Obesity is tough to deal with. For many people, simply finding a way to maintain a healthy weight can be hard enough — with sedentary lifestyles being more or less the norm, unhealthy food and temptation around every corner, and positive, healthy habits being hard to develop and maintain. The cards are stacked against us, in most cases, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve seen exploding rates of obesity in the United States.
Once you do hit a certain weight, it can be even harder to get it back down again. You become aware that you’re overweight, and must do something about it. But our bodies fight against that — we have a sort of built-in inertia — and oftentimes friends and family aren’t of much help. Then, you end up behind a desk all day, and partially due to horrible sleep and dietary habits, don’t have the energy to hit the gym at the end of the day. It’s a tough cycle to break.
But to retake the upper hand, we have to find ways to break it. It can mean small and incremental changes to our diets. Eating alternatives to red meat, for example, or even inserting small bursts of physical activity into our daily routines. These small changes cascade into bigger ones, and before we know it, we’re instilling enough discipline and habits to get back on the path to health.
If you’re struggling with your weight, and can’t manage to get motivated to alter your habits, taking a look at some of the more horrifying side effects of obesity may be enough to change your mind. Yes, you’re likely already dealing with plenty of issues as a result of gaining weight, but your body is slowly and subtly being compromised by fat as well — in a few remarkable ways that are particularly insidious.
Here are four of the scariest ways that obesity is ravaging our bodies, and keeping our health compromised.
1. Your cognition suffers
You’ve probably read about the connection between physical activity and cognitive ability. Essentially, researchers have stacks of studies and information showing that the leaner and better shape we’re in, the healthier our brains are, and the more cognitively active we can be. The problem is that the opposite is also true. As we gain weight, our brains suffer.
As we gain weight, and as a result (or as a catalyst) become more lazy and lethargic, we can actually harm our brains in the long-term. Research has shown that obesity and laziness during middle-age can lead to serious cognitive suffering in our later years. All the more reason to make sure you get in shape, and stay in shape, early.
2. Your brain is lunch
This is perhaps the scariest revelation of all: Being overweight can actually put your brain cells, or neurons, on the menu. Research has shown that as you gain weight, there is an overlying impact on certain protective cells in your body, the macrophages. Those macrophages become lethargic at a certain point, and stop seeking out prey — and instead start munching on the nearest tissues. In the case of your brain, those are your neurons. So, being overweight literally makes your body’s cells start consuming your brain.
3. Your body is being ‘reprogrammed’
Since nobody ever tires of Terminator references, we can once again reiterate that obesity can cause your body to effectively go ‘Skynet’ on you. That is, obesity can reprogram your body’s systems to turn against you, making it harder and harder to lose weight. It has to do with the presence of certain proteins in your cells, which activate and go into a sort of ‘self-preservation mode,’ preserving fat in your system. It’s a simple survival mechanism, which is unfortunate when you’re trying to destroy those cells to lose weight.
And yet, as researchers have shown, fat can literally hijack your body, and keep you overweight.
4. You enter a cycle of stress
Obesity is hard on your body, and so is stress — so it only makes sense that one awful thing should cascade into another. Higher concentrations of body fat have been linked to higher levels of stress, which actually sends people into a tailspin. Being stressed out makes it harder for your body to burn fat and lose weight, and when you are trying to lose weight but can’t, you get more stressed out. It’s as vicious of a cycle as there is. And the science backs it up.
It’s but another insidious outcome of obesity, and one of the chief reasons that losing weight is so difficult.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger