Do you step on the scales when
you step off the mat? And then weep? You’re not alone. But it may not be all your fault, either. We tip the scales for a dizzying number of reasons.
Food allergies, especially to milk and wheat, for example, can cause tissue swelling and metabolic disturbances.
Other conditions that may come with unwanted pounds include hypothyroidism, stress, poor digestion, low levels of human growth hormone, estrogen-dominance-triggered water retention, even the weather.
If you put on the pounds during the winter, you maybe a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) victim. One fifth of us fall into this category and find comfort in chocolate, starches and other waist-widening carbs. The cravings stem from seasonal changes in the brain’s serotonin levels but you can normalize them by eating healthy carbs such as fresh fruits and vegetables. And don’t neglect protein from such low-fat sources as yogurt and tofu, which also help quiet cravings.
Even NOT eating enough can cause weight gain. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day will stall your metabolism and slow weight loss. And that’s not good, especially if you aren’t a kid anymore. For example, if you’re 35, you’re burning 300 fewer calories a day than you did when you were 25.
Another reason a calorie-sensitive bowl of soup trumps a calorie-crazy can of soda or cone of fries? The heavier you are, the likelier you are to develop dementia later in life, concludes Swedish studies reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Excess body weight appears to impair memory.
Drugs can make you fatter or wider, too. There are 50 problematic medications, including steroids, antidepressants, blood pressure medications and diabetic drugs as well as some heartburn meds. Run your meds by your doctor or pharmacist to be sure.
Deficiencies can get you into the 5-x-5 club, too. Too little iodine (Do you avoid sources like fish, milk, salt?), for example, can depress the thyroid and encourage weight gain and feelings of sluggishness that encourage snacking.
Weight gain can be worsened by inadequate vitamin D because fat soaks up this vitamin-hormone and stores it, but doesn’t release it if you’re wider or heavier than you should be.
Shorting yourself on the whole-grain staff of life may contribute to this, too. In a Harvard study of 74,000 women, those who ate two or more servings of whole-grain bread daily were less likely to be overweight than those who snacked on white bread. High-fiber carbs burn more calories during digestion, satisfy hunger longer and trigger fewer cravings.
Those extra 20 pounds may be there because you’re shorting yourself on sleep. Consistently getting less than six hours of sleep a night increases your risk of being overweight by 50 percent or more, according to the American Obesity Association.
And then there are environmental toxins that not only make us sicker, but fatter. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, exposure to phthalates, chemicals found in everything from food packaging to shampoos, are linked to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance (as well as hormone disruption).
Here are a few ways to stave off those pesky cravings—and those extra pounds.
• Hydrate. Water or high-fluid foods like soup can help your body convert stored fat into burnable fat. Take in an extra eight ounces for each five pounds of excess weight you’re sporting.
• Nix the cake. Sugary desserts will stimulate the appetite, add pounds and maybe bring on an addiction to sugar. Sugar may even elevate your blood pressure if you’re already tipping the scales. Sugar is converted into fat in the bloodstream two to five times more rapidly than starch, and this can slow down adrenal function. Sugar also encourages fluid retention. Remember: Honey and maple syrup, although they contain some nutrients, impact the blood sugar just like sugar.
• Retrain your sweet tooth. Eating something sweet to end a meal or for comfort leads to excess weight and diminishes your ability to appreciate other foods. Switch to whole raw foods instead when the urge strikes, and drink water instead of soda or juice to quench thirst.
• Get good fat. Prep your body to convert food into cellular energy rather than fat by eating small amounts of good fat throughout the day (think a pat of omega-3- enriched margarine in your soup), which can help normalize or suppress the appetite.
• Check your protein. Protein maximizes fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. Protein should be 20 percent of your total calories, roughly speaking. More if you’re very active.
• Eat more almonds. According to the American Heart Association, an almonds-augmented diet can boost your loss of inches and pounds and help normalize blood pressure to boot.
• Choose foods with a better after-meal burn. Plant-based foods, not animal products, increase insulin sensitivity and provide a better and faster conversion of calories into energy.
• Know your trigger foods. If you’re typical, it’s not cookies or chocolate, but cheese. We put away close to 30 pounds a year with trigger foods (mozzarella and cheddar lead the list). And instead of soft drinks, the number one source of calories in the diet, switch to water and make your own juiced tea (half sparking water, half herb tea, then add ice cubes).
• A cup of soup can cap your appetite. Begin a meal with a little soup can reduce your overall calorie intake by 20 percent.