The 3 Secrets of Hidden Weight Gain

5/27/2015 - 9:16:45 AM

The 3 Secrets of Hidden Weight Gain

It’s a well-used topic by now, but for some reason how much we weigh and how much we don’t weigh has never stopped being one of the most popular conversations between women. Some of us are obsessed with it, but all of us keep our eye on it and there’s not one woman that doesn’t have something to contribute to a conversation about diets and exercise. Whether you favor eating low-carb, high fat, grain free, gluten free, sugar free, Paleo, THM or whatever we have discovered, everyone approaches those extra pounds just a little bit differently.

It’s physical nutrition but it’s also a mind game because mentally we view food as the culprit for any extra weight and look to solve the problem by what we eat. We feel sure that if we just cut out that one more food we’d magically see the weight disappear. Well it can help, for awhile, but just avoiding food ignores a few other factors that go into weight loss and gain and can be really influential in what tips the scale.

Let’s take a look at a few of those.


Who is saying? “A-HA, I knew it! These hips had to come from somewhere.” Well, body structure may be genetic, but the idea that we may or may not be able to help how fat we are is depressing. Why should our mothers, grandmother’s etc etc diets affect how we struggle today? The answer is that everything impacts something else. There is still research going on as to how diet can actually affect a baby’s genes at time of conception with a direct link to the mother’s diet (these guys think it does) but definitely good nutrition is necessary for a baby to develop well: the foundation for life doesn’t start after the the baby is born, it starts with the mother’s lifestyle (and less directly the father’s because of genetic environment) when the baby is conceived.

Conversely if a mother’s diet is terrible, if she smokes or consumes alcohol or drugs it weighs into a child’s beginning in life, which will lead into possible childhood diabetes or obesity or all those similar problems that plague adults plus some. We are what we eat also becomes, “we are what our mothers ate.”

But, there is hope
We can’t change our genes, but changing the environment our genes live in is entirely possible. It’s called gene expression and it changes the way molecules bind to DNA or the structure of proteins the DNA wraps around. The structural changes can then in turn start slight changes in gene activity or even more dramatically, switching genes on when they should be off or vice versa. We have to be what our grandparents ate, and our parents ate, but changing who we and our children become is within our control with each choice today.

Stress is the new fat

It’s certain that we all know stress is bad, but how bad is it? Well aside from the negative physical effects otherwise it’s also the culprit behind two hormones that are released: norepinephrine and cortisol.

Norepinephrine is a hormone released from the adrenal glands (and sometimes the brain) that is similar to epinephrine, or adrenaline. This is a “flight” hormone that gives us the necessary juice to run away from something dangerous or threatening and has saved many lives as it redirects power from less important bodily functions to concentrate on giving us the chance to react and move quickly, or for more primitive situations, actually escape.

In modern “us,” depending on the long-term impact of whatever is stressing us and how it is handled, it can take us anywhere from half an hour to a couple of days to return to a normal resting state. Because of this if we live in constant stress it is extremely hard on our adrenals, which in turn affects a number of factors including our tendency to gain or lose weight.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone commonly known as the stress hormone, and is made by the adrenal glands. The process for how cortisol is released is one we won’t go into here, but it’s another one of those hormones released in stressful or dangerous situations and in optimal amounts can be life saving. It helps maintain fluid balance and blood pressure while relegating the others that can take the back burner awhile. (immunity, digestion, growth, reproductive drive, etc) When you stew on a problem, the body continuously releases cortisol and chronic elevated levels can lead to serious issues. Too much cortisol might:

  1. Suppress the immune system
  2. Increase blood pressure and sugar
  3. Produce acne
  4. Contribute to obesity
  5. More

When we are stressed out constantly it’s more like a scene from primal days only in this case our busy, stressed and “easy” lives are just one step away from catching us and killing us. It’s the same hormones that kick in and keep us going. Especially when we sustain these levels for a long time it grinds us down until we have to drink and eat all manner of caffeine, sugar and simple carbs just to keep going everyday. This leads to extraordinary stress on the body functions already struggling when we add extra bad calories to an over-taxed metabolism and hormone production.

Sound like you? Check into:

  • adrenals
  • thyroid
  • hormones
  • more

Sleep, sleep, ZZZzzzzz

We all want reasons to sleep more, but few of us are careful to actually get enough sleep consistently. Because we can do it doesn’t mean we should, as sleep deprivation upsets the balance of our hormones, which triggers a decrease in leptin (helps you feel full) and an increase of ghrelin (which triggers hunger). This can make us think we’re hungry when we’re not (more mind games) and we eat. Now right after you have a baby this extra eating isn’t a bad idea and you know sleep loss is a given anyway, but at any other time of life it just leads to compromising your health. The body has to sleep for x amount of hours to recharge, and usually it is wisest to get a few of those hours in before midnight to get a more restful night.

This is still debated though, as some argue that essential hormones are produced only at certain times in the night, and others say it doesn’t matter when you get the rest as long as you get the rest. Either way, if you have to be up at 6 in the morning being in bed by 10-11 is highly recommended to repair cells while asleep, and help us to control our hunger during the day when we eat or drink to stay awake. (also see this article on adrenal fatigue. It is written from an athlete's standpoint, but has good information about how to recognize if your adrenals are stressed)

Conclusion? Sleep may be the cheapest and easiest obesity treatment there is.

Changing our Choice

Choice goes two ways: we can either,

  1. Make a decision based on what we want today or..
  2. We can decide to make decisions based on what is best for tomorrow.

Choices are made one at a time, but they are made for a better tomorrow. Choose wisely, because your future and the future of your children depend on it. Where you end then is where they will start, and you will live a wiser, healthier, happier and more energetic life.

Grilled Summer Salad

Speaking of choices, this is a very good one. Our test kitchen whipped up summer salad the other day with grilled chicken, strawberries, feta, toasted almonds and balsamic dressing and the results were tasty indeed.

Begin by chopping and prepping all the ingredients, such as lettuce and strawberries, and toasting the almonds.

Mix balsamic vinaigrette:

  • ½ c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 ½ Tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp. ground dried ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • black pepper to taste

Turn grill on high. Rub chicken on both sides with olive oil and then season with salt and pepper and grill until done.

Start assembling. It won’t take much, just layer everything on and mix.

Drizzle balsamic over top and top with feta.

Done! We’ll see you all next week. 

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