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Why is it that some people who down gallons if ice cream, boxes of pizza, cartons of fries, etc., are rail thin with a xylophone rib cage while other people who eat very little still pack on the pounds? Well, your physiology is not just determined by your behavior (what you eat and how you exercise), it is also determined by your genetics. There are over 400 genes that increase susceptibility to obesity. These genes may affect appetite, sense of hunger satiation, metabolism, food cravings, body-fat distribution, and the impulse to curb stress with eating. On a very simple level, your weight depends on the number of calories you consume, how many of those calories you store, and how many you burn up. Thus, your weight—and how easily you gain or lose it—is determined by intermingling factors of both behavior and genetics, both of which you must take into account when you are trying to lose weight. If weight loss is difficult for you, try to be kind to yourself. There is probably more going on than lack of willpower.
The Link Between Mental Health and Obesity
Obesity and mental health are likely having a tug-of-war inside you. You’re depressed because you overeat, and you overeat because you’re depressed. Women are thought to be more at risk of developing an obesity-depression cycle and are also more likely to be mentally affected by weight gain. Furthermore, the results of a research project carried out by the National Obesity Observatory identified that those who were classed as obese had a 55 percent higher risk of developing depression at some point during their lives, and those diagnosed as clinically depressed had a 58 percent higher risk of becoming obese.
Depression and obesity are aggressive tag-teamers that take a massive toll on the body and mind. To put an end to this whirring cycle of eating, feeling bad, then eating to feel better, one can replace the unhealthy coping mechanism of overeating with a set of healthy coping mechanisms.
Exercise releases endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones. Exercise can also serve as a healthy distraction from negative thoughts. Something as simple as a brisk ten-to-twenty minute walk can help to strengthen the body, alleviate stress from the mind, and raise one’s mood. Done regularly, exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions. Studies done on animals show that exercise leads to the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that regulates emotions.
To satisfy depression-related food cravings, choose healthy and sweet fruits over heavy desserts like cookies and cakes. With decreased exposure to cane sugar and added sugars, your taste buds may learn to appreciate and be satisfied with natural sugars over time.
Have you ever followed a fad diet? Most fad diets fail because they promise rapid weight loss but ultimately failed to deliver. “Most fad diets go something like this: Take a few foods, give them 'magic' power, and convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss," says Alexandra Caspero, RD, a nutritionist based in Sacramento, Calif. The aggressive marketing tactics behind fad diets hitting your computer and television screens sound so alluring and so dreamlike, but they are just that: a dream. And it’s time to wake up. Rapid weight loss is almost always unsustainable. Fad diets might spur short-term weight loss, but many are difficult to follow, have arbitrary rules, and a few could put your health in danger. Fad diets you should definitely avoid include the raw food diet, alkaline diets, the blood-type diet, the werewolf diet, cookie diets, the five-bite diet, the master cleanse/lemonade diet, the baby food diet, and the sleeping beauty diet.
Now, there are some “fad” diets which are relatively safe and healthy, but you should always consult your doctor before trying a new diet. Arthur Agatston, MD, is a Florida-based cardiologist who invented the South Beach diet to protect his patients from serious medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes. This is a three-phase diet designed to disrupt the typical "hunger-overeat-gain" cycle. The first phase is fairly strict, but the last phase is meant to be a lifelong eating plan that allows you to enjoy occasional treats while maintaining a healthy weight.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
If you choose to follow a specific, organized diet, you should always implement these key factors into your plan: eat a variety of foods, practice appropriate portion control, get plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid “empty calories” or foods with little to no nutrition value, and make sure that your diet can be incorporated into your lifestyle for the long-term. And, as always, consult your doctor for professional medical advice.