What Makes Me the Weight I Am?
There's no easy answer to this question. What you weigh — and how easily you
lose weight and keep it off
— depends on a variety of factors. Some (how much you
within your control; others (genetics,
body type) aren't. Read
on to learn more...
Heredity: Your genetic makeup (the physical traits that get passed
down to you from your parents) plays a big part in determining your size and
weight. Fatter people tend to have very efficient
metabolism; they require less fuel to run than thin people, and store excess
fuel in the form of fat. As powerful as they are, genes only determine a
tendency towards higher or lower metabolic efficiency; they do not by themselves
determine what actual body metabolism will be.
Body-Type: Have you ever heard someone say a person is "big
boned"? It's a way of saying the person has a large frame, or skeleton. Big
bones usually weigh more than small bones. That's why it's possible for two
person with the same height, but different weights, to both be the right weight.
Each type has its own advantages and characteristics.
Ectomorphs are typically tall and thin, and don't gain fat or
muscle as easily as
others. They make good distance runners and ballet dancers.
Mesomorphs are generally shorter and stockier and gain muscle mass (and
weight) more easily. They are good at power sports like soccer, softball and
Endomorphs carry more body fat
— their metabolisms actually slow down when they try to lose weight. They excel
field events and weight lifting.
Set-point theory: According to this theory, each person has a
predetermined level of body fat. How the body controls its fat stores is
unknown, but the regulatory mechanism, sometimes called the adipostat, is
probably located in the hypothalamus. The adipostat monitors body fat stores,
possibly through the actions of leptin on its hypothalamic receptor, and works
to maintain the prescribed level of fat, or set point, by adjusting appetite,
physical activity, and
RMR to conserve or expend energy. Thus, actions perceived to be voluntary, such
as eating and physical activity, may be subtly controlled by the set-point
B.M.R: For every ten years beyond our early to mid-twenties our
metabolism slows about 10%. While a reduction in metabolism is observable as we
age, such a reduction may be more due to a sedentary lifestyle than to mere
aging. Muscle tissue is metabolically active compared to fat, and thus our
metabolic level at any moment is in large part due to the state of our
mass. Inactivity accelerates loss of muscle tissue over time which decreases
metabolism, making it all but certain that weight will be gained.
the other hand, reduces muscle loss, or even increases muscle mass, with the
effect of increasing metabolism and making it easier to lose weight.
Diet: A person's food related
habits and cultural expectations are also
important determinants of their weight, influencing the types and amounts of
foods consumed. families who push members to eat, or who keep high fat
deserts handy are at greater risk for weight problems than are families that
portion sizes and save treats for special occasions. The speed
at which people learn to eat and the consciousness with which they do so are
important too. People who eat quickly tend to eat more than people who eat
slowly as it takes a few minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it is full.
Fast eaters sometimes finish their plates before getting the stomach's fullness
message. In theory, if you cut 500 calories a day from your diet, you'll lose a
pound in a week. In real life, it's not that simple. For example, a woman
weighing 125 pounds at age 20, and starts the pattern of overeating by just 25
calories a day will consume 9,125 excess calories over the course of a year and
so will gain 2 1/2 pounds (a pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories)
and weigh 175 pounds by the time she is 40.
Activity Level: Where a person's genetics are more or less set at
conception, the amount of energy a person expends in physical activity is under
voluntary control. People can choose to be more active, and becoming more active
will help people to lose weight. Exercise builds lean muscle mass and burns up
fat reserves. Muscles are very metabolically active. Adding muscle mass through
strength training raises metabolism (the rate at which the body burns calories)
which makes it easier to lose weight. A significant loss of muscle mass, on the
other hand, which is what happens when people are sedentary, reduces resting
metabolic rate and makes it harder to lose weight. Adding muscle mass helps
people to look firmer and slimmer because muscle takes up less space than fat.
Careful strength training reduces the risk of accidental
density, helps with digestion and assists in lowering
cholesterol and triglyceride levels (all predictors of disease when elevated).
Behavioral and psychological issues: Several psychological factors
affect weight. The message to eat often comes from external cues rather than
hunger--noon means it's time for lunch, for example. Food and emotions are
closely linked; many people use food for comfort or to release tension. The
amount of exercise a person engages in is also shaped by habit and attitudes
toward physical activity. Some studies suggest that lean people may expend more
energy than obese
people in ordinary activities, as well as during formal exercise. For example,
lean people may walk around (rather than sit) while on the phone, or they may
take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator.
Hormonal (endocrine) abnormalities: An underactive
thyroid (hypothyroidism) is often a layperson's explanation for obesity, but
even when present, hypothyroidism is rarely a primary cause. Other conditions
that may affect weight include polycystic ovary disease, tumors of the pituitary
or adrenal glands, an insufficient production of sex hormones, and
insulin-producing tumors of the pancreas. Although they are uncommon, these
disorders need to be ruled out by a thorough medical evaluation before
determining the best course of action to achieve weight loss.
Medications: About 50 common medications can
cause weight gain, but they don't all have the same effect on all people. Some
of the most common types of drugs that can add unwanted pounds include steroids,
hormones, and certain drugs used to treat
blood pressure, depression,
psychological disorders. But it isn't always the drug's fault. For instance, if
a drug eases your
depression or relieves your heartburn, you may feel better and eat more.
with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of the drugs you take might be
affecting your weight. Whatever you do, never stop taking a prescribed
medication without your doctor's approval.
Remember, how much you weigh is a
balance between the calories you eat and the calories
you use. If you eat more calories than your body needs to use, you will gain too
much weight. If you spend your free time watching TV, your body won't use as
many calories as it would if you played basketball, skated, or went for a walk.
If you are in balance, your weight will stay right for you as you grow. But
if you eat more and exercise
less, you may become overweight. On the other hand, if you eat less and exercise
more, you may lose weight.
There is no perfect weight for anyone, but there is a healthy range of
weights for everyone. Being at a healthy weight really pays off. It will
decrease your risk for high blood pressure, raised blood cholesterol levels and
diabetes, all risk factors for developing