Are you watching what you eat, exercising and still find yourself gaining weight? It’s frustrating, but there are other reasons for that unexplained weight gain and things to do about it. Here are some of the common culprits that can explain why you’re still gaining weight.
We often count calories of all the foods we eat during the day and stay within the guidelines for our build, but forget about what we are drinking. You probably know that alcoholic beverages can add on calories quickly and avoid soda for the same reason, but forget that juices, sports drinks, and other liquids also have calories. They also don’t give us the same bang for our caloric buck as food of the same amount of calories does. I know many people think that if they drink a diet soda with low or no calories then that is totally acceptable when trying to lose weight. But as Terry Davidson, PhD, director of the Ingestive Behavior Research Center at Purdue University in Indiana, explains this confuses the signals to the body that let it know how much it needs to eat. Studies have shown that drinking diet drinks can actually lead to weight gain and interfere with your metabolic process.
When it comes to food, even if you stick to a diet of healthy foods they still have calories and you have to watch overdoing it. For example, many people think eating nuts make a great healthy snack, but they have fats and calories so eating too many will add to your calorie intake. According to Bob Wright, Director of Education Hilton Head Health, studies report people who think they eat healthy foods were found to eat more. Then we have the problem of adjusting how many calories we need as we are losing weight. The less you weigh, the less fuel your body needs to perform. One of the biggest culprits of hidden calories though is sugar. Many foods that you wouldn’t imagine have sugar do have it in some form. For this reason it’s important to read labels and look for ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup or sugars. A diet doesn’t really work if you find yourself hungry all the time so eating small healthy snack sized meals throughout the day with lean proteins, fruits, veggies, complex carbs and healthy fats will keep you from reaching for snacks with extra calories, keep you from being hungry and feeling deprived and stressed and help you get those extra pounds off. When planning for those snacks, pick something that will give you lots of good nutrition for the least amount of calories. This wholefoods snack bar with algae and sprouts is a good way to get all the nutritional benefits of bluegreen algae with the added bonus of antioxidant power of sprouts and some healthy fats.
Adjust Your Exercise
If you are on a regular program of exercise, good for you. Exercise is definitely part of a healthy lifestyle. But your exercise program could be one of the reasons you are still seeing weight gain. Not all weight gain is from fat, muscle also has weight. If you are doing exercise that builds your muscle mass, you may be seeing weight gain from it. And according to Wayne Westcott, PhD, senior fitness executive at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, your muscles can become over familiar with the same exercise routine done each day. This means they are not as challenged and don’t have to work as hard at them. Less work, less calorie burn. Try shaking up your routine and finding different exercises that will meet your fitness goals. Many people also use exercise as a trade-off for consuming more calories. While it’s true that if you just burned off a few hundred calories with exercise, you could eat extra, but that just puts back on the calories you burned off so you are back where you started on the calorie scale. And it’s a whole lot easier to not eat those extra calories in the first place than it is to burn them off later.
If you are not getting enough good quality sleep, this can explain why you are still gaining weight. Not getting adequate rest affects hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. So the next day our bodies may think they are hungry when they are really just tired. Lack of sleep can also affect the metabolism so that we aren’t burning calories efficiently. Being up late at night often leads to extra snacking too.
Poor Digestive Health
Many of our foods don’t have the digestive enzymes we need to fully digest all our food. As a result undigested food sits in the gut and shows up as belly fat. Eating raw and lightly cooked veggies and fruits and/or taking a high quality enzyme supplement can help get more digestive enzymes working for you. Your digestive system also needs healthy friendly bacteria to digest your food. If you do not have enough of these bacteria working for you, your digestion is slowed and bloating occurs as well as having undigested food causing belly bulges. Eating fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir can help you get some of these probiotics, but you can also take probiotic supplements such as acidophilus and bifidus.
When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol which increases appetite. You probably have a favorite comfort food that you crave when you are stressed and this is why. Most of the times these cravings are for unhealthy and high calorie foods. According to Dr. Elissa Epel research shows that people often turn to eating to relieve chronic stress. Finding activities to deal with stress such as hobbies, meditation, sports or whatever helps you relax can help you avoid turning to food for relief.
There are certain medications that can be responsible for extra weight gain. These include steroids such as prednisone, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and medications to treat migraines, seizures, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is never a good idea to just stop any of these to avoid the weight gain however. Work with your healthcare provider to see if there is an alternative that will treat your condition without the weight gain. In some cases it may just be that the medication is causing you to retain fluid and eating less salty foods can give some relief. In some cases it may be that the weight gain is a short term symptom that will get better as your condition improves. Just don’t get stuck in the trap of thinking if you are going to be gaining weight anyway from medication then you can indulge all you want. The more you put on now, the harder it will be to get it off later. So keep to eating a good healthy diet with the recommended calories for you.
There are medical conditions that can also lead to extra weight gain. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome are two examples. If your thyroid is not working correctly, your metabolism works slower. There are prescription medications and other alternative treatment options for thyroid conditions, so check with your healthcare provider or a good naturopath or holistic medicine practitioner if you suspect you have a problem of this type. With a condition like Cushing’s there is too much cortisol being produced and weight gain can result. This is another instance where working with your healthcare provider can be helpful. There are other medical conditions that can cause weight gain too, so getting a thorough physical to rule out any serious health concerns may be something you’ll want to consider if you are having trouble finding the source of your extra weight gain.
As we age, our metabolisms slow down. This is especially common for women as they begin menopause. Harriette Mogul, MD, associate professor and director of research of adult endocrinology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, presents research results that contribute this to a rise in insulin levels. If this is a cause for your weight gain, there are medications and dietary changes that can be used for treatment. Since insulin levels are not something doctors regularly check, you may need to request this test done to confirm a diagnosis. Remember too that metabolism can also be slowed down by dehydration. So be sure you are drinking plenty of good quality water throughout the day. Dr. Jackie Buell also cautions that dieting can lead to not getting enough calories for the body to function properly and that includes how your metabolism works. So if you are dieting and cutting down on calories, make sure you are getting enough calories from nutritious food sources to keep your body fueled and working properly.
As you can see, even if you eat healthy, watch your calories and exercise regularly there is still room for weight gain to sneak in. Hopefully some of these tips will help you discover where your extra weight gain may be coming from. Whether it’s from medication or a medical condition that you need to consult with your healthcare provider about, from hidden calories that you can take control of, or your exercise routine needing a tweak, you don’t have to give up on losing those extra pounds.
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