Most people believe they become overweight because they have lost their willpower or discipline. They think that they just got off track and are eating too much of the high calorie foods. They also believe that if they just focus for a short period of time, they can eliminate the problem and live life as they want again. These assumptions are half truths. Of course we gain weight by eating too many high calorie foods, but this issue goes much deeper.
Our body was built to make fat. Fat is a store for energy needed for the future. Fat is a cushion and protector of our internal body parts and fat is an insulation against the cold. But fat is much more than that. Our body fat is an organ in itself. It sends messenger and hormone signals to our body in an attempt to regulate how much body fat we have. It can signal our eating patterns and it can warn our body when we are overproducing.
It plays a role in our immune system and when it becomes excessive, it can trigger an inflammatory response. Fat interacts with every part of our body. Throughout history fat’s purpose in our body was to protect against starvation. Though starvation is still a major problem in the world, it is much less an issue in developed countries. The opposite has become the plague on us. Carrying too much body fat has created a new set of downstream diseases and disorders and having excess fat itself is a disease.
Many people have become aware of this with our COVID 19 pandemic. The vast majority of people who perished or were severely ill with this viral disease were elderly or obese. One of the onerous signs that a person would have a worse outcome due to COVID was related to their body mass. The question is why did excess body weight and fat create such a negative outcome when a person contracted this virus. The answer is not new to science. All medical disorders are made worse by obesity.
Obese people live shorter lives. They develop many other comorbid conditions. They are more prone to heart disease, strokes, blood clots, pneumonia, organ failure, many cancers, arthritis, and the list can go on and on. The reason is found in our body’s inflammatory response. COVID 19 is essentially two different diseases. The first is the viral infection which we should be able to survive if in reasonably decent health. The second component and the one that kills people is the subsequent inflammatory response our body has to the virus.
We heard of the “Cytokine Storm” with COVID 19. This is when inflammatory substances are produced at such a high level to attack the virus, that they end up attacking and destroying our own tissues. Why do some people have a greater or uncontrolled inflammatory process than others? There are many factors, but one of the main causes is excess body fat. Our body fat organ produces cytokines. When we have high levels of body fat, we produce higher levels of cytokines.
When an infection occurs more cytokines are produced and in short order our body is overwhelmed with inflammation. High dose steroids were found to suppress this inflammation and saved many lives. Obesity reduces our immune systems fighting ability. It reduces our respiratory effort. It puts pressure on our heart’s pumping action and blood flow. It restricts blood flow back to the heart and can stagnate blood flow in our extremities.
Now that I’ve discussed the negative effect of excess body fat on our health, let me return to the cause of our excess body fat and why it’s not your fault. We were built to make fat as a safety mechanism against starvation. In fact, if our ancestors couldn’t have easily converted food to fat, none of their descendants would have been here, that’s us. As we have become more adept at creating food sources and as technology has allowed us to be less active, our ability to make fat has gone from a survival mechanism to a disease creator. We can now easily eat more calories than we burn.
As our body grows excess fat, inflammation occurs and other disorders soon develop. The more fat tissue, the greater the inflammation. The foods that we over consume are readily converted into fat storage. Sugar and carbohydrates are broken down for fuel, but when unused are converted into storage fat. The design of our body is the underlying cause of our excess weight. Not a lack of willpower or discipline. Because this is a genetically based problem, we must learn how to beat these fat genes.
Certainly, what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat plays a major role in creating a leaner or more fat body. More importantly, eating properly and being active to burn up more of our consumed calories can turn off some of the genes that so readily make us hungry and allow us to overeat and produce excess fat. The study of Epigenomics is related to how we can turn on and turn off our genes. When we eat too much and are inactive, we gain weight which directs a genetic blueprint to adjust to this action. The opposite occurs when we undereat and burn off our fuel as we get it. Our genetic blueprint adjusts to this behavior and our ability to produce excess fat is reduced.
We can control our body’s ability to make and use fat and we can essentially turn on and turn off these genes over time. For some of us with a larger amount or stronger genetic propensity for weight gain, this will be more difficult. In any case with the correct treatment, this disease can be treated, controlled, and put into remission.
At the beginning of this blog, I stated that it’s not your fault that you carry excess body fat. It’s a genetic, biochemical, hormonal, psychological disorder created in the times we live in. Though it’s not our fault, it is 100% our responsibility to correct the disorder. Through education, hard work, persistence, and proper treatment, this plague of our time can be beaten. I ask that you consider your current situation and decide to reach out for the help that we all need to conquer overweight syndrome and obesity.
Stop blaming yourself for being overweight. Start taking control of the situation. A treatment plan consisting of a nutritional change, daily physical activity, metabolic and hormonal evaluation and optimization, along with a change in our thinking and behavior can change our lives for the better for the rest of our lives. Take a single step today and slowly develop this new way of living and know that I and my team are here to help.