Eating is nourishing and pleasurable, but for many people it is also fraught with difficulties and anguish.
Diets, binges, schemes to control food intake, denial, and guilt rule their lives and cause distress and unhappiness. And sometimes even death. If we just look at weight gain and control, there are many reasons why you may gain weight and the cause may not be one factor but a combination of a number of different ones.
Yes, one of the main causes of weight gain is dieting. Dieting makes you fat. As you reduce your food intake to lose weight, your body put itself on ‘famine alert’. It gets the impression that food is scarce and therefore it slows down your metabolism to get the best use of the small amount of food it is receiving.
When you say you want to lose weight, what you actually want to lose is fat. If you lose weight rapidly, almost 25 percent of that weight loss can be made up of water, muscle and other lean tissue.
The reason for this is that your body is actually programmed to hold on to fat. So in times of what your body considers to be a ‘famine’, it will actually go as far as breaking down muscle and losing water in order to hold on to its fat reserves. Faddy diets suggest that you can lose up to 10 pounds in a week, but remember this: it is physically impossible to lose more than 900g (2lb) of body fat in a week.
Furthermore, if you lose weight quickly by restricting your intake and then go back to eating normally, a much higher percentage of the food you eat is laid down as fat. Why? Because your body wants to build up extra fat stores, in case this type of famine occurs again. There’s also the question of metabolism. When you crash diet, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy and make the most out of the small amounts you are eating. What happens when you go back to eating normally? Well, everything you eat is being dealt with at a much slower rate and more fat is stored.
Too much food and not enough exercise
This is the obvious reason, because if you eat more than you burn off then you are going to gain weight. The idea has been that if the number of calories going into your body is less than the calories being used up by bodily activity and exercise, then you will lose weight. Nowadays, we know that the type of calories is also an important factor in this equation. In other words, you need to consider what type of calories you are eating – whether they come in the form of fat, carbohydrates or protein.
The type of food you eat
Researchers have found that fat and thin people can eat roughly the same number of calories, but it seems that the type of food they are eating is different.
There is a very popular theory that goes something like: too much fat makes you fat. This may be right in principle (large amounts of saturated fat in the diet are not healthy), but it’s important to remember that some fats are absolutely essential, hence their name: essential fatty acids.
The result of this theory is that women go on low-fat and no-fat diets, which are dangerous. Furthermore, no-fat and low-fat food tends to be high in sugar and salt, which is required to make it palatable. This is the type of thing that makes you fat. In fact, it’s sugar and other foods that are ‘fast-releasing’ that will encourage weight gain, and here’s why:
The speed with which a food increases blood sugar (in other words, whether it is ‘fast-releasing’ or ‘slow-releasing’) determines whether or not it will cause you to gain weight. If your blood sugar levels rise very quickly your body has to secrete more insulin in order to control it.
Every time you eat, your body has a choice: it can either burn that food as energy or store it as fat. Researchers have found that high insulin levels cause you not only to change your food into fat, but they also prevent your body from breaking down previously stored fat.
These fast-releasing foods include anything that contains sugar and refined flour, such as cakes, biscuits, pastries, and other ‘treats’.
If you crave sweet or starchy foods, feel tired during the afternoon, light-headed, dizzy or shaky if you miss a meal or wake up feeling tired after a full night’s sleep, then your blood sugar levels are probably fluctuating too much.
“I did not want puddings……I had no sugar withdrawal. I am on the road now……” J.G. Basingstoke
An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can be at the root of gradual weight gain, and it should be checked by your doctor.
The diagnosis of hypothyroidism is usually made almost exclusively from measurements of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) and Thyroxine (T4) levels found in blood tests. However this method is thought to be largely ineffective at diagnosing cases of milder hypothyroidism, more accurately termed ‘thyroid dysfunction’. Laboratory blood test techniques give information only about the hormonal status of a patient at a particular point in time. The elevation of hormone levels in urine however, assesses tissue exposure to thyroid hormones over a 24-hour period.
The urine thyroid test therefore serves as a valuable tool for detecting thyroid dysfunction that may otherwise go undetected through standard blood tests. It is important to use this test together with other indicators of thyroid function, such as body temperature, symptoms and standard blood thyroid tests. To check your levels of T3 and T4 click on Thyroid Hormone Test (Urine)
Food can be converted into fat or energy. You can either store what you eat, which means you will probably put on weight, or you can use it for energy. Whether food is burned or stored is determined by a number of chemical reactions that take place in your body. These are activated by enzymes, which are, in turn, dependent upon vitamins and minerals. Therefore, if you are deficient by even a small amount in certain vitamins and minerals, you will gain weight. Fortunately there are now some very good tests that can check for these deficiencies. Click Mineral Deficiency Test with Supplement Programme (Hair).
Weight gain is often linked to certain medications, such as HRT, the contraceptive pill and steroids. Some antidepressants can also cause increased appetite and weight gain. If you have to take medication, discuss your weight problem with your doctor and ask if there are alternative drugs you could take. Never stop taking any drug without the advice and supervision of your doctor.
Could a food allergy/intolerance be making it difficult for you to lose weight? A good clue would be whether you crave a particular food that you eat frequently. Once a food intolerance exists the food becomes mildly addictive and you can feel compelled to eat it. If you are intolerant to a particular food, your body can react by storing it away instead of using it for energy. If you eat a lot of foods to which you are allergic, there will undoubtedly be weight gain.
There are two types of reactions.
- Type 1 (classic allergy). In this type of allergy, you will experience a reaction immediately after contact with an allergen (such as shellfish or peanuts, for example).
- Type 2 (Intolerance). Here the reaction can take place between one hour or three days after ingesting the food. Symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, water retention, fatigue, aching joints and headaches can all be due to a Type 2 allergy.
It is now possible to have a blood test that analyses the effects of 217 different foods and food additives. This test measures the release of certain chemicals that are responsible for the symptoms of food intolerance. Once you find out what foods are causing problems, they can be avoided for a short period of time. Unlike the foods implicated in Type 1 allergies, you do not have to avoid these foods indefinitely. Giving your body a rest from them, and then ensuring that they don’t make up too large a percentage of your diet will probably do the trick. If you would like to know more about this test click Food Allergy/Intolerance Test (Blood)
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms?
- sugar cravings
- cravings for foods such as wine, bread, cheese
- migraines or headaches
- chronic thrush
- inability to lose weight
- tired all the time
- often feel spaced out
- feel drunk on a small amount of alcohol
- feel bloated and have flatulence
If these symptoms seem familiar, then you may have a yeast overgrowth such as candida albicans.
We all have the yeast ‘candida’ in our gut, but is usually controlled by other bacteria. When the immune system is compromised (because of illness, for example, or a poor diet), the proportion of ‘healthy’ bacteria can be altered, causing candida to grow out of control
This overgrowth can be also be caused by overuse of antibiotics, the contraceptive pill, HRT, steroids and stress. If you would like to know more about this test click Candida Test (Saliva). (If you are experiencing chronic thrush, then you should always see your doctor as this can be a symptom of diabetes and needs to be ruled out).
What are Your Choices?
There is no ‘quick fix’ to losing weight even though drugs and surgery are often offered. It is easy to try one diet after another but this will never be a long-term solution. The only way to lose weight safely and to keep it off is to change your eating habits, and then ensure that those new, healthier eating habits become a way of life.There’s no point in adopting strict measure that prevent you from living life to the fullest. After all, food is there to be enjoyed. You need a way of eating where you can eat out with friends, socialise without having to forego the meal. Real and permanent fat loss (not just weight loss) has to be gradual and it takes time. The important thing, however, is that this approach works, and your weight will stay off.