Why I Gained Weight – Five Reasons I Gained Seventy Pounds
It seems obvious, doesn’t it? I ate too much, so I gained weight. I mean, calories in, calories out, right?
Well, yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
If you’ve read my weight loss story , you know there’s more to my weight gain than too much pizza.
In hindsight I can see that I had many reasons for gaining weight. These reasons continued to appear over and over until I recognized them.
Now that I know what caused my weight gain I can do something to prevent these issues in the future.
Five Reasons Why I Gained Weight
As I said before, I realize that I over ate and failed to burn the calories I consumed. Still, there was more to my weight gain than eating too much.
Now that I’m forty I’ve had time to look over my weight history and see where I struggled and why I gained weight. I also have the insight to know how to prevent weight gain in the future.
Here are the five biggest reasons why I gained weight.
I Didn’t Know What Healthy Food Really Was
Before the age of thirty-four I thought I knew what qualified as healthy food.
Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and vegetable oils made a healthy diet. All of the conventional dietary wisdom and scientific studies said so.
I knew sugar wasn’t good for me, but a moderate amount seemed fine. No authority defined what exactly a moderate amount of sugar was, though.
So, I ate lots of fruit and salad. I consumed plenty of tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread with a bit of soybean oil mayo mixed in. I ate plain Saltine and Ritz crackers as a snack.
Sometimes I’d have a Nutri-Grain bar for breakfast on busy days, confident that I was eating a quick, healthy breakfast.
I’d sneak a few of my kiddos’ goldfish or graham crackers. Afterall, the government wouldn’t allow the food industry to market unhealthy snacks to kids, right?
Only in times of my worst stress did I turn to chips, snack cakes, and soda. Besides, most people would say I consumed junk food in moderation according to the standards of the day.
How I’m Preventing This Weight Gain Trap in the Future
Honestly, writing about my former eating habits makes me feel nauseated. I can’t believe I ever considered so many processed foods to be healthy.
I’m happy to say that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past eight years learning about which foods are truly real, healthy foods.
Now I know that grains and sugar are unnecessary in my diet. Saturated fat hardly deserves demonization, but vegetable oils require caution.
Raw, full-fat dairy makes me feel great and provides nutrients I missed while eating an authority-approved Standard American Diet.
I could go on and on about my real food discoveries, but I’ve got more to cover in this article.
In short, I know what real, healthy food is and I know which foods make my body feel great and which don’t. With that information I won’t fall into the trap of eating processed foods that promise health benefits they can’t deliver.
If you’re confused about real, healthy food or whether your favorite foods are actually healthy, check out Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck.
I Used Food For Comfort Instead of Nutrition
In my early twenties, I developed a habit of eating when I felt sad, or stressed, or lonely, or frustrated, or any negative emotion. I restricted food when I needed to feel control and I used food as a substitute best friend when I needed a shoulder.
Most of us have an emotional connection to food. That’s why we feel nostalgic for mom’s famous mashed potatoes or Auntie’s perfect chocolate chip cookies. (Well, the carbs in those examples also play a big role in why we crave them.)
We bond over meals with friends and family. We celebrate milestones with cake. We include food in some of our religious rituals.
I’m all for the latter – bonding, celebrations, rituals – but solitary emotional eating played a big part in my seventy pound weight gain.
What I’m Doing to Prevent This Weight Gain Trap in the Future
I’ve learned to identify not only what my body is craving, but why I’m craving a particular food.
When I’m blue or stressed, it’s easy for me to reach for high carb foods to soothe myself. This is one of the primary reasons why I gained weight, afterall.
To combat my natural inclination to use food as an emotional crutch I’ve done three important things:
- I got help. As a former therapist I know how important it is to get feedback from someone who is outside of my situation. I chose to work with a life coach who specializes in disorder eating. (Of course, I can’t tell you whether you should work with a life coach or a therapist.)
- I learned my triggers and set up a plan in advance. I knew I’d face difficult emotions and stress. I’m human and that’s life. So, I turn to healthier coping strategies when I deal with heavy emotions now. Some of those healthy coping strategies include hot baths with aromatherapy, knitting, writing, making rag wreaths, and setting aside a $25 Hobby Lobby/Dollar Tree/Target stash each month for budget-friendly retail therapy.
- I don’t keep my favorite soothing foods in the house. If I’m going to drown my sorrows with sugar, I’m going to have to leave the house to buy it first. That’s almost never worth it. And when it is, I can bet I’m dealing with PMS. If that’s the case, and my healthier coping go-tos don’t work, I call it a cheat-treat and I don’t beat myself up over it. I get back on the straight and narrow at the next meal.
I Stopped Moving
When I say I stopped moving, I don’t mean I simply stopped working out. Of course, I did stop working out, but more than that I became sedentary most of the day.
Whether I was stuck under a sleeping or nursing baby or stuck behind a desk in a office, I simply moved less and less as I got older.
However, I kept right on eating as much as I could when I worked ‘standing and moving’ jobs or when I naturally stayed active in other ways.
What I’m Doing to Prevent This Weight Gain Trap in the Future
When I first transitioned from an office job to working full time at home I set a timer every 45 minutes to remind myself to get up and move.
Sometimes I didn’t need the timer because my kids or my pets would require me to get up and take care of something.
Now, I can’t sit for too long without feeling the need to get up, stretch, and do some squats or calf lifts.
Of course, I’m slowly adding a steady workout routine into my healthy life plan, as well.
I Was Chronically Stressed
I feel sad when I think back on my years of chronic stress. Much of the stress was due to difficult relationships, but a lot of the stress I brought on myself by letting my anxiety control my mindset.
As I said above, stress eating contributed to a lot of my weight gain. In my weight loss story I talk about the period where I ended each evening alone in front of the TV with an ice-cold soda and a box of snack cakes. That season of my life brought unbelievable stress and I dealt with it the best way I knew how.
Sugary foods soothed me and were quick and cheap.
What I’m Doing To Avoid This Weight Gain Trap in the Future
Now I know how to cope in a healthy way with the unavoidable stress that crops up. I also know how to keep myself out of unnecessary stressful situations.
I use the healthy coping mechanisms I talked about above as a first line of defense against stress eating.
I Gave Up on Losing Weight
For a time, when it seemed like nothing I tried worked, I simply gave up on losing weight. I didn’t know why I gained weight when I tried many different ways to lose weight.
I tried to accept that I’d always be short and fat. I dismissed the idea that I could ever be a healthy weight.
I heard my mother’s voice tell me that I was built like my grandmothers – short and wide – and fate decided my dress size early on.
What I’m Doing To Prevent This Weight Gain Trap in the Future
When I began eating truly healthy foods I lost weight. I didn’t start a real food diet to lose weight. I started eating real food to be healthy.
It’s true that I gave up weight loss, but being healthy became a powerful motivator.
Now that I’ve lost a third of my weight loss goal I know that I’m comfortably settled into a healthy lifestyle. I’ll lose the rest of the weight no matter how long it takes.
Being healthy feels too good to ever return to the bad habits I developed when I gave up on myself.
How I Know I’ll Keep the Weight Off This Time
Now that you know why I gained weight you might wonder what makes my latest weight loss journey the one that sticks.
In short, insight and hindsight.
I understand the difference between a diet and a lifestyle. I know which foods make me feel good long term and not just in the moment. I feel no rush to get to my weight loss goal.
In conclusion, I’ve made sustainable choices that let me enjoy food, be healthy, and lose weight. I’m losing weight by living and eating the same way I’ll live and eat for the rest of my life.