When it comes to gaining weight, know this. Healthy looks different on everyone, and, for some, a shift towards extra pounds is what your body actually needs. There is also zero joy in spending 95% of our lives trying to weigh 5% less.
Saying that, if you have noticed that you are starting to store more fat – and you want to ditch it in a sensible, safe way – there are a few wellness-focused habits, switches and behaviours that could be the (secret) culprit.
From your love of nut butter to going really hard on your workouts, these could be things to swerve.
1. You’ve cut back on sugar
Everyone knows, in order to stop gaining weight, we should be reduce our intake of the white stuff.
But, if you’ve slim-lined your Friday-night G&T or downgraded to a Diet Coke break you surprisingly, may want to reconsider.
According to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose – readily found in sugar-free products – can actually stimulate appetite and make you gain weight.
It gets worse. Drink two or more diet drinks a day and you can expect your weight to increase five times faster compared to non-drinkers.
2. You workout 5-6 times per week
You hit the gym every day, are a regular at Parkrun and your cycling / power walking / jogging commute is a workout in itself.
You’re gold standard, right? Not quite.
Make sure you give your body enough time to recover in between sessions to avoid gaining weight.
Pushing yourself too hard can increase your risk of injury and, for anyone who’s experienced DOMS will know, can even hinder your long-term progress.
Instead, try working two days on, one day off. Reduce the impact of your training on rest days with a 20-minute walk or yoga class.
3. You’re buying ‘healthy’ dishes
Not all healthy options are as squeaky clean as you may think. And it’s not only hidden ingredients and cleverly concealed extra calories that you need to worry about.
According to a Yale University study, ordering dishes that you brain deems as healthy, can actually cause it to release more of the hunger hormone ghrelin – which not only increases appetite but also slows down metabolism.
4. You’re clocking over 8 hours of sleep
We all know the importance of sleep and sleep quality – it can reduce improve mental health, boost immunity and support gut health.
Yet, say researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, it’s not a case of the more, the better.
In fact, if you get more than eight hours kip a night, you’re more likely to put on belly fat, which is associated with symptoms of diabetes and heart disease (and therefore heart attack symptoms).
The optimum amount to minimise your risk of gaining weight? Aim for six to eight hours.
5. You’ve quit dairy
Many women have found that ditching dairy and gluten can reduce a bloated belly.
However, if you don’t have a condition such as IBS or coeliac disease, going free from could hinder your weight-loss goals.
According to the University of Tennessee, a calcium-rich diet can not only boost the breakdown of body fat, it can prevent new fat cells forming – particularly in women. While a diet rich in whole grains can reduce your amounts of belly fat.
As many gluten-free products are made with refined grains, if you do want to steer clear of bread, for example, opt for items containing millet- and amaranth (both naturally gluten-free whole grains), instead.
6. You fill up on healthy fats
Avocado toast, overnight oats, nut butter. Organic, whole, natural and nutrient-packed foods are always the focal point of your plate.
All well and good, except for the fact that, according to the Office for National Statistics, the average person underestimates their calorie intake by 50% and a whopping 800 calories.
7. You schedule in regular workouts
Noting your weekly fitness sessions means you’re more likely to stick to them, true. But, according to French research, the more you think about your workout, the more likely you are to consume more calories in advance, to compensate.
Instead of planning exercise times on a week-by-week (or day-to-day), block book a month ahead to stop gaining-weight self-sabotage, sharp.
8. You omit the salt
Salt itself is not an unhealthy substance. We need salt. It’s an importance electrolyte.
But you’ve read that salt equates to gaining weight?
Eating salt does not directly increase body fat, but it can increase water retention, which would show up on the scale.
Cutting back on salt will help you see results, but it will pertain to water weight, not body fat.
9. You eat lots of protein
More protein means more muscle and greater calorie burn.
Or does it? Women in their 20s and 30s are now eating around two-thirds more protein per day than the 45g RDA but, time that intake wrong – and eat too much in one sitting – and you could be negating its weight-loss benefits.
In fact, it’s been shown that people who eat an overly high-protein diet, have a 90% greater risk of gaining weight (more than 10% of their body weight FYI).
10. You’re all about that hydration
It’s the weight-loss target you smash on a daily basis – drinking water. But, if you’ve hit a pound plateau, changing your hydration source could help.
According to a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health, high-levels of ingested BPAs (found in many plastic water bottles as well as plastic food packaging and cosmetics) correlate to a larger waist size and heavier body weight.
11. You workout at the expense of sleep
Ticking off your exercise sessions in the morning is a sure-fire way to make sure they get done.
But, if you’re sacrificing sleep to do so, you may be doing more harm to your weight-loss goals than good.
Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that people who get less than five hours of sleep, gain 2.5 times more belly fat than those getting the optimum six to eight hours.
12. You’ve quit coffee
The jury’s out on the health benefits of the dark stuff but, when it comes to combating any gaining-weight scenarios, dieters who wake up with a caffeinated cuppa have a 16% higher metabolic rate than whose who drink decaf – or shun coffee completely.