It’s a conundrum. You’re absolutely sure that you're not eating any more food than usual. You aren’t even eating “junkier” food, either - but you're still gaining weight…
You think, is this possible? Am I insane?
Yes! Well, yes to the weight gaining part, and no crazy (hopefully)!
And, if you are curious, here are my thoughts on the matter.
Personally, I think the whole “calories in, calories out” argument is a way too simplified view of weight management.
I'll admit - I didn't used to believe this in my early years as a personal trainer, but given the decades of experience and the variety of clients I've worked with I've realized there's obviously more to the story than just the amount of calories you're eating.
Especially if you’re still eating the same amount but managing to gain weight, right? How is this possible, you might ask?
Well, a lot can be determined by things like your activity level, history of dieting, the amount of muscle your body holds, and even the types of foods you eat because these all affect your metabolism.
However, let's go beyond the “eat less and exercise more” advice that I know you’ve heard a million time before, and let’s review some of the less obvious, underlying reasons why you may be gaining weight even though you're eating the same.
More Stress; and
It’s true; funny (bordering on weird) things do happen the older we get. We commonly can experience lower energy levels, more digestive discomfort, weight gain, as well as unexpected aches and pains.
Men and women can both experience hormonal changes as the process of aging continues. These changes can contribute to the loss of lean muscle mass, and the increase of body fat. And, as if that news wasn’t harsh enough, it can even change the locations of where this 'new found fat' is stored.
On the brighter side; this is a very common occurrence, and is not at all your fault. Getting older is a reward, and not a curse. Remember that!
The body’s master controller of metabolism is your thyroid and it can be a massive contributor to weight gain; especially when it goes out of whack. Besides age, there are several things that can affect its ability to operate effectively.
hen your thyroid gets off course (imbalanced) and produces fewer hormones than usual, your metabolism slows down. And when your metabolism slows down you can gain weight despite the fact that you're eating the same way you always have.
Health Coach Tip: If you’re over forty, and haven’t already done so, talk with your doctor about having your hormones tested. Then, devise a schedule for regular follow-ups.
There is plenty of research that shows the influence sleep can have on your metabolic rate.
Unfortunately, as we age, it can become harder and harder to get a good night's rest. The culprit responsible for this lack of slumber? You got it – hormones…
(Although, sleep apnea comes in at a really close second…)
The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to help avoid weight gain.
And while there are many other factors that support the research linking the two (like more awake time = more eating time) - it’s true! Lack of sleep directly correlates with weight gain.
So, if you hate to exercise, I guess the option of sleeping off the weight is perfect for you (assuming you can get, and stay, asleep in the first place; but, that’s a topic for another post).
Health Coach Tip: Strive for getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. The first place to start is by scheduling it into the end of your day (Yes, that means a specific bedtime!) and prep for it like any other important item on your to do list. In fact, some smart phones not only have an app that helps remind you of when it’s bedtime, but can monitor the quality and the length of your sleep, too.
Ugh… The dreaded bane of being a responsible adult. Am I right?
Stress seems to be everywhere – especially around the midlife years. From work and maintaining a social life, to personal fitness, family and care-giving; there are so many things that can cause a body to stress respond.
And you already know that stress hormones are not going to help you sustain healthy habits or maintain a healthy weight, too...
While “adulting” really isn’t optional for most of us living in the “real” world, stressors will become an ever increasing presence as we age. So, while we can't necessarily eliminate our stress factors, we can try to minimize them and at the very least; adjust our stress response to them.
Health Coach Tip: Here is where mindfulness really can help you out... Mild and methodical movements like yoga or tai-chi; prayer, meditation or even the simple task of mindful eating can counteract the belly bulging effects of stress. Hey, there are even those new adult coloring books that are all the rage now. ;-)
You can also try a less “active” approach to dealing with stress - like receiving a therapeutic massage (if you liked that last suggestion; I happen to know an excellent guy for the job. ;-) You can book him online here!)
So, let me wrap up this posts topic by saying this:
Be aware that this list isn’t all encompassing when it comes to the causes of unexpected weight gain. From tumors to a “backed up” digestive system; even many of our regularly prescribed medications are overlooked when it comes to the subject.
So, here’s my final Health Coach Tip: do a quick Google search on the medications you are taking and perform a quick read through their side effects. You might be surprised to find “weight gain” to be among the list.
And please! Don’t substitute this article for clear and direct medical advice or diagnosis! Always, always, always check with your primary care physician if you’ve ever got a doubt concerning your physical or mental well-being!
That said, despite all the factors that can affect your weight (even when we may be eating no differently than what we’ve done in the past), it’s good to know that there are strategies available to counteract the weight gaining affects of aging, hormonal shifts, stress overwhelm, poor sleep, and certain side effects of medication.
They are all interconnected and can all contribute to weight gain. So, stay vigilant. Develop your own style of fitness and healthy nutrition, and if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional to coach you along the way.
Most importantly; never stop moving toward a better you...
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