Why Am I Gaining Weight? — I Am Not Eating That Much…

People in the world are getting fatter. Even in China where we did not hear about obesity problems a few decades ago, many kids are now sent to summer camps for overweight kids. Americans are, on average, eight pounds heavier than 10 years ago. Did you know that the current small size T-shirts are almost the same size that was medium a decade ago? Even in France, where, rumor had it, women never gain weight, we have started noticing more and more overweight people.

Two over weight people sitting on a bench

People in the world are getting fatter.

What is going on? Well, a short answer is overeating. A little bit longer answer is that people eat more than they need in their daily life. The human body is very efficient – whenever the body gets extra energy, it will save it for rainy days. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the rainy days never come to most of us. Think about it, throughout the history of mankind, starvation has always existed (and still “does” in many parts of the world.) Many people have died from starvation before they started dying from heart attack or cancer. In fact, malnutrition and war were the main causes of death throughout most of our history. Our body has not had time to re-adjust to this fact yet (we can eat as much as we want) and the mechanism that saves extra energy as body fat is making us fat.

Many people are wondering why they gained weight despite not eating that much. Well, the only thing body needs to gain weight is a tiny bit of extra calories every day. To gain one pound of fat, you need to have extra 3,500 calories beyond what your body can burn. If you eat 100 calories a day more than you need (which is a small cup of mocha chino), you will gain nearly one pound in about a month, and by the end of the year, you are ten pounds heavier. After 5 years, you gain 50 pounds!

There are two factors to contribute to this excess of energy balance: intake and expenditure. As our society is getting more convenient, people are eating more calories and spending less. These days, you don’t even need to go to a store to buy food. You can order food from a supermarket through the Internet and you can have it delivered to your door step. Many foods are already cooked and what you need to do is to put it in a microwave oven. It is well known that processed food is high in calories and people who often eat processed food gain more weight than people who eat home cooked meals.

People who eat out often, say several nights a week, have the same problem. If you are a rare epicurean who enjoys very fine food for taste, and not for calories, you may not have this problem, but for the rest of us eating out means eating fast food. By fast food, I mean, not only McDonalds©, but also many restaurants, such as a small Chinese restaurant that you can find on every other corner. Since they need to cut costs to be profitable (their profit margin is very small), they tend to use cheaper materials which are high in fat, sugar, and salt.

A woman sitting in front of a computer looked tired.

Even a small amount of daily excess of calories will accumulate as pounds of fat.

We also don’t spend enough energy every day. For example, as recent as 20 years ago, people in the office still walked around a lot when they were at work, but now everyone is sitting still in front of the computer all day long and not moving around much. You send an email to a guy next door, instead of going to his office to chat about the matter.

In about 30 minutes, a woman of 150 pounds spends about 35 calories while sitting still. If you are walking around 30 minutes, you spend about 100 calories. The difference is 65 calories (yeah, less than a cup of coffee with sugar and milk), but in about a year, if you walk around 30 minutes a day at work, you are seven pounds lighter than your colleague who sits in front of the computer all day long!

Now, you know why we are gaining weight. Let’s talk about why we can’t lose weight.

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