We come across some people who don’t gain weight even though they eat whatever they feel like. At the other extreme, there are people, who seem to gain weight no matter how little they eat. Consequently, some remain thin without efforts whereas others struggle hard to avoid gaining weight.
Essentially, our weight depends on the number of calories we consume – how many of those calories we store and how many we burn up. But each of these is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The interplay between all these factors begins at the moment of our conception and continues throughout our life.
If we consume more energy (calories) than we expend, we will gain weight. Excess calories are stored throughout our body as fat. Our body stores the fat within specialized fat cells (adipose tissue), which are always present in the body, either by enlarging them or by creating more of them.
In order to lose weight, one would have to create a calorie deficit. A good weekly goal is to lose ½ to 2 pounds per week or approximately 1% body fat every two weeks. The number of calories one eats to accomplish this needs to be approximately 250 to 1000 calories less than one’s daily calorie burn. We can do it by increasing daily activities with more daily steps or other non-exercise activities. Standing and pacing burns at least 2-3 times more calories than sitting for the same time period. A deficit of 250 to 1000 calories can also be created by increasing workout time or intensity and by decreasing the food intake of approximately 200 to 300 calories per day.
In spite of our sincere efforts at losing weight, we at times don’t succeed due to specific reasons that stand in our way without we even realizing them.
• Lack of sleep – Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. The experts speculate that sleep deprivation may affect the secretion of cortisol, one of the hormones that regulate appetite. When we’re tired due to lack of sleep, we may skip exercise or simply move around less, which means burning fewer calories.
• Chronic stress – Stress and weight gain go hand in hand though some of us not aware of this fact. Chronic stress increases the production of cortisol, which not only increases appetite but it can also cause extra fat storage around the abdomen. It causes cravings for foods, which are high in sugar and fat. The so-called comfort foods make us feel better. In addition, we skip workouts because we just feel too stressed out to exercise.
• Overeating – The researchers have found that most of us underestimate how much we’re eating, especially when we eat out. Careful scrutiny of our diet is the only way to know how much we’re really eating. We need to space out our meals in such a way that we don’t remain hungry for long. Or else we may overeat at our next meal. We should try eating smaller portions and eat more often.
• Exercise – Exercise is another crucial element of weight loss, along with our daily activity levels. If we are not losing weight, we either need to increase our workout time and intensity to match our weight loss goals or need to change our weight loss goals to match what we’re actually doing. In order to lose weight, we need to build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to our cardio. The more muscles our body has, the more fat we’ll burn.
• Sedentary habits – Any extended sitting such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen can be harmful. In addition to exercise, we must try to be as active as we can. We must also limit our screen time. Therefore, we must take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. If we spend more than 8 hours sitting, it could be one more reason we’re having trouble losing weight.
• Weekend indulgences – Having some treats now and then is fine but indulging mindlessly in treats on weekends will hurt our weight loss goals. The trick is to plan our indulgences so that we can have some fun while staying on track with our weight loss goals.