If you’ve been struggling to lose weight for a while now, than you’ve likely combed through just about every aspect of your lifestyle, trying to figure out where you’re going wrong. Are you eating too many calories? Have you indulged in too many carbs? Are you not exercising enough? You keep trying different diets, you’re tracking your steps, you’re exercising every day, you’re counting every morsel of fat that goes into your mouth – so why does it feel like losing weight is just so much harder than it used to be?
Because, says a new research study published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice. Because it just is.
The researchers analyzed dietary data of over 50,000 Americans from the years 1971 to 2008. Their analyses revealed a startling trend: “A given person in 2006, eating the same amount of calories, taking in the same quantities of macro-nutrients like protein and fat, and exercising the same amount as a person of the same age in 1978 would have a BMI that was 2.8 points higher,” summarizes The Atlantic.
In other words, according to this pattern, if you followed the same diet plan and exercise program that your mom did thirty years ago, you’d still probably be ten percent heavier than she was at your age.
“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight,” says York University professor Jennifer Kuk, one of the key researchers conducting the study. “It indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity, beyond just diet and exercise.”
What could these mysterious factors be that are making good health and a healthy weight so much more difficult for us to maintain these days? The exact cause(s) is not clear yet, but the researchers have a few ideas.
Kuk suspects a number of prevalent environmental chemicals, such as BPA in metal food cans, flame retardants, phthalates, pesticides, etc., all of which are known hormone disrupters that confuse the way our bodies gain and maintain weight.
Prescription drugs are also potentially responsible. Use of several prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, Prozac and others, is vastly higher than it was just thirty years ago. Many of these drugs have been noted for their observable side effects, such as weight gain.
The gradual destruction of our healthy gut bacteria is also a factor, Kuk argues. When eating a diet high in antibiotic-treated meat, sweeteners and processed foods, friendly bacteria living in the gut start to die out while unhealthy bacteria and yeasts start to overgrow and infest other parts of the body. While gut bacteria, in the proper balance, play a powerful role in keeping us healthy and keeping our weights down, an unbalanced community of gut bacteria can start to wreak havoc on our health and our weight. The typical modern American diet is high in processed foods that allow the wrong kinds of bacteria to flourish, while the use of antibiotics, hormones and chemicals in our modern food system kill good bacteria and leave our bodies weak, unhealthy and prone to weight gain.
Many of the present-day factors that we have to contend with in this era are difficult to get a handle on and moderate in our lives. It’s important to realize this when struggling with weight loss, allowing you to lessen self-blame and to treat yourself with more compassion, understanding and acceptance when trying to lose weight.
However, at the same time, studies like these must also highlight the fact that now, more than ever before, we need to be very vigilant about the lifestyle factors that are within our control – how we eat, how we drink, how we exercise, and what sorts of things we expose ourselves to – because we just can’t get away with the same sort of passive complacency about our health that our parents may have been able to.
Making responsible choices about your health by using smart, safe strategies for healthy weight maintenance was never as important as it is right now. For while we may have to accept the things we cannot change, the time has come to change, once and for all, the things that you absolutely refuse to accept – especially when it comes to your health, your well-being and your future.