Why Am I Putting On Weight? 5 Possible Reasons…

30th September 2021

Why Am I Putting On Weight? 5 Possible Reasons…

Why am I putting on weight?

If you find that you’re eating well, exercising and taking care of your healthy lifestyle yet the weight still manages to creep on, there may be a good reason for it. Here are some common reasons why you may be putting on weight and exactly what you can do about it! 

Your portions are too big

Yes, you may be checking the calories per serving but not many people realised just how big the servings should be. Think about cereal; the recommended serving size is considerably smaller than you may think with most brands recommending 40g, which is the equivalent of around 3 tablespoons. 

Other portion sizes that many people forget to consider are sauces and dressings – again, the recommended serving size is around 1 tbsp, which isn’t quite as much as you may think. Sauces are also packed with sugar and artificial flavours, while being considerably high in calories. 

You’re drinking your calories 

Coffees, alcohol and fruit juices should all be factored into your calorie intake, if you’re looking to lose weight. Often forgotten about, your daily latte is probably adding around 1,330 calories per week to your intake, which is around 5 and a half Mars bars! 

Practical tip: Instead of a latte or a cappuccino, enjoy a black coffee with a splash of milk. Or, if you’re just looking for a warm drink, try various herbal teas until you find the one right for you.

Alcohol is also something to approach with caution as many often forget how high in both calories and carbohydrates it can be. Read this article to find out the impact that alcohol has on your weight.

 

Regular snacking 

Nowadays, it’s uncommon for people to go more than 2 or 3 hours without consuming some form of calories whereas decades ago, years before the obesity pandemic, most adults went 4-5 hours between meals and got along just fine. We now eat more than 20% of junk food than we did in 1980 [1] and this is not coincidental with the increase of obesity rates worldwide. Not only this, having two snacks a day can easily add an additional 400 calories to your day.

What happens when you snack?

Snacking spikes your blood sugar levels – when you snack, particularly on the highly processed options that are so readily available, your body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose (blood sugars). When this happens, your pancreas releases insulin to use glucose as energy and bring sugar levels back down. Your energy cells only take the amount of glucose they need and any excess is stored in your fat cells. 

If you are not using energy effectively, and frequently topping up with snacks, your pancreas releases more insulin to try and bring down your regularly peaking blood sugars. Over time, insulin receptors will become resistant meaning less glucose is transferred to energy cells and your blood sugar levels remain high – this is often the starting point for type 2 diabetes.

As less fuel becomes available to keep your body going, tiredness will kick in and hunger levels will increase as your brain tells you that more energy is needed. Despite the intention, snacking actually makes you hungrier and breaking out of this cycle is the key to stopping. 

Here are some ways you can cut back on your snacking: 

You’re not sleeping well 

A recent meta-analysis, carried out by researchers at King’s College London, found those that are sleep deprived consume an extra 385 calories, on average, each day. When added up over a week, this comes to 2,695 calories, which is around 3 portions of fish and chips! Not only this but the calories you tend to consume when tired are generally unhealthy. This is because the areas of the brain associated with reward become more active when deprived of sleep; you become more motivated to seek out unhealthy foods to give you quick energy. 

You’re feeling stressed

​Chronic anxiety and stress can have a significant impact on both weight and blood sugars. This is both through the direct impact that stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, have on the body, but also through the knock-on effect of coping with the stress itself. We’re sure that you will have heard of, if not experienced, emotional or “comfort” eating in your life. 

Stress-related hormones make muscles and tissues more insulin-resistant. They stimulate the liver to release more sugar into the blood, prevent the pancreas from making insulin and block insulin’s ability to get sugar into cells. 

When our “fight or flight” mode is activated, glucose is released with the intention of using this energy to combat the thing that’s causing us stress. However, for modern day stresses that don’t require this much energy, glucose levels remain high causing our bodies to release insulin to moderate them. Our bodies become less sensitive to insulin and eventually resistant. Insulin resistance is a slippery slope into pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. 

Similarly to sleep, various studies have shown common links between cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and increased intake in energy dense foods that contain high levels of sugar and starch. A 2006 study took a group of 272 female students and found that under normal circumstances, 80% of them made healthy food choices and when stressed, this was reduced to a mere 33%. A healthy Mediterranean-style diet could help; Med-style food has been recognised to improve gut health, in turn helping to ease anxiety and aid sleep.  

To summarise

Calories have a way of sneaking into our diets, if we’re not carefully tracking what we eat. A handful of nuts from the cupboard, your daily coffee and a few extra biscuits may not seem like a lot but when added together over a period of time, may be the reason you’re putting on weight. We’ve found that having a clear plan that balances nutrients and calories works best! If you’re eating the right amounts of protein and healthy fats, and know exactly what and when your next meal will be, you’re more likely to follow the plan, feel less hungry and lose weight.

References arrow down

Trends in U.S. Per Capita Consumption of Dairy Products 1970-2012. USDA, 2014. https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014/june/trends-in-u-s-per-capita-consumption-of-dairy-products-1970-2012/

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