t you? But wait. What if there are situations where the other end of the balance is messed up. What if your body, for some reason either spends too little energy or stores too much fat? In this scenario, your body will tend to accumulate despite you putting in the same energy in it. That is where things get a bit tricky.

Most of us think that we are overweight or obese because we eat too much or exercise too little. If we have enough will power, shedding the extra poundage would be easy! And when we are not able to do so, we blame ourselves or worse, try some weird ‘ as seen on TV’ stuff. What we rather should do is to understand why is this happening. The answer to this ‘why’ holds the key to getting back in shape. And everyone will have a different answer to this same question, don’t get me wrong, but it will serve as a foundation for your weight loss journey.

So, what are some of the most common reasons for energy imbalance? Would some of them apply to you? Let’s take a closer look!

1. Genetics and weight gain

One of the most important reasons why you have or are susceptible to energy imbalance is coded right in your genes. Thousands of scientific studies prove the role of genetics in obesity. Certain genetic mutations in specific genes can lead to obesity. These mutations can be passed on to you from your parents as well. As a result, it is quite likely that if your parents are obese, you stand a high chance as well.

Now, this does not mean that you can’t do anything about it, though. Genes, especially those responsible for obesity are not set in stone. A number of other factors will determine whether they will express or not. In fact, a whole branch of Science called Epigenetics studies exactly that.

genetic-switch-for-weight gain
Genetic switch be triggered by environmental factors leading to weight gain

Although you can’t control your genes, you can certainly control some environmental factors that control them. And one of the biggest factors is diet. Let me just give you an example to stress my point. In many Eastern civilizations, the problem of obesity came when they started consuming western diet. That, of course, did not alter their genetic makeup but changed the environment. That led to the expression of individual genes responsible for weight gain. This is just one example; there are many like this.

However, there are studies conducted on twins that show that genes play a crucial role in obesity.

So, if obesity runs in your family, you are at a higher risk. Make sure that you take proper precautions. Always remember, it is always easier to prevent than to reverse!

2. Hormones and weight gain

Some hormones play a crucial role in maintaining the energy balance of the body. These act like switches that can change the ‘operating mode’ of your body. The hormones can cause a shift in metabolism that may have lasting effects. The body can enter an energy conserving state rather than an energy spending state. This may result in greater accumulation of fat and can lead to obesity.

Some of the most important hormones influencing metabolism are Insulin and the thyroid hormone-Thyroxine.

Insulin is a vital hormone for metabolism. Apart from the glucose controlling role, it also helps in maintaining a healthy rate of metabolism. It tells the cells to make more fat and to hang on to the fat that they already have.

effects-of-insulin-and-thyroxine-on-weight gain
Effects of insulin and thyroxine on weight gain

When you eat food, there is a surge of insulin in your body. Some foods cause a greater surge than others. Foods such as simple carbohydrates, sugar, junk food have a high glycemic index (GI). In simple terms, it translates to higher insulin levels in the blood. This, in turn, results in more fat synthesis and weight gain.

It also worth noting that the western diet may cause insulin resistance as well. This makes insulin levels rise and the body shifts to a fat building and conserving mode.

You can prevent the spikes in insulin levels by limiting carbs and eliminating high GI foods. We will be covering this in upcoming articles. Make sure you subscribe. Trust me folks; you don’t want to miss it!

3. Food and weight gain

When it comes to obesity or weight gain, food is a major player. Of course, eating more than your body requires or you spend going to disrupt the energy balance. But when it comes to food, there are some interesting things worth noting.

Chemical problems of engineered food

These days, the food we eat contains almost entirely ‘refined’ ingredients. The so-called refining involves a heavy use of some really strong chemicals. These chemicals that we put in our bodies have no reason to be there in the first place. These chemicals can contribute to the environmental factors that we discussed earlier. They can trigger a response that may result in ‘switching on’ a genetic pathway. This can very well lead to obesity all by itself.

Addictive taste

Another trick that the packaged, processed food pulls on us is taste. Most of the food with harsh chemicals tastes SO FREAKING GOOD! I mean the chips and the hot dogs and the hamburgers…mmm just irresistible, isn’t it? These tasty treats make even more difficult for you to stop or even control.

Fast-food-weight gainThese ‘tasty’ foods trigger a pleasure pathway in the brain. This is similar to the stimulation/reward pathway that is triggered by substances of abuse. So, yeah, these foods can cause an addiction! And there is plenty of scientific data to back that statement as well.

So now, this super tasty, chemical laden ‘food’ finds its way to your house and you are hooked!

Marketing

As bad as the packaged junk food is for you, there should be an active campaign to limit its popularity, isn’t it? But on the contrary, these ‘food products’ are glamorized and marketed as harmless, tasty, wholesome food.

Next time you watch TV, just count the number of ads for the “junk” food targeting the children. It is appalling! Big corporations spend millions of dollars to put this garbage right in the hands of our children.

At this point, these corporations are nothing more than drug peddlers, don’t you think? They are advertising obesity, and no one seems to mind!

Something to take home

Well, let’s face it, obesity and weight gain is a very complex problem. Neither there is a single reason for gain weight, nor is there a single solution to get rid of it. However, knowledge has incredible power. The more you know, the better you are equipped in the battle against obesity. We hope that you learned something new and found this article interesting. Controlling obesity can also help you prevent chronic ailments such as hypertension. Head over here to read more about hypertension and how to control it.

Remember, you are not alone, Yourhealthpal.com is here to help, educate and motivate you. The experts at YHP will always try to help you get answers and offer unique insights. Make sure you subscribe to an incredible newsletter and join the growing YHP community! Until the next time! May health, wealth, and prosperity fill your life!