Why am I gaining weight?
Many of us have heard that weight gain is the result of eating more calories than we are using in a day, but is it really that simple? Lindsay Kirkland, RD, said the answer is no, it is actually much more complex.
“There are several other factors that can affect your energy balance and fat accumulation that aren’t even related to diet or exercise,” she explained. “It’s important to understand and recognize how the factors below play a role in weight gain so we have the best chance at maintaining a healthy weight through the different stages of our lives.”
Here are common factors that can impact weight gain:
Stress or psychological distress. It’s easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget to take breaks. However, those periods of rest that are often skipped are important for your brain and body to relax and recover from the stress it has been under. As you continue to repeatedly put yourself through this stress, it starts to affect your body more and more. Long term, this stress can even affect your sleep pattern, which is another factor that can contribute to weight gain. Increased stress and poor quality of sleep greatly affect energy balance and lead to increased accumulation of body fat.
The type of food we eat. Choosing the right food goes deeper than looking at the number of calories in a serving. Your body is able to recognize many characteristics of the food you eat and will respond differently depending on what you put into it.
Foods high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined grains, saturated fat or salt can have negative effects on the inside of the body that promote fat storage and weight gain, among other things. By including more vegetables, fruits and high-quality protein, you can help your body use the food you eat for fuel instead of storing it as fat. This is partly due to the high amount of vitamins and minerals in these foods that are essential for converting the food you eat into energy for your body.
“Keep this in mind as you plan out your grocery trips and try to include a wide variety of these foods that can benefit your body in so many ways,” Kirkland said.
Other factors. There are many other factors that come together and interact in different ways to contribute to weight gain. These can include:
- Environmental factors and pollutants
- Cultural norms
- Social status
- Even the bacteria that live in our stomachs
“For some people, it may be as simple as eating fewer calories and exercising regularly, but for others it can be a lifetime of manipulating these factors to promote weight loss. Not all excess weight is the same,” Kirkland said.
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