It is no mystery, skipping the gym to veg on the couch and eating fast food instead of healthy, home-cooked meals causes weight gain.
We all know in order to avoid gaining weight we need to move our bodies and use more energy than we take in through food.
If we see the scale starting to go up and we know we have not been active and we’ve been eating a lot more than usual, well, that typically doesn’t come as a surprise.
But what about when the scale starts to go up, and we are genuinely confused. Have you ever found yourself gaining weight and you can’t figure out why?
The culprit in this case could be hormonal, or god forbid, medical. But what if it isn’t? You have your blood work checked and the doctor can’t find any reason for you to be gaining weight.
There could be other factors in play here that you aren’t even aware of, which are causing the scale to go up and your clothes to feel a bit uncomfortable.
You see, many of our decisions and actions when it comes to food happen without us even thinking about it. We make choices or engage in behaviors that are driven by factors outside of ourselves that we don’t always realize are even there.
If you find yourself gaining weight and you’re racking your brain to determine the cause, these three sneaky factors could be to blame for causing you to eat more than you realize.
The things around us have a huge impact on what and how much we eat. Everything from the size of our plates to what others around us are eating has an affect on what we put in our mouths. Research has shown we’re more likely to snack on food that is out in the open, such as a candy dish or food left out on the counter. If you find yourself with unexpected weight gain, you may need to take a look around and adjust your environment. Put food away in the cabinets, portion snacks into individual baggies and avoid passing the office candy bowl.
Have you ever had a stressful day, come home and grabbed a pint of ice cream and before you even realize what’s happening you’ve eaten half of it? Our emotions and feelings are huge drivers of our decisions around food. Stress, guilt, anxiety, loneliness, pain, grief, anger … the list goes on. All of these intense feelings can lead us to eat. Oftentimes we are eating to avoid feeling the emotion. In these cases it is not uncommon to lose awareness of what you’re doing or how much you’ve eaten. Other times, you might even feel out of control, like you can’t stop if you want to. Ending this cycle takes time, but start with mindfulness. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. Openly admit to yourself that you’re eating to make yourself feel better. Recognize that eating won’t fix the problem. Look for other ways to manage your emotions such as therapy, yoga, exercise, etc.
Your social life
We tend to take on the habits of those around us and this is true for eating as well. When we are around others, we will do what they do. Researchers found moviegoers kept eating popcorn when they heard others around them doing so, even when they themselves were full. Social pressure is not always that subtle, either. Have you ever had a friend or family member encourage you to “just have a bite” or “just one drink.” Our decisions are reflected upon our social circle, and when you abstain it holds a mirror up to the other person. They don’t want to feel bad about their choices, and if “everyone is doing it” that makes it feel ok. While you can’t isolate yourself (nor should you) it may be wise to consider who you want to spend time with and how their behavior affects yours. You can still go out and not indulge heavily in food and drinks. Make a choice, stick to it and don’t let anyone bully you into bad decisions. If they don’t support you doing something good for yourself, maybe they aren’t someone you want to be around.
Weight gain and weight loss are not as simple as calories in versus calories out. Many factors, both internal and external, affect how much we eat and whether or not we exercise. Some of them we aren’t even fully aware of.
The first step to overcoming any of these factors is mindfulness. Slow down, think and pay attention. What is causing you to eat? Do certain things cause you to make different decisions or poor choices? You are not powerless to change these things. Change your environment, confront your emotions and evaluate your social circle.
You always have a choice. You simply have to be aware of what’s going on around you.