Up till now, it’s been easy to blame the relentless marketing from the fast food and beverage industry for America’s obesity epidemic. After all, we are surrounded by tasty temptations that cost very little — from sugary sodas and empty calorie snacks to highly-processed packaged foods.
Weight gain and loss is no longer the simple formula of total calories consumed versus total calories used.
According to a new study published in the Obesity Research & Clinical Practice journal, it’s getting more difficult to lose weight regardless of diet and exercise.
The study looked at dietary and physical activity data of 36,377 adult Americans between 1971 and 2008 and then between 1988 and 2006.
Given an identical calorie intake, a person would be 10 percent heavier today than three decades ago.
This new study challenges the perception that weight control is just a matter of calories in versus calories out. Overeating and inactivity may not adequately explain the current obesity epidemic. Diet and physical activity form only a small part of the picture when it comes to why BMI levels are on the rise.
Today, key factors such as medication use, environmental pollutants, genetics, timing of food intake, stress, gut bacteria and even nighttime light exposure could be the cause of today’s weight gain.
Antidepressants were listed as the most commonly used drug — and many studies have linked antidepressants to weight gain. But they’re not the only ones: Allergy medications, steroids and pain medications list weight gain as a side effect.
Plastic packaging, pesticides and substances known as “persistent organic pollutants” may affect the endocrine system and metabolic processes and could impact the way we process food and store fat.
We’re sleeping less than we used to — in 2013, 40 percent of Americans got less than seven hours of sleep per night. And a Carnegie Melon survey published in 2012 found that Americans were roughly 20 percent more stressed than a quarter of a century before. Sleep deprivation and chronic stress can cause elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with abdominal fat gain and impaired blood-sugar control.
A highly processed, low-fiber diet
A diet that’s high in fat and refined carbohydrates may also impact your weight by disrupting the balance of the bacteria living in your gut. Certain bacteria found in soluble fiber are more efficient at enabling the body to absorb calories. Did you know we only burn half as many calories digesting and metabolizing processed foods compared to whole foods?
The bottom line:
Managing weight today is more complicated than the ‘Energy In – Energy Out’ approach. Lifestyle, eating habits and the environment are making it harder than ever to maintain a healthy weight.