Weight gain is a tricky thing. Some people gain weight at the drop of a hat, while others struggle to put any amount on. If you’re like the majority of people, you probably struggle to take the weight off — and why shouldn’t you? Our bodies like fat!
Foods that contain it taste good. It keeps us warm, and it gives us a supply for times of famine — though we really don’t go through famine anymore in the country, but our bodies don’t necessarily know that.
Now, there’s a basic explanation for weight gain: You’re taking in more calories than you’re burning. However, that’s an unsatisfying answer. It doesn’t tell you why this may be happening. So let’s explore some ideas about what could be causing this.
You’re Getting Older
We’re all getting older. There’s no way around that. But as you age, your metabolism slows down. You have to work harder to keep weight off, and if you don’t alter how you eat or exercise, the pounds slowly start to creep up.
So let’s voice the unpopular opinion: There is nothing wrong with that! It’s normal and healthy. It’s a sign your metabolism is working like it should. If you’re uncomfortable with the weight gain, then you will have to pay attention to your body and learn how to accommodate it in new ways. Learn new exercises, try new foods and maybe eat less food. Welcome this change, though — it’s a sign of growth.
Work and Life, and Life and Work
Stress is part of our daily lives now, and that’s terrible for our bodies. Our brains understand we aren’t being chased by a lion, but our bodies don’t. They produce the same hormones for stress regardless of a life-or-death situation or an angry boss at work.
In the short term, this actually decreases your hunger. But once the perceived threat is gone, you’re suddenly craving food. Of course, if you had just fought off a lion or run for a while, this would be fine. But if all you did was sit with your head in your hands, you didn’t really burn off enough calories to need that donut.
Carbs and Sugar and Fat, Oh My!
So, what do you usually crave after a long, exhausting day of work, family demands and angry self-talk? Almost always, you’ll want carbs, sugar and fat. Even if it’s not a tub of ice cream, it might be an extra cookie after dinner or a creamy pasta dish instead of a lean chicken bake.
In the short-term, these foods make us feel good, and they’re what we’ve evolved to want. High fat, sugar and carbs are excellent sources of calories for a long, lean winter. The only problem is there no longer is a long, lean winter.
Again, there is nothing wrong with having these kinds of cravings. They’re actually a sign your body is trying it’s hardest to help you. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t evolve at quite the same pace as our brains, which begs the question: What can you do?
How You Can Work on Shedding Some Pounds
There is only one real way to lose weight, and that’s to burn more calories than you take in. So yes, go out and exercise to your heart’s content, but don’t work on your body at the expense of your mind.
If you start being hard on yourself, you’re becoming your own bully. You may work out too hard, not eat enough and cause yourself stress. Guess what? Your body will try and protect you — by maintaining its fat. In this case, however, it’s not protecting you from famine or a cold winter. It’s trying to protect you from yourself, and that will just feed into a vicious cycle of self-hate and adding fat, which leads to more self-hate.
The best way to give yourself a fighting chance is to break the cycle. Stop any self-depreciating thoughts. Make exercise something you can enjoy, and don’t strain to do too much too fast. A simple walk outside is one of the easiest ways to get going with it.
If you can, try and remove some stressors from your life, too. If you’re eating due to stress (and many of us are), then look for ways to counteract that. Start looking for a different position at work. See if there are other ways you can talk to your boss, or strive for a better life-work balance.
No matter what, blaming yourself and your body is not going to help anything. Be a little kinder, and treat yourself gently. We all need that.