Complex Causes, Simple Resolution

Read time: 90 seconds

Body weight tends to drift up or down depending on genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

Technology brings us many fine things, but it also presents an environment conducive to weight gain and obesity.

This environment reduces the requirement to move and increases the access to cheap calories.

Whether you argue for the law of thermal dynamic (calorie-in, calorie-out) or for energy dysregulation (carbohydrate hypothesis), the current scientific belief  is that the two major contributors to overweight are moving less and eating more.

But moving less and eating more seem to be driven by complex variables.

Human evolution dictates that our bodies store excess fat in time of feast to prep for time of famine. Today modern agriculture, technology, and corporate greed extend the time of feast to practically 24/7 and year round. (Famine is now considered a meeting that runs overtime.)

Unlimited production of cheap grains give us palatable food that challenges our eating control, physically and psychologically, and thus disrupting the body’s regulation of energy storage and usage.

Societal forces influence our eating pattern. Environmental cues stimulate excessive eating. Marketing and media blitz establish unfavorable eating patterns.

A lifestyle promoting sleep deprivation also leads to hormonal and appetite impairment. Some scientists claim that environmental chemicals may also promote weight gain.

Finally — the obvious — food composition has changed to include higher amounts of fat, sugar, and salt that not only increase calories but also stimulate the brain’s reward center, the nucleus accumbens, beckoning continued food intake beyond physiologic needs.

The point here is that there are many complex causes for excess weight. If we try to address all of these, we’d just be confused.

The resolution remains simple: chose mostly wholesome foods while not depriving yourself of anything, and find a way to eat less.

I find that intermittent fasting is the easiest way to eat less. For some reason, intermittently closing the flood gate to eating is a lot easier than “going on a diet” constantly.

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11 Responses to Complex Causes, Simple Resolution

  1. Kat Eden says:

    I LOVE the way you include read time. Love it. Which is why when scanning my reader your post was one of the first I clicked on this morn 🙂
    I’m a big believer in sleep-related weight issues. Too much light (TV etc at night) = more cravings = more eating = staying up later = more cravings = less sleep = more rubbish in the morning …. and so on. But yeah, it’s just one factor.

    • Johnny says:

      Thanks, Kat.

      The “read time” feature comes from my attitude that health and fitness should never take the average person such a huge time commitment.

      Be healthy, be fit, but enjoy life, too. 🙂

      I really like your blog, Kat.


  2. Al says:

    A little off topic but I have found out that the number one reason I don’t want to eat whole foods: cooking.

    Most people are too lazy and impatient (like me) to cook. All whole foods one way or another require cooking.

    I believe that this is one of the big reasons why people do not want to eat real food most of the time; something I definitely need to work on.

    • Johnny says:

      Al, I agree. In the end, it is an excessive consumption of calories that does the most damage. As long as what you eat fulfills the body with the minimum requirement of nutrients.

      Many people don’t have access to fresh wholesome food, but this restriction shouldn’t prevent them from being reasonably. healthy

      I think people can achieve a lot (healthfully and aesthetically) without stressing out about what kind of food they prefer to cook and eat, or not.

      So long as they don’t chronically eat more than their body needs.

      But I will say, though, that everyone can benefit from eating more fresh, wholesome food.


  3. Jordan Davis says:

    I agree about the read time. Very cool idea. How do you figure that?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jordan,

      I think I saw the “read time” feature on some blog site that’s unrelated to health and fitness. I can’t remember which blog that was, but I liked the idea and started using it. Over time it sort of became a springboard to making the concept of getting lean and staying lean a minimalist method.


  4. Trinity Selle says:

    Over the years I’ve read lots of books on weight loss… Atkins, Berry Sears’ The Zone, Skinny Bitch (an unrealistic Vegan diet), and even the original Pritikins. I also read Gary Taubes’s Good Calories Bad Calories. All of these books isolate one particular thing, and create an entire diet book based on just one premise. The bottom line for all of these books, though, is that their endpoint is still eating less calories, whether they spell it out or not. The popular low-carb diets might have a metabolic advantage, but I read that the effect is actually pretty small in the real world, and the biggest problem is that the method of low-carb dieting for a lot of people isn’t sustainable. Except for the extremely dedicated few, most people eventually slip off the low-carb diets. For evidence you can look at long term studies tracking these low-carb dieters, or just ask your coworker who went on a low-carb diet two years ago but is now back to eating Subway sandwiches for lunch and cheesecake for dessert. LOL.

    I like that your message: While low-carb/paleo-ish/wholesome food work, the most sustainable way of becoming and remaining lean is finding the easiest method to eat less. Am I in the ballpark?

    Thanks for a great post. Looking forward to more.


  5. Jake says:

    Stephan of Whole Health Source, who is researching weight set points at the U of Washington believes inflammation increases your set point.

    He believes that inflammation caused by three things increase your set point:

    1. sugar and excess fructose
    2. Excess of omega 6 over omega 3 fats
    3. grains

    This makes sense to me as it explains widespread obesity as the above three are widespread in our diets.

    If you eat whole foods as you suggest, consumption of the above three will be minimized.

    • Stephon says:


      Very interesting post as I have become a very firm believer that eating less is key.As soon as I entered intermittent fasting into my lifestyle I began shedding most those unwanted pounds.

      My question is,as a guy that follows a Paleoish type diet,do you believe similiar results can be achieved with a eating lifestyle less confined to Paleo as long as the individual eats less/intermittent fasting alongside some moderate exercise.That also includes from an aesthetic point of view,and how alcohol consumption affects those results?Awesome post as usual,Thanks.

      • Johnny says:

        Hi Stephon,

        Good question, but it’s hard to answer this question as many things are by degrees and by individual differences.

        To me the Paleo-ish diet means nothing more than eating mostly wholesome food. It’s a diet I prefer, and calling it Paleo-ish makes it recognizable in the community.

        In terms of aesthetics and health, what is the difference between being a paleo purist and a paleo-ish? I’m not sure. Mark Sisson does a great job at taking a step from the Paleo purist stance to a paleo-ish stance by promoting the 80/20 principle, and calling the lifestyle Primal (rather than Paleo). Richard Nikoley does a great job, too, sounding out for the inclusion of the sweet potato in a paleo diet, etc.

        As compared to my stance on simply eating mostly wholesome food, however, Sisson and Nikolye are probably closer to paleo than I. Again, it’s all by degrees.

        So although a good portion of my diet is wholesome food, I include a lot of non-paleo foods, stuff that I enjoy. The number-one reason I still eat largely wholesome food is for the nutrients. And wholesome food tends to stimulate appetite less.

        Although it’s still a hypothesis that the cause of obesity is an impairment of energy regulation due to carbohydrate intake (especially refined carbohydrates), I believe this effect may be more evident in certain people, not all. My wife, for example, benefits much more from paleo/paleo-ish diet than I do. Again, it’s by degrees.

        I also believe that it’s not so much eating carbohydrates that contributes to metabolic impairment, but that it’s actually the high frequency of (refined) carbohydrate intake that may dysregulate energy storage and utilization.

        I can tell you this: I still enjoy my red wine, my desserts, and my sweets, and can proudly take my shirt off at the beach and show 6-pack abs. How do I feel? Very healthy.

        My diet: Mostly wholesome food. I fast until 4PM on most days. I live normally — just that I have more time to live my day than to obsess about breakfast, lunch, and snacks.


    • Johnny says:

      Hi Jake,

      The points you brought up are associative factors in human… although I agree with much of it. I believe their danger, however, is in their dosage.

      Like you mentioned, if we eat mostly wholesome food, we do not have to worry about any of these. In fact, the overweight and the unhealthy would do better to chose mostly nutritious food and find a way to consistently eat less.

      You and I would pay a lot less tax and our health care bills would be lower, and 2 out of 3 Americans would suffer less.

      I’ve enjoyed Dr. Stephan Guyonet’s blog for a long time and have benefited greatly from his material.


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