Have you noticed how you can’t ‘get away’ with eating (and drinking!) like you did, maybe in your 20’s and 30’s?
Has your weight has crept up as you have got older? Your lifestyle could be having more of an effect than you think. We all know the obvious triggers such as eating too much and not doing much exercise but there are some sneakier factors that can play a big part in weight gain. Here are some of the most common ones to avoid so that you can keep your tummy trim and within a healthy weight range.
Too Much Stress
Struggling to keep your stress levels under control? There’s a good chance that it’s affecting your weight - especially for women. Your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol, during stressful periods and this can send your blood sugar levels haywire. According to studies, high cortisol production leaves you craving sweet foods and means you’ll probably eat more calories.
Cortisol also changes how your body uses glucose, makes it harder to burn fat and makes it easier to store fat. Women are more likely to store fat on their stomach but this can also be true for men. Abdominal fat has been linked to health issues so it’s definitely something you want to keep to a minimum!
Falling into Emotional Eating Habits
Not taking care of your wellbeing can mean that you eat in line with your emotions rather than when you’re genuinely hungry. Feeling sad, stressed, lonely, bored or disappointed can lead you to eat to fill an emotional void and crave particular foods (usually the unhealthy kind!).
You might feel a little bit better in the immediate aftermath but in the longer term, this type of emotional eating can have a big effect on your weight. Most of the time, you won’t get a signal to say that you’re full and it’s all too easy to find that you’ve eaten a lot more than you planned in a very short space of time. And you probably won’t feel any better afterwards. In fact, you may well feel a whole lot worse as it’s common for emotional eating to make you feel guilty and ashamed of your food choices.
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Not Sleeping Well
Poor sleep quality makes you more likely to eat more calories and gain weight. This is because it disrupts hormones that control your appetite. Lack of sleep increases production of ghrelin and decreases leptin levels, which means it’s harder to manage your appetite.
Sleeping well is one of the underrated ways to keep your weight in check as your levels of these hormones will be a lot more balanced.
Not Building Muscle Mass
If you spend a lot of time sitting down and aren’t very active, you probably don’t have much muscle mass. This might not seem like a big deal but it’s a common weight gain trigger.
Lean muscle boosts your metabolism and makes it that little bit easier to burn calories, even when you’re not doing anything. If you don’t have much lean muscle, your metabolism doesn’t get this benefit and it’s harder to burn calories.
We lose muscle mass as we get older so it’s increasingly important as we age that we build more. One of the best ways to build more muscle mass is through strength training. Don’t worry - you won’t end up looking like a bodybuilder! The idea of strength training is to build a toned body with minimal body fat rather than the bulky look we often associate with weights.
Not Eating Enough
Being on a diet more often than not means you’re definitely going to lose weight, right? Not always! Restricting your calorie intake too much slows down your metabolism and encourages the body to go into “starvation mode” so that it can run on fewer calories. This also means you burn fewer calories too as your body uses most of your intake to survive.
These kinds of diets are very hard to stick to in the long term. Chances are, you’ll go back to a less restrictive way of eating but your body can still be more likely to store fat. This is why many people find that they gain weight after coming off a low-calorie diet.
Eating “Low Fat” Foods
Just because a food claims to be “low fat” doesn’t always mean that it’s going to help you to stay in shape. A lot of supposedly “low fat” options are often high in sugar and salt to make them tastier and can also contain a lot of calories. Eat too many of these “low fat” foods and you’re probably going to put weight on!
Tips for Avoiding These Triggers
So, what can you do to avoid these common triggers and get your body in the best shape?
• Eat a healthy, balanced diet that isn’t too restrictive on calories and stay away from “low fat” foods that can promote weight gain. Focus on eating a wide variety of whole plant foods, with plenty of fibre, protein, carbs (the good sort!) and healthy fats.
• Be physically active and build up a bit more muscle mass
• Get plenty of sleep to keep appetite hormones in balance
• Make stress reduction a big part of your self-care routine and finding healthier ways to manage your emotions that don’t involve emotional eating
• Adopting a more mindful approach to eating so that you don’t eat on autopilot
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