I’ve written on more than one occasion about the many reasons why I’m against diets. They can be very unhealthy, they can lead to binge eating and on the long run, they rarely truly work. This blog post is dedicated to those situations when you cleaned up your diet, you exercise, you feel you are doing everything properly. Maybe you’ve seen some progress for a while, but then all of a sudden that progress stops or you actually start gaining weight. Before you completely freak out and start starving and hating yourself, take a closer look at what you’ve been doing lately. You might realize, you were not doing things so “by the book” after all.
Non-judgemental food journal
Before I list the possible reasons, I want you to keep a food journal for a few days. But please, DO NOT start restricting or judging what you are writing. If you were not doing this until now, chances are the moment you start writing down your foods, you’ll also be tempted to start restricting. You might realize that you are actually eating more than you thought with the first food you write down. Try not to do it.
In this phase, we want to assess your diet as it is. So no judgement involved. It might feel hard, but go by your day as you normally would and just write down what you eat. Repeat this a few days before you start your assessment. Now you can start searching for possible culprits. But remember, it’s not necessary to find the reasons you are gaining weight in your food journal. This was just an extra step to help us see the whole picture.
Food related reasons for weight gain
You were eating more than you thought you were
It’s incredible how easy it is to start snacking mindlessly. This is where that little food journal comes in. See how often you’re snacking. Are you really eating as little as you were thinking? I don’t normally recommend this, but if you still have doubts, try counting the calories. Now I’ll ask you again – are you really eating only what you thought you were eating?
If the big picture looks good, look deeper. How’s that sugar intake? Maybe you are getting one too many calories from pastries or pizza or chocolate. Always look for balance!
You were eating less than you should have
Yes, eating too little for too long can actually cause weight gain. Your body enters starvation mode and it starts saving whatever it can (usually around the waistline). The first symptom is you are not losing any weight. Instead of realizing the problem is you’re eating too little food, the first reaction is to restrict even more. And then some more. Weight might come of sure, eventually the body will start losing the battle even in starvation mode. But you want to know another problem? You’ll start losing muscle. Not fat. And that’s bad. Very bad. Less muscle mass = lower metabolism. Lower metabolism = gaining weight easily. Not want you want, I’m sure.
If this is you, if you are eating under the recommended amount for your body, get back to normal ASAP. You might gain some weight at first, but eventually your body will let go of starvation mode and all the good efforts will start paying off.
Eating too much of a good thing
Unfortunately, this is a thing as well. Eating too much of the healthy foods can make you gain weight just as junk food can. Say you love cashews and instead of eating just a handful you end up eating an entire bag. Studies say you can even have too much broccoli.
Causes unrelated to food
Too much or too little exercise
You’re getting the idea by now – extremes are not good! I’m sure you understand why too little exercise can make you gain weight, but what about too much? Well, it’s easy. Too much exercises will push you to exhaustion. The body will do whatever it can to balance. More food, more storing of the food you eat, more cortisol, more stress, more fat around your waist. I’d say, start by exercising 3 days a week. If you feel you need more from the beginning do it, but maybe do something less vigorous – take a walk or a relaxing yoga class.
If you are doing everything as you should, it’s possible your weight gain is nothing more than water retention. Us ladies are faced with this issue many time around that time of the month. So if you know you are predisposed to water retention and you are near your period, give it some time. Your weight might go back to normal on its own.
It’s no secret that stress causes havoc in our bodies and gaining weight might be one of the results. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t really explain to you all the mechanics behind this. I do my best not to eat because of stress, but sometimes it happens. And somehow, even when I don’t, I still end up with a few extra pounds. Stress messes up life, your sleep and your day to day life. So if you are going through a very hard and stressful period, try to give yourself grace.
You are only human, you are doing your best. And you are already going through a hard time in life. Why add more stress by constantly looking at the number on the scale? Do your best to be mindful about food, to make healthy choices. De-stress by working out, but if you feel too exhausted, just take a walk outside in nature. It’s an amazing how well that can relief stress. Remember, good times will come. You’ll have all the time to focus on your diet at that moment.
Small weight fluctuations are normal
If you are weighting yourself everyday, you’ll see weight fluctuations. They are normal! Don’t stress about it. Only if the weight gain is constant and you’ve ruled out the issues mentioned above should you start worrying. At the end of the day, remember: your weight is just a number. It’s not WHO you are.