I was involved in casting new participants for X-Weighted, a weight loss show I do on the Slice Network. With the assistance of two producers from the show, we had to pick the top 10 people we thought would make the most interesting stories. We interviewed numerous individuals, ranging from their late teens to their sixties! The majority of candidates were female. Whether genetic, mental, or emotional, everyone had their own reasons for being overweight. Though each person was unique, they all shared two things in common – they were overweight and unhappy.
How did this happen to all of these people? Are they all just weak-minded and lazy? Are genetics to blame? After hearing everyone’s story, I noticed some common trends. I can now identify five reasons why people become overweight in adulthood.
I could not believe how many women I met who stated that they were thin before being pregnant, but gained a tremendous amount of weight during pregnancy and held on to it afterward. Typically, the average amount of weight gain is between 25-35-lbs, and it should not take more than six months to regain your original shape back after giving birth. However, during interview, I met women who gained 80, 100, even 135-lbs!
I have heard that hormonal changes cause a shift in eating habits, but this is ridiculous! Obviously, working out regularly before becoming pregnant is important. Therefore, working out during pregnancy is equally important. I have known fit women who exercised up to and including the day they delivered. One person I know taught an aerobics class at noon, had her baby early evening, and was back teaching three days later! You can regain your original shape much more quickly if you train through out your pregnancy. Some considerations and guidelines to follow are:
- Keep from overheating, as fetus temperature is one degree hotter than the mother’s.
- Stay away from high intensity aerobic intervals, keeping your heart rate at the somewhat comfortable training zone.
- Avoid ballistic, fast changing direction movements, as tendons and ligaments are more lax.
- Steer clear of prone exercises with isometric stress in the last trimester. The fetus positioning could have an effect on blood flow to the mother.
- Generally, the time to start getting into great shape is not during your pregnancy. Focus on maintaining your figure.
- The average female only needs another 300 calories per day to maintain proper energy levels for herself and the fetus. This is equivalent to about two or three pieces of fruit
Many of the people I encountered in the interviews for the X-Weighted show mentioned being overweight their entire lives. It troubles me to think that a small child is overweight. It is not their fault that inactivity and/or poor eating choices are being made.
In my opinion, the parents are to blame. The choices made in a child’s environment are structured by his/her parents. If parents continue to make excuses such as lack of time, or fall prey to ads marketing unhealthy choices, they are setting their children up for a lifetime of obesity.
I have read many articles stating that the habits we learn as children carry over into adulthood. If your parents made bad choices for you as a child, all you can do is try to make one small change at a time. Old habits are hard to break. Learn from your past and don’t make the same mistakes for your children. By ensuring they have a good start to a healthy lifestyle, you can also make positive changes in your own life.
RECOVERY FROM A SERIOUS INJURY
Knee and/or back pain resulting from injuries are two reasons many people become inactive. Pain is a deterrent to movement. When we are hurt, our bodies compensate by moving in a way that avoids pain. Limping is an example.
If you are in serious pain, your body will not want to move at all. Lack of movement seriously decreases our energy expenditure. If we continue to eat the same amount of food over a period of time, fat will be added to our body. The types of food we eat during pain also changes.
Another problem to immobility is that we lose desire to move again when our body heals. Many people who gain weight from being bedridden feel it is too hard to get back into shape. Therefore, they give up. They are also afraid from re-injuring themselves.
The best advice I can offer to anyone who is injured is to suck it up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You are lucky. Many people never recover from their injuries. Find an activity your body can do. It may have to be swimming. It may even have to be wheelchair racing. Do what your body can until it can do more. You can not sit around waiting for complete recovery. It may never come.
Your food choices here are vital. Clean healthy eating is important. Taking in extra calories you don’t need will only be stored as fat in a less active body.
AN EXTREMELY STRESSFUL EVENT
The way people cope with stress affects body fat levels in adulthood. It is normal to seek comfort when in stress. Unfortunately, the coping methods people use to make themselves feel better mentally causes harm to them physically.
I met a lady who was sexually assaulted by a family member when she was a child. To cope, she ate herself into morbid obesity. This was done to make herself unattractive to others. She felt this would protect her from being assaulted again. This thought pattern was also channeled to her children. She intentionally fed her kids high-fat, high-calorie foods, believing it would help protect them from ever getting sexually abused.
Someone with this mentality is not only dangerous to themselves, but to others as well. Professional counseling could have helped this woman cope with the bigger issues. As a result, she could have learned how to separate food from emotional stress.
Food needs to be thought of as a way to fuel the body — as an energy source, not a tool to make you feel good. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to not use food as a way to make ourselves happy. When we eat, we release hormones that signify satisfaction. This could be one reason some people receive great amounts of pleasure from eating.
YEAR BY YEAR WEIGHT GAIN
Sometimes when I ask people why they are overweight, I get the answer, “I don’t know”. Usually, I respond by saying, “You don’t know? Then who knows”?
Others state they started gaining weight after they finished university, and have continued to since. They believe they have eaten and exercised the same amount the entire time. Yet, they can not understand why they are heavier.
Unfortunately, as we age, moderate eating and exercise may not be enough to maintain our shape. After age 25 our metabolic rate begins to slowly decrease. This is mostly due to muscle fiber atrophy. A moderately active 20-year-old can be expected to consume 3,000 calories on average per day and maintain his/her weight. However, a moderately active 30 year old may only be able to take in 2800 calories.
Though 200 calories (about two pieces of fruit or three quarters of a chocolate bar) it can add up to some big fat numbers over the years. If you continue to eat the same calories in your thirties as you did in your twenties, without increasing your activity level, you could gain 21 pounds every year. I am not talking about in that decade; I am talking about every year in that decade!
Imagine now what could happen if your active metabolic rate dropped another 200 calories in your forties and fifties. No wonder weight maintenance is a constant battle for almost everyone their entire lives. If you want to look fit and healthy as you age, be prepared to make exercise and clean eating choices an absolute priority. If not, you will end up looking like most North Americans: FAT.
I have identified the causes of obesity. What do you do now? Maybe knowing the causes will help you become proactive before weight gain becomes a problem for you. Educate yourself. Find a knowledgeable, experienced trainer and work with them. If you can only afford a few sessions to start, that’s ok. Get them to design a program specific for your needs.
Work with a dietician. A proper eating plan is essentially to maximize the nutrients you put into your body without any extra unneeded calories. Lift weights twice per week. Do some sort of intense cardiovascular exercise four times per week for at least thirty minutes. Play a sport once per week. Be active by walking 10,000 steps everyday. Do all this, and you have a chance of staying lean and healthy your entire life.