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Why We Gain Weight – What to Do About It

By Jiri Kaloc

It’s time to put it all together. We know what influences how many calories we take in and burn. We know the most common reasons why we gain weight and when it happens. With all of this in mind, we can formulate a set of recommendations that can be very effective at preventing you from gaining unwanted weight throughout your life.

First, let’s look at the output side of the calorie equation. Here are two main things you can do to boost your energy expenditure.

Keep moving

Remember that your expenditure is not only about sports and intentional exercise, all of your other movement is just as important. Make sure you maintain habits and hobbies that keep you active and moving throughout the day. Pick up gardening, start cooking more, get in the habit of walking places instead of driving, take the stairs when you can.

Never stop cycling

As you know, big changes in lifestyle can be a cause of weight gain. So, never stop cycling! Cycling helps you burn calories but also keep a healthy amount of muscle mass. More muscle mass means your BMR will be higher and your body will burn more even when resting. The good thing is that you can keep cycling at any age.

The intake part of the equation can be a bit trickier. Here are four main areas to focus on to keep your energy intake in check.

Make better food choices

The type of foods you eat can have a big impact on how frequently you eat and how many calories you take in. If you want your meals to produce a lot of satiety and keep hunger away, make sure they have the following characteristics.

  • High in protein
  • High in fibre
  • Low energy density
  • Whole or minimally processed

Incorporating these foods into your diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by slowly adding more vegetables, fruits, and legumes – that will ensure a good amount of fibre and low energy density of your meals. Legumes will also help with protein but you can go with eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, meat or seafood as well. Just keep in mind all of these should be whole or gently prepared.

Improve your food environment

Simply saying that you should eat more vegetables and other whole foods is easy. The hard thing is to actually do it on a regular basis. You have to start thinking of your food environment if you want to succeed long term. Here are two main things to consider if you want to have an easier time avoiding junk food and choosing the healthy option.

  • Access to food – When you have a bowl of nuts on your desk, chances are you’re going to eat them even if you’re not hungry. If you have to go to a store to buy food or to the kitchen to prepare it, you will likely delay until your hunger gets real. How close we are to food influences our decisions. If you want to limit eating junk food, don’t keep it in the house, work, car or anywhere you spend time. Stock up on healthy options instead.
  • Food variety – Careful about buffets! When you eat one type of food, you gradually lose interest in it. But if you introduce a new flavour, smell or texture, your interest is reset and you’re ready to eat more. That’s why you always find space for a dessert even if you’re stuffed at the end of a meal.

Discover hidden calories

One thing that often derails efforts to limit calorie intake are hidden sources of calories. Here is where extra calories are most commonly hiding. Don’t be blind to them.

  • You don’t count alcohol or soda into your intake
  • You don’t count coffee even though it’s filled with cream and sugar
  • You don’t count the sugar-free gum you chew every day even though it has calories
  • You don’t count those little bites when tasting while cooking
  • You eat much more on the weekend but only focus on your intake during weekdays

Improve your sleep and stress management

There are two things that will make every food choice easier – being relaxed and well slept. Check out our series on sleep hygiene and stress management to get a few practical tips on how to improve. You will see that your hunger is much more manageable and your satisfaction after eating healthy foods much higher.

Try to improve in some of these aspects of your lifestyle and you will have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life.

Next up in Why We Gain Weight series