Too many in society today obsess over their body image, striving for perfection. Panic can ensue at even minor weight gain–at the expense of your mental well-being.
Why? Our society is infatuated with body image. The next time you’re at the store, pick up (don’t purchase, please!) a tabloid newspaper or some senseless magazine and flip through the pages.
Shirts off? Bikini shots? Cellulite? All the above?
Yeah, that’s the type of nonsense millions of people consume each day they log in to their favorite apps.
Never mind that photographers probably edited or applied filters to those images. Never mind, these stores are illusions – a fake world. A world that makes us want more. Consume more. Buy more. Have more. Welcome to the mindless world of mass media.
See, the people who head up these companies aren’t interested in facts. No, they care about a little thing called clicks.
They care about the number of people who ultimately check out with their hastily-produced garbage. (Which “happen” to be placed at the checkout counters.)
The result of all this misinformation? Ignorance – about body shape, dieting, exercise, and what we “should” do or not do.
The Consequences of Obsessing Over Weight Gain
Let’s use a fictional illustration as an example. Suzy is a bright, sweet 14-year-old girl who’s moderately overweight. Some of her classmates – and even some of her friends – poke fun at her. As a result, her self-esteem has hit, and she’s a bit depressed.
While visiting the local library, Suzy stumbles upon a magazine with the words “Lose 15 pounds in 30 days!” she moves on. “Too good to be true,” she wisely says to herself.
The teasing continues, and Suzy breaks down. She’s now desperate for answers, willing to try anything.
She doesn’t bother heading back to the library. She takes five dollars out of her savings drawer and buys the publication at the local supermarket. Suzy diligently works the “program” – in the end, she loses little, if any, weight. The cycle continues.
The “lesson” about weight gain
Sadly, there are millions of Suzy’s in the world. From childhood to adolescence and beyond, we view this input daily. Bear in mind that the “mature” brain isn’t formed until around age 25, according to new research. Can you imagine the toll this weight loss crap has on our kids?
While our adult ‘B.S. meter’ is finely-tuned, we’re not immune to misinformation, exaggerated claims, and false promises either. Food and exercise are not the only things that contribute to one’s weight. Genetics, health problems, age, and gender all play a part. And this isn’t even half of it!
15 Hidden Causes of Weight Gain (and how to fix each!)
Of course, you must balance a healthy self-image and reaping the health benefits of reaching your ideal weight. No judgment here! But knowing these causes of weight gain can help you drop a few pounds if you choose.
1. “Low-Fat” Foods
Nutrition scientist Lisa Miles: “In some cases, low-fat foods contain high sugar levels. High sugar foods can also contain many calories and contribute to weight gain.”
Fix: Read the labels. Pay attention to the calories and sugar. Many “low-fat” foods have more than alternatives.
2. Weight Gain Goes With Too Much Sitting
Television is the main reason behind a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle. We’re also more likely to snack on unhealthy foods while watching the tube.
Fix: Rethink your ‘couch time.’ Make a two-part pact with yourself: (1) for every hour of watching T.V. You must do 15 minutes of exercise. (2) You must drink 16 ounces of water for each hour of T.V. time. You’ll be surprised at the results.
3. Burning the Midnight Oil Might Cause Weight Gain
Research shows that lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain.
According to Michael Braus, Ph.D., a sleep specialist: “The more sleep-deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite.”
Fix: Get 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night. Indeed, it would be best if you were getting no more and no less than this number of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has repeatedly confirmed this time allowance for rest.
4. Increasing Portions
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) study has found that hamburgers have doubled in size since 1980.
It is not just burgers, either. Of course, portion sizes of pretty much everything – excluding vegetables and fruits – have increased in supermarkets and restaurants.
Speaking of 1980: “4.8 percent of men and 7.9 percent of women were obese.”
These rates have since doubled.
Fix: Aim for fullness, choosing foods with high fiber and lean protein.
Some prescription drugs – such as those used to treat depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, and seizures, can add on some sneaky LBS/KG’s!
Fix: First, do not abruptly quit a medication without consulting your doctor or health professional. Inquire about tapering or slowly weaning off of the drug. If this is not possible, inquire about weight-neutral alternatives. Most importantly, seek a second opinion!
6. Stress Contributes to Weight Gain
Cynthia Sass, MPH, and Registered Dietitian, writes:
“We’ve known for a while that stress is connected to weight gain because a high level of the stress hormone cortisol has been shown to up appetite, drive cravings for junk food, and make it oh so much easier to accumulate belly fat.”
Recent studies also show that stress can screw with your metabolism—a double-whammy.
Fix: Learn a quick breathing exercise. Find somewhere comfortable to sit. Sit in an erect posture and bring your chest forward, allowing your shoulders to fall back. Relax your gaze and rest your hands on your lap. Breathe with your abdomen, allowing your belly to expand on inhalation and contract on expiration.
Inhale through your nose to the count of four. Exhale to the count of six. Believe us; this is magic when done correctly. (There’s a bunch of science behind ‘diaphragmic breathing,’ too!)
Piles of research show that dieting is not the answer. Why?
- Most people (over 90 percent) regain their original weight within a year.
- Weight fluctuation is terrible for your mental and physical health.
- An increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Fix: Lifestyle it. “It’s a lifestyle” is super cliché and annoying, but also super true. Change your lifestyle by starting small. Eventually, you will exercise habitually, lay off the processed crap, and become a healthier you! And be gentle with your self-discipline. You’ll get there!
8. Artificial Sweeteners
Many of those trying to lose weight opt for artificial sweeteners because they’re calorie-free. However, artificial sweeteners can cause you to gain weight. While you might think diet soda is the way to go, it won’t help with your weight loss efforts.
Fix: Instead, drink fortified water or other healthy beverages. You can also sweeten things using natural ingredients that don’t contain additives.
9. Eating Too Quickly Can Cause Weight Gain
Take your time while eating because eating too fast can cause weight gain. If you take less than 20 minutes to eat a meal, try to slow down next time. Eating too fast can cause you to take in more calories as it takes your mind twenty minutes to receive the signal that you’re satisfied.
Fix: If you struggle to eat slower, try to center yourself before it’s time to eat. Take a few deep breaths so you can feel calm while you eat. Sitting your utensil down between bites will also help you eat slower. If possible, socialize while you eat. It forces you to take breaks between bites, allowing you to eat slower and process when you’re getting full.
When you’re snacking, eat one piece at a time. Don’t grab a handful, even if you tell yourself you’ll eat it slowly. Pick up one piece at a time, and don’t rush to grab another.
10. Being Afraid to Say No
When someone asks if you want a treat, or pushes you to consume high-calorie food, don’t be afraid to say no. Your good manners might be a hidden cause of weight gain. Once you say no, stick to that answer and don’t cave no matter how many times they ask.
Fix: Don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate in social situations. Even if someone else took the time to make the food, you don’t have to finish every bite. It’s easy to go overboard when you’re afraid of offending someone, but you don’t have to.
When you regularly stick to your answer and stop eating when you’re satisfied, people will get used to it. They might push you at first, but eventually, they’ll know it’s normal for you. It won’t take them long to learn to respect your decision and stop trying to force you.
11. Hypoactive Thyroid
Your thyroid is essential for hormone regulation and using energy for good. When the levels are low, it means that your thyroid is underactive. If this happens to you, it can be challenging to lose weight, and you might quickly gain.
Fix: Seek your doctor’s advice. A hypoactive thyroid requires medical treatment, so you’ll want to see a doctor immediately. If you think you might have an underactive thyroid, you might also experience the following symptoms:
- Dry skin
- Frequently feeling cold
- Hair loss
- Low energy
12. Alcohol Intake
Alcohol has lots of calories, but research shows that’s not the only reason it can cause weight gain. When you consume it in large amounts, it makes your body less able to burn fat. It also interferes with your ability to sense that you’re full, so you’re more likely to overeat.
Fix: Limit (or eliminate) your alcohol consumption for better health and to stop this sneaky weight gain.
13. Going Through Menopause
There are a few reasons going through menopause can cause weight gain. Your body produces less estrogen during menopause, causing more fat to form around your belly.
Sleep problems, mood swings, and hot flashes interfere with regular exercise and healthy eating. You won’t feel like getting moving, and you’re more likely to reach for sugary food when you’re tired.
Fix: Talk with your doctor about how you can stabilize your hormones during this phase of your life.
14. Retaining Fluid
When your body retains water, it can cause weight gain. Women with premenstrual syndrome often experience this situation, with the increase occurring several days before their period. Some other reasons for fluid retention include:
- Too much salt
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Standing for too long
- Blood pressure medication
- Health conditions
Fix: To prevent or alleviate fluid retention, start drinking more water to flush your system. Additionally, cut back on salt, and make sure to move around throughout the day. If the retention doesn’t ease within a few days, see a doctor to rule out health conditions.
15. Frequently Eating Out Causes Weight Gain
When you eat out, the meals are often larger portion sizes, causing you to take in extra calories. Plus, the meals are full of saturated fats and salt. While the food might be delicious, it leads to you gaining weight while also filling your body with unhealthy ingredients.
Fix: Request a take-away box to come to the table with your food. Before you start eating, divide up half and put it in the box to enjoy another meal.
Breaking the Habits That Cause Weight Gain
If you experience any hidden causes of weight gain, it’s time to make a beneficial change. Start by breaking the habits that cause you to gain weight, and then form new habits to replace them.