Weight: One Piece of the Puzzle
The online community will never replace real flesh and blood, as some warn. But, I have “met” some fine folks from all over the globe via this blog and other internet sources. I think it’s pretty fantastic. Several of the people with whom I dialogue have made a public conversation around the issue of weight loss, or weight issues, in general. That’s pretty brave, I think, and also can be very inspiring. I have shied away from this topic on this blog, mainly because it is not my area of specialty.
Having said that, I do have some experience with weight matters and body image. My mother, whom I lost 30 years ago, was overweight much of her adult life, and often shared her various thoughts and feelings with me concerning her health (she had Lupus) and weight. It was frustrating for me, being so young, and wanting so much to help her, while not having a clue what would actually be helpful. As I became a teenager, I began to struggle with my weight, too. I never had the amount of excess weight Mom carried, but that was mostly because my food sensitivities made it painful, most of the time, to eat.
Which brings us to the topic I want to look at today: the connection between food sensitivities and overweight. During my training as a health coach, I learned that many Americans have a silent, underlying condition which we are beginning to hear more of. In fact, it’s been called “silent inflammation.” I also learned that pretty much everyone who is obese has inflammation of this type. It’s a bit like the inflammation you get when you have a small cut on your finger that gets infected and inflamed – puffy, tender, and red. Now, imagine each cell of your body having a bit of that condition, a systemic inflammation. Imagine that this condition is chronic. You can probably tell that it’s not a good thing.
We’re still learning about silent inflammation. One thing we know is that it has been implicated in numerous well-known killer diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. We also know that sugar is a big contributor to systemic inflammation. Oh, the connection seems so much more obvious now, doesn’t it? The same sugar that makes it hard to control our weight also causes inflammation. Not only sugar, though. White flour, white rice, and even other grain products are simple carbohydrates, which means they basically turn into sugar within minutes when eaten.
Inflammation is also a cause of leaky gut. Your gut (intestines) is supposed to have tiny holes through which digested food passes to be carried by your blood to anywhere it can be used. But, inflammation actually causes these holes to become greatly enlarged, which allows much larger things to pass through. In other words, undigested food can get into places here it was never meant to be. Your body does not recognize undigested food! Your immune response kicks in to attack the “invader,” the undigested food. Now, you have an immune response that can, in turn, create more inflammation.
According to one speaker I heard, when researchers examined the fat cells of obese persons, guess what they found? Immune cells! (macrophages, actually) The fat cells were inflamed, just as though there was some sort of low-grade inflection or foreign invader to be fought off.
I am not a scientist or a doctor. But, when I heard all of this, I was alarmed. It seems that all of these issues are connected in ways I had never imagined. Here’s the great part. Lots of people are able to get the whole mess of inflammation and related issues under control by addressing food sensitivities in a holistic way. They get rid of the offending foods, drastically reduce sugar and refined foods, lose some of the excess pounds, the inflammation comes under control, and they begin to feel like moving around a bit more, due to more energy and less painful joints and muscles. In fact, I know a person who is beating diabetes these days, after losing weight and learning how to manage his diet and lifestyle.
The point is that it’s about so much more than weight. I did not like the way I looked with excess pounds, but what motivated me was that I did not want to end up sick or worse, like my mom. I have 5 children who needed their mother! And now that I’m a health coach, helping folks tackle food sensitivities and related issues is what I do.