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Why it’s so damned easy to gain 20 pounds

by Mary C. Weaver, CSCS on January 29, 2013

busy mom after weight gain

I often talk to women who are slightly mystified by weight gain—and these are usually women with pretty good nutrition habits.

They’re not obese, they don’t eat fried food three times a day, and often they even skip meals because they’re busy running around after their kids or too rushed to have breakfast before heading off to their jobs.

It just doesn’t seem fair that none of their clothes fit right anymore.

Creeping weight gain

Almost always, that weight gain has been going on ever so slowly for years. It’s so easy to ignore a measly two pounds a year . . . but over a decade, that trivial upward creep becomes a significant problem.

How easy is it to put on two pounds a year? Well, let’s see.

Studies tell us that plenty of people add about a pound in weight at the year-end holidays . . . but even if you’re not one of them, you can gain two pounds of fat (7,000 calories)

  • by eating 19 excess calories a day (that’s one tablespoon of half and half, 6 grapes, or one and a quarter teaspoons of sugar)
  • by walking four minutes a day less than you used to or
  • by having lost a couple of pounds of muscle on an overly severe diet and thus burning fewer calories daily.

My point is that infinitesimal shifts in the energy in/energy out equation ultimately catch up with us. If you’re finding yourself mystified by weight gain, know that I’m not judging you.

I was there myself 10 years ago, on my way back down from my heaviest weight ever. I had tightened up my nutritional habits considerably and started an exercise program, but after a while, I hit a major plateau.

Getting off it was 100 percent a matter of focusing on energy balance—that is, good old calories.

‘Clean eating’ is not enough

Do I recommend basing your diet mostly on nutritious food close to its natural state? Absolutely.

But you have to understand that eating high-quality food contributes to your health—but not necessarily to fat loss. In other words, you can eat precisely enough “clean” food to meet your energy needs, and if you do, you won’t lose an ounce.

In order to do that, you’ve got to create a calorie deficit. Consume fewer calories than you burn (but not TOO few calories).

Conversely, you can cut calories and lose fat on a food plan that’s absolutely atrocious. If I need 2,200 calories a day and I take in 1,500 calories each day in Reese cups, I will lose fat. I’ll feel like hell—and probably end up looking like hell—but I will lose fat.

My point is that if you want to shed pounds and do it the intelligent way, you need both a calorie deficit and a diet plan based on good food.

Want to learn more about effective fat loss?In my brand new quick-start program, Take Off 20 Pounds, I share 27 hot secrets, tips, and strategies to lose weight the safe and healthy way, speed up your metabolism, and transform your body. Check it out now!

How about you—have you ever experienced creeping weight gain? Let me know in the comment box below!

Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
I'm Mary Weaver, your weight-loss and body-transformation coach. My specialty is helping women get in the best shape of their lives with satisfying diet plans, effective fat-burning exercise, and loads of encouragement and motivation. Check me out on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Mary C. Weaver, CSCS
Grab your Hot Body Kit, including your Look Better Naked report and a checklist of 11 essential fat-loss tips. It's FREE!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Adrienne Dupree January 29, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Mary, this blog post was very informative. Who knew that by eating 6 grapes or walking 4 minutes less could cause you to gain 2 pounds in a year. It really makes you think about pushing yourself to exercise.


Mary C. Weaver, CSCS, M.S. January 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Thanks, Adrienne—
It is a bit mind-blowing, isn’t it?


Pattio January 29, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I loved your post, it is easy to have weight creep up on us.
Mine is a little more complicated, I would exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes or more for over 30, 60 , or 90 days. I kept track of every workout, and I WAS SWEATING! Problem was I WAS GAINING WEIGHT! I was so frustrated! then I found out why, I have adrenal fatigue! Exercising naturally causes in increase in cortisol, but for people with adrenal fatigue, they are unable to metabolize the excess and move on. I was having inflammation and gaining weight!
i had to do more research, start eating gluten free, and redesign my workouts using tabata timing. The work/rest ratio is very important for people with adrenal fatigue, It allows them time to reduce the cortisol levels and keep working out.
Learning this has helped so very much and the inflammation is less!


Mary C. Weaver, CSCS, M.S. January 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Hi, Patti–

Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you found a system that works for you.


Pamela Hernandez January 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I agree! I say you can lose weight eating pretty much anything as long as you pay attention to energy balance. However you feel in the process and the rate of loss is impacted by the quality of food. Quality and quantity are important.


Mary C. Weaver, CSCS, M.S. January 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm

thanks for commenting, Pamela!


Mark A. Michael January 29, 2013 at 3:38 pm

A balanced approach is critical also. I have been going to the gym 6 days a week this month and the pounds still do not magically disappear. I have to watch what I eat, when I weigh myself and also my other activites durning the day. Consistency is important too.


Mary C. Weaver, CSCS, M.S. January 29, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Mark, you’re absolutely right. To achieve our goals, most of us need calorie control as well as calorie-burning exercise.


Suzan St Maur January 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Tell me about it! Here in the UK we’ve had some snow and ice recently and although that’s a mere bagatelle where you North Americans are concerned, it’s a big deal here. Because I have osteoporosis, my driveway is on a slope, my street is on a slope and there were no options for safe travel, I sat on my ass indoors for a week and managed to put on a good few pounds.

Now the snow has gone I have started moving around again and the weight is coming off. But had the snow gone on for another few weeks, purely through inactivity I easily could have gained 20 pounds.



Mary C. Weaver, CSCS, M.S. January 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Stay safe—that ice is nothing to mess around with. And yes, it’s amazing how fast a few weeks of enforced sedentary living can catch up with us. :-)


Suzanne February 1, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Thanks for the perspective on how easy it is to gain weight. And yes, eating boatloads of broccoli will cause weight gain ;). I guess the take-home is that if you want to lose weight, you have to restrict calories. Eating clean will only help because the foods you choose will be low in fat and sugar and nutritious :).


Shira February 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Mary, I really appreciate the explanation of why its so easy to gain weight! Why some days I would love to eat 1500 calories of Reese’s Cups I know my body would feel like roadkill afterwards and taking the balanced, measured approach you advocate is the best way to move forward. :)


Fiona Jesse Giffords February 6, 2013 at 1:25 am

I think gaining weight than losing it. But you act smart you can stop this process. Try take your workout plans seriously which doesn’t result you in gaining extra calories, consume healthy foods as much as possible.


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