We’ve all been told the prescription to weight loss. “Reduce your calories and increase your activity”. While still sound advice, science now understands there is more at play than a simple formula involving energy in and energy out. Here are 4 other factors that can markedly influence your ability to lose and gain weight.
The evidence is overwhelming. When sleep goes down body fat goes up. One study out of the University of Colorado found that it only took one week of sleeping 5 hours a night to gain an average of 2 pounds.
Have you ever noticed that you’re extra hungry the day after a bad night’s sleep; and usually for high carbohydrate comfort food. One of the healing powers of sleep is to regulate hormone function throughout the body. Too little sleep and the hormones that let you know when you’re hungry and when you’re full are out of sync. Leptin is the hormone that makes us feel full and signals that it’s time to stop eating. But sleep deprivation leaves us low on leptin levels making appetite control all the more difficult.
Gut microbiome is the combination of bacteria, fungi and even viruses that live naturally in our gut.
In the world of medical research there is a great deal of buzz about the gut microbiome. Scientists have known about the presence of bacteria in the gut for over a century but it’s only recently they have come to understand how this make-up of bacteria can have far reaching impacts through our entire body. Research now shows links between the microbiome and cardiac health, immune function, mood and mental health and yes, body weight.
One of the straightforward functions of microbiome bacteria is to assist in breaking down food in our gut. Some of the food we consume is broken down into particles small enough to leave the gut and get absorbed into the blood stream and some of the food we eat leaves as waste.
It appears that some types of bacteria are better at food breakdown, rendering almost all consumed calories available to be absorbed into the body and making weight gain more likely. Studies have determined that obese people frequently have more of these very efficient types of bacteria and thin people have higher populations of the less efficient bacteria in their guts.
The good news is it’s possible to shift the balance of bacteria that favour a healthy weight. Experts recommend taking probiotics, eating fermented foods, increasing fiber intake, reducing sugar intake and avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics.
Cortisol, the principal stress hormone, is necessary to give us temporary bursts of strength, focus and even boost the immune system. Basically it’s intended to help fuel us through physical and mental crisis. After the danger is gone, cortisol levels should drop along with your heart rate and blood pressure. But if you’re suffering from chronic stress the alarm bells never turn off and cortisol stays high.
Besides causing heart disease, sleeping problems and aging us prematurely too much cortisol can sabotage your efforts to lose weight. Cortisol can cause our blood sugar to quickly rise and fall leaving you feeling exhausted and hungry. Once we’re in this state of low blood sugar we naturally crave high fat and sugary foods making it difficult to make good food choices.
Studies also show a strong link between high cortisol levels and the amount of abdominal fat we store. It seems that fat cells in our abdomen have more cortisol receptors than anywhere else in the body. So if stressful events cause you to put on a few extra pounds, the weight is more likely to settle on your belly than your hips.
Luckily cortisol levels can be managed by adopting a few lifestyle and diet measures proven to reduce stress. Make sure to laugh everyday, call or face-time a friend, get outside for a walk or run and ensure you have adequate amounts of protein in your diet.
Most of us know a friend or family member that can eat French fries, donuts and ice cream without seeming to gain an ounce, yet others struggle to lose weight on a diet of carrot sticks and apple slices.
A number of genes have been identified as having a significant influence on body weight and obesity. These genes appear to predetermine our distribution of body fat, the way we metabolize fat and even the foods we crave and if we have a tendency to eat in response to stress.
No matter what our predetermined body size is we can still live a healthy lifestyle by making good choices. Eating healthy food and getting exercise every day is not only good for the body but also for the mind.