Hidden causes of weight gain

Digital Bathroom Scale Displaying OMG Message

The diet to weight gain ratio is simple - if you eat more calories than you burn each day, you'll put on weight. Reverse that equation and you should lose weight. But if you're trying and failing to shift those excess pounds, it could be down to one of these hidden factors.

It's hardly surprising that in times of stress we reach for an emotional crutch, and for many, that crutch is food. Sugary treats and high-fat comfort foods will undoubtedly lead to an increased waistline if it becomes a regular occurrence, but there could also be a metabolic reason that stress could be causing you to pile on the pounds. A 2014 study at the Ohio State University found that women who experienced stress in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than their stress-free counterparts during the day. To combat the possibility of extra pounds, reach for low-calorie snacks such as fruit, veg or rice cakes, and use exercise to promote the release of feel-good endorphins and relieve some of the stress.

Unfortunately, many medicines cite weight gain as a side effect, so if you are taking drugs for a long-term condition, particularly steroids typically prescribed for arthritis, eczema, asthma, or insulin, you may be putting on weight even when you're not over-eating. If you are concerned, don't simply stop taking the medication - visit your doctor to discuss possible options and a diet that may help.

Part of the problem behind the nation's growing issue of obesity is our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and hours spent slumped in front of the television certainly aren't helping. Add to that, the fact that many of us tend to snack while we watch, and it's easy to see where the extra pounds are coming from. Try to limit your viewing time by making sure you get out and get physical each day, whether that's a walk in the park, a cycle ride, or a kickabout with the family. And if you really can't drag yourself away from the box, get your exercise while you watch with an exercise bike, rowing machine or treadmill.

'Low-fat' labelling
Our obsession with dieting and weight loss has led food manufacturers to offer a whole host of low-fat alternatives. Problem is, those so-called 'low-fat' options are often loaded with sugar and contain the same, if not more calories - the result? Weight gain. So when you're scanning the supermarket aisles, compare the number of calories on the label to be sure you're not being fooled.

Portion sizes
From restaurant servings to plate sizes, our portions have increased in recent decades, and it's our waistlines that are suffering. Research has shown that the more food we're given, the more we eat, so it's important to think before you tuck in. If you're eating out, take your time as this will give your tummy a chance to send that all-important 'I'm full' signal to your brain. Cooking fresh, home-cooked meals will help you to control your portion sizes, and if you're struggling to lose weight, try cutting the amount you serve up. If necessary, switch to a smaller plate which will give the impression of a sizeable meal without the sizeable calorie count.

What tips and tricks have you used to help you lose weight? Leave your comments below...
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