Why People Gain More Weight Over Time
Maybe you were a heavy kid. Maybe you were a slim kid or athletic in high school. However, as you age, you notice that you keep putting on more weight. In fact, you may notice that your weight is increasing at a faster rate over time. The question is, why?
The Double Whammy Weight Gain Process
The common reason that people give for gaining weight at an increasing rate with age is that our metabolism slows. While it does slow somewhat, research has indicated that it is unlikely the cause that people gain weight as they age, according to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/slow-metabolism/faq-20058480).
Research has shown that many foods are addictive. This is well documented in a number of articles and books (Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings--And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally by Neal Barnard, MD), as well as documentaries, such as Fed Up. What makes something addictive?
Anything that feels good, can become addictive. This applies to alcohol, drugs, gambling, and even shopping. The good feeling that we get is the result of our brains releasing feel good chemicals. People can become addicted to any food, because when we eat, dopamine is released. Our physiology is such that high calorie dense foods (think chips, candy, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, etc.) cause more dopamine to be released than lower calorie dense foods (think fruit and vegetables). Think about it. When was the last time that you heard someone say that they can’t stop eating broccoli once they start? Cookies? Well, that’s a different story.
The fact that high calorie dense foods create more dopamine to be released in our brains than low calorie dense foods makes sense. It is a survival trait, because food was not always readily available and, when we ate a high calorie food, our brains would encourage us to eat more. After all, we didn't know when our next meal would come.
The book Salt, Sugar and Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss, documents and explains how the food industry has taken advantage of this trait, engineering hyperpalatable foods that trigger the most feel good chemicals in our brain possible. This makes us want to eat more of the food that they sell us. It turns out that processed foods and sugars are particularly addictive and they have become plentiful in our society.
What happens with any addictive substance, is that not only do we crave more of it, but we crave it in increasing larger quantities. The reason for this is that as our brain releases large quantities of dopamine (which happens when we eat processed, high calorie dense foods) our brains develop more dopamine receptors. So, the next time you eat that donut or French fry, you need to eat more of that food in order to feel as good as you did the last time you ate it. So, you eat more and the cycle continues.
You are now eating food that is more calorie dense, food that is more likely to be stored as fat, and in increasingly larger amounts. I am sure that, if you're like me, looking back you will see that you eat much larger portions now than you did 10 years ago. Add to that the fact that we eat more restaurant food and that restaurants have continuously increased portion sizes, and you are guaranteed to continue gaining weight at a more rapid pace.
Finally, as you gain weight, you become more sedentary. This is the final nail in the coffin and helps to ensure that the process continues.
So, how do you break this cycle? You need to change your habits and get away from your food addictions. This can be done by developing a series of new habits, designed to permanently change your behavior. Through this proven approach, you will create new neuropathways in your brain, resulting in permanent and positive lifestyle changes and greater overall health.