31 Jan 2018

Weight loss – It’s More Than Just Calories In Vs. Calories Out

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Weight loss – It’s More Than Just Calories In Vs. Calories Out

Weight management is actually much more complex than just ‘energy in’ versus ‘energy out’.

But what are the other factors that our ancestors didn’t have to deal with, but we do?

Factors Affecting Our Weight Gain


Stress is a common factor for weight gain. While at first, stress may make you lose your appetite, long-term chronic stress may boost your hunger

This is due to our bodies’ fight-or-flight response. Once our bodies reach a certain stress level, they trigger a response that causes us to overeat. For example, one of the roles of the stress hormone cortisol is to increase the supply of glucose in the bloodstream so that it can be used a source of energy. For our ancestors, this supply of glucose was useful to flee from a threat such as a sabre-tooth tiger. However in this day and age, we do not actively use that energy and this causes blood sugar fluctuations and fat storage

Environmental Factors

Our environments are quite different from those of our ancestors. For example, most homes are filled with products that can affect our bodies’  functions. Some of the common ingredients are BPA, PCBs, phthalates, triclosan, agricultural pesticides, and fire retardants. These ingredients are structurally similar to the hormone estrogen, which can cause weight gain

Food Quality

The quality of our food has also changed compared to that of our ancestors. Now, many of our foods are processed and filled with additives and preservatives that weren’t around 50 years ago. Not to mention the fact that foods are being grown in soil that is not nearly as nutrient dense as it once was. GMO crops and pesticide spraying are other factors that affect the difference in weight gain we are experiencing now.

For example, a fungicide commonly used on many food crops, especially leafy greens called triflumizole has been linked to obesity. When pregnant mice ingested tiny doses of triflumizole, they gave birth to babies that were more prone to obesity.

Prescription Drugs

We are also taking many more drugs than our ancestors were. For example, experts report that up to 25 percent of people who take antidepressants can expect to put on an extra 10 pounds or more.

Additional factors that may be contributing to the obesity epidemic include higher maternal age, reduction in variability of ambient temperature, decreased prevalence of smoking, inadequate amount of sleep and low calcium.

Gut Microbiome

Our gut flora help to neutralise some of the toxic by-products of digestion and discourage ‘bad’ bacteria and yeasts from growing. It also helps to stimulate the digestive process and aid the absorption of nutrients.

Unfortunately, the standard western diet is low in foods that promote good gut health such as prebiotics and probiotics, and high in ‘dead’ foods such as junk and processed foods. What’s more, conventional, factory-farmed meat is also high in antibiotics which can kill the good bacteria in our gut, causing an imbalance and leaving us susceptible to the bad bacteria that causes weight gain.

What Can We Do?

While we can’t go back in time, there are a few steps we can take to help fight unhealthy weight gain and lose weight.

  • Eat nutritionally. Eat real food and check the labels of packaged foods, avoiding any containing artificial sweeteners, additives, and preservatives
  • Eat organic foods as much as possible to minimize exposure to pesticides, fungicides, and genetically modified foods
  • Swap conventional personal care and household products for natural alternatives
  • Learn how to properly manage stress and get a good night’s sleep to prevent blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain
  • Take prescriptions only when absolutely necessary and avoid overusing antibiotics
  • Make sure to include gut-friendly foods in your diet such as prebiotics e.g. garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, and probiotics e.g. organic yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso.