Weight has been an obstacle all my life. When I was a healthy weight, I had a twisted view of my body and didn't believe it. I was so focused on the number on the scale that I didn't appreciate how strong I really was.
The past five years have been a complete struggle. I was practically in the best shape of my life, but then slowly I started putting weight on. And ever since then, it's been a constant battle. My weight has fluctuated so much in the past three years. After I managed to get some of the extra weight off, I gained it all back.
It's frustrating and it can be disheartening when I feel like I am eating all the right things and exercising. But truthfully, there is so much more that affects your weight than Instagram makes you believe.
If you are looking to maintain a healthy weight, make sure you're looking at all of the below factors in your life that could be leading to weight gain.
Are you overworked or plagued by anxious thoughts? Elevated stress levels release hormones that can cause weight gain. According to VeryWellMind.com, the body's response to stress has been linked to changes in metabolism, insulin, and fat storage.
While a short period of stress can cause someone to skip meals, chronic stress may lead to an increase in appetite. You may also be using food as a coping method.
2. Lack of sleep
You might think that staying in bed and being lazy would contribute more to weight gain, but you need your beauty sleep. If you're going out every weekend and pulling all-nighters before every big exam, you may find your sleep cycles interrupted.
Similar to stress, sleep deprivation causes changes in hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Additionally, sleep plays an important role in bone, muscle, and mental health. Losing sleep can reduce your body's ability to recover from injury or illness.
3. Alcohol intake
Hey, no judgment here. This is definitely one area I struggle with. But alcohol contributes to weight gain in so many different ways, so it's really important to consider these things if you do imbibe.
Watch what you drink — many alcoholic drinks are empty calories. Especially cocktails and other drinks that are mixed with sugary juices or syrups. Additionally, if you're binge-drinking, you may not realize how many drinks you're having. Alcohol can often lead to digestive issues and can cause you to make poor food choices. It affects your sleep patterns, and the sugar in alcohol commonly accumulates as fat in your abdominal area.
4. Not exercising properly
If you are over-exercising, you may be causing inflammation. Additionally, while some exercises are good for weight loss, others are intended for muscle toning and strength-building. Intensity is more important than frequency, so make sure you are getting your heart rate up and allowing enough rest in between sets and workouts.
Only doing cardio — or doing too much of it — can actually add to the problem. Longer cardio sessions can eat away at your lean muscle mass, which is essential for increasing your metabolism to burn more calories. The best way to lose weight and build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to your cardio.
5. Invisible illness
While this doesn't affect everyone, you may have some underlying health issues that are affecting your weight. Some people may suffer from a thyroid disorder, diabetes, or something like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) without realizing it. If you are experiencing other health issues or symptoms, it's important to talk with your doctor. They may find a treatment plan for you that can target the internal issues that are affecting your weight.
This may seem like an obvious one here, but no matter how much you work out, if your diet isn't right, you're not going to lose weight. Make sure you're looking at the nutritional density and value of your foods. Are you eating something that will sustain you, or are you going to be hungry again in an hour?
Many people recommend keeping a food journal. I personally couldn't keep up with it, but find a method that works for you and stick to it. Meal prepping can be a big difference and prevent you from making last-minute decisions while hungry. Keep your dorm or fridge stocked with healthy, nutritious snacks and my rule of thumb is not to even purchase the snacks that will tempt me.
7. Fad dieting
Be wary of short-term diet plans and don't starve yourself. Make diet changes that can be eased into and can be sustained for a long period of time. And please don't fall for those laxative-style fad diets, you're just robbing your body of essential nutrients and water. If you're constantly decreasing and increasing your caloric intake, your weight will reflect that.
8. Too many sugary juices, coffees, and sodas
When you think "sweet tooth," your first thought may not be of a drink. But a lot of people have high sugar intake from beverages. You may see juice as healthy, but I always check the label on fruit juices and try to choose juices that are low in sugar.
Drinks like Naked fruit smoothies can have up to 100+ grams of sugar per bottle. While it may seem to come from a healthy source, if your body doesn't process it the excess will turn to fat cells.
9. You're not drinking enough water
Water gives us energy and helps maintain body temperature. Not drinking enough water can cause us to eat excess calories that could lead to weight gain. Plus, when you're dehydrated, the body will conserve water for vital body functions, which can result in water retention and a higher number on the scale.
10. You're avoiding movement because of an injury
Definitely consult a doctor, but I know how an injury can cause a backslide in weight loss progression. Musculoskeletal conditions that cause pain can lead to a decrease in physical activity, which can cause weight gain over time.
People don't often want to exercise when their joints are hurting, but exercise can ease some pain symptoms — hence why physical therapy is a thing. Low impact activities like riding a stationary bike are easier on joints, as is swimming and water aerobics. Working in some strength training exercises with light weights or therapeutic bands can help to improve joint stability and also help counteract weight gain.