According to a Harvard Medical School publication, “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. But each of these factors is influenced by a combination of genes and environment.” The researchers found that the volume of calories stored in & burned by our bodies largely depends on the level of our physical activity, our genetic makeup and our resting energy expenditure, that is, how much calories our bodies burn when at rest. So if we consume more calories than we expend, we will become overweight.
The publication noted, “Excess calories are stored throughout your body as fat… If you decrease your food intake and consume fewer calories than you burn up, or if you exercise more and burn up more calories, your body will reduce some of your fat stores. When this happens, fat cells shrink, along with your waistline.”
Another Harvard publication revealed that along with calories, consumption of lower-quality foods also significantly contributes towards gaining weight. The study found that weight gain was strongly associated with the consumption of foods like potato chips, processed & unprocessed red meats, potatoes, added sugar and sweetened beverages. Researchers discovered that intake of processed foods that have higher levels of fats, starch, sugars and refined grains can directly lead to gaining excessive weight.
How much calories should you consume? Read Ultimate Calorie Portion You Must Take For Weight Loss
Apart from the ‘calories in, calories out’ model of weight gain, certain other dietary factors can also have a significant impact on our weight as well. Other than the consumption of calories, intake of carbs may also play a significant role in weight management.
Recent studies have found that a low-carb diet, instead of a low-fat diet, might be the key to weight loss. Another new study shows that a low-carbohydrate diet can actually help people to not only lose a lot of weight, but also reduce risk factors related to heart disease. According to Dr. Lydia Bazzano of Tulane University in New Orleans, lead author of the study, “If you are overweight and have cardiovascular disease risk factors and haven’t had success on other diets, certainly a low-carbohydrate diet is worth a try.”
Looking for a better diet? Read Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss: Does It Actually Work?
Diet and exercise may be an “oversimplification” of the causes of obesity as there are a range of other factors like our gut bacteria, genetic makeup, stress levels, diet in childhood and sleeping habits. Studies have found that there are “longitudinal associations” between being overweight and sleep duration. Researchers have found that children tend to gain weight consistently when they don’t get enough sleep. However, the connection between less sleep and gaining weight among adults is not yet that clear and further research is required.
Not getting enough sleep? Read Insomnia 101: Causes, Symptoms Of Insomnia & How To Sleep Better
5. The human gut
Your gut might also have a crucial role to play when it comes to gaining weight and being obese. One study on the relationship between being overweight and the gut microbiota have revealed that the human gut plays “an essential role in the catabolism of dietary fibers.”
Although more human studies are necessary, animal studies have shown that microbial changes in the human gut could be a “possible cause of obesity”. Hence, a healthy microbiome can help you manage your weight and develop a physically fit body, when coupled with a balanced diet and regular exercise.
Want a healthier gut? Read How To Heal Your Gut: Habits That Improve Your Gut Health
6. Set point
Apart from all the above factors, our body weight may be fixed at a default “set point” which makes it harder for adults to lose (or gain) weight and manage it in the long run. One study discovered that weight loss through diet is followed by various physiological changes that may lead to weight regain. This can be accompanied by “alterations in energy expenditure, substrate metabolism and hormone pathways involved in appetite regulation, many of which persist beyond the initial weight loss period.”