We eat more calories than what our body needs in a day, so the excess gets stored as fat. Our bodies are designed in such a way that in times when it was harder to get food, our bodies could be prepared by having stored extra calories in times of plenty in the form of fat. Now, with as easy as it is to get food, a lot of people tend to overeat, and this is a severe problem that causes many to become overweight or obese.
Genes play a factor as well by setting basic parameters on the metabolic efficiency of your body. People who are overweight many times have very efficient metabolisms, meaning they need less caloric intake than others, and they store the excess as fat. You have a greater risk of being obese if one parent is and an even greater risk if both parents are. However, genes only determine a tendency towards a higher or lower metabolic efficiency, not what your actual body metabolism will be.
Your metabolic rate. Besides genetics, your metabolic rate depends on how active you are. It is said that every ten years past our mid-twenties we lose about 10% of our metabolic rate. This probably does not have to do completely with age, however, but instead with how active we are. The more active we are, the more muscle mass we can retain, or even build, and in turn the more fit we are because muscle tissue is metabolically active whereas fat is not. On the other hand, if we lead a basically sedentary life, we are much more likely to be able to gain weight as we lose muscle mass.
Eating patterns. People’s eating habits make a huge difference in determining their weight. When foods high in fat or sugars are favored, this of course can cause much weight gain. Also, how you serve the food, i.e. do you put the portions on everyone’s plate or do you bring it all to the table and serve it the food family style where everyone can take as much as they want? Portion size is one of the main reasons people eat too much. Also, how have you learned to eat? If you are a fast eater, you may not even realize the cues your stomach gives you that it is full.
Larger portion sizes. Over time, larger portions of food have become the norm, especially at many restaurants. Weight has also gone up because of this.
Exercise or the lack thereof. Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle and to maintaining a healthy weight. When you exercise, especially when you include strength training in your workouts, you gain muscle mass and raise your metabolism and in turn the muscle helps to burn more fat. In turn, you will weigh less and you will look leaner and firmer because muscle takes up less space than fat. Plus, strength training helps reduce the risk of accidental injury, improves your bone density, helps with digestion and helps in lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.As you can probably see, even if you have a history of the genes in your family making it easier to gain weight than other people, diet and exercise are the two main factors that affect your health and weight. Regular exercise is essential to getting to and maintaining a healthy weight – and so is what you eat, how you eat and how much you eat. Learn portion control. This is usually a huge factor for most people, and they do not realize how much they are actually eating. A portion of food the size of your fist is generally all that should be eaten at one time, because that is the size of your stomach as well.Eating several small meals a day, rather than two or three big ones, will help you to be able to eat less and also not be hungry in the early days of forming this habit. Another really important thing is to not skip breakfast, as this sets up your metabolism for the day. If you don’t eat breakfast, your body will go into defense mode and store more fat because it will think you are starving.
Try slowing down your eating as well if you have the habit of eating fast. This way you can feel the signals from your stomach when you have had enough, before you stuff yourself full. When you have done that, you know for sure you have eaten too much. In reality, on a scale of 1-10 of fullness, we should feel right in the middle, around a 5, when we are done eating. It takes some practice, but you can learn this trick and you will feel so much better knowing you did not stuff yourself to the maximum capacity.
Another thing to watch of course is your intake of fatty and sugary foods. We all need nutrients, including healthy fats, to keep us balanced, but eating a lot of junk food and sugary drinks will attribute greatly to us gaining more weight. Processed foods don’t generally have a lot of nutrients in them, or any at all, and they are high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. In today’s busy lifestyles, we may not realize how often we are eating these foods. If you are one who is always ordering out for work, or going out to dinner as well, this is not going to keep you healthy because you do not have the control as to what is being put in your food (except special ordering at a restaurant) and it is much harder to make sure you are eating the right kinds of things and getting all of your nutrients. Going out to eat is fine every once in a while, but be sensible in what you are choosing, and you don’t have to clear your plate of the large servings you will most likely be given.