Weight gain and diet patterns – are they related?

Food is an essential commodity that plays a very significant role in our everyday lives. We particularly need food to get energy so we can carry out our daily activities effectively; the food we eat also largely determines how healthy we are. A lot of health disorders have been associated with the nature of the food we consume. Weight gain is an issue for many people regardless of age and social status.

Weight Control

Weight gain occurs when the intake of calories from food and drink is greater than the energy used during daily activities, including normal physiological processes and physical exercise. If weight increases due to increased body fat deposits, one may become overweight or obese. In this case, one is said to have more body fat (adipose tissue) than is considered healthy. Consumption of calories in needed because the body needs to burn energy to function properly, but the consumption of too many calories is what can lead to weight gain. Consumption of more calories than required causes the body to convert extra calories to fat. Too much fat in the body can then lead to overweight and other health related problems.


Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the world; although it is commonly linked with diet, there are also other factors that can be attributed to this condition. A lot of research has been focused on the causes of excessive weight gain; and how it can be prevented or treated. Research has also shown that weight gain is largely as a result of an individual’s diet pattern and lifestyle; although some people still find it very difficult to control their eating habits. Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder where one frequently consumes unusually large amounts of food and finds it difficult to stop eating. This condition is different from the common overeating that occurs occasionally, but is rather a regular occurrence that may result to adverse effects in the long run. A person with binge-eating disorder finds it difficult to resist the urge for food and eats until making oneself sick. To this end, most people with binge-eating disorder are overweight or obese and need medical help as soon as possible. Binge-eating problems may last for a short time or may persist for years if left untreated.

A strong correlation has also been found between obesity and depression. People who are overweight often become depressed. If not addressed depression can lead to even greater problems. Sometimes, people get addicted to eating junk foods because bad food can cause addiction in susceptible individuals. Junk food contains refined ingredients mixed with additives. These heavily processed foods are made in such a way that they have a long shelf-life and often taste so good and irresistible. Obviously, food manufacturers are trying to improve sales by making foods as tasty as possible. However, by doing this, they are also promoting overeating which consequently leads to weight gain. The truth however is that besides unhealthy eating there are other factors which are the cause of weight gain.

What other factors are responsible for weight gain?

1. Genetics: obesity has a strong genetic component and our genetic components largely affect our susceptibility to gaining weight. Children of obese parents are definitely more likely to become obese than children of lean parents. Although obesity can be predetermined, our eating habits can have a major effect on our lifestyle.

2. Insulin: research has shown that high insulin levels are associated with the development of obesity. Insulin is a very important hormone that is involved in the regulation of energy storage and coordinating the storage of fat in the body. Most of the food consumed these days promote insulin resistance in many overweight and obese individuals. This elevates insulin levels all over the body, causing energy to get stored as fat cells instead of being available for use.

3. Certain Medications: a number of pharmaceutical drugs can cause weight gain as a side effect. For example- antidepressants, diabetes medication and antipsychotics. These drugs are capable of altering the body function and reducing metabolic rate or increasing appetite.

4. Sugar: excess consumption of sugar in the diet is capable of changing the hormones and biochemistry of the body; subsequently contributing to weight gain. Glucose is obtained from a variety of foods, including starches, but the majority of fructose comes from added sugar. Added sugar consists of half glucose and half fructose. Excess fructose and glucose intake are the culprit of causing of insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels; contributing to increased energy storage and ultimately, obesity.

5. Underlying health conditions: some of the health conditions that have been attributed to weight gain include:

  • Underactive thyroid: the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones; thus slowing down the body’s metabolism and consequently leads to weight gain.
  • Cushing’s syndrome: this is a rare condition caused by high levels of the hormone cortisol. It can develop as a side effect of long-term steroid treatment or as a result of a tumor. Weight gain particularly on the chest, face and stomach is a common symptom.
  • Stress and depression: surprisingly, stress and depression are common health conditions people respond to differently. Interestingly, some people may lose weight, while others may gain weight as they resort to overeating.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome: this is a common condition that affects how the ovaries work. Among other symptoms, this condition also causes weight gain. People with PCOS typically put on weight around their waist.

While we can’t fully control the functioning of our body, we can learn to control our eating habits and change our lifestyle; unless there is an existing medical condition. Most people put on weight because they eat and drink more calories than they burn through everyday activities and body functions. Overweight and obesity may increase the risk of many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, fatty liver disease, kidney disease, pregnancy problems. Healthy eating and physical activity habits are practical steps to weight loss which may improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.

Healthy eating habits that promote weight loss

 A healthy diet is not necessarily about strict limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of good food. On the contrary, healthy eating does not have to be overly complicated but should be about improving your health and boosting the immune system. People have various perceptions about food; but the fact is that while some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have certain benefits, what matters most is one’s overall dietary pattern.

The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right number of calories depending on how active you are so there is a balance between energy consumption and output. When consumed food exceeds the amount required for the body, there is tendency to add weight because unused energy is stored as fat. Men should consume around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules). Indulging in the right eating habits ensures that you get a balanced diet and prevent excessive weight gain.

1. Increasing your water intake

Water is a natural appetite suppressant and drinking water may aid weight loss. Drinking water also increases the amount of calories you burn, which is known as resting energy expenditure. Drinking 0.5 liters of water may increase the amount of calories burned for at least an hour, leading to modest weight loss. The following benefits are associated with water consumption:

2. Eat more of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, meaning they contain the essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber needed for a healthy diet.

3. Cut back on carbs

It is highly important to cut back on sugars and starches, or carbohydrates; as this helps to reduce hunger levels and you end up eating significantly fewer calories. With this, the body then starts burning stored fat for energy rather than burning carbs for energy. Another benefit of cutting carbs is that it leads to reduced insulin levels, causing the kidneys to shed excess sodium and water. This reduces bloating and unnecessary water weight. Additionally, removal of starch from your diet can reduce your appetite, lower your insulin levels, and makes you lose weight without feeling hungry.

4. Include protein and fat in your diet

Each one of your meals should include at least a protein and fat source. Research has proven that increased consumption of protein may boost calorie expenditure by 80–100 calories per day. High protein diets can also reduce cravings and obsessive thoughts about food by 60% and make you feel full. When it comes to losing weight, protein plays a very vital role.

5. Exercise

Relevant exercises and weight lifts will burn lots of calories and prevent body metabolism from slowing down. Studies have also revealed that cardio workouts help the body lose significant amounts of body fat.

6. Reduce your sugar intake

Regular consumption of foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in energy and if consumed too often can contribute to weight gain. It is important to cut down consumption of free sugars contained in many packaged foods and drinks.

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