Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why is it so hard to lose weight (and keep it off)?

Is the Big Mac to blame?

I think most of us realize that obesity isn't caused by just one thing, but there are many people "out there" who point to just one thing as the cause or the primary reason. Personally, I get very annoyed when someone says "counting calories doesn't work," because they are either wrong, lying, or misrepresenting. I wrote about that, here.

The list

Here's a partial list of reasons commonly believed to be the cause of obesity:

  • carbs
  • sugar
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • fat
  • saturated fat
  • gluten
  • wheat
  • eating too much
  • moving too little
  • eating too much and moving too little (aka calories in, calories out)
  • food is too tasty and readily available
  • fast food
  • high reward food
  • pesticides
  • hormones (our own hormones)
  • diseases (Hashimoto, PCOS, etc.)
  • syndromes (Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, Leptin Resistance, etc.)
  • more

As most of us can see, a lot of these things overlap (hormones and syndromes, for instance), but even some of the most brilliant people out there often look with blinders on, refuse to discuss the other aspects because they think it will confuse the issue, feel that the other aspects are insignificant, or possibly play games for more insidious reasons. Who can know for sure?

On his most recent podcast, Chris Kresser discusses how obesity is a multifaceted issue, where many things play their part. It is an excellent listen, and if you have a long drive or cardio session ahead of you, I encourage you to put this on your mp3 player or ipod. There is also a full text transcript, for those of you are readers, rather than listeners.

Sugar v calories v food reward

Some of you are familiar with the low carb, primal, and paleo worlds out there on the internet, so you get to hear Chris's good explanations on why there should be less controversy between Gary Taubes and those people who insist he's flat out wrong. He is wrong and right, but so are they. Only because it's never one thing. It's not just the calories and it's not just the high reward foods, just as it's not just the sugar.

Synergy can one day become a vicious circle

For those of you who don't follow that crap, this is an excellent explanation for how foods, hormones, calories, activity, lifestyle, carbs, etc all work together very well to keep you fit and lean. ...until they suddenly don't work anymore.

From there, they all conspire against you to make you fatter or keep you there. When you do manage to lose it, you might still be "broken," and your body does what it needs to put the weight back on because that's what it thinks it needs.

Who should listen

Everyone who's had trouble losing, felt urges to eat beyond their control, or regained it all or more should listen to this podcast.

There are truly things that are not your fault, but that doesn't mean you can't do something about it.


  1. Roland, not sure if this is relevant or not. But as I was reading your blog, this thought popped into my head.
    A few years ago, I compared pictures from a second grade class photo of myself and classmates (circa 1963) and compared it to a second grade photo from my youngest daughters senior year school album.(circa 2007) And the differences were startling. 0 obese kids in my 2nd grade class. 2007 second grade class? Seems that even the kids that were not fat looked "chubby".
    Too many Big Mac's? Too little exercise? Personally, I think both. And if these kids are overweight as kids, what becomes of them at mid-life?
    Chuck aka deltacornbread

  2. Chuck,

    Mid-life is not going to be looking good for these kids, I agree.

    Personally, I think the food is more of an issue than the lack of exercise, yet both play a big part. Easy access to nutritionally sparse, calorie dense, and ridiculously tasty foods that use ingredients that slowly and subtly screw up hormones and metabolism are the primary thing. Feeling 'crappy' makes NOT exercising that much easier.




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