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Causes of Obesity

Multiple behavioral, environmental, genetic and metabolic factors contribute to the likelihood of becoming overweight.

Genetic Factors
There is no question that genetics play a large role in the tendency to gain weight. For example:
• The bodyweight of adopted children shows little correlation with that of the adoptive parents who raised and taught them how to eat. However, their weight does have an 80% correlation with the genetic parents, whom they have never met.
• Identical twins with the same genes show a much stronger similarity in bodyweight than fraternal twins who have different genes.

The environment in which we live and the choices we make are linked to our weight.

The typical American lifestyle consists of little activity, coupled with a dramatic increase in the consumption of processed, poorly nutritious, calorically dense foods. We have become the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on Earth and, ironically, we now rank 24th (last among industrialized nations) in life expectancy. Many experts believe this can be traced directly to our habits, especially our diet.
• Only 19% of American adults engage in a high level of physical activity, and only 12% exercise regularly. In fact, 60% of Americans get little or no exercise and 70% are not regularly active during their leisure time.
• Over 70% of the foods produced in the United States is now refined or processed.
• Americans eat an average of 90-100 (25 ounces) grams of meat daily, when we only need 25-50 grams (4 ounces).
• In 2005, Americans spent $140 billion in fast food. This is compared to $6 billion in 1970. In fact, the average American eats over 50% of their meals at fast food restaurants. Even more impressive, McDonald’s services over 25% of the U.S. population daily.
• There are 85,000 fast food restaurants in the United States and fast food currently accounts for 12% of the American diet. Studies have found an association between the expansion of the fast food industry and America’s increasing BMI.
• The average American consumes around 3,700 calories a day, with the recommended daily allowance of 2,000 – 2,200. There is approximately 3,500 calories in a single pound of fat.
• Americans consume 3-4 times the amount of added sugar recommended by the FDA. In fact, high fructose corn syrup, the primary additive in sweetened drinks, has increased 1,000% since its introduction in 1967 and now adds, on the average, more than 300 calories per day to the American diet.

It used to be thought that weight gain or loss was simply a function of “calories in” versus “calories out”. While that basic concept remains true (and is paramount to the success of weight loss surgery), it is much more complex than a simple math equation.

Obesity researchers now refer to the “set point” theory of body weight. This is the idea that there is a sort of thermostat in the brain that makes one resistant to weight change. If one tries to override that set point, the body responds by lowering metabolism and becoming more “efficient”. Therefore, weight loss slows and once efforts to restrict calories are stopped, the weight comes back. This helps explain why medical weight loss (or dieting) routinely produces approximately 10% excess weight loss, plateaus, and then ultimately fails. Weight regain is experienced in 95-100% of individuals.

There is only one known way to offset this normal physiological process and that is by revving up the metabolism on a daily basis with consistent, vigorous exercise.

Lessons Learned
1. Understand obesity is a chronic disease process that while manageable will never be cured. This will be a daily battle for the remainder of your life.
2. Understand that in order to lose weight and keep it off, it will require a radical and permanent change in behavior and environment.
3. Understand that you will need to make specific and focused efforts to raise your metabolism on a daily basis in order to lose weight and keep it off. In other words, you need to exercise regularly and daily – no excuses if you want to guarantee success.