Do you notice how some people eat a lot more than you do but don’t seem to gain weight? Do you feel like you are working hard on changing your lifestyle but always feel far from your goals?
It does feel unfair at times. However, we can save ourselves from the stress by looking at all possible reasons why we are gaining weight. After all, our body is so complex that losing or gaining weight is caused by a lot of factors.
Here are some possible reasons why you gain weight:
1. Exercise overcompensation
You could be doing all the right things with your workout. You exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week and you even go with a group to run with on the weekends. Plus that yoga session you do on sober saturday nights.
But how much food do you eat after your workout? Perhaps, you might have the mantra, “I work out so I can eat.” This would be counter productive if bulking is not included in your fitness goals.
Each serious moderately intense workout that lasts under an hour burns about 400 calories. That is only as much as 2 cups of rice. Anything more than the equivalent of that - a double patty burger with fries and drinks, perhaps - would be cancelling out your last workout session.
2. Lack of sleep
You got home late from work and lost track of time during a night out with friends. You might be on a Netflix marathon or overindulged on social media. Whatever it is that keeps you up at night could be the reason that you are putting on weight.
Lack of sleep increases the amount of cortisol produced in your body. It is a hormone that signals a stress response that makes you try to comfort yourself. Most of the time we wouldn’t notice it but we actually tend to snack more after consecutive nights of little or no sleep.
If you are still not convinced, you should also know that cortisol also tends to pack more fat in the visceral region or around your vital organs. This causes the bulge around your waist, and if you don’t get enough sleep, it will be harder for you to remove.
3. Too much sugary drinks
The next time you get asked to upgrade the size of your soda, say “no”, even if it’s free, or skip the drink and have a glass of water instead. It is very easy to consume empty calories from drinks because you don’t even have to do anything but swallow them.
Normally, you wouldn’t eat 5 cubes of sugar, but a cup of soda is nothing more than 5-10 cubes of sugar in colored water. Hence, 3 servings of soda can easily be a third of your daily energy allowance which is definitely excessive.
4. Eating large portions
Sitting uses only 2 calories per minute. This means if you have two slices of pizza and a soda 2 hours before dinner, you’re in for a calorie overload, but since this fact isn’t general information, we tend to go heavy even on our lighter meals.
Our body is very efficient in storing surplus energy. This was especially helpful back when humans were still hunters and foragers. We would store energy as fat since we weren’t sure when we would have our next meal.
However, food is more available to us now than ever and the challenge is controlling how much we eat. Surplus energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are stored as fat. So when people say to control your portions, listen up and figure out which strategies work for you.
5. Eating too little
When you eat too little or starve yourself, intentionally or not, your body shifts to “starvation mode” after repetitive cycles of severe calorie restriction.
The body adapts to save you from starving to death and it lowers your metabolism to become super efficient at making the most of the calories that it gets. Instead of burning fat stores for energy, it actually saves it for the long haul. What gets used up are the proteins in your muscles and losing valuable muscle is always a bad thing.
When you do break the calorie restriction and reward yourself with a huge meal, the body goes into a metabolic frenzy and saves what calories it can. This leaves your body with more fat, and less muscle to use all the stored energy.
6. Inconsistent lifestyle
You notice that you’ve put on some weight so you eat healthy, sleep right, and workout regularly. Once you’ve lost enough excess weight, you slowly dwindle back to doing your old habits. This is called a yo-yo diet and every time you enter the cycle, you gain more weight and find that it is harder to keep it off.
If we call a new regimen a “diet,” that implies that it is temporary. It’s a short term change of behavior for immediate gratification, such as when you workout for your wedding, then drop everything afterwards.
It’s best to adopt fitness strategies and behaviors for the long term. It might feel like a chore at first and you would need to track yourself for consistency, but with commitment, the behaviors and their benefits are bound to be automatic.
7. Non-varying workouts
Humans have existed for over 200,000 years and this is because we are equipped to adapt to our environment. We naturally become more efficient in living in a specific state when exposed to it enough. This is the same when we workout and use our muscles.
Exercising gives the muscles enough work to maintain their strength. However, if the workout becomes too repetitive with the same intensity and exercises done over and over, the muscles and cardiorespiratory organs become efficient from the routine.
That’s why it’s best to vary your workout, track your progress, and challenge your body based on how strong or how fast you are currently. Consider cross-training to learn how else you could improve in terms of fitness. Test yourself for flexibility with yoga, coordination with Zumba, or agility with bootcamp classes.
8. Being at or below your normal weight
Most people who claim they are heavier than they want to be, are usually around their normal body weight or even below it. Not needing to lose weight is the reason why it’s hard for them to lose weight.
There is an optimal range of weight based on height for each person. A quick reference is to check if your computed BMI falls between 18.5 - 24.9. Anyone who is trying to lose weight but is within or just slightly above the range would possibly experience a fitness plateau.
You need to have more discipline with your diet and workouts if you want to overcome a plateau. However, you should remember that your body works best within this weight range so don’t strive for unhealthy weight loss goals.
9. Muscle gain
Muscle is heavier and denser than fat so if you’re trying to lose weight properly, you naturally tend to gain muscle in the process. This causes an increase in your body’s metabolism, making it use more calories per activity.
It’s possible for you to lose 6 pounds of weight initially and as you continue exercising, you might find that you gain 4 pounds in 1-2 months.
In any case, it is best to know not only your weight but also your body composition, how much lean muscle and fat mass you have. You can even learn how much of your body fat is in the visceral area. These extra assessments will let you gauge your fitness level better.
10. Medical conditions
Medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, or injuries can cause weight gain. It’s best to visit a physician if you put on unintentional and unexplained weight gain.
In cases like these, physical activity should be based on what is allowed by your physician. Food intake can be controlled by getting help from a dietitian and by maintaining a food diary.
Putting on weight is as much a psychological as it is a physical concern. Hence, being aware of the different reasons why you’re having a hard time with weight management could help you find more ways to take control of your health.
You could either check if you’re eating too much after a workout, eating portions which are too large, or jumping from one lifestyle to another. The weight gain can also be caused by a medical condition..
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