It seems to make sense that if you eat less food, you'll lose weight. But that's not necessarily the case, according to Dr. John B. Cleek, an obesity medicine specialist with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners.
Dr. Cleek points out that genetics are responsible for 50 to 70 percent of a person's weight, but other factors contribute to what your bathroom scale tells you each morning. For example, if you don't get enough sleep, your metabolism decreases and your appetite increases.
"Any type of insomnia or sleep apnea makes it more difficult to control your weight," Dr. Cleek says.
He points out that the human body requires insulin to control blood sugar, but, as you gain weight around the midsection, it takes more and more insulin to keep your blood sugar in check. Meanwhile, the presence of insulin is a signal to the fat cells in your belly to grow larger.
"It's a vicious cycle. Your belly gets bigger and needs more insulin and round and round we go," says Dr. Cleek.
He says emotional factors such as depression and stress can also cause people to overeat and gain weight. He adds that where you live - which restaurants are nearby and convenient - can play a role in how difficult it is for you to maintain a healthy weight.
Emotional factors have intensified with the COVID pandemic. People are working from home more and moving much less. The distance to the computer from the bedroom is generally not very far. In addition, we are closer to the kitchen and available food while we work from home. To counteract these changes, it is important to keep the shelves stocked with healthy choices, not junk foods. Exercise becomes more important and you may want to consider workouts at home with videos on the computer or TV as a good option.
"At fast food restaurants, it's very easy to get extra portions and overeat when you are surrounded by good-tasting, but unhealthy food," he says. "You need a variety of healthy foods to control your weight."
According to Dr. Cleek, the key to attaining and maintaining your ideal weight is to determine what works for you. Your goal should be to consume food that is healthy but also tastes good to you, so you'll enjoy eating it.
"Telling someone who hates chicken to eat a lot of chicken isn't going to get us very far," he says. "In general, you should eat lean meats, lots of vegetables, some fruit and even some starch. But you have to take into account what your preferences are."
Dr. Cleek says no food should be excluded entirely from your diet.
"I don't believe there's a food you should never eat. I would argue that quantity makes a difference," he comments.
Isn't exercise also an essential factor for your health and well-being? Dr. Cleek says 80 percent of weight loss is diet, while only 20 percent comes from exercise. Those numbers are reversed, however, if you're talking about maintaining your weight.
So why is your weight such an important factor in your overall health? Dr. Cleek points out that how much you weigh is a predictor of many different diseases.
"It's mostly because of the fat we gain in the middle around the organs. This visceral fat is very damaging to the body, releasing chemicals that damage our systems, leading to cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke and heart disease," he says.
Are you concerned about your weight? Roper St. Francis Healthcare can help. To learn more about what can be done about obesity or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 958-2590 or visit rsfh.com.