Unwanted weight gain can occur for reasons other than eating too much food or not doing enough exercise. We take a look at some of the surprising lifestyle factors making you gain weight.
When you regularly make nutritious food choices and workout often, any weight gain comes as a shock. It’s even more of a shock when you’re unable to identify what the underlying causes for this weight gain are. Instantly you add in extra run each week and drop from a large skim latte to a small, without too much impact on the scales. If this sounds like you, it might be time to take a look at a few other lifestyle factors that might be contributing to the extra kilos.
1. You’re constantly stressed: Being highly strung triggers your body to increase its production of cortisol. According to research published in Psychosomatic Medicine, repeated high levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain. Cortisol increases appetite and may also increase your motivation to eat, particularly when it comes to foods high in kilojoules, fat and sugar. While cortisol levels fall back to normal after a stressful event, if the stress doesn’t go away cortisol levels may stay elevated. Cortisol also works to suppress the production of insulin, making glucose immediately available to be used as a fuel source to cope with the stressor. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated, over time glucose levels remain high and the pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin, leading to cells that are starved of glucose. But the cells really want energy and one way to regulate this is to send hunger signals to the brain, which tell you to eat. This can lead to overeating and weight gain. To avoid stress-related weight gain, allocate time each week to relax and focus on you. Meditation, exercise and yoga are all great for managing stress.
2. Sleep is a low priority: The less you sleep, the more you eat and this is for more than one reason. When you look at what drives you to eat, it’s a combination of biological, emotional, cognitive and environment factors. All of these factors can be affected by a bad night’s sleep, says research published in the Journal of Health Psychology. When we don’t get enough sleep, the hormone controlling appetite is affected making us hungrier the following day and our emotional stress is greater thanks to lower tolerance levels. We also reach for more food to compensate for the lack of energy and tend to act more impulsively. These factors all combined increases the amount of food eaten and overtime results in weight gain. For a well-rested body, aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night.
3. You live in an area of traffic noise: Yes, you read that right. Traffic noise from road, rail or aircraft has recently been associated with a larger waistline. While a larger waistline was significantly associated with exposure to any of the three sources of noise, the link was strongest for aircraft noise. As this study was observational, no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, however noise exposure might be an important physiological stressor, increasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol are thought to have a role increasing the likelihood of fat gain around the waistline. The researchers also thought that traffic noise may affect metabolic and cardiovascular functions as a result of sleep disturbance that consequently alters appetite control and energy expenditure. While you might not be able to control traffic noise, you can control your stress levels and poor sleep patterns, which can drop the scales in your favour.
4. Dining with big eaters: The people you eat with affects your food consumption more than you realise and it’s thanks to the psychological effect known as social modeling. According to research published in the Social Influence journal, social modeling leads people to eat their usual intake or more if they eat with someone who eats a lot. The good news is though; it also works the other way. When eating out with smaller eaters, people suppress their food intake and eat less than they normally would if alone. You can also reduce the amount you eat when dining out by listening to your own hunger levels and stopping when you feel satisfied rather than when the external cues like your dining companions tell you to stop eating.
Photo Credit: Ingimage
About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to health, fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.