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ances and disruptions in gut bacteria can subtly undermine the best-laid weight management plans. Working out too much or eating too little can also backfire. Even a mean boss or a cold workplace cubicle can factor in. Certainly, diet and exercise are


key, experts emphasize. Yet, if we’re doing all the right things and still seeing disappointing numbers on the scale, there’s still more we can do. Here are some common weight-loss saboteurs and what to do about them.


WEIGHT-LOSS SABOTEURS


Tackling Obesity’s Hidden Causes by Lisa Marshall E


at less, move more. These words have been the cornerstone of diet advice for decades, leading mil-


lions of Americans to greet the new year with vows to cut calories and hit the gym. In all, one in five U.S. adults are dieting at any given time, accord- ing to the international market research firm The NPD Group, and 57 percent would like to lose 20 pounds or more. Yet few will reach that goal. One survey of 14,000 dieters


published in the International Journal of Obesity found that only one in six had ever been able to lose 10 percent of their body weight and keep it off for a year. Another study, published in the last year in Obesity, followed up with 14 contestants from the 2009 TV real-


32 Lehigh Valley


ity show The Biggest Loser and found that despite efforts to keep their eating and exercise habits on track, 13 had regained significant weight since the competition. Four are heavier now than before participating on the show. Diet experts say the battle of the bulge has been exceedingly hard to win for one clear reason: We’re over- simplifying the solution and underesti- mating the saboteurs. “We’re learning that it’s not as simple as calories-in and calories-out,” says Dr. Pamela Wartian Smith, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, physi- cian specializing in functional and nutritional medicine and author of Why You Can’t Lose Weight. Research reveals that everything from food allergies to hormone imbal-


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Food Sensitivity/Allergy Bite into a food we’re sensitive to and our body switches into “fight-or-flight” mode. It stores fat and water, releases histamines that widen blood vessels and inflame tissue, and cranks out stress hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine that make us want to eat more of that food. “You literally get a high so that you


crave more,” says Smith. She notes that unlike true allergies, which can prompt an immediate reaction, food in- tolerances often manifest sub- tly over several days. When we are repeatedly exposed to a food we’re sensitive to, we feel bloated and slug- gish, regardless of the calorie count. Allergy medi- cations can also prompt weight gain, in part by boosting ap- petite. One study by Yale researchers found people that regularly ingested antihis- tamines like Zyrtec and Allegra were far more likely to be overweight than those not using them.


What to do: First, cut out the most-craved foods. “If someone tells me they just cannot live without cheese, I as- sume they are allergic


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