Many people subscribe to the idea that obesity is an issue of willpower – the lack thereof. An informed individual will however think of this idea as ridiculous.
Generally, the state of our well-being is a result of our actions and choices. Say we gain weight if we eat more, or lose weight if we eat less and live a more active lifestyle.
However, human behaviour is complex. It is driven by various biological factors like genetics, hormones, and neural circuits. Having said that, eating behaviour is much like sexual behaviour or sleeping behaviours – driven by biology. Behavior, just like sexual behavior and sleeping behavior, is driven by biological processes.
To say that behavior is simply a function of willpower (definition: the strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans) is reductionist, or too simplistic – prejudicial at worst.
The processes leading to obesity is multifactorial, and multifaceted, and most people’s willpower crumbles under the force of other signals, both internal and external.
So, what REALLY causes obesity?
1. You are too focused on “dieting”.
Studies actually show that people who “diet” gain more weight over time. Enough said. Instead, focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.
2. You are eating too much “low-fat” foods.
Reads “low fat”? Oh don’t be fooled. These foods are not what they claim to be. A recent study found that 10% of diet foods contain the same or more calories that the regular stuff and 40% of them had more sugar.
When food companies remove fat from their products, they will have to use more sugar, salt and artificial additives in order to make the food taste better. The additives are more harmful than the fat itself.
One research also showed that a “low-fat” nutrition label leads all customers to overeat, especially the ones who are overweight. This will certainly defeat the purpose of your wanting to eat healthy and lose weight.
3. You are not eating enough protein.
Also, protein intake of 25-30% of calories can boost metabolism by 80-100 calories per day and make you automatically eat several hundred fewer calories per day. It is better to eat breakfast that is loaded with protein. In fact, studies show that those who eat a high-protein breakfast are less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.
4. You keep avoiding ALL carbs.
Wouldn’t you agree carbs are highly controversial? Nutritionists tell us that we get half of our calories from carbs. There are claims, however, that carbs cause obesity and type 2 diabetes; so, we should avoid them. And, there are good arguments on both sides.
Empirical studies suggest that, indeed, some people do better with a lower carb intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbs.
There are two kinds of carbs. Know which one to avoid.
Whole carbs are unprocessed carbs, and contain the fiber found naturally in the food (e.g. vegetables, whole fruit, legumes, potatoes, whole grains). Refined carbs, on the other hand, have been processed and had the natural fiber stripped out (e.g. sweetened beverages, fruit juices, pastries, white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc.).
As a general rule, carbohydrates that are in their natural, fiber-rich form are healthy, while those that have been stripped of their fiber are not.
If it’s a whole, single ingredient food, then it’s probably a healthy food for most people, no matter what the carbohydrate content is.
Don’t avoid good carbs.
- Vegetables: all of them. It is best to eat a variety of vegetables every day.
- Whole fruits: apples, bananas, strawberries, etc.
- Legumes: lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
- Nuts: almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, etc.
- Seeds: chia seeds, pumpkin seeds.
- Whole grains: choose grains that are truly whole, as in pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
- Tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.
But… avoid these carbs:
- Sugary drinks: Coke, Pepsi, Vitaminwater, etc. Sugary drinks are some of the unhealthiest things you can put into your body.
- Fruit juices: unfortunately, fruit juices may have similar metabolic effects as sugar-sweetened beverages.
- White bread: these are refined carbohydrates that are low in essential nutrients and bad for metabolic health. This applies to most commercially available breads.
- Pastries, cookies and cakes: these tend to be very high in sugar and refined wheat.
- Ice cream: most types of ice cream are very high in sugar, although there are exceptions.
- Candies and chocolates: If you’re going to eat chocolate, choose quality dark chocolate.
- French fries and potato chips: Whole potatoes are healthy, but french fries and potato chips are not.
These foods may be fine in moderation for some people, but many will do best by avoiding them as much as possible.
5. You are still drinking sugar.
Drinks high in sugar are the most fattening items in the food supply. They are worse than solid sugar. Examples of this sugary beverages are sodas like Coke and Pepsi, and also applies to “healthier” beverages like Vitamin water; sugar is sugar.
6. You are not drinking water.
In one 12-week weight loss study, people who drank half a liter (17 oz) of water 30 minutes before meals lost 44% more weight. Drinking water has also been shown to boost the amount of calories burned by 24-30% over a period of 1.5 hours.
7. You are drinking too much alcohol.
Studies on alcohol and weight show mixed results. Moderate drinking seems to be fine, while heavy drinking is linked to weight gain.
8. You keep avoiding fats.
It’s a well-known fact that we should avoid fat as much as possible. What many people don’t realize is that there is healthy and unhealthy fat. Actually, fat should comprise at least 20% of your daily calories.
You should avoid:
- Vegetable cooking oil
- Hydrogenated fats
- Trans Fats
- Fried food
- Vegetable shortening
- Baked goods
- Processed snack food
Healthy fats which can actually help will your weight loss:
- Saturated fats
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Shea butter
- Whole eggs
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds