What Causes Weight Gain?
It’s hard to know the right way to lose weight if you don’t have a good grasp on what causes weight gain to begin with.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation about this.
I’ll cover two sides of it:
1. The source of weight gain that happens over a long period of time.
2. The reason why your weight might jump up even when you’re on a diet.
First, let’s start with a story. Everyone likes stories, right?
A True Story
When I first started building my home gym, I bought a barbell, some weights to go with it, and a bench. All used. I bought it from a retired Marine, too, so I figured it probably meant the set-up would somehow make me even more tough (yeah, I’m a dork).
After working out mostly at home for a while, I eventually started traveling more, which meant hitting up various gyms on the road, and I found myself having a problem.
Whenever I worked out on the road, I had a heck of a time lifting the same amount of weight as I did when I was home. I knew I was tired from traveling, but it started to get ridiculous. Literally every workout was way more difficult, and some weights were just impossible for me to lift at all. It really messed up my program for a few weeks.
That’s when I weighed my barbell.
Turns out, the barbell I bought from this rough and tough Marine was 10 pounds lighter than the standard ones I was using at all the gyms on the road.
10 pounds might not seem like much, but believe me, it can humble you real quick when you aren’t expecting it. I felt like an idiot.
Why am I telling you this? Mainly I just thought you’d enjoy a laugh at my expense. But also, it ties in with one of the things I want to talk about… unexpected fluctuations in weight.
If you want to lose weight, seeing your weight go up even just a couple pounds can be enough to make you want to give up. The thing is, it’s common. To truly understand this, we have to take a step back and look at why you’re in the situation of wanting to lose weight in the first place.
Slow, Steady Weight Gain
There’s only one thing that causes the type of weight gain that happens over an extended period of time: overeating.
There are other factors involved that make it seem more complicated than that, but it still all boils down to the number of calories you eat from day to day, or even week to week. For example…
You might think there’s no way you could gain weight if you eat only “healthy” food. But it doesn’t matter if it’s cauliflower or cake-pops, too many calories of either one (aka overeating) will cause you to gain weight.
Granted, it’s much more difficult to overeat on cauliflower, but the concept remains valid.
If your experience tells you otherwise, the hard truth is that you probably just weren’t tracking your food accurately.
I know that can be frustrating to hear, but it’s exactly why having a coach is so vital. It’s an outside perspective that not only helps you track the data more effectively, but it allows someone else to help you carry some of the emotional stress that comes with trying to lose weight.
Regardless, the only way to arrive at any solution is to accept this overarching principle as fact: overeating, even little by little over long periods of time, is what causes weight gain.
From there, you can start to implement strategies for weight loss. At which point there’s another type of weight gain to be aware of that DOESN’T come from overeating. It’s the kind I hinted at earlier…
One day your weight is down, then it goes up, the next day it’s down again. Then your weight jumps back up, then nothing changes. Maybe it’ll go down again. You hope it will. But what do you do in the meantime? What’s going on?
The important thing to know is that it almost never has anything to do with gaining fat. The next time you experience unexpected weight gain, ask yourself:
Did you indulge in more carbs than normal recently?
Have you worked out recently?
Are you weighing yourself at the same time each day?
Do you eat your meals on a regular schedule?
Was your last meal particularly heavy or salty?
When was the last time you went to the bathroom?
Are you on your period (or about to be)?
Has your stress increased recently?
All of these things can cause weight gain simply because your body is holding onto more water at the moment, or because there’s just more food (or waste) in your body than last time you weighed yourself.
It’s nothing to worry about.
Even though the number on the scale went up, you might still be losing fat just fine. Which brings me to the bigger point that needs to be made:
Weight loss isn’t linear.
That’s right, regardless of how well you follow your diet, you don’t start losing weight one day and then continue to lose it day after day until you’re done. So what do you do in the meantime when unexpected weight gain like this does happen?
What to Do About It
Just being aware of the fact that your weight will make random jumps up and down while losing fat can be a game changer.
It takes the pressure off daily changes and teaches you to look for long-term trends.
We have many of our clients weigh in daily so they can learn to be comfortable with the back and forth, up and down, daily changes to their weight. Most of the time we don’t even allow changes to be made to the diet until we have at least 2 weeks of data to see the big picture.
And that’s my suggestion for you, too.
Don’t get stressed if and when your weight jumps up for a few days. Be patient. If you want, you can even just weigh yourself weekly. But keep in mind, even then you might not see the changes you want from week to week. You’ll still need to wait a couple weeks, or even a month, to know if what you’re doing is working.
The cool thing is, once you learn to not let those unexpected fluctuations bother you — by following the patterns you see every few weeks and ONLY making adjustments based on that — you’ll also have more control over preventing the slow, steady weight gain I talked about at the beginning, too.
It’s not easy, but it’s a better plan than reacting too quickly to too little data. It’s also easier with a coach, but that’s your call. Whenever you’re ready to…
Lose stubborn fat
Have more energy
Master meal plans
Feel strong and confident
…you can check out what our private, online coaching looks like and see if it would be a good fit for you by clicking here.