It’s great to take the proactive approach to losing body fat and focus on actions that promote getting lean. But it’s just as important to look at behaviors that negatively affect body composition and make you more likely to pack on the pounds.
Two related themes arise in regards to gaining fat. First, the factors that predict an increase in body fat are part of an obesogenic modern environment that contains too much high calorie, poor quality food, excessive stress, and too much leisure time technology. Second, these factors work together to affect hormone levels in the body, altering metabolic rate and triggering food intake.
Drinking SugarSweetened Beverages
Since New York City attempted to limit the size of sugarsweetened beverages two years ago, it seems like old news that we shouldn’t be drinking this stuff. But, people still are.
Sugarsweetened beverages have zero nutritional benefit and they are the greatest provider of calories in the American diet. But these drinks don’t just provide empty calories: They have little impact on satisfying hunger so people can consume large quantities without reducing appetite.
Additionally, the body responds differently to carbs (which is what sugarsweetened beverages are) in liquid versus solid forms. For example, in one study that compared the effect of having subjects eat jellybeans or drink soda daily for four weeks, results showed that those who ate the jellybeans compensated for the additional calories in the jellybeans and decreased energy intake accordingly.
In contrast, subjects who drank the soda not only didn’t compensate by reducing calories, but actually increased calorie intake by 17 percent over normal. This resulted in them gaining double the fat mass compared to the jellybean group.
Take Away: Avoid sugarsweetened beverages like they’re the plague—soda, sports drinks, sugaradded juice, and sweetened coffee. Stick to plain water, tea, and coffee.
Eating HighCalorie Processed Foods
Big surprise that the following calorieladen processed foods are bad for weight management:
Potato chips and other processed carb snacks
Cookies, pastries, sweets, and desserts
Refined grainbased foods (bread, pasta, crackers)
But the reason these foods increase body fat goes beyond the fact that they are calorie dense. Refined carbs have actually been shown to trigger food intake because they “light up” reward parts of the brain. Moderation and portion control becomes impossible with highcalorie refined foods.
Additionally, these foods lead to fast digestion rates and large variations in blood sugar and insulin, meaning they have less of an impact on satiety and hunger management compared to whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole (boiled) grains, fish, unprocessed meat, and minimally processed dairy (yogurt, eggs, milk, cheese).
Take Away: Eat real food! Plan every meal around a whole protein source, a vegetable, and some form of healthy fat (nuts, seeds, or fat that naturally occurs in your protein source).
Too Little Sleep
The amount of sleep people need is very individualized but one thing we know for sure is that if you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’re at risk for gaining fat. People who don’t get enough sleep develop impaired glucose metabolism, which means their bodies aren’t able to use the sugar in the blood effectively and it is more likely to get stored as body fat.
A contributing factor is that sleep deprivation raises the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers food intake and suppresses physical activity. Basically, it makes us lazy and hungry for highcalorie food. Plus, our willpower gets depleted and we’re more likely to give in to our desire to eat and lie on the couch. Finally, sleep deprivation lowers levels of leptin (which triggers satiety) and raises ghrelin (makes us hungry).
Take Away: Be religious about practicing good sleep hygiene: Avoid caffeine after noon, stick to a consistent bedtime/wake time, sleep in complete darkness, turn off electronics an hour before bed, do relaxation, and try natural sleep aids like magnesium and melatonin.
Neural Vulnerability to Food (a.k.a. Emotional Eating)
An emerging area of obesity research focuses on how people are developing an elevated brain response to foods that stimulate consumption of highcalorie “comfort” foods.
Studies show that eating certain foods, particularly those containing sugar, wheat, and processed fat leads to the release of substances called endocannabinoids in the gut. They target dopamine and opioid receptors in the brain to make you feel good. Naturally, this triggers a desire for more.
Researchers note that this neural vulnerability to food is the result of both our high stress levels and our increased exposure to highcalorie food images and commercials due to changes in food marketing over the last 20 years.
Take Away: Protect yourself from the “food cues” from food commercials, processed food messaging, and related obesogenic food marketing. Shift away from rewarding yourself with food by finding other stress management techniques including exercise, meditation, socializing, and deep breathing.
Read the full article HERE.
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