Regardless of how you eat, your weight might have very little to do with the old saying, "calories in versus calories out" for a few reasons. Although you might hear that it’s all about “calories in versus calories out,” there are a few particular situations that the number on the scale has nothing to with how healthy or unhealthy you eat. Generally speaking, I like to tell my clients that when it comes to your weight, your diet is the main factor, followed by your activity and lastly your genetics. Sometimes maintenance of a healthy weight is much more complicated than simply what you eat and what you expend. Here are 7 instances where your weight might be more complex than calories in versus calories out.
1. Hormonal Imbalance
A hormonal imbalance is one of the first reasons that your weight might be more than just calories in versus calories out. As long as your hormones are out of balance, you can eat as healthy as you want and still gain weight. Hormones are regulatory substances that stimulate your cells to carry out a particular function. When one hormone is produced in excess or not enough, the particular function that the hormone is responsible for isn’t carried out efficiently. For instance, if ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating your appetite, is produced in excess due to varying reasons, this can lead to increased food intake and thus increased body weight.
2. Poor Sleeping Habits
Poor sleeping habits do much more than leave dark circles under your eyes; in fact, poor sleeping habits are actually suggested to lead to future disease. Think of sleep as a reset button for your body. Sleep allows your body to repair, recharge and recalibrate. While your body is sleeping, this is also the time that your hormone levels are balanced out. Research suggests that people who sleep less than 7-9 hours per night have decreased levels of leptin, a satiating hormone, and increased levels of ghrelin, a hunger stimulating hormone.
Regardless of where the stress comes from, too much stress can negatively affect your waistline no matter how healthy you are eating. Chronic stress stimulates your body to produce cortisol, a steroid hormone that increases sugars in the bloodstream for your brain to feed on in the presence of a perceived threat. Because of this, research suggests that excess cortisol can cause abdominal obesity due to an increase in appetite as well.
Often, illness alone can lead to weight gain regardless of how many greens you might be eating. Whether it be due to a medication side effect, digestive issues, inactivity due to pain or depression or even something as simple as a vitamin deficiency, all of these factors can lead to weight gain. If you have a condition that is causing you to gain weight, talk to your doctor about ways to control this negative side effect.
Even if you eat a perfectly clean diet but sit around all day long, over time your metabolism will slow down and eventually lead to weight gain. Muscle burns more calories than fat, therefore in order to increase the efficiency of your metabolism, physical activity, such as weight bearing exercises, will increase your metabolism and allow you to burn more calories throughout the day. If you work a desk job that requires you to sit all day long, on average you will only burn around 400 calories in the eight hour day. One burger can easily be 400 calories, so as you can see, in order to prevent weight gain, being physically active is important.
Another condition that might cause you to gain weight no matter how healthy you eat is if your body is introduced to toxins, chemicals or poisons. For example, some research suggests that MSG (monosodium glutamate), a seasoning used commonly in Chinese and Japanese food, can damage the metabolic sensors that regulate food intake and lead to obesity. Try to avoid all harmful toxins like BPA (bisphenol A) found in most plastics, parabens found in personal care products, cigarette smoke and air pollution.
Another unfortunate weight gain promoter is your age. As you age, your metabolism slows down, causing you to burn fewer calories per day. Because of this you have to be proactive in order to prevent weight gain. The best way to fight age related weight gain is to start lifting weights. As I mentioned earlier, muscle mass burns more calories than fat mass, and therefore the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn. For women, menopause can also be a factor in mid-life weight gain. During menopause your hormones change, which can cause an increased appetite, poor sleep, depression or a mixture of all three. Exercise becomes even more important during these trying years!
Although your weight is often a direct reflection of your diet, you and I both know there are always instances where this simply isn’t true. Your size two friend that eats more than an entire football team or your overweight aunt that eats three small, healthy meals a day - I’m sure you’ve seen both of those conditions. Sometimes your weight is more than just calories in versus calories out regardless of how many times you are told that statement! Have you ever dealt with any of these instances before? What did you do to take control?