It has become increasingly hard to maintain a healthy, balanced life-style in this fast-paced, technology dominated world. On every step of the way we encounter negative stimuli that push us to make bad choices.
- The food industry constantly bombards us with photos of high calorie, processed, perfect looking foods that are hard to resist;
- Our cities are NOT built for walking;
- Our water, air and food are polluted by toxic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides, which affect our health and mood;
- Our life is so consumed by work, that we forget to actually enjoy it.
It is no surprise that all of these factors affect us and our decisions and as a result influence how we feel and how we look.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 28% of the adults in Canada are obese and suffer from chronic diseases that are correlated with obesity. Obesity has become a major global health problem that costs trillions of dollars and more importantly millions of lives. But the good news is that weight can be controlled and there are many effective strategies for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you are on the journey of weight loss, you probably know the process is not always as smooth and simple as we would like for it to be. But if you are serious about getting in shape and reclaiming your health, you need to be aware of these 7 obstacles that might be sabotaging your weight loss efforts:
1. Chronic stress – you have probably experienced or heard about stress eating. Many people admit that when under pressure, they engage in stress eating and feel extremely bad about doing that. Turns out it is not exactly their fault. When we are stressed, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which can increase appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods. Moreover, it can also lead to a lack of motivation to engage in physical activity. As a result, we are more likely to make bad food choices, avoid exercise and as a result, sabotage our weight loss.
Even if you don’t resort to eating unhealthy food, you might still gain weight while stressed, because cortisol increases fat storage within the body, particularly in the abdominal area. This is because cortisol stimulates the production of insulin, which helps the build up of fat. Identifying your stressors and dealing with them will be good not only for your mental, but also physical well-being.
2. Genetically modified and highly processed foods – let me begin by acknowledging that not all genetically modified (GM) foods have been found to have an effect on our weight or health. However, there are certain GM and highly processed foods that you should avoid if you are trying to lose weight. For example, an important one is “vegetable oils” that in reality are made from genetically modified soy, canola, and corn oils and harm your body in more than one way.
When it comes to processed foods, the major problem is that most processed foods are high in calories, sugar and unhealthy fats. Also, when we eat processed foods, we have a harder time metabolizing them efficiently and as a result, the calories in processed foods are more likely to be stored as fat. Another reason why processed foods might be sabotaging your weight loss efforts is that they often lack important nutrients and fiber, and as a result you are more likely to feel hungry and experience cravings.
3. Inactivity – it is no surprise that lack of movement is bad for our health, including for our weight. There are actually several ways how a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to weight gain. First, our bodies burn less calories and over time we might even lose muscle mass, which decreases our metabolism and makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Also, lack of activity can reinforce poor eating habits.
It might seem that there is never enough time to exercise, but actually, following the recommendations of WHO is not as hard as it might seem. For adults aged 18-64 it is recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, which means just 30 min of activity 5 days per week OR simply 2.5 hours of exercise 1 day per week. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? This is the least you can do for the body that serves you and protects you for years and years.
4. Imbalanced gut bacteria – balanced gut microbiome is incredibly important not only for health, but also for weight. An unhealthy gut can lead to excess weight gain and even obesity. With gut imbalance, your body has a harder time extracting energy from food and you might also develop inflammation, which is linked to weight gain.
Additionally, gut bacteria imbalance can disrupt your hormones and affect your sense of hunger, leading to changes in appetite. So, even if you’re doing everything right, you might still have a hard time losing weight because of gut issues. Taking care of your gut can transform your life in many ways, including how you lose weight.
5. Chemicals and Toxins – our environment has never been more polluted than it is today. The sheer number of chemicals and toxins in our air, land and water is simply alarming. Avoiding exposure takes a lot of effort and unfortunately, only a few of us have the luxury of relocating to pristine parts of our country that are still untouched and clean.
Obesogens or compounds that cause weight gain, can affect how our bodies regulate weight, store fat and produce hormones. These are chemicals that exist in our environment and are found in everyday items, such as food containers, toys, cleaning agents, cookware, etc. Being aware of obesogens and avoiding them is extremely important not only for weight regulation, but also to avoid other health problems related to food and water contamination.
Some of the examples of obesogens include bisphenol-A, which is present in plastic and epoxy resin; phthalates – which are often present in food packaging, soaps, shampoo, lotions, etc; Atrazine – which is a widely used herbicide in the USA; perfluorooctanoic acid which is used for waterproofing, creating non stick surfaces, etc. These examples demonstrate how common obesogens are and how careful we should be when choosing the products.
6. Sugar – it should not come as a surprise that consuming sugar can prevent you from losing weight. Refined sugar is one of our major enemies in the modern world. Even products labeled as “healthy” or “natural” can be major offenders. Excessive sugar consumption alters your body’s natural biochemistry, making it extremely difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Sugar is high in calories and metabolizing it is not as easy for our bodies as it is to break down whole, unprocessed foods. Sugar also causes a spike in blood sugar levels which affects hunger and makes it harder to control portion sizes
7. Genetic factors – no matter how hard we try, we cannot alter our genetic makeup. It’s true that some environmental factors might affect our body more than our genetics, but there is no denying that genetics plays an important role in many things, including weight loss. Some people are genetically predisposed to have slower metabolism, which can make it harder to lose weight. However, genetics is not a life sentence and you can still have control over your body. Just be aware of the factors that might be holding you back and find ways to address them.
Obsessing over the numbers on the scale is not healthy, but with overwhelming evidence suggesting that obesity is linked with a number of serious and life threatening diseases, I feel responsible to increase the awareness about this problem and help you become healthier in the long run. There are many ways you can control the quality of your life, including your weight. You can start with small changes which are as simple as drinking green tea, taking prebiotics and probiotics, and making small tweaks to your lifestyle.
One of the best ways of avoiding weight gain and supporting healthy eating is finding the best dietary plan for you. For the best results, I recommend a detailed functional medicine analysis followed up with a customized program tailored to your unique biochemical requirements. At The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine, I can work with you to find the root cause of your unwanted weight gain and find the most effective solutions.
Please don’t hesitate to schedule a Complimentary 15-minute Discovery Session with me, which can take place over the phone or at the clinic.
Please schedule an appointment today! Your best health awaits you.
Dr. John Dempster BSc., ND, FAAFM
The Dempster Clinic- Center for Functional Medicine