If you were to ask any overweight person how they ended up that way, most would probably say the same thing: it just snuck up on them. That’s because the majority of people who gain weight, do it very slowly — and for a variety of different reasons. Suddenly, 5 pounds becomes 10, 10 becomes 20, and before you know it, you are a lot bigger than you ever thought you’d be. And, while there are sometimes medical conditions responsible for weight gain, that’s just not the case for the majority of the population. Most weight gain is behaviorally induced in one way or another, and countering that sneaky weight gain is possible by simply recognizing your individual reasons for gaining weight, and then taking control over them.
If you don’t have a medical reason for weight gain, like a slow thyroid (hypothyroidism), Cushings Syndrome (hypercortisolism), take medications that slow your metabolism, or have other various hormonal issues, the most common reasons why people gain weight are as follows:
1. Sedentary Lifestyle – while advanced technology is a fantastic benefit of living in the 21st Century, it also means that many of us are watching too much TV and spending too much time on the computer. In addition, some of our day jobs have us sitting on our rear-ends all day long – and simply sitting all day does nothing to burn calories and help our metabolisms. The Fix: Get moving! Take a walk at lunch, or make a conscious effort to fit some daily exercise into your schedule. You should also watch your calories and determine what your individual basal metabolic rate is (use a BMR calculator), because that weight gain will keep coming if you aren’t aware of how much fuel your body really needs.
2. Eating Late – Many people gain weight because they are indulging in late-night snacks. Eating right before bedtime is practically begging your body to store some extra fat. You don’t need the fuel while you’re sleeping, and your body just saves it in your fat cells for later. The Fix: There is a widespread rumor that you shouldn’t eat after 6 p.m. if you want to lose weight (or if you don’t want to gain weight). This isn’t necessarily true, because we all go to bed at different times and those who go to bed late can have a really hard time going many hours without a snack. What does work, however, is creating a cut-off time of 3 hours before bedtime. Stick to that, and you will not only be optimizing your metabolism, but you will sleep better, too.
3. Failure to Recognize Correct Portion Size – Portion sizes play a huge part in weight gain. In fact, most people eat more than double what they really need in one sitting. Do you know how big a portion size really is? Most people don’t. The Fix: Do a little research on ideal portion sizes of your favorite proteins, fats and carbs… and then buy a food scale. It doesn’t take long to automatically recognize how much you should be eating. If you don’t have a scale and can’t get one, a general guideline for portion size is to keep your meal to about the size of your fist. Anything in excess (unless it’s low-calorie fruits and veggies), is probably too much.
4. Eating Food with Little Nutritional Value – Cheap, processed foods are one of the biggest contributors to weight gain. Often high in fat or sugar, they offer very little when it comes to giving our bodies the proper fuel they need. In addition, they are generally higher in calories, portion-wise, than healthier foods, so it is very easy to overeat without knowing it. The Fix: Stay away from fast food, processed foods, and food items that have a high sugar content or bad fat (saturated or trans fat). Carry healthier snacks with you in case you get hungry (like nuts, fruit or crackers). This way, you won’t be tempted to grab the “quick” foods that are so terrible for you.
5. Lack of Sleep – When your body can’t get the rest it needs, your metabolism will slow down, you are more susceptible to illness, and your body just works inefficiently in general, leaving you wide open for weight gain. In addition, you are likely to snack more. There was a 12-man study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which had 12 young men sleep only four hours per night for two nights. They were then subsequently observed during ten-hour sleep nights. According to the study, there was a 24% increase in their hunger during the nights they slept less, compared to the longer-sleep periods. Additionally, their cravings for high-carb and high-calorie foods increased as well. The Fix: Get enough sleep! Your body needs it to repair itself and maintain your metabolism at an optimal level. Plus, it’s pretty hard to snack when you’re sound asleep.
6. Stress/Depression – Stress and depression can slow down your metabolism and cause you to indulge in food to make you feel better. And, while some of this may be treated medically, the medication can cause a metabolic slowdown as well. The Fix: Try natural remedies for de-stressing before jumping into medication-induced solutions. Some easy ways to de-stress and tackle mild depression include exercise, getting the proper amount of vitamin D and sunlight exposure, and eating nutrient/vitamin-rich foods that give you other energizing vitamins like B and C, as well as foods that contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Of course, you should always discuss either of these with your doctor, as both of these issues can have serious health consequences.
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