10 Sneaky Causes Of Unintentional Weight Gain
Nothing is worse feeling than trying to lose weight and you end up stepping on the scale for a check in only to see that you’ve gained weight. UGH. Talk about disappointing. Then the feelings and thoughts creep in telling you that you need to restrict more, stop going out to see friends or stop engaging in social activities to force yourself to stay home because you HAVE to lose weight. This is what diet culture teaches us, right? Restrict, restrict, and restrict some more. Well we’re here to shed some light on maybe why you’re seeing the scale tick upward with these 10 behaviors that may be contributing to unintentional weight gain.
1. Not Paying Attention To Added Sugar
In our society most processed foods that you buy at the store will have some sort of added sugar. This isn’t to be confused with the sugar found naturally in food, but instead, it is the sugar that is added to the food or food item during the manufacturing process to give it a longer shelf life or more flavor. Added sugars can add up quickly and before you know it you’ve downed anywhere from 10-40 grams of added sugar in something that you might have thought was ‘healthy’. What are some of the foods we’re talking about? Think yogurt, dried fruit, protein bars, and more.
Having a lot of sugar on a daily basis can not only cause unintentional weight gain but it can spike your blood sugar and drop it quickly leading to energy spike and pile drives right down into the floor without even knowing why. So next time you pick up something with a barcode on it? Make sure to take an extra couple of seconds to look at the nutrition label. You can view ‘added sugars’ under the sugar content that is beneath the carbohydrate section. If it has more than 5-10g of added sugar or unnecessary added sugar, like that found in dried fruit, opt out, your waistline and weight loss goals will thank you later.
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2. Cutting Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates come in all shapes and forms from vegetables to fruits, to whole grains and to processed foods like donuts. The distinction between the two and how to navigate eating carbohydrates, without cutting carbohydrates, is that there are simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates are often sugary and are more likely to spike your blood sugar contributing to unintentional weight gain. Complex carbohydrates are going to be paired with fiber (usually) and are going to take longer to digest in the digestive system, so they won’t spike your blood sugar level as much and contribute to weight gain. Instead, they’ll contribute to muscle growth, repair, and even maintenance when paired with a lean protein.
3. Your Stress Is Out Of Control
Chronic stress and having poor tactics (or no tactics) to manage your stress can absolutely cause unintentional weight gain while simultaneously decreasing overall health in systems like your brain, heart, and organs. Cortisol, the stress hormone, when elevated or regularly at a high level (not sleeping also raises cortisol levels) can cause cravings, desires for calorie-dense foods, and in turn, cause unintentional weight gain and plateaus. When your body is under so much stress, mentally, physically, or both, it isn’t going to want to lose weight, no matter how much you restrict your caloric intake. Womp womp. So you want to lose weight? Start getting a handle on your stress and before you know it you’ll be able to promote your body’s natural process of reducing unwanted weight and preventing unintentional weight gain.
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4. Not Drinking Water
You can think of water (in this context) as the lubricant for the slip and slide enabling your stored fat cells to slip right on out of the stored position and into the use position. Say what? Ok, think of it this way, water helps encourage the body to use stored body fat as an energy source instead of storing it which contributes to your unintentional weight gain.
Why does water help you lose weight? When you’re hydrated your body’s processes work better. When your body’s processes work better, you move better, have more energy, and do more. Doing more and moving better means you require more energy to do those things, and stored body fat is a great energy source to use, especially when it comes to HIIT exercise or steady state cardio activity. Dehydration can also mimic the same signals from the stomach as hunger can, which can cause you to overeat or eat when your body doesn’t actually want food, and instead, it wants water.
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5. You Don’t Sleep
Oh boy, this is a big one, whether you’re on a weight loss journey or not. Yes, we all know sleep is essential for function, overall health, and well-being. Nothing sucks more than being constantly tired, groggy, and in turn, grumpy. Well, sleep quality and sleep duration also does contribute to weight loss and even unintentional weight gain.
Going back to the stress hormone, cortisol, a lack of sleep can actually alter our hormone function in a negative way, contributing to unintentional weight gain and a tougher time losing weight. Not getting enough rest each night can also contribute to poor recovery, loss of muscle mass, and fatigue. If you have a hard time with sleep, it is time to prioritize your sleep hygiene, your sleep routine, and reducing caffeine intake. Interestingly enough, being dehydrated and not eating enough food throughout the day can also keep the body from getting restful sleep.
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6. You Don’t Eat Protein
Protein is great for keeping blood sugar levels balanced, as an energy source, to reduce appetite and to increase satiety from snacks and meals. When you eat protein you also encourage the body to use stored body fat as a source of energy instead of your muscle mass. You’ll also maintain the muscle you have while working on reducing overall weight and body fat, contributing to a more toned or defined look. That being said, if you don’t eat enough protein, your body is likely to catabolize, using your muscle as an energy source and increasing your body fat percentage. Yikes, talk about an unintentional weight gain disaster! We recommend eating 10-35g protein with every snack and every meal throughout the day for optimal satiety and health. You can get protein from both animal and plant based sources, but the more natural, the better.
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7. Consistently Under-Eat or Over-Restrict Food
If you’re putting your body into starvation mode by over restricting calories, ignoring or overruling your natural hunger/fullness cues, and going long stints without food in the name of weight loss, your body will eventually catch on and start storing food as body fat because it doesn’t know when it will be fed next. Additionally, when you over restrict food you can actually intensify cravings and desires for food, causing you to unintentionally (or intentionally) gravitate towards calorically dense foods, processed foods, and binge eating. This type of behavior is not only mentally disappointing thanks to the feelings of shame and guilt that occur after over eating, but they can also yo-yo back into over restricting, which over time won’t just cause unintentional weight gain but it’ll diminish overall health and organ function. What to do instead? Eat small meals and snacks spread no longer than 3-4 hours throughout the day. Include protein, complex carbohydrates, and drink your water. Trust us, your body will thank you later.
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8. You Eat Your Kids Food
Look, kids are high performing engines and their foods don’t have the same things that adult food needs to have. They often have more processed or simple carbohydrates, sugars, and less protein, with higher fat contents because those little humans are running around and growing like weeds. Unfortunately, you’re probably not running around much, or at all, and you’re definitely not growing like a weed, unless you’re restricting your calories so much you’re just gaining weight at this point.
Ok, jokes aside, cookies, fruit snacks, mac and cheese, and dino chicken nuggets aren’t the best options for your body that craves energy, vitamin, and mineral dense foods to support your function, performance, and overall health. We hate to break it to you, but the flashy marketing on the lucky charms? Not good for your waistline.
9. You Forget to Eat
Forgetting to eat puts our body into a tailspin because it doesn’t know when it is going to be fed next. One day you might ignore your hunger cues for the whole day except for a small dinner then the next day you’re ravenous and could eat a hole in the wall. Look, we get it, weight loss is hard, but not eating meals, not prioritizing food, and forgetting to eat is only going to work against you and be a serious contender when it comes to creating unintentional weight gain. What to do instead? Start to develop a respectful relationship with food. Before you eat, when you eat, and after you eat, check in with yourself and ask yourself how that food just made you feel. Does it support the way you want to feel? Does it give you energy? Does it make you feel good from the inside out? Or just the opposite? Asking yourself questions like these with everything you eat helps you understand the role and responsibility food has in your life and how to optimize your food intake based on the way you ultimately wish to feel on a daily basis. After all, the saying goes ‘good food makes for a good mood’.
10. You Underestimate How Much You Eat
I hear people all the time say “I eat so healthy and I don’t eat much at all” when in reality they can’t even remember what they ate this morning, let alone yesterday. When it comes to food intake take my advise - what is not measured cannot be improved. If you have no clue what you’re putting in how are you going to know why you’re getting what you’re getting out of it? If you have no clue what’s going in, how do you know what is going to come out?
Look, you don’t need to log forever, but logging either on a piece of paper, on a note in your phone, or on an app like My Fitness Pal can really be an eye opener to how much and what you’re eating. You may find that you actually don’t even eat enough or you might find that you’re eating anywhere from 400-3000 calories more than you thought you were. Regardless, both of these can contribute to unintentional weight gain. By logging you can begin to eliminate the variables around the results you are (or aren’t) getting to begin to develop a plan of action that works towards your goals, not away from them.
Unintentional Weight Gain: Takeaway
All in all, here at The Swole Kitchen we get it, weight loss can be hard. However, with the right tools in your pocket and a willingness to pay attention (real, honest attention) to your behaviors and habits, aligning our food intake with our physical goals can actually be easier than we often make it out to be. So if you’re unintentionally gaining weight and not sure why, give some of these tips a try.
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