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10 Surprising Reasons We Gain Weight
We all know the basic rule of weight gain: when you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Following simple logic, we assume the opposite is true, what we might call the basic rule of weight loss: when you eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight.
So why doesn’t weight management seem this simple? And how many of us really count the calories we eat and keep track of how many calories we burn? Is it humanly possible to do this while holding down a job and making time for all our other life responsibilities like raising kids, going to school, mowing our yard, paying our bills, doing the laundry, shopping, and everything else modern life requires?
If there is one thing almost everyone will agree on, life is complex. And anyone who has tried to lose weight, it appears true that weight management is very complex and quite mysterious.
We did a little digging in the medical annals and diet research, and found indeed that there are many, many factors that contribute to weight gain. Some we have never even heard of. Here are 10 surprising ways we gain weight, aside from the calories in/calories out theory.
Not enough fat in our diet. That is, not enough of the right fat. Essential fatty acids, otherwise known as the omega-3 and omega-6 good fats we find in flaxseeds, fish, nuts and seeds, really are essential. If we think a low-fat or non-fat diet will help us lose weight, we need to think again. Essential fatty acids maintain the body’s metabolic rate. The higher our rate of metabolism, the more efficiently we burn our fat and the more calories we burn doing ordinary everyday activities. Deficiencies of essential fatty acids not only lower our metabolic rate, they create food cravings, especially for fatty foods. What to do? Eliminate or severely reduce the bad fats and have omega-3 and omega-6 fats every day. Here’s information on how to tell the difference between good fats and bad fats.
Indigestion. When your body doesn’t digest the food you feed it, that food will turn into fat, according to Judy Mazel, author of The Beverly Hills Diet. Mazel believes that indigestion is a primary culprit in weight gain, especially for those who follow a sensible diet. What to do? Don’t eat too much at once. Supplement with a full spectrum digestive enzyme. Drink nothing or very little during your meals and for an hour afterward. Don’t eat when you’re upset. Try not to eat and work.
Food allergies. In addition to the rashes that arise when we have an allergic reaction to a food, there are internal side effects that can directly and indirectly contribute to weight gain. Bloating and swelling in the digestive track does not affect fat production, but it will add inches to your waistline, in addition to creating that uncomfortable feeling of fullness or bursting at the seams. The bloating is caused by fluid retention caused by inflammation of the intestines. The fermentation of undigested or poorly digested foods can also cause gas, resulting in a swollen belly. What to do? Look for tell tale symptoms of food allergies: headache, indigestion, fatigue, depression, canker sores, sinus congestion, wheezing, diarrhea or constipation. If you suspect a certain food, don’t eat it for two weeks (while keeping your diet otherwise normal) and see if these symptoms clear up.
Insulin resistance. A little known condition that might affect 25% of the population, insulin resistance causes the body to overproduce insulin in order for the insulin to be effective. Since the production of insulin tells the body to burn available glucose instead of fat, an excessive amount of insulin will contribute to the regular storage of fat, even when the fat might otherwise be burned as fuel. Those at risk for insulin resistance are people with a body mass index over 25, over 40 years old, have family members with type 2 diabetes, have high blood pressure and who are Latino, Africa American or Native American. If you suspect you might have insulin resistance, your doctor can diagnosis this.
Hypothyroidism. Our thyroid is highly involved in regulating our metabolism, including our digestive metabolism. The thyroid gland releases the hormone thyroxine, which stimulates our metabolic rate. An under-active thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroxine and this decreases the metabolic efficiency in the breakdown and digestion of our food. The undigested food, instead of being used for nourishment, turns into fat.
Prescription drugs. We all know that birth control pills will cause weight gain from water retention. There are other prescription drugs that may contribute to weight gain: certain antidepressants (particularly Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft), steroid anti-inflammatories (prednisone), drugs given for bipolar disorder, and beta blockers that are given for hyperthyroidism. There are others. If you are taking a prescription drug, read its side effects. If weight gain is one of them, you will have to work extra hard to keep your weight down.
Scrawny muscles. Muscles are the body’s most potent force for burning calories. Any activity, whether walking through a parking lot or running on the treadmill, will burn more calories if there are more muscles performing the actions. Greater muscle mass also increases our calorie burn when the body is at rest. Simply said, the more muscles a person has, higher their rate of metabolism.
Dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, it releases the hormone vasopressin, which tells the kidneys to siphon off some water from your urine and send it to your cells to hydrate their intracellular fluid. More simply said, when your body doesn’t have enough water to function, it holds on to the water it does have. This causes water retention. What to do? Drink 3-4 quarts of pure, clean water a day. Sugary drinks don’t count, in fact, they can contribute to dehydration while giving you the false impression that you’re drinking enough. Lightly sweetened herb teas are ok, as are very small amounts of fruit juice mixed in water.
Artificial sweeteners. Beware of the alternative sweeteners that boast zero calories. There are two reasons why they may cause weight gain to the unsuspecting dieter. In 2008, a study by Duke University found that Splenda contributes to weight gain and destroys beneficial bacteria in the intestinal track. Splenda and other fake sugars can also cause food cravings. Nutritionist Dr. Janet Starr Hull says that the body doesn’t recognize Splenda or other chemical sweeteners as food and therefore doesn’t experience the need for nourishment.
Food combinations. There is medical research that shows that the ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat directly affects our insulin levels, which in turn, affect how much fat our body burns or stores. Dr. Barry Sears, who created the popular Zone Diet, has found that a diet with a 40-40-30 ratio of carbohydrate-protein-fat keeps a person in an ideal insulin zone. This applies to every meal, even snacks. If you have a reasonable snack of a rice cake with sugar free strawberry jam, you are getting all carbs – no protein and no fat. Even though your calorie intake is about 150 calories, your insulin levels will spike as though you just ate a couple of donuts. The key to keeping insulin levels optimal is to always include a little protein and fat with every carb we eat.
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