Why do some people gain weight, while others tend to eat like the proverbial horse, and not gain any excess at all? It is reported that globally, people have over the last 40 years, started to get fatter. This can be attributed to the fact that people are less active and eat too much fatty, sugary food for the amount of physical work they do. It is a basic fact that the body gains weight when intake of calories exceeds bodily needs for physical activity and growth.
It is not true that people are destined or programmed to be fat or thin. Like so many human characteristics, such as personality, physical or mental ability, the way a person turns out to be, is a combination of nature-nurture factors.
The natural element comes from genes inherited from our parents and the nurture factor; refers to the environment the person finds themselves in and the lifestyle which they lead. A very few people seem programmed to be fat or thin. For most of us in general, it is the type of life and the lifestyle led; that causes either weight gain or loss.
Despite this, there are four factors which influence weight gain. The first two can be decisively influenced by human intervention. The latter two are programmed into our bodies. However, there is some evidence that we can influence the functioning of these factors to a certain extent.
The amount of food consumed is, of course, one of the decisive factors as to whether or not there is weight gain. It is important to note that ‘how much?’ doesn’t mean how much in weight or quantity, but how much in terms of calories of food energy.
Most of the energy we get from food is used as fuel for normal body functions and physical activity. This energy is measured in kilocalories, usually known simply as calories. The amount of energy required varies from one person to the next. For example, a construction worker doing hard manual labour might require 3500 calories per day, whilst a receptionist in a sedentary job would need less than 2000 calories per day.
A substantial proportion of these calories (about two-thirds) is used to keep the body functioning and properly maintained. Energy is provided for vital organs – the heart, lungs, brain, liver and kidneys – for digestion, maintaining body temperature and for growth. The amount of energy needed to keep the essential functions of the body operating is termed the basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Physical activity and exercise
The remaining calories provide energy for physical activity such as manual labour, housework, sports activities or exercise. It has surprised medical researchers to discover how few calories; people burn up over and above the energy needed to maintain bodily functions. The main complicating factor appears to be the BMR.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
As referred to previously, BMR is the ‘tick over’ speed of the body, the rate at which energy is used to keep the heart beating, lungs expanding and contracting, and body temperature at the correct level.
BMR varies from person to person and is closely related to individual size. People with a lower BMR are more at risk of becoming overweight. You become overweight when you eat more food than you need to maintain your BMR and to fuel physical activities. The excess energy intake is mainly stored as fat, a kind of reserve fuel tank in case of further food shortages. For most of us, the food shortage never arrives and the excess fat builds up.
We all know of people who seem to eat huge amounts of food and yet stay slim. Research has shown that some individuals burn more calories than others of equal weight, even when doing the same physical labour and taking the same amount of rest. Fortunately, however, BMR does not have to remain static. The correct type of exercise can speed up the system by increasing the BMR so that more calories are used up.
This refers to the body’s ability to burn off excess calories as heat and varies from person to person. Thus people are able to convert food into cellular energy for what is referred to as ‘burn fat’ into heat. These people do not shiver from the cold but tend to automatically maintain body heat. It seems as if noradrenaline, produced by the adrenal glands, is responsible for the warm glowing feeling people get.
REMEMBER THAT TO BE HEALTHY; IT REQUIRES BEING IN CONTROL OF YOUR WEIGHT
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