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Is Weight Gain Inevitable

Aug 5, 2015

I know you've either used or heard the reason a lot of folks will give for gaining weight as they get older: "Well, my momma and daddy were overweight, so I know it was going to happen to me sooner or later." Granted, genetics give us the tendency towards weight gain, BUT (and a big BUT at that...haha!) it's our social conditioning as a child and later adult decisions that truly determine whether or not we will get fatter as we get older. Knowing and understanding the factors that can predict whether we will gain weight is the key to prevention and reversal.

  1. Consuming processed, high-calorie foods. These types of foods offer the body absolutely nothing in regards to true nutrition--just calories. Weight loss and weight management happens relatively easily when we consume foods that are as close to nature as you can get, foods that are minimally or not at all processed. Eating foods like processed potatoes, poor-quality lunch and deli meats, sweets and desserts and foods made from refined grains like flour and rice provide our bodies nothing useful, so we tend to store them as body fat in the long run--especially if you're not extremely active! People that eat primarily whole foods like lean meats, fresh vegetables and fruits, and some nuts and other healthy fats tend to curb weight gain.
  2. Drinking sugary beverages. Think about how easy it is to mindlessly suck down soda after soda over the course of the day. Pretty easy! Calories aside, you're taking in tons of teaspoons of flat out sugar when you consume sugary beverages like soda. Unless you're constantly burning that sugar up by, I don't know, running marathons everyday, the body has to do something with all of that sugar. Once your liver and muscles have stored all they can, the body will then convert what's left to body fat. Not a nice thought! Another side of that is the risk of developing diabetes as a result of all of that steady sugar consumption. Once the pancreas gets burned out of having to supply adequate insulin to uptake all of that sugar, BOOM! You've got diabetes!
  3. Sleep that is inconsistent or nonexistent. This is an interesting topic. Marshall, Glozier and Grunstein (2008) suggest that there's a greater risk of weight gain for those that sleep less than 7 hours OR more than 8 hours each night. Small window, huh?! Not getting enough sleep affects how the body processes glucose (aka sugar), and this is a surefire way to gain weight. On top of that, sleeping too little lowers leptin (our satiety hormone) and increases ghrelin (our hunger hormone), meaning we tend to feel hungrier more and for carbohydrate-rich, weight gain promoting foods.
  4. Spending too much time in front of the TV (or computer). Binge watching TV on a regular basis is highly correlated with weight gain--even in children. But why? Well, the more TV viewing we do, the more of other behaviors we tend towards as well: snacking while watching TV, eating more highly processed foods, and eating foods that are very calorically dense. Don't forget...unless you're watching TV while walking on the treadmill, you're being inactive, which means all of those calories and carbohydrates aren't being used for anything other than storage!
  5. Overdoing it with alcohol. For what it is, alcohol is very calorically dense--almost as much as fat per gram. Alcohol consumed before or with meals gives one the tendency to eat more during the meal. Once we consume alcohol, the liver has a time processing other macronutrients (carbs, fats and proteins), leading to more fat storage and less fat burning.
  6. Just being sedentary. Take all of the above factors and remain on the couch and it's definitely likely that you'll carry extra weight. Exercise is not the end-all-be-all of a healthy lifestyle, but without regular movement the body is more primed to hold onto weight rather than want to shed it. Additionally, regular strength training builds your resting metabolic rate, which allows your body to burn more calories even at rest. If you're in a situation where you must be sedentary for a bit (traveling, desk jobs, etc), then you must prioritize your eating habits to decrease the likelihood of gaining weight.

Now that we know the main factors that predict weight gain, let me give some quick and easy guidelines on how to keep this from happening...

  • Avoid a diet with processed potatoes, refined grains, sugary foods and desserts, and bad oils
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night--prioritize sleep
  • Aim for no more than 1 hour of TV each day
  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity each week
  • Find a stress management activity like yoga or meditation
  • Replace sugary beverages with water or unsweetened varieties
  • Walk as often as you can throughout the day/week
  • Only drink alcohol on occasion, and when you do make sure you avoid poor food choices
  • Strength train at least 3 times per week to build muscle and increase metabolism

Having a personal trainer is a great way of being held accountable to these lifestyle changes--not just for the guidance in exercise. If you find yourself in need of weight loss or weight gain prevention, we can help!

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