• Weight loss a challenge of mind over matter

    This is the first in a series of reports on weight loss and health that will be published by The NEWS throughout January. Look for additional coverage in the Spotlight section each week.

    Despite what we’ve all been led to believe at some point, losing weight is not as simple as “eating less and exercising more.” This is a mindset that affects so many in their weight-loss journey, and over the years I have met many people who have cycled through the emotional rollercoaster ride of “yo-yo” dieting. Going through this experience leaves most people with the misconception that they are weak, or lack willpower. This is simply not true.

    I hope to give a brief glimpse into the three main causes of weight gain that make the “battle of the bulge” just that, a battle. And by doing so to stop the unnecessary pain people experience from beating themselves up over repeated attempts at weight loss.

    Related: Two free weight loss seminars in Qualicum Beach Jan. 15 and 22

    First, let’s have a look at the terms obese and overweight. Obesity is the medical term for a person having a Body Mass Index (BMI= kg/m2; a screening tool that compares weight with height) of 30 or more. Overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 to 29. For example; a person (man or a woman) who is 5’ 10” and weighs 210 lbs. or more, would be considered “obese”. If this person weighed 175lbs, he or she would be considered “overweight.” Though, like every rule, there are some exceptions, such as those who have a lot of muscle or are older adults.

    Most people, and even some health-care professionals, believe that losing weight is simply a matter of eating less and exercising more. The truth is, losing weight and keeping it off is far more complex. Let’s have a quick look at the three main causes of weight gain; your genetics and biology, your environment, and your behaviours — keeping in mind that eating and exercising are behaviours.

    • Genetics and biology:

    1) People who have a direct family member who is ‘obese’ are two to three times more likely to develop obesity themselves.

    2) Hunger is something people often struggle with. There are a number of hormones and neuropeptides (chemical messengers) in our bodies that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full. Two of the hormones involved are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that signals to the brain that we are full, essentially telling us to, “Back away from the food, you’ve had enough to eat!”

    Ghrelin works in the opposite way. It tells our brain that we are hungry. Its message is, “Feed me!” When someone puts on too much weight, especially around the midsection, over time their body becomes desensitized to leptin. Even if your body is making lots of leptin, your brain isn’t getting the message and therefore doesn’t know that your stomach is full. Yet the ghrelin is still in full effect and the only message your brain is getting is, “I am still hungry, feed me!”