Why do we gain weight?


First, you have to understand the problem.

Like many of us, your New Year’s resolution for 2018 is to be healthy. Some of you aim to lose weight. Others strive to get rid of their medications. Congratulations, becoming healthier is a great goal. Go for it!

Achieving a healthy weight is good for your overall health. Being overweight increases the risk for many types of diseases and health problems.

Typical weight loss diets only work temporarily. A successful weight management program goes beyond dieting to help people lose weight and not gain it back.

Before you embark on a new program, it’s important that you understand why we gain weight in the first place.

Why do we gain weight?

While today we live in a society with an overabundance of high-calorie food, for most of human history the issue was not having enough food, and the real risk of famine and starvation. To deal with this reality, humans (and other animals) developed the ability to store surplus calories as fat (during times when food was plentiful).

Thus, the potential to become overweight is part of our human nature, a product of evolution. Simply, carrying some extra weight was helpful – even essential to survival – for people in the past, as we were able to use the stored body fat as energy when food was scarce. However, in the modern world what was once a survival advantage has now become a major health risk. Whereas in the past the problem was not enough energy (calories), today the problem is too much.

What are calories?

The food we eat is our source of energy, it is our fuel just like gasoline provides the energy that powers our cars. The body is always using energy to allow us to function, maintain our body temperature and allowing us to be active. The energy that we use to function is measured in calories.

– 1 gram of carbohydrate, or sugar, has 4 calories.

– 1 gram of protein has 4 calories.

– 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.

Read these numbers again, because if you understand these numbers, you’ll understand the makeup of the food you buy and you will understand the impact it has on your weight.

Here are examples of how many calories certain food contains. An uncooked egg contains 75-100 calories. A fresh banana contains100-150 calories. A typical hotdog or hamburger in a bun served in a fast food restaurant ranges between 500 to 800 calories.

How many calories do we need to function?

The number of calories a person needs depends on many factors, such as gender, age, body size, activity level and body metabolism. A person who does physical labor needs more energy than someone with a desk job who is the same age, sex, and body type. People of the same age, size and activity level may need different amounts of calories per day because there are individual differences in metabolism (i.e. an individual’s metabolism may be faster or slower than the average). Having a slow metabolism means that your “baseline” energy expenditure – called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), the amount of energy you use at rest – is lower than others (of similar size, age, and sex).

The average RMR is between 1200 to 1600 calories per day, which represents the number of calories used in 24 hours while at complete rest (e.g. spending all day in bed or lying on the couch). The total amount of energy used in a day is called the Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) and equals the cost of metabolism, plus the additional energy needed for activities such as walking to work, doing housework, or working out for an hour at the gym. For most people, the extra cost of activity is somewhere between ¼ and ½ of the RMR; for example, someone with an RMR of 1200 and a very sedentary lifestyle might need an extra 300 calories, for a total of 1500, while an moderately active person with the same metabolism might need an extra 600, for a total of 1800 calories per day.

Figuring out how many calories you need, and how many you are eating, or should be eating to lose weight, is a tricky question, and you can’t find the answer by using a simple formula.

In Zero Excuse Go, (our multidisciplinary program that uses new technologies), we will help you get to the bottom of this, to understand how it applies to you and how to succeed in this “numbers game.” We’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure that what may sound complicated will be as easy as apple pie (a slice of which has between 250 and 300 calories, by the way…).

Managing calories can be a real puzzle for many people who suffer from obesity. However, don’t worry, Zero Excuse Go is here to help you. In future articles, we will give you the key to the enigma.

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