How Your Lifestyle Affects Your Weight

healthy woman standing on scale

Obesity has grown to become a global health concern in recent years, with rates nearly tripling since 1975. Billions of adults and children are classified as overweight or obese, putting them at a higher risk of developing complications such as heart disease and type II diabetes.

Many people assume that weight gain is a direct result of their diet, but while the food that we eat can play a major role in obesity, it’s not the only factor involved. Our lifestyle can have a huge impact on our weight, from how we sleep at night to how we schedule our workday.

Family History and Upbringing

While it’s not exactly a lifestyle choice, genetics can play a significant role in weight gain. Researchers estimate that obesity is around 40% to 70% due to genetics. This isn’t to say that overweight parents are bound to have obese children, but only that members of their family have a higher predisposition to overeating or abnormal fat storage. 

If you or your family have an increased risk of obesity, you can take preventative steps to avoid gaining weight, as it’s much easier to maintain a healthy weight than to shed extra pounds.

It’s a good idea to get together and come up with a game plan on which the whole family can agree. Losing weight with a group gives you some degree of accountability and a strong support network when you need it the most. It can also reduce stress levels by as much as 26%.

Parents should be especially wary of the example that they set for their children. If you lead an active, healthy lifestyle, your kids are more likely to follow suit. It’s crucial that you teach them how to cook and eat healthy, exercise, and take proper care of themselves. Those who learn these valuable life skills as kids tend to carry them on into adulthood.

Growing Older

older woman's hands folded in lap
Photo by Christian Newman

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that many of us become more susceptible to weight gain as we age. Those of us who were able to eat whatever we wanted in our twenties often find that’s no longer the case once we hit our thirties or forties.

The amount of adipose tissue stored in your body starts to go up steadily after age thirty, with older adults having around a third more body fat than in their younger years. This is in part due to a slowing metabolism, which makes it harder to break down fats and sugars efficiently.

Metabolism is only part of the story, however. As we age, we also tend to lose about one half-inch, or one centimeter of height, every ten years after age 40, giving us less area to distribute our body fat.

It’s important for aging adults to be aware of the changes going on in their bodies. If you’re close to hitting the thirty mark, it’s a good time to start thinking about lifestyle changes that can help you to maintain a healthy weight. Even if you’re older, it’s never too late to start down the road toward self-improvement.

Mental Health

Often, the underlying cause of obesity is more of a psychological issue than anything else. Before losing weight, it’s important to understand the root cause that led to an increase in the first place.  

Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, binge eating disorder, and night eating syndrome can all increase your risk of obesity. What’s more, issues such as major depression are on the rise amongst all age groups, which has helped to drive the ongoing obesity epidemic.

There are several reasons that mental illnesses can manifest themselves as weight gain. For some, the excess pounds are akin to a shield, functioning as a psychological buffer between an individual and the world around them. For others, food is comfort. Others still simply lose the motivation to care for their bodies and end up overindulging or reducing activity levels.

Addressing an underlying mental health issue can help you to tackle your weight gain problem in a healthy, constructive way. Through therapy, counseling, and medication, you can work to change your outlook and your lifestyle, helping you to shed unwanted pounds and keep them off.

Activity Levels

Runners Jogging to stay healthy
Photo by Fitsum Admasu
 

Around the world, people are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Whereas a couple of hundred years ago most jobs were highly active, nowadays, many of us sit behind a desk for eight or more hours a day at school and at work.

Advances in technology have also made recreation a more sedentary past time. Instead of playing games, dancing, or somehow otherwise staying active, many people prefer to sit and watch TV or play video games.

Only around 23% of adults over the age of 18 meet the physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

Experts recommend that adults get between at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This includes activities such as:

  • Brisk walking
  • Gentle sports such as pickleball or badminton
  • Light cycling
  • Yoga or Pilates
  • Cleaning the house or doing yard work

You can also get your weekly dose of exercise in by engaging in vigorous aerobic activities between 75 and 150 minutes per week. Some examples of high-intensity workouts include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Fast cycling
  • Playing high-octane sports such as soccer, basketball, hockey, and more
  • Jazzercise, Zumba, or other aerobic dance classes
  • Swimming laps

It’s not enough to stick purely to a cardio routine when working out. You should also aim to do muscle-strengthening exercises such as weightlifting at least two or more days per week to keep trim and healthy.

If you have kids, you should impress the importance of physical activity on them from a young age. Take them to the park to run around, sign them up for classes at the local rec center, or encourage them to participate in after-school sports.

Sleep Cycle

feet sticking out the end of a bed
Photo by Tracey Hocking

Sleep is a crucial and often underrated part of a healthy lifestyle. With friends, family, and work to contend with, it can be a challenge to fit in a full night’s sleep before getting up to face the day. 

Sleep deprivation can do more than just affect your mood and slow you down. It can be a contributing factor in weight gain. Sleep loss increases the secretion of cortisol, a hormone that helps to regulate appetite while decreasing leptin levels.

As a result, you feel hungrier than usual, even when your body doesn’t necessarily need food. People who suffer from sleep deprivation tend to eat larger meals and snack more, leading to weight gain. 

A lack of sleep can also decrease tolerance to glucose, or sugar, and decrease insulin sensitivity. Over time, this causes spikes in blood sugar and can increase your risk of developing type II diabetes.

You should always try to get enough sleep each night to feel awake, alert, and refreshed the next morning. Experts recommend that adults over 18 get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Those over 65 may only need between seven and eight hours. By getting enough sleep, you help to reduce your risk of obesity.

Work Schedule

people in a work business meeting
Photo by Dylan Gillis

The shift from manual labor to office jobs has been a leading factor in the recent obesity epidemic. More than 85% of Americans spend all eight hours of their workday sitting in front of a desk. A long commute to and from work means even more of the day spent sitting.

If you work late nights, you may be cutting into your sleep schedule, which can also influence weight gain. Additionally, the stress of a high-pressure job may boost your cortisol levels, and thus, your appetite.

Striking a healthy work-life balance is not only good for your sanity but also your physical health. By ensuring that you take the time to look after yourself, you can ensure that you’re able to exercise, sleep enough, and maintain a healthy weight.

In addition to being a leading cause of stress-related weight gain work can also lead to temptation for those who are trying to make healthier lifestyle choices, especially with nearby vending machines, cakes at office parties, and catered lunches. Whenever possible, it’s best to pack your own food to take to work. You know exactly what’s in everything and can ensure that you’re choosing the healthiest option.

Friends and Family

The eating habits of the people we spend time with tend to affect our own weight. Families that eat meals together that are high in fats and sugars often gain weight in tandem. Other habits, such as spending time together sitting and watching TV, can also lead to weight gain amongst an entire family.

Obese individuals tend to shed more pounds when they spend time with loved ones who value fitness. They provide the guidance and support that many overweight individuals find they need on their weight loss journey 

If you’re looking to lose weight, you can try to encourage friends and family to join you. Instead of eating unhealthy foods at get-togethers, you can learn new, healthy recipes together.  

You can also find new activities to try together. Instead of bonding on the couch or around the table, you can engage in physical activities with your loved ones. There are plenty of things that you can do together to stay active, such as: 

  • Going for regular walks or hikes together
  • Playing team games outdoors
  • Joining the gym together
  • Doing household chores together

If your friends and family aren’t interested in joining you in your weight loss efforts, it’s best not to push them. Instead, you can find a group of active friends to include in your circle. Doing this will give you a chance to get out and exercise, socialize, and find support as you work toward your goals.

If you’re not sure where to meet new fitness-driven friends, try signing up for classes at your local gym or recreational center. There are also local meetup groups that you can find out about online through social media.

Your Neighborhood

Though it may not seem like it, where you live can have a bearing on your weight. The availability and price of different food in a given neighborhood can have a direct impact on the average weight of the community.

If healthy, low-fat foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables or lean meat aren’t readily available at local supermarkets, people are bound to opt for less healthy options, increasing their risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Similarly, if healthy food is prohibitively expensive, especially in low-income areas, it can encourage a cheap but unhealthy diet.

Neighborhoods that are dangerous or lack wide, open spaces can also contribute to an obese population. These factors make it less likely for people to get out and exercise, increasing their chances of gaining weight.  

While most of us can’t up and move to a different neighborhood, we can work to drive health initiatives in our community. You should encourage programs for supermarkets to carry fresh, local produce for cheaper than those trucked in from other areas, and support any fitness programs that help locals to stay in shape. If everybody gets involved, you can all make a change for the better.

Vitamins and Medication

open bottle of pills
Photo by Amanda Jones
 

Many of us rely on medications to treat both mental and physical ailments, but many pills can come along with unwanted side effects. People can experience weight gain thanks to their treatment plan, as certain medications can alter brain and body function to reduce your metabolic rate or increase appetite.

Antidepressants, for example, have been linked to modest weight gain. They can cause hormonal shifts in the body that boost hunger and can lead to an increase in caloric intake. The same goes for certain migraine relievers, steroids, and birth control pills. Diabetes medications and antipsychotics have also been linked to obesity. It is important to note the SARMs are not steroids and work completely differently.

If you suspect that a medication is causing you to gain weight as an unwanted side effect, you shouldn’t stop your treatments. Talk to your doctor and see if there’s an alternative that you can try.

Avoiding Habits That Lead to Weight Gain

healthy fit woman measuring her waist
Photo Source

Gaining excessive weight can place strain on the body and lead to health issues ranging from arthritis to type II diabetes. With our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, it’s easy to slip into bad habits that can pack on the pounds.

While it’s not possible to change certain things such as age or genetics, making a few simple modifications to your day can dramatically decrease your risk of becoming overweight or obese. You should always aim to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and socially. 

 

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