3. Prescription Drugs
We’re a drug culture. Almost half of us are taking at least one prescription. Over 23% are taking three or more on a regular basis. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that over 75% of doctor visits resulted in patients leaving with a prescription. Over three billion prescriptions were filled that year. (9) Some of the most commonly-prescribed classes of medications are known to cause weight gain:
- antihypertensives (beta blockers for high blood pressure)
- diabetes drugs
- antiseizure medications. (10)
“The changing relationship between diet and physical activity with obesity could be a reflection of other factors that have changed over time and have also been linked with obesity. These factors include a decrease in sleep duration, increased endocrine disruptors in the food chain, and a large increase in the use of prescription medications…Specifically, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, and anticonvulsant prescriptions have increased nearly twofold from 1990 to 2001…and could be playing an influential role in the rise in obesity.” (11)
Our grandparents didn’t rely on pharmaceuticals for their everyday lives.
4. Gut Microbiome
The modern Western diet is killing our guts. The majority of our immune system lives in our gastrointestinal tract; it’s packed with friendly bacteria that break down food, destroy harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms, promote waste elimination, and more. Chemical-laden and nutrient-poor foods discourage pre- and pro-biotic bacteria and that’s directly affecting our health.
Antibiotic medications kill both harmful and health-critical gastrointestinal microflora; their overuse and misuse have led to antibiotic resistance, which has resulted in the evolution of superbugs that are difficult to eradicate. Further, we get antibiotic chemicals from conventionally-raised meat and animal products that we eat and drink. These factors throw our internal ecosystems out of whack. The consequences include changes to metabolism, hormone imbalance, and systemic inflammation—all contributors to obesity.
5. Chronic Stress
Everyone has stress in their lives; not only is it normal, it’s necessary for survival. Chronic stress, however, potentiates a whole host of health problems, including weight gain. Stress hormones such as cortisol initiate a chain reaction that puts your body in survival mode, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, heart rate, hunger, other hormones, and overall metabolism. There is a definite link between chronic stress and obesity, often leading to diabetes. (12)
Our forebears’ stress centered around day-to-day survival but there were regular physical outlets for stress by simply taking care of daily needs. Modern stress is different and many people don’t employ regular physical and emotional outlets for it. Imbalanced body chemistry coupled with routine emotional stress bring long-term adverse consequences for health.
Most of the Industrialized World can claim a high standard of living with many common conveniences. With all this luxury, however, has come a more sedentary lifestyle for many of us. We drive when we could walk or ride a bicycle. We take an elevator instead of the stairs. We sit and watch television after dinner instead of going for a walk. We opt to go shopping at the mall instead of spending time outdoors engaging in physical activity. We pick up dinner at the fast food joint instead of making a nutritious meal at home. We have electronic devices of all kinds to entertain and inform us so we don’t have to physically interact with other people. In many ways, we’ve become privileged to our own detriment and our waistlines reflect that.
How to Fight Back
Knowing the cause of a problem helps a great deal toward finding solutions. Directly addressing culprits that cause us to gain weight will help us to lose excess and keep it off.
- Eat whole foods, keeping processed foods to a minimum. Stay away from anything artificial, anything you can’t pronounce, and anything you wouldn’t use if you made it yourself. Be wary of anything that says “light” or “diet” or “low-fat” on the label—think about what is being substituted and/or processed out for the manufacturer to market it as such.
- Choose organic foods to avoid synthetic chemicals and genetically-modified food.
- Use natural personal and household care
- Ensure you get regular adequate, good-quality sleep.
- Find constructive, healthy ways to manage stress.
- Use salt in moderation and keep an eye on sodium content of packaged foods.
- Cut out added and refined sugars.
- Cut out artificial sweeteners of all kinds, including high fructose corn syrup, sucralose, and aspartame.
- Don’t drink soda (regular or diet).
- Keep up or increase your aerobic and resistance training exercise program.
- Use natural antibiotics and immune system boosters instead of prescription drugs.
- Increase your intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods.
We now know that we have to work harder to achieve and maintain a healthy BMI than in years past. There’s no magic bullet but there’s nothing complicated to getting to where you want to be. Knowledge is your most powerful ally.