What makes us overweight?

How do we end up overweight in the first place?

There are many factors that come in to play to make us overweight.

The amount of food or the quality of the food that we choose to consume can be to blame, especially when you equate that with the amount of exercise that we undertake. BUT poor diet or lack of exercise alone are often not the only factors in whether you could be overweight or slim. There are many other factors that affect our body make-up.

1. Genetics  There is the genetic predisposition for some people to weight more. In fact it has been discovered through the study of twins separated at birth, that, irrespective of any external influences, twins can have an 80% chance of ending up the same size.  So that means regardless of anything else that we do in our lives we could be predisposed to be of a certain size.  We all have different shaped bodies and bone structure so why should we assume that our bodies are set to use and store energy the same way?

2. Gender  Further on genetics, most women are predisposed to carry more body fat than men, in order to carry and raise offspring.  A woman will often carry her excess weight around the breasts, hips, bottom and thighs which is her way of being like a camel carrying water in its hump – saving for the famine.  In fact if you look back to renaissance times the overtly shapely woman’s body was revered as it was such a change from the poverty stricken look forced on most people previously, and having an ample hourglass figure was deemed to be the sign of true wealth. 

3, Mindset – Yes, it can be all in your head!  And not just any part of your head, but the Reptilian Brain. see my post on The Reptilian Brain for more information on this subject.

4. Metabolism.  Now this can be contentious dependent on who you speak with.  Two women the same height and weight can have very different adoptions of caloric intake – take the eating of a piece of cake.  A person who has a strong metabolism will eat the cake and the body will register the sugar intake and give them a high which they can expend immediately through increased activity. 
A person who has a compromised metabolism will ingest the same piece of cake and their body will only release a small portion of that energy to them immediately and ‘save the rest for later.’  This means the latter person will not have that great energy boost, instead they will possibly feel lethargic, and will likely still feel hungry, seeking the energy buzz the former person received.  This is why fat people are often hungrier or think more about food. 

5. Hormones That dreaded word that causes we women so many tears. At certain times of the month, certain times of our lives, and when afflicted with other health issues our hormones can ensure that we gain weight.  Thyroid issues, PCOS, Pancreatic issues like diabetes, menopause, perimenopause, IVF treatment, pregnancy, breastfeeding and so many more to list. If you struggle with a hormonal issue you understand what I  am writing about.  A woman’s body is ruled by hormones and with this too is fat retention.

There are even three hunger hormones – ghrelin, leptin and insulin.

Ghrelin is a hormone that is mainly produced and released in the stomach and increases appetite. It also promotes blood sugar regulation, prevents muscle breakdown, and protects the heart. It is also produced in the small intestine, brain, and pancreas.

Ghrelin acts on an empty stomach, it travels through the bloodstream to the brain, where it acts on the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain, which produces hormones that regulate hunger, mood, thirst, and many other important functions within the body.

Now the bigger your stomach the more surface area for ghrelin to recognise as empty and therefore people with bigger stomachs also have greater hunger.

Leptin is a hormone released from the fat cells which signals to the brain, (hypothalamus again) to eat. Leptin influences food intake and controls energy expenditure over the long term. This hormone helps us to maintain our ‘normal’ weight which unfortunately for overweight people, makes it harder to lose those extra kilograms!

Also, because leptin is produced by fat cells, the amount of leptin released is directly related to the amount of body fat; so the more fat an individual has, the more leptin they will have circulating in their blood. 

For information about how insulin can impact the weight we carry see my post on insulin and glycogen.

6. Medications  Steroids, hormone replacement therapies, fertility treatments, anti-depressants, birth control, the list goes on… Anyone who is on one of these therapies can understand the toll it takes on your body. This can be in the form of bloating, extreme hunger, water retention, energy retention (fat creation) and unfortunately whilst you are on the medication it can be near impossible to do anything about the side effects.

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