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Why do I keep getting fatter?

With each passing day our bodies change before our very eyes. One day, we look in the mirror and our jaw drops in disbelief. “Who the heck is that and where did that belly come from?!” we say to ourselves. There is a clear explanation for what’s happening. It’s important to recognize that as sure as our outward appearance might change, our insides change, too.

Oftentimes, when I talk to people about their weight gain, they mention that they don’t eat any differently than they did in the past. However, no matter the calories in and out, continued weight gain seems to materialize.

Here’s the deal: Throughout your life, you experience different stressors, or triggers. These triggers, which vary from one person to the next, change the way that we tolerate food. Examples of common triggers are puberty, major lifestyle changes, stress (job, relationship, you name it), pregnancy, menopause, injury, general aging and our own birth (this means you have a genetic predisposition to store fat easily).

Your body changes out of a response to this trigger. Your hair might fall out, or your nails might go rigid. Often, we neglect to think about how this trigger affects our metabolism, but it definitely does. After this trigger, for example, you may continue to eat the same way that you ate in the past, which previously allowed you to maintain a state of wellness, yet now results in weight gain.

But weight gain and loss isn’t that simple. It’s not about your metabolism being good or bad, it just means that your body and its tolerance level has changed. A switch has flipped and things are different.

It’s important to understand that weight gain isn’t your fault. It has nothing to do with you, your personality, the amount of will power you carry or counting calories. Instead, the primary culprit for easier weight gain once it has started is the accumulation of belly fat (called visceral fat). This fat, the deep gel-like fat that packs in your belly area, fills up your organs, squeezes them tight, and is different from the rest of the fat in your body. You can’t melt, laser, freeze or sculpt it away. This special fat grows blood vessels, has an oxygen supply and secretes toxic hormones.

This belly fat-mass is metabolically active tissue with its own agenda; it is completely unregulated. The only thing this fat-mass wants to do is continue to grow and continue to get fatter as fast as possible. The hormones it is secreting in your body are there only to encourage its continued growth. It has urges, demands, desires and cravings. It slows your metabolism.

This visceral fat also secretes major inflammatory hormones. It lowers testosterone in men and increases the risk of estrogen dependent breast cancer in women. It is a beast and it’s why you’ve dropped weight in the past only to regain it.

To minimize the risk of weight regain and to be able to maintain weight loss, you must let go of all of the visceral fat that is causing this metabolic slow down. Understand this requires a different way of eating from the past for the rest of your life. Fortunately, these changes should feel outstanding!

If you have tried to drop weight in the past, only to regain it, do not think of yourself as a failure. Recognize triggers and adjust eating patterns to support your optimal health for the long term.

Ashley Lucas has a doctorate in sports nutrition and chronic disease. She is also a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is the founder and owner of PHD Weight Loss and Nutrition, offering weight management and wellness services in the Four Corners. She can be reached at 764-4133.