Underlying most weight-loss efforts is a pretty bold assumption -- namely that your body is being honest about when you are hungry or full and that your body's goal in eating is to take in the amount of energy you need to survive.
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Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
If you've ever tried to lose weight, you probably know that stress, sleep deprivation, energy-dense foods, inactivity and a whole host of other lifestyle and social factors can contribute to the success or failure of your weight-loss plan.
However, there are a plenty of other factors you may have never heard of that could be contributing to your weight. If you've ever felt that everything (literally everything) is making you fat, you might be right. Check out a few of those things below (and try not to get too mad):
Since the 1960s, researchers have been talking about the "thrifty gene" hypothesis. The idea is that your body is genetically calibrated to prepare for a food-insecure environment. Hunter-gatherers didn't always have access to food, and in those instances they survived by living off fat stores built up during the times that they had food (though this idea has been criticized).
Read More: Create the Best Diet for You
This evolutionary imperative can cause your body to store a larger proportion of your food as fat and potentially cause you to eat more than you need to in preparation for a famine that will (hopefully!) never come.
Our society pretty much has it in for fat people. We make fun of them in public and on television, and health researchers talk about the burden they place on society00016-X/abstract) instead of addressing any health problems they may have.
Research has shown that this stigma leads to higher weight, especially among women, probably because of the stress and low self-esteem that is part of being stigmatized. This means that if you're feeling badly about your weight, those feelings might be part of the problem.
More and more research has linked chemicals in our daily lives with obesity. While pretty much everyone has heard of BPA, which used to be in plastic water bottles -- and is still in the lining of most food cans -- there's also evidence to suggest that nicotine, ingredients in PVC plastics (organotins and phthalates) and compounds in some pesticides can cause weight gain.
These chemicals typically either mess around with how your genes express themselves (potentially interfering with that "thrifty gene" mentioned above) or alter how and when your body tells you that you're full, causing you to eat more than you need to.
Your New Diet
A lot of people are going to start new diets next month, probably unaware that dieting has been linked to weight gain over the long haul. In fact, the more times you try to lose weight, the more weight you are likely to gain.
There are lots of potential reasons for this, including the psychological pressures of weight loss, the stress of frequently feeling hungry and that when you go hungry, your body is more likely to store energy as fat the next time you eat.
The major problem here is that restrictive diets are hard to maintain over the long periods of time required to safely change your body composition, and if you give them up, you may end up heavier than when you started.
Where You Live
Some places are just no good for weight loss. There are proven links between a neighborhood's "walkability00514-X/abstract)" (for example, are there sidewalks, and are they in good repair?) and obesity. Furthermore, there are places, especially in the inner cities, where people do not have access to healthy food because they are too far from a quality supermarket (though this has been debated recently). This means that living in a bad neighborhood can contribute to your weight gain (or interfere with your weight loss) by making it nearly impossible to exercise and eat right.
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OK, so this all may sound pretty depressing. Fortunately, there are several strategies to overcome all this bad news. Specifically, research shows that people who succeed in their weight-loss goals are those who use different methods to reach their goals, don't waste time on wishful thinking (the promises of fad diets go in this category) and, perhaps most importantly, don't beat themselves up when things don't go perfectly.
So while it may seem that everything around you is making you fat, if you have the right outlook you can make yourself fit.
Readers -- Have you struggled to lose weight and get fit, despite your best efforts? Have you ever consulted a nutrition or fitness professional to help you lose weight? Did it help or not? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Benjamin Spoer, M.P.H., is a Ph.D. student at NYU's Global Institute of Public Health interested in obesity and urbanism. He received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.P.H. from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. You can find more of his work on OZY.com, and you can follow him on Twitter. Additionally, he's done a number of marathons, triathlons and bike races, which he thought would get him out of exercise for life. He was wrong. Now he cooks a lot and makes jokes about being a ginger.