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Weight gain - Can we blame it on genetics?

Part of the reason that over half of the Australian population is overweight is a throwback to our ancient ancestors. That's right - one of the reasons that we humans gain weight and store body fat is largely genetic but not in the way that many people assume.

For hundreds of thousands of years, ancient man struggled constantly to get enough food to survive. Consequently, those people whose bodies were most efficient at metabolising and storing fat were best able to survive the following periods of drought or famine (i.e. survival of the fattest)!

Through natural evolution over thousands of years the human species has become an excellent hoarder of energy in the form of body fat. Unfortunately, with the massive changes that Western society has gone through over the past 200 years our body no-longer uses its fat stores to get us through the next famine. Rather than being reliant on our ability to hunt and gather, or even grow our own food, we now drop into the local supermarket, convenience store or take-away shop.

Rather than having to struggle to survive, we have a seemingly endless array of choice and accessibility to food. The longest famine that we are likely to suffer is no-longer measured in months or years, but in distance between drive through takeaway shop's or days until our next outing to the supermarket!

Because the human body has not had the time to evolve and adapt to these rapid changes it still follows the blue-print set by our ancestors - storing fat for famine

Many of us are all storing body fat for a famine that will never come...!

Survival mode - a metabolic catch 22

Whenever our ancestors experienced a famine, their bodies automatically lowered their metabolism. This helped to ensure that the limited amount of food they did consume would keep them alive for as long as possible. As they slowly depleted their stores of body fat, their bodies would create larger fat cells.

As soon as food was available again, these fat cells would spring into action and begin to store as much fat as possible, preparing the body for the next famine.

An understanding of this principle is extremely important when looking at modern day weight management programs. Because of the way our body's work, it is not good enough to simply lose the weight initially. If certain important steps are by-passed, this weight will be re-gained rapidly once old eating habits are resumed.

Hence the catch 22 - most people "diet" to lose weight, but by following certain "traditional" diets, you can inadvertantly pre-dispose your body to weight gain!

Fad diets = modern day famine

Many of the low fat diets that are being sold to weight conscious consumers starve the body of essential nutrients causing it to switch into "survival mode". As the metabolism slows, weight loss becomes harder and harder with many people becoming disheartened and finally giving up.

By reverting to old eating patterns, the new enlarged fat cells begin to store fat in preparation for the next famine, and most (if not all) of the weight previously lost is put back on.

This very briefly summarises the experience of many dieters in Australia who have become extremely frustrated in their efforts to lose weight... for life! Whilst many lose weight initially, their biggest disappointment comes when they feel powerless to stop the weight creeping back on once they finish "the diet".