A recent study, highlighted in The Atlantic, compared diet and exercise routines of people in the 1980s to those of people today. The researchers found that people are 10 percent heavier today, even when they’re on the same calories and exercise as their ‘80s counterparts. The study concludes that the “calories in, calories out” model that has been so popular over the past couple decades is flawed.
The Atlantic article goes on to discuss three possible reasons it’s becoming harder to keep the pounds off:
- People are exposed to pesticides, flame-retardants, preservatives, and other chemicals that mess with their hormones and cause them to put on fat.
- Prescription drugs like antidepressants have skyrocketed in popularity in the last 30 years, and many of them contribute to weight gain.
- Gut biomes are changing, possibly because of antibiotic and pesticide accumulation in factory-farmed meat. The study’s authors also think artificial sweeteners may affect gut bacteria.
It’s great to see this kind of research get coverage in the mainstream media. The human body is incredibly complex, and the “calories in, calories out” model is simply too, well, simple.
This isn’t the first time gut bacteria has come up on the Bulletproof blog, and one major reason the Bulletproof Diet recommends grass-fed meat and fresh organic veggies is to avoid hormone-disrupting toxins like pesticides and preservatives and to keep your gut bacteria happy.
Here are three other factors that may contribute to weight gain that aren’t related to calories or exercise: data-related stress, bright light at night, and the food your parents ate as kids.
Stress From Data Overload
In 2015, the average person consumes 176 newspapers’ worth of information every day. That’s five times more information than people took in in 1986. Ads, phones, billboards, apps, push notifications, the Internet—you’re constantly surrounded by stimuli, and your brain processes them all. The never-ending barrage takes a toll on your noggin, even if it feels so ordinary that you don’t notice it.
When you’re walking around, your brain is whirring in the background, choosing what you pay attention to and what you ignore. With so much stuff designed to grab your attention, your brain has to keep its filter running all the time, making micro-decisions that you don’t even notice. Add in the infinite information that’s a click away online and it’s no wonder that excess stimulation is stressing people out. Chronic stress contributes to weight gain and impairs decision-making.
You can hack stress from data overload a few different ways:
- Decrease the stimuli. Take note of the mobile apps you use and ask yourself what you get out of them. Does checking Instagram once an hour do much for you, or is it just distracting you from real life? If it’s the latter, try ditching it for a week or two and see how you feel.
- Train your brain to ignore the stimuli. A fast food ad is designed to make you crave a burger, but it’s useless if you shut off your cravings. That means controlling your hunger hormones. You can read up on how to conquer cravings in this post.
- Use neurofeedback. It can make you more self-aware and give you more control over your brain activity.
Electronics do more than give you endless data—they also emit light. If you’re up late on the computer, checking your phone at night, watching TV after sunset, or reading an e-book before bed, the blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Blue light decreases your melatonin production and messes with your sleep rhythm, and decreased sleep quality correlates with weight gain. There are easy hacks for light exposure:
- Download f.lux for your computer (it’s free!). When the sun sets, f.lux removes blue light from your screen, leaving only red light that doesn’t impact your sleep nearly as much.
- You can also get screen protectors that filter light for your various mobile devices. You can buy Zen Tech filters on Bulletproof’s online store.
Your Parents’ Bad Habits
You could be paying the piper for what your parents ate as kids and teens. More and more evidence suggests that the way your parents lived—especially when they were youngsters—impacts your genetics. If you’re a man and your father smoked when he was young, for example, you may be prone to obesity, and your parents’ diet may have influenced your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
We’re just starting to understand how habits can shape your genetics, and even your children’s and grandchildren’s genetics. What’s clear is that you can turn your genes on and off by changing your behavior. Say you have an alcoholism gene. If you never come into contact with alcohol, the alcoholism gene never turns on, and it doesn’t matter that you have it.
Similarly, if you’re prone to obesity or diabetes, you can conquer your genes by staying away from a diet and lifestyle that make you fat.
- Eat well. Eat high-quality food that makes you feel good, and avoid foods that are inflammatory or full of toxins.
- Manage stress. Keep yourself relaxed and minimize fat-storing cortisol.
This article was originally posted on the Bulletproof Blog.