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Top 10 unexpected causes of weight gain

1. Excessive healthy fats. Yes, fats can be healthy (avocado, olive oil, nuts), but too much of anything can lead to weight gain. Check out my blog for more information about Healthy Fats, what and how much to consume for optimal nutrition.

2. Artificial sweeteners (diet sodas, candy, canned foods, jams, and jellies, etc.). Artificial sweeteners, also called sugar substitutes, are substances that are used instead of sucrose (table sugar) to sweeten foods and beverages. They’re basically synthetic sugar substitutes, but they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, such as herbs or sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than sugar. Artificial sweeteners are widely used in processed foods. Many of the artificial sweeteners have been linked to a range of health problems. Examples of artificial sweeteners:

Aspartame (NutraSweet® and Equal®), Saccharin (Sweet’N Low®), Sucralose (Splenda®), Acesulfame K, Neotame, produced by the NutraSweet Company; Stevia and Tagatose are considered a novel sweetener because of their chemical structure. Tagatose is a low-carbohydrate sweetener like fructose that occurs naturally but is manufactured from the lactose in dairy products.

3. Excessive natural sugars (agave, coconut nectar, coconut sugar, date sugar, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, honey, maple syrup, molasses, monk fruit extract, rice malt, sorghum). Natural sugar substitutes may seem healthier than sugar. But their vitamin and mineral content isn't significantly different. For example, honey and sugar are nutritionally similar, and your body processes both into glucose and fructose. Some natural sugars, such as agave have the highest glucose index of all sugars, so it’s best to minimize or eliminate use of them completely. Additionally, these foods are often packaged as snacks or deserts, so they’re more likely to be consumed on their own, possibly leading to a more significant spike in blood glucose levels. Instead opt for natural sugar which is not excessive, such as fruit and vegetables which do contain sugar, but also vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that can help reduce the glucose spike associated with eating sugar.

4. Fat-free foods containing fat substitutes. In general, in fat-free foods, fat is replaced by other ingredients such as sugar, flour, thickeners, salt, etc which add calories. Whenever you see ‘free’ assume something has been added in its place so you may as well opt for full fat. At least you know what’s in it.

5. Processed 'healthy' snacks (granola bars, protein shakes). Some granola bars, protein shakes and similar processed healthy snacks, have more sugar than daily recommended intake. Be sure to look at the labels and whenever possible, choose to make your own. Check out my most popular recipe Superfoods granola:

6. Alcohol and caffeine. These two are often overlooked but may be the most common culprits of unexpected weight gain. When consuming alcohol you may find yourself reaching for less healthy options on the menu or consuming more calories than originally intended. Alcohol tends to increase hunger sensation and it stops your body from burning fat because the liver goes into overdrive to detox. Coffee loaded with cream and sugar just misses the mark; you may as well infuse yourself with a short of sugar first thing in the morning. Drinking coffee late in the day may affect sleep which can promote weight gain. Skip the afternoon coffee run and instead try black coffee in the morning which promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism and aiding appetite control.

7. Hormones in meat and dairy. Hormones are given to livestock to make production more efficient. The hormones used in beef production are estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone or their synthetic versions. Specific hormones can increase milk production and growth of the animals. Effects of consuming hormones in meat and dairy include weight gain, immune system abnormalities, and many other disruptions of humans’ normal biological functions, along with gut microbiome dysbiosis.

8. Chemicals in unfiltered water. Water is the foundation of life. It is essential to our own health as well as the health of the planet, which is over 70% water. Its cleansing and hydrating properties assist in everything from helping plants grow to supporting digestion. Chemical contaminants are elements or compounds. These contaminants may be naturally occurring or man-made. Examples of chemical contaminants include nitrogen, bleach, salts, pesticides, metals, toxins produced by bacteria, and human or animal drugs. Tap water is the most readily available but may not always be the safest option. Some cities have very good purification systems, while others leave traces of cholination by-products, lead, and sometimes bacteria. Research your city’s Consumer Confidence Report distributed every year by the Environmental Protection Agency to see if additional home purification is warranted. Water filters can help remove contaminants from water. It’s important to know which contaminants are present in your water in order to choose the right filter.

9. Lack of sleep. Poor sleep is a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity. People's sleep requirements vary, but research has observed changes in weight when people get fewer than 7 hours of quality sleep a night. Poor quality sleep has repeatedly been linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) and weight gain. Best ways to get your sleep hygiene in order is to start a night routine that you can follow, to ensure you’re getting adequate sleep which will give you energy to make healthier choices and energy to move throughout the day.

10. Heightened stress levels. chronic stress, or poorly managed stress, may lead to elevated cortisol levels that stimulate your appetite, with the result being weight gain or difficulty losing unwanted pounds. Cortisol not only promotes weight gain, but it can also affect where you put on the weight (like, abdominal area and hips). Activities such as walk in nature, meditation, breathwork have been linked with reduced stress levels.

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