Obesity Diet Woes: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why it Matters
Are you one of the 45 million Americans who go on an obesity diet each year? Do you go on two…or three…or four diets a year, only to give up in frustration? You’re not alone. Statistics show the average dieter attempts four diets a year and that 25% of dieters give up within two weeks.
Most frustrated dieters lose weight, sometimes a lot of weight. The problem is not losing weight; the problem is dealing with the restrictions of the diet while the weight loss gets slower and slower. And then the bigger problem is keeping the weight off. If you’re not really careful, you’ll gain the pounds back incredibly fast, and it doesn’t matter what type of obesity diet you’ve tried.
Before long, you’re back where you started. All your effort wasted. Your self-confidence, gone. You’re tired of yo-yo dieting, but you don’t know how to stop it. You know there must be a better way than the fad diets you’ve been trying or those crazy aerobics programs you’ve been killing yourself trying to do.
You’re right. There IS a better way than going on any obesity diet that promises quick results. But before talking about solutions, let’s talk about obesity and why it’s so important to find a way to permanently lose weight.
Obesity diet fails
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese.”
How prevalent is obesity in America?
Overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions worldwide, and America is no exception. Despite the fact that people are always looking for the perfect obesity diet, the extra pounds are never far away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 93.3 million U.S. adults are obese, and a whopping 70.2% of adults are either overweight or obese.
This excessive fat accumulation is taking a toll on people’s health.
Health complications of overweight and obesity
Below are three of the most common health problems linked to overweight and obesity.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a disorder that occurs when glucose levels in the blood are consistently too high. It occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or any insulin at all or when the body does not respond appropriately to the effects of insulin.
An estimated 29.1 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, of which type 2 diabetes is the most common type. It has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., and obesity is its biggest risk factor. This is because obesity causes insulin resistance, which often leads to type 2 diabetes. Doctors don’t know why obesity causes insulin resistance, but there are many theories.
In 2010, Japanese researchers reported that a state of chronic low-grade infection causes obesity. Their research showed that as fat cells become larger, they attract immune cells that produce inflammatory chemicals. These inflammatory chemicals, the researchers explain, seem to help cause insulin resistance. (These chemicals include interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha.)
These findings are debated by other researchers. Some of them believe a combination of stress and excess fat may produce these inflammatory chemicals, not fat cells alone. Whatever the reason, it is clear that obesity is often the forerunning to type 2 diabetes. Finding the perfect obesity diet and solving the obesity problem could well end the type 2 diabesity epidemic.
Heart disease and stroke
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. Stroke kills around 140,000, and heart disease kills around 697,000 Americans each year. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease and stroke because it can cause hypertension and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and the most common joint disorder in the U.S. An estimated 54.4 million U.S. adults have osteoarthritis, and it can be painful and crippling. Over time, obesity causes osteoarthritis because of the extra weight it puts on the joints. There is also research suggesting that low-level chronic inflammation caused by obesity destroys cartilage, which contributes to osteoarthritis.
The risk for many of these and other health problems could be reduced if the perfect obesity diet came along. But what really causes obesity?
Causes of obesity
Obesity is usually caused by a combination of factors. Below are some of the most common causes of obesity.
Genetics influences your body composition by about 50%, so there is some truth to the saying that you have “fat genes.” However, it is believed obesity isn’t just caused by genes. Rather, experts believe multiple genes and little-understood environmental factors may cause some cases of obesity.
Hormones in your brain, gut, and fat cells continually talk to each other. They monitor your metabolic processes, regulating your calorie input and output around your setpoint weight. If these hormones become dysregulated, they can no longer send and receive proper signals. The result is an elevated setpoint weight and weight gain.
Many studies have linked neurological inflammation to obesity. Your brain plays a crucial role in weight control. The hypothalamus, located in the center of your brain, regulates metabolic processes. It receives signals from leptin, insulin, ghrelin, and other metabolic hormones, letting it know how much fat you have and whether you need to burn more or fewer calories.
An inflamed hypothalamus cannot receive or interpret these signals properly. It ends up giving incorrect signals to your metabolism, resulting in an elevated setpoint weight. Research has shown that eating sugary, high-fat foods inflame the hypothalamus, which keeps the signals from insulin and leptin from getting through to it. (These hormones regulate appetite and eating.)
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Since the thyroid is responsible for running the metabolism, a lack of thyroid hormone slows the metabolism, causing weight gain.
Now that you know the causes of obesity, you might want to know what caused the obesity rate to climb so high that it is now an epidemic. Well…it started in the ‘70s…
The beginning of the obesity epidemic
The 1970s was a decade of many societal changes, and obesity was one of them. The obesity rate in the U.S. held pretty steady at 12% to 14% until the mid-1970s and late 1980s, when it skyrocketed up to 22% to 25%. This is when, most experts agree, the obesity epidemic actually began.
But what triggered the obesity epidemic?
Though there were probably many factors, one of the biggest contributors was the low-fat movement spurred, in part, by the government.
In 1977, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, led by Senator George McGovern, issued dietary recommendations for the American people. Titled “Dietary Goals for the United States,” the report recommended reducing fat consumption and increasing the intake of carbohydrates.
Reducing fat consumption was believed to reduce the risk of heart disease, a belief fostered by the Seven Countries Study.
Ancel Keys and the Seven Countries Study
The Seven Countries Study (or SCS for short) was the first large-scale investigation of nutrition and lifestyle, in addition to other cardiovascular disease risk factors, across diverse countries and cultures and over an extended time span. It was directed by Ancel Keys at the University of Minnesota.
Keys, a Minnesota physiologist, took an interest in heart disease when he noticed an unusually high number of American businessmen were dying of heart disease. Their deaths reflected the increasing heart disease death rate in America, and he wanted to find out the reason why this was happening.
The heart disease death rate had been a concern among experts for some time. Since the 1930s, the heart disease death rate kept climbing, and nobody could offer an explanation. The prevailing view was split between two dietary culprits: fat and sugar. Studies indicated that each might cause heart disease, but there was nothing conclusive.
Keys, meanwhile, was puzzled at the deaths of those well-fed businessmen who had the best food and medical care money could buy. Why were they dying of heart disease when Europeans, who were still barely surviving on food rations after the war, had extremely low rates of heart disease?
Keys’ theorized that it was the rich, fatty diets Americans enjoyed that were responsible for the large and ever-increasing heart disease rate. To test his theory, he studied the dietary habits of 22 countries. After much research, he selected 7 to use in his final analysis and then compared the dietary habits of the people of those countries with their heart disease rates. Keys found a clear link between fat consumption and heart disease rate, and he published his study in 1958.
The obesity diet motto: fat is out, low fat is in!
The Seven Countries Study — and Keys himself — got quite a bit of publicity. Keys was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1961 for his discovery. He went on the talk show circuit, debating and shouting down all detractors to his conclusion that fat consumption caused heart disease. He talked and talked and talked until everybody believed him, until the U.S. Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs drafted the “Dietary Goals for the United States,” until the stores filled the shelves with fat-free this and low-fat that and everybody started eating all of it because as long as it didn’t contain fat, it was okay to eat.
Keys lived to see the obesity epidemic really take off (he died in 2004), but it’s a good bet he didn’t hold his work responsible for it. After all, the Seven Countries Study was about fat consumption and heart disease, NOT obesity.
The problem with the Seven Countries Study
There are many problems with the Seven Countries Study. The one that upsets critics the most is the fact that Keys included only 7 countries in his study, and they were all countries with citizens that ate high-fat diets. And Keys knew their dietary habits before selecting them. He excluded countries, such as France, that had low rates of heart disease but whose citizens regularly enjoyed rich, fatty meals.
In addition, researchers who examine the Seven Countries Study today say even Keys’ did not have his facts straight. They say the study implicates sugar, not fat consumption, in heart disease.
And they’re right. Not only has research shown that sugar contributes to heart disease, but it also causes obesity. When manufacturers took the fat out of their low-fat and fat-free products, they added sugar to make them taste better. We’re seeing the results now in the obesity epidemic. No obesity diet has been able to fix what happened. And why is that?
Why the typical obesity diet fails
The typical obesity diet fails because it usually requires you to cut calories while not changing your dietary habits or the quality of your food. When you significantly slash your calories, your body thinks you’re starving, and it fights it every step of the way. It makes you hungry. It makes you cold. If you don’t start eating the amount of food it thinks you should eat, it slows your metabolism. You can’t win.
Any obesity diet you’ve been on, no matter how different it may appear to be from others you have tried, follows the calorie deficit theory of weight loss. That is, if you eat X number of calories less per week, you will lose X number of pounds, guaranteed.
The calorie deficit theory of weight loss treats the metabolism like a scale, calories in = calories out. But it is not like a scale. It is more like a thermostat. The body adjusts your calorie input and expenditure to keep you at or near your setpoint weight.
The setpoint weight: something the typical obesity diet can’t fix
Setpoint weight is the concept that the body strives to maintain its weight within a preferred range. How does it do this?
Your brain, digestive system, and hormones talk to each other continually to synchronize the activities that will automatically maintain your body fat at a specified level, which is your setpoint weight. If you eat more calories than your body needs, it will increase the calorie burn of various metabolic processes. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, it will decrease the calorie burn. This is how you stay at or near your setpoint weight, give or take 20 pounds.
It works perfectly unless the system breaks down. If any part of this feedback loop — the brain, digestive system, or hormones — becomes dysfunctional, it creates a hormonal clog. The hormones cannot send proper messages to the metabolism, so the metabolism doesn’t know what to do. It responds by giving your more fat or preventing your body from burning fat.
Going on an obesity diet and cutting calories will not fix the problem. The body will fight you like it always does, and it will usually win. You’ll gain the weight back and end up back where you started, give or take a few pounds.
Causes of an elevated setpoint weight
A combination of the following factors usually causes an elevated setpoint weight:
- Poor-quality diet: Defined as heavily processed foods, starchy carbs, foods with added sugars, and fast foods.
- Environmental toxins: Household cleaners, air pollution, herbicides, pesticides, dryer sheets
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
- Prolonged exercise
The Setpoint Diet: the obesity diet that works
The Setpoint Diet is an obesity diet that works to help you shed pounds permanently. You’ll eat high-quality foods and practice SANE habits that have been scientifically proven to lower setpoint weight and foster safe, easy weight loss.
So, what are you waiting for? The only thing you have to lose is another obesity diet that doesn’t work and…well…20, 30, 40, or more pounds!
Next step: Start your obesity diet with SANE
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