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Why do we gain weight?

Por Claudia M. González, MS, RD, LD/N* -

The answer is simple: the most common cause of weight gain is eating more than what your body needs. However, many different situations in life can also contribute to weight gain.   

Rarely is obesity the result of a disease. The truth is that most people gain weight because their intake of calories is greater than what their body needs. It is not only about how much you eat, but also about the quality of what you eat.

What's better, eating small quantities more times throughout the day, or eating larger quantities less often?

Most nutrition experts agree that it is best to eat small quantities various times a day, and choose foods that are low in calories and high in nutrients.

When we eat smaller amounts more frequently, we feel less hungry throughout the day since the time between meals is shorter. This makes it easier not to overeat, and resist the urge to stuff ourselves in between meals with high calorie foods such as sweets, cookies and fried foods.

What role does metabolism play?

The amount of food each one of us needs to get through the day, or in other words our energy needs, is determined by our metabolism and level of physical activity. Therefore, metabolism is also linked to the tendency to gain weight.

However, this is not the same for everyone. Some people have an extremely slow metabolism, which means their caloric needs are lower, so they need to eat less than others do. On the other hand, some people require a higher intake of calories because they have a fast metabolism. They can eat more than most of us without gaining weight. It may seem like the people in the fast metabolism group are the lucky ones, but we need to remember the fact that eating more doesn't necessarily mean eating a nutritional diet.

Some causes of being overweight

The following is a list of some of the possible causes of being overweight. If you are overweight, take some time to analyze this list since one of them could be the root of your problem:

  • Heredity
    Genes play an important role when it comes to obesity, although it could also develop from unhealthy eating habits. If your family is prone to obesity, make the extra effort to eat well and maintain an exercise routine.
  • Eating out of stress, anxiety, depression or other emotions
    Many times we seek refuge in food to avoid facing complicated emotions or stressful situations. If you're in this situation, try to find other solutions to raise your spirits. Exercising helps free you from stress while also burning calories. Meditating or any other hobbies other than eating will help you relax and get through difficult moments.
  • Medicine
    Some medicines, such as steroids or birth control pills, can contribute to weight gain. If you think this is your case, talk to your doctor about the possibility of changing the dosage or the medicine. However, the most effective way to maintain your weight is to reduce your calorie intake and exercise.
  • Quitting smoking
    If you recently quit smoking, it's possible that you may have gained some pounds. Nicotine artificially increases your metabolism and when you quit, your metabolism has to get used to the absence of this stimulant. It is also possible that food may have taken the place of cigarettes.

To lose the extra pounds and satisfy your cravings, try to eat small, low calorie snacks, such as fresh fruit, yogurt or low-fat popcorn. Above all, know that gaining a few pounds is much less harmful than smoking.

  • Having a baby
    After giving birth, the extra weight gained during pregnancy doesn't always disappear as willingly as we would like. Eating balanced meals is important, especially if you decide to breastfeed.

To recover your pre-pregnancy weight, practice some type of light exercise and eat foods low in fat and sugar but high in proteins and fiber. Breastfeeding will also help you get your figure back because milk production reduces fat deposits.

Staying fit through time

Through time, body weight tends to gradually increase. Older people need less energy than young people do because they tend to exercise less and their basal metabolic rate is slower. To avoid an accumulation of pounds over the years, gradually reduce your daily intake of calories and stay active. Don't strive for the body you had at 18, but rather concentrate on leading a healthy life style.



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