Posted on Oct 14, 2019, 3 p.m.
Gaining weight is really not very exciting and can be downright frustrating, especially if you don’t know why it is happening. Diet will typically be the biggest contributor to weight gain, but other factors such as stress and lack of sleep may also be contributing.
Highly processed foods such as fast food, microwave dinners and sugary cereals are loaded with unhealthy and harmful ingredients to go along with added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. Highly processed foods have been linked to weight gain and the increasing obesity rates around the world in numerous studies. One would do best to completely avoid processed foods and focus on whole foods.
Among 19,363 Canadians those who ate the most ultra-processed foods were 32% more likely to be obese in a recent study. Once more highly processed foods are calorie dense while being devoid of essential nutrients which keep you feeling full. Another study showed that participants consumed about 500 more calories per day on an ultra-processed diet.
Sugar intake has been linked to weight gain and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A review of 242,352 children and adults linked sweetened beverages to weight gain and obesity. Another study of 11,218 women revealed drinking 1 sugary drink a day resulted in a 2.2 pound increase over 2 years.
Maintaining a sedentary lifestyle and being inactive is a common contributor to chronic diseases and weight gain; engaging in excessive screen time has been shown to contribute significantly to weight gain. Working at a desk, driving, and watching TV are all sedentary activities. Making small adjustments such as taking the stairs more, standing, and walking during breaks, as well as exercising can help to counter weight gain.
To keep weight off over the long term sustainable lifestyle changes are required, yo-yo dieting leads to intentional weight loss which is most often followed by unintentional weight gain, this pattern is also linked to an increased risk of additional weight gain over time. One study revealed that those who had dieted the year before had greater weights and waist circumferences. Other studies suggest that restrictive dieting may lead to future weight gain due to the body’s physiological response, as well as those who lost weight through restrictive dieting gain most or all back within 5 years.
Many lifestyle choices contribute to unintentional weight gain, but certain medical conditions can also be a factor these include but are not limited to depression, binge eating disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome. Certain medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics drugs can also lead to unintentional weight gain, a medical professional can help to determine if this is the cause.
Not getting enough sleep can have several negative effects which includes weight gain. One study demonstrated that those who slept less than 6 hours a day had the highest BMI and highest levels of visfatin. Another study showed that those following a low calorie diet with excess weight who slept less than 5.5 hours a night lost 55% less body fat and 60% more muscle mass that those who slept 8.5 hours. 7+ hours of sleep may be associated with a 33% greater likelihood of weight loss.
Diets rich in whole foods are an easy and effective way to promote weight loss while improving many other aspects of health. Be sure to choose whole foods that are minimally processed, raw fruits and vegetables are among the best choices. Adults with excessive weight that followed a low fat or low carb diet for 12 months who increased vegetable intake and consumed mostly whole minimally processed nutrient dense foods primarily made at home lost 12-13 pounds in one study.
Chronic stress can also affect your weight as increased levels of cortisol stress hormones have been shown to increase hunger and cravings for comfort foods that can cause weight gain. Studies suggest that those with obesity have higher cortisol levels. Adults with obesity who engaged in relaxation techniques who received dietary advice lost significant amounts of weight in one study.
Perhaps one of the biggest contributors is overeating, if you take in more calories than you burn you are more likely to gain weight. Frequent snacking and mindless eating especially if they are nutrient poor dietary choices promotes excessive calorie intake and weight gain. Eating too quickly and portion sizes also play roles. Eating more mindfully can help to control overeating. Slow down and really chew your food before swallowing, this way you can enjoy the taste more and help digestion. Try drinking more water, and eating more high fiber foods while avoiding highly processed and sugary food/beverages.
There are many factors that can contribute to unintentional weight gain, poor sleep, being sedentary, stress, and poor diet are just a few of the most common habits that increase the risk of weight gain. The good news is that these are modifiable, just a few healthy changes can help you to reach your goals and improve overall health. You are worth it.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.