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.

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

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