Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The hidden causes of weight gain.
The hidden causes of weight gain, which we almost never suspect, are the one of the first set of topics I want to talk about in my first Health Blog.
As we all keep struggling with that darn weighing scale every morning, often we don’t realize that its not always the usual suspects in our seemingly “losing war with the fat molecules”! We keep sacrificing our longings for the fatty fried foods, trans-fats and the known sugary stuff and keep “killing ourselves in the gym daily” but still the scale still doesn’t tip down? Why? We often wonder as frustrations set in and we dump that darn ‘yo-yo diet’ of ours which we had adopted multiple times from the magazines where the models look like they have been starving for weeks and the last known meal they probably had, resembled a few thin green sticks!
What we don’t see are the hidden enemies in our day-to-day dietary lifestyle. Along with the known “fatty” stuff we need to realize that that some very common everyday foods which contribute to weight gain are as simple as extra salt in foods like processed products and hidden sugars in the ‘drinks’ (specially energy drinks and floats) we keep sipping merrily all day long, especially kids. I will touch that topic in detail later but today is the time to know about even more sneaky foes! And I am still not talking about the medical conditions that cause us to gain weight. Here are a few I thought are worth mentioning in this blog.
· Lack of Sleep: These days we all tend to work late and sleep late as we cannot ever fit enough working hours in a day, the odds are that you're doing some late-night junk snacking too, specially if you are a late night TV junkie, which will increase your calorie intake just before bed. The other reason involves what's going on biochemically when the body is sleep deprived. Our hormones that affect our appetite take over, making us hungrier the next morning. These hormones also make us feel ‘not so full’ after eating. So use that remote to turn off the tube and get to bed on time. Even your spouse will thank you, for multiple reasons!
· Stress: When life's daily demands go up the ramp as we live under constant deadlines, demands, inflexible bosses, work travel, screaming kids, unjust society, school, college projects etc etc and the “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in the body, then our bodies go into a survival mode: Cortisol, the "stress hormone," is released, which causes an increase in appetite and also contributes to midsection belly fat and ‘love handles’. Many of us, especially females (and I am not being a sexist here) tend to reach for high-calorie comfort foods (chocolates and ice reams) at these times, men often just keep sulking and are grouchy. This combination is a perfect breeding ground for weight gain. Mild exercises and light meditation can help counter the Cortisol secretion in the body, unless you don’t mind ‘love handles’. I have seen many patients who actually appreciate them? Well….that topic I will counter some other time. The midsection (belly fat) is the hardest to lose and snowballs many other medical conditions.
· Anti depressants: Unfortunately we now live in a society where we need anti depressants regularly and also health care professionals at times tend to over utilize them to avoid the patients unusual symptoms. About 25% of people taking the antidepressants long-term will have unnatural weight gain. Also realize that some people experience weight gain after initial beginning drug treatment simply because they're feeling better now, which leads to a better appetite and food craving. I will touch some natural remedies of depression control in later blogs. So lets go easy on Zolofts® and Elavils® and get some natural sunshine and Yoga for an emotional uplift.
· Prescriptions and OTC drugs: Anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone and other OTC drugs we pop in regularly are notorious for causing weight gain. Fluid retention and increased appetite are the main reasons. Although weight gain is common, the severity of this side effect depends on the strength of the dose and length of time on the drug. Some people may also see a redistribution of fat while taking the drugs -- to places like the face, back of the neck, or the abdomen and we need to take these drugs judiciously and by medical advice only. Lets not play “doctor” at least when our health is in question.
· Smoke Cessation: On an average, most people who quit the “smoking vice” gain about 5 to 10 pounds within the first three months. Hmmm…… Nicotine curbs the appetite, so once you quit smoking, you may feel increased hunger pangs, which leads to of course eating more and more. While smoking, nicotine also increases the metabolism, and some people don't decrease their calorie intake to compensate for the metabolism slowdown after quitting. And nicotine is also notorious for numbing the taste buds, so you may find that some food tastes better and then we overeat. The smoke actually fills the abdomen and we feel full? and not eat as much. Now, please don’t run and pay $10 for a pack of ‘poison’ to lose weight, there are many other ways to do it in a healthy manner.
· The Pill: Lastly, this actually is a myth buster: It is widely believed that women in the child bearing age tend to gain more weight when they are on the birth control pills. Actually older studies suggest that weight gain was a problem both from fluid retention and from more fat deposits but its actually incorrect! With recent studies of low dose oral contraceptives, the whole premise as to whether there is any change in weight at all with beginning oral contraceptives is in question? Hormonal imbalance doesn’t contribute to weight gain either. It’s actually known now that, on the average, women do not gain weight because of the pills. Mostly its because of sedentary life style, child birth-weight gain, change of food habits, and stress from family lives (Please don’t blame your spouses for that), and of course slowing metabolism in that age group, which contributes to the actual gain and not the pill. The weight gain here is more circumstantial than the actual pill itself!
I hope this will help answer some questions regarding the weight gain and I will cover the sensitive topic of juvenile weight gain and child obesity in my next blog……