Weight loss is a big business. In fact, Boston Medical Clinic says:

An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight loss products.

Sit on that number for a moment–45 million Americans, and $33 billion. Those who are unhappy with their weight are far from alone in this. Roughly 14% of Americans go on a diet each year because they see themselves as overweight. If that many people view themselves as weighing too much, it’s not just that some people have a problem–there’s something systemic about this problem.

Many people incorrectly attribute weight gain to just overeating and a sedentary lifestyle. This often leads to following the latest fad diet or workout. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple for most people. Weight gain can come from hormone imbalances, a poor understanding of food and nutrition, and various other “healthy” choices.

Why Diets Aren’t the Answer

If you have a 10-gallon gas tank in your car, how much gas do you need to give the car to have it run the best it can? Ten gallons. Any less and it won’t get very far, any more and the tank will start to overflow. Your body works the same way. The tank is how much you have to do in a day. If you do an activity like cross-country skiing or swimming laps, you’ll naturally need to eat more. If you do less, you won’t burn that entire tank before refilling it.

Diets try to fit as many people as possible–the general idea is “eat less; do more”. The problem with this comes because not everyone is doing the same amount of work every day. If you’re sitting on the couch watching TV on day one of your diet, you’re going to feel differently than if you’re packing boxes into a moving truck on day five.

What fad diets are essentially trying to do is starve people’s bodies skinnier, but there are far more serious physical and psychological consequences to starving yourself than you may think.

A study was done in World War II by the United States with 36 conscientious objectors participating.

For three months the participants were slowly weaned off of a normal 3200 calorie-per-day diet down to one with only 1570 calories per day. These meals were high in carbohydrates and low in protein. The participants were told to keep up the same sort of lifestyle they’d had with the 3200 calorie per day diet–including walking a total of 22 miles a week. The results of this study were published in two volumes titled The Biology of Human Starvation.

To summarize, the participants’ strength was decreased by 21%, hearts shrank in size, and their blood volume dropped 10%. There were many more side effects besides, including slowed metabolism, dizziness, and cold. The participants’ eyeballs grew whiter as the blood vessels shrank. Politics, sex, and romance lost any sort of appeal while they began to read cookbooks and look at pictures of food with “almost pornographic obsession”. One of the participants also threated to kill one of the scientists putting on the study. Remember, this study was only done on conscientious objectors–people for whom killing was a non-negotiable; they would not do it. Once the participant was put back on a normal amount of food, his mental state returned to normal.

There were lasting consequences, however–especially mental ones. The participants had started from a 3200-calories-per-day diet. When they were put through rehabilitation, their food intake was increased to 4000 calories per day. Some of the participants stayed after the study to continue rehabilitation, and their food access became unrestricted. This led to an average intake of 5000 calories per day, with some eating as many as 11,500 calories per day. A “hunger they couldn’t satisfy” was also reported. In 2003, 19 of the original 36 participants were still alive. In an interview, they admitted that there were still aftereffects, and that they were haunted by the fear food would be taken away from them, again.

What about the Food Pyramid?

Weight loss happens when your body is healthy–your body doesn’t need to store excess nutrients and water weight. So what does your body need to be healthy? Your body needs to be able to rebuild broken pieces and keep processes working the way they should be. Therefore, it needs what it is made of. The old saying “you are what you eat” is backwards. It should be “you eat what you are”.

What is your body made of? 45% of your body is protein, 35% is fat, and 5% is carbohydrates. The rest of your body is made up of vitamins and minerals. Your brain is different. Your brain is 61% fat, 35% proteins, and 4% glucose sugar. Your body, then, needs mostly fat, then protein, then carbohydrates and sugars. How does that measure up against the food pyramid?

It doesn’t. And the history of obesity in the United States has shown that. You don’t have to look hard to find it. The CDC has a record of obesity trends from 1985 to 2010, and the difference is staggering. Do you know when the food pyramid was first introduced into the public, and–specifically–public schools? 1977.

The food pyramid is how we’ve been taught to eat, but the food pyramid is backwards, and the real-life evidence shows it. We’ve been taught that the only solution to staying trim and thin is to “eat less and do more,” even though there are studies from over seventy years ago showing that’s a dangerous method to use to try to lose weight.

Is it any wonder we’ve reached the statistic at the beginning of this article? Our bodies are imbalanced, and they’re reacting to it the way they’re supposed to–because bodies don’t make mistakes. We just haven’t been taught how our bodies work and how to keep them in shape.

The Real Effect Food has on Your Weight

The food you eat does have an undeniable link to your weight, but not necessarily in the way you’ve been taught to think. The fuel you take in has a lot more impact on your health and wellbeing than simply the amount you eat. The food you take in is what determines how hard and how much your body can work for the next while. If you’re eating food that’s not good for you, then, your body isn’t able to create good energy from it. This is why a lot of people think  “eating healthy” is the answer to their weight loss challenges.

Did you know that even healthy foods can be bad for you, though?

This is why, here at the Wellness Way, our first piece of advice is to always get your allergies tested. If you eat something you’re allergic to, your internal organs can become inflamed, the same way a finger becomes inflamed if you shut it in a door. It becomes red and puffy. When your body has a lot of inflammation, then, where can it go but out–expanding your body and resulting in undesired weight gain? How do you get rid of this inflammation and the resulting weight? Stop eating foods you’re allergic to, that then cause inflammation.

There are some foods that, even if you’re not allergic to them, help inflammation rather than your body. Sugar and dairy are some examples of these.

This can be hard, not necessarily because of the food itself that you’re cutting out, but because food is a very emotional thing. We turn to food as a comfort in anger and sadness, and even in celebration. That is why it can be very hard to break a food-centric habit. The good news is, The Wellness Way has multiple allergy-friendly recipes to help you get started. There’s also an app that makes cooking and baking with allergies easier.

Why Hormones Impact Your Weight

Hormone imbalances can wreak havoc on your body more than you may think. Hormones are the messengers that tell your body what to do and how to react to something. If an organ that makes a certain hormone is making too much or too little of that hormone, it can greatly influence the other organs and systems in the body.

If too much of a growth hormone is being made when you’re eating sugar, or your body is inflamed, that won’t help you lose that extra weight.

Did you know insulin is a hormone? As described by You and Your Hormones:

Insulin is a hormone made by an organ located behind the stomach called the pancreas. There are specialized areas within the pancreas called islets of Langerhans (the term insulin comes from the Latin insula that means island). The islets of Langerhans are made up of different type of cells that make hormones, the commonest ones [SIC] are the beta cells, which produce insulin.

If your hormones like insulin are out of balance, your body won’t be able to absorb sugar as well. If your body can’t absorb sugar, it gets stored as fat.

Are you stressed? Stress can knock your hormones out of homeostasis, leading to a vicious cycle. When people can’t lose weight, they get stressed. When they’re stressed, their hormones become imbalanced, potentially leading to more weight gain.

To get your hormones and allergies tested and start your journey back to a healthy weight the healthy way, contact a Wellness Way clinic today.