6 Reasons You’re Gaining Weight

Hint: It's not just what you're eating.

Medically Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 09, 2014
3 min read

It happens to just about everyone at some point: Your clothes are feeling snug, and you hadn't noticed a major reason for it.

Sometimes, the reasons are sneakier than you think. So if you've put on a few pounds and you're not sure why, see if these clues sound familiar.

Over the years, eggs, carbs, and fats have all been diet heroes and villains. It’s easy to feel clueless about what to eat, when the buzz about what’s good for you seems to change by the minute.

“People end up using the confusion as an excuse to eat whatever they want,” says Maryann Jacobsen, RD.

But if you follow the food trends too closely, you might end up sabotaging your health.

The fix: Nutritionist Carolyn Brown suggests you read what independent experts say about these trends before you jump on the bandwagons.

Life is filled with changes. Kids go off to school, parents sometimes need care, and careers change. They can throw you for a loop.

“Any kind of major life shifts, even the positive ones, cause stress, anxiety, and very often, unconscious comfort eating,” Brown says.

The fix: When life’s transitions affect your eating, you might not need a diet. Managing your stress is key. Therapy might help, Brown says. She also likes acupuncture as a way to tame stress.

As you age, your metabolism slows down. And if you're a woman nearing menopause, hormonal changes may also be involved.

At any age, you can take action to keep the numbers on the scale steady. You just need to adjust as time marches on.

The fix: Turn to time-tested solutions, like exercise. It's one of the best ways to maintain your weight. If you have a few pounds to burn, the combination of exercise and cutting calories should get you back on track.

“We know from research that women who exercise regularly don’t gain as much weight as people who don’t, especially when it comes to added weight around the midsection,” Jacobsen says.

It's a fact: “People who lack sleep eat more,” says Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD. Plus, when you don’t sleep enough, you tend to make poor food choices, reaching for starchy, fatty foods that are packed with calories.

The fix: Get a good night’s rest, and practice good sleep habits. Go to bed the same time each night, avoid caffeine late in the day, and keep your bedroom just for sleeping and sex.

“Starting in our 30s, we lose muscle mass every year,” Jacobsen says. It happens very gradually but adds up.

The fix: Fight back. Do strength training. “It doesn’t have to be all about pumping iron. Try yoga, which uses your body weight as resistance and builds muscles,” Jacobsen says.

You’ve probably lost weight by counting calories, carbs, fat grams, or points before. But such diets can backfire.

“Dieting is strongly associated with weight gain over time,” Jacobsen says. That's because you regain the pounds, and more, when you go off the diet.

The fix: Ditch rigid diet rules. Instead, notice when you're hungry and full, and let that guide your eating, Brown says. Also, don't forget about the calories in drinks. They add up, too, so you may want to make plain water, with 0 calories, your standby.