If you are one of the 6.8 million morbidly obese Americans then you are probably aware of the stereotypes that accompany the diagnosis. I know them well, as I was morbidly obese before my gastric bypass surgery in 2003. What many do not understand are the metabolic, lifestyle, and genetic causes of obesity.
Too many assume that the morbidly obese are people who always make poor food choices and eat nothing other than a calorically-dense diet that is high in saturated fats, trans fats and sugar but low in fiber and nutrients. Society’s belief that morbidly obese people constantly make poor food choices is accompanied by the belief that the morbidly obese eat excessively. While this might be true for many, it is not true for all. The fact is that there are many factors for morbid obesity.
As for me, I have become educated on what are healthy food choices and what are not healthy food choices. I realize how uninformed I once was. I eat much differently than I did before my weight-loss surgery. For a few quick guidelines on making healthy food choices, read Bariatric Diet: Build a Healthy Plate.
Genetic Causes of Obesity
Genetics seem to play an important role in weight gain. Adopted children often do not have the same body weight as the adoptive parents despite similar eating habits. There is an 80% chance the adopted children will be of similar weight to the biological parents they never met. My father’s family, which is the side of the family that I take after, are virtually all obese.
Identical twins who have the same genes have more similar body weights than fraternal twins who have different genes.
Lifestyle Factors for Obesity
Researchers have found that excessive nutrient intake combined with a sedentary lifestyle are the main causes of obesity in Western civilization during the last quarter of the 20th century. We have become able to move from place to place faster than we once did, while expending less energy in doing so.
It has long been believed that if a person takes in more calories than they burn, they will gain weight. If more calories are burned than ingested, weight will be lost.
We now have the set point theory where a mechanism in the brain makes people resistant to either weight gain or weight loss. If a person dramatically cuts her calorie intake, the brain will lower metabolism and slow activity. The result is regaining weight that has been lost.
The Pima Paradox
The Pima Indians are among the heaviest people in the world with some of the adults weighing in excess of 500 hundred pounds. Many of the teenagers have diabetes, an illness that often accompanies obesity.
A group of Pima Indians living in Mexico does not have this problem and many began asking why not.
Generation of Pima had lived in the desert and often went without food. Those Pima with genes that allowed them to store as much fat as possible when food was available fared best. But now those fat storing genes are having a poor effect, and many Pima are predisposed to weight gain.
It is interesting to note that the Arizona Pima have the same diet as most Americans and also live in an environment that is similar to most Americans.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life