5 things that might cause obesity that aren’t your fault

We live in an obesigenic environment.

That means you don’t have to sit on the couch all day, eating a lot of fatty foods and drinking a lot of sugary beverages to become obese. There could be other reasons besides lifestyle choices.

You know you're active and you eat well. You enjoy snacks, treats and fast food sometimes, but who doesn't? So why do you weigh so much more than people you know whose habits are the same as you?

You know you’re fairly active and you eat well. You enjoy snacks, treats and fast food sometimes, but who doesn’t? So why do you weigh so much more than people you know whose habits are the same as yours?

Your weight may be a consequence of pollution, meds, or even germs.

Science is looking for answers to explain why the rate of obesity continues to grow. Studies are starting to provide some answers.

We know that many of us live sedentary lives and that’s part of the problem. Some people have trouble managing the food they eat to match their energy needs. In our environment where highly palatable food is always close at hand, the need to eat is a real hunger for some people that scientists identified as “hedonic hunger,”

What else could be behind an increasingly obese population?

ABC news reported “5 Thinfluences on your Weight.”

Some of the things that influence your weight are globally accepted and no surprise. Others, are surprising, but more than surprising, maybe a little scary.

Thinfluence #1 Family, Friends, and other people with whom you maintain a close contact (co-workers)dreamstime_m_18409314

You inherit traits from your parents including, possibly one or more of the more than 300 obesity genes identified by modern science. Your family influences your weight in more ways than simply genetically. If you live in the same house you probably eat the same foods, similar amounts, and share common activity habits.

People who spend a lot of time with you influence you to eat, what you eat, and how much you eat, either directly or indirectly. They also influence your activity pattern as well. You say, “let’s go bowling.” Your friend says, “let’s go to the movies.” You go to the movies and when you get there your friend says, “let’s get a big, buttered popcorn and split it. It’s cheaper that way,” and you say, “okay.”

Thinfluence #2 MedicationsScreen Shot 2014-07-24 at 7.55.46 AM

We know that certain anti-cancer drugs have been known to cause weight gain as well as the anti-inflammatory drug, Prednisone. Research is showing some other commonly prescribed medications may to be linked with weight gain too.

Some of the worst offenders, the study found, are drugs used to treat allergies, infections, heart disease, diabetes, depression and cancer. In other words, some of the most commonly used medications.

Thinfluence #3 PollutionScreen Shot 2014-07-24 at 7.55.28 AM

This is a new one to me and definitely a scary one since there is no where on the planet to get away from pollution.

“… persistent environmental baddies — such as insecticide DDT, dioxin and PCBs — have been identified as possible candidates for upping the risk of both obesity and type II diabetes.”

Maine paper industries polluted our Maine air and water with dioxins. We knew some of the dangers of this toxic waste product but perhaps there are more we are just learning about including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Thinfluence #4 SleepScreen Shot 2014-07-24 at 7.55.16 AM

Sleep has been recognized to be so important for a healthy weight that Weight Watchers incorporated a recommendation for at least 7 hours of quality sleep into its 16 healthy routines.

There is a lot of interest and speculation about the relationship between sleep and weight. Studies are showing there might be a relationship with lack of sleep and hormones that regulate hunger and satiety.

Another possible reason that poor sleep is a factor in obesity is higher stress levels from lack of sleep. The stress levels combined with poor coping skills would lead to emotional eating challenges.

Thinfluence #5 VirusScreen Shot 2014-07-24 at 7.55.03 AM

If you have been a regular reader of my blog you may remember on June 25th I wrote about “Infectobesity.”

The term Infectobesity was created in 2001 by Dr. Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center as a result of studies showing that the origin of obesity in some people might be caused by pathogens.

Studies are showing that there could be both bacteria and viruses that can change metabolism or increase body fat. This may be why some people pack on pounds without seeming to overeat.

Learning that we may be exposed to multiple things in our environment that make us fat should not be discouraging.

There may be things making you fat that are beyond your control just as you are exposed to things that make you sick. It’s usually not your fault for getting sick and may not be your fault for being obese. Much more research will be conducted to learn more about causes and management of obesity and why some people seem to be immune and others are at risk.

It also means that your obesity isn’t because you are a lazy, overeating, no-willpower-having, poor excuse for a human being, You don’t deserve to be judged, shamed or ridiculed.

Knowing that there may be more causes than we suspected affecting body weight makes it even more important that you stop trying to fight your weight on your own.

Weight loss may not be the do-it-yourself project you think it should be. There should be no embarrassment or shame in seeking professional help.

Just as you wouldn’t try to cure yourself of disease such as cancer using an app on your smart phone or buying a book on the subject, it’s just as impractical to try to lose weight that way.

In some cases, medical intervention from qualified specialists such as a bariatric physician may be necessary. Help is available from safe, scientifically sound commercial weight loss services that combine proven weight loss science and nutrition with group support.

It’s time to stop beating yourself up, hating yourself, and feeling as though you deserve the discrimination and poor treatment from fatty haters and shamers. They are ignorant, they don’t understand, and don’t have the right to judge people about whom they know nothing! (Actually what gives anybody the right to judge another for any reason at all?)

What’s making you fat may not be you, but you can get help to make yourself healthier!


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.