Did you ever get frustrated because you realized you were putting on weight without knowing why? Everyone knows more or less how to stay in shape: eat healthily and exercise. But sometimes we see a shift in our weight without knowing the cause.
Here, I would like to share with you the top 10 unexpected factors that can contribute to weight gain.
I hope to help you figure out your trigger and to adjust it — which can be easier than you think. The most difficult part is understanding the root of the problem. If we start a new diet without understanding the big WHY, we will end up in a vicious cycle of diets, feeling exhausted without getting the results we want.
The top 10 unexpected causes of weight gain are:
1) Excessive healthy fats
Yes, healthy fats are good for us. We need healthy fats so that we can absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins, to protect our organs, and to balance our plate. Fats are a great source of energy and they can help with weight loss as we can feel fuller after a meal, and they can balance our blood sugar level.
But excessive healthy fats, like avocado, lots of olive oil, and nut butter is high in calories. Therefore, if we do not moderate this, we end up putting on weight instead of losing. Moderation is key. So, let’s use these healthy fats in moderation and let them do the job they need to do.
2) Artificial sweeteners and diet soda
Sweeteners contain addictive substances like aspartame that can make us more dependent on sugar in general. So although you may think you are having a healthier option, with no calorie intake and no sugar, after one or two hours you will probably get hungry and crave something sweet.
Please be aware of this, and take note of your behaviour after you drink a diet soda or something with artificial sweeteners.
3) Fat-free yogurts and other fat-free foods
The fats in these foods are replaced with other harmful substances — most of the time with sugar. So my recommendation is to buy a full-fat yogurt with low sugar that can satisfy you with 125g, then a light version packed with sugar.
Check the label next time you buy a fat-free yogurt and look at how many grams of sugar there are in 100g; if they are more than 10 percent it is not good for you. You want to aim for less than six percent of sugar.
4) Excessive natural sugars
Fruits, fruit juice, syrup, and honey are really high in sugar. This can cause major weight gain.
Just keep an eye on your intake of whole fruits, which natural form of sugar you eat during the day, and how much you eat. This is really important to be aware of, because just by cutting down your four spoons of honey per day to two spoons, for example or having more greens than fruit in your smoothie, you are hugely reducing your sugar intake.
5) Processed “healthy” snacks
What to say about this? If your daily snack comes always in a packet, it is not real food and therefore not healthy.
For just a week, stay away from protein shake and granola bars that have more than five ingredients. Notice if you see a difference in your weight and mood. Next time you want to reach for a granola bar, break this habit by having a handful of almonds and an apple. In this example, healthy fats are good as you are having the vitamins you need plus the natural sugar from the apple instead of a packaged bar with double the amount of sugar.
Alcohol contains lots of calories which are usually called “empty calories” because they do not have any nutritional value.
It is an appetite stimulant. When you drink, you eat more, which means you make poor food choices as your body craves more sugary and fatty foods.
One swedish study found that the hormone that regulates appetite and decreases hunger (leptin), decreases by 50 percent.
Drinking alcohol also alters fat distribution in the body as it decreases the fat breakdown and increases its deposition. This makes it hard to burn off that fat.
It’s okay to drink socially, perhaps one or two drinks per week. Red wine in particular is really good for our health in moderation, as it is a good antioxidant and it can fit into a weight management programme. I hope you like red wine and you start to experiment with it!
Coffee is a stimulant that can be helpful if we need more energy during our day. It is okay to have in moderation and to enjoy a lovely cappuccino in the morning, like I do. But after lunch time, if you have caffeine, this can interfere with your sleep that as a consequence can lead to weight gain.
Also, many coffee drinks are high in sugar or fat, therefore you might end up to have more calories than you think. Be careful of what you put in your coffee daily, how much sugar you use, and the type of milk you use. Opt for dairy-free milk sometimes.
8) Hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy
Research shows us that the use of antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy contribute to weight gain. When we buy conventional meats and dairy, we are exposed to these substances and this can lead to weight gain. Even if it is more expensive, try to opt, when you can, for antibiotic-free and hormone-free meats and dairy products. Choose leaner cut meat.
9) Lack of sleep
Lack of sleep is associated with an increase in cortisol (the stress hormone), which spikes blood sugar and insulin resistance. When we don’t sleep, we tend to eat more as we’re awake for longer. After a night of poor sleep, we suffer from fatigue and to keep going with the day, which means we crave sugary food as a source of energy.
Did you notice that after a night of poor sleep, your food choices the next day are not so healthy? Try to set a bedtime alarm, and be disciplined with your bedtime routine every evening. Sleeping for seven or eight hours will pay you off.
10) Stress levels
Stress, as mentioned above, increases your cortisol levels, which stimulates your appetite. Cortisol is a major cause of weight gain, and it also can harm many organs and affect your body where you put the weight on, mainly around your waist.
The calmer we are, the better food choices we make. Start to include one self-care activity in your day to help you relax your mind. If you do high-intensity workouts, try to swap a session with something more low-impact like yoga, pilates, or tai chi. See how you feel after.
Many people in the blue zones (the areas in the world where people live the longest and the healthiest) combat stress with naps, prayers, and social activities with family. They often also relax by drinking a good glass of red wine in the evening.
We should start to feel less guilty about “not being productive”and have a nap sometimes, don’t you think?
If you are on a journey where you’ve tried many diets and you’re wary of starting a new one, we can talk about that. I will show you how simple changes in your diet and your lifestyle can lead to transformative results.
Comment below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for any specific questions you might have.