Top 10 Reasons For Gaining Belly Fat

By Kevin DiDonato MS, CSCS, CES

Walking around the gym and working with clients there is a trend that I see.  Extra weight carried around the belly or people wanting to get the ripped “six pack” look are the typical gym client today.  What is the reason behind weight gain and why is it so hard to lose those extra pounds?

Here are the Top 10 reasons why people continue to gain weight.

10. Medications

There are a growing number of people who are depressed or on medication for depression.  These medications decrease metabolism regardless of changes to the diet, and the medications can change hormone levels in the body.  This impacts our ability to lose weight and keep the weight off.

9. Underlying Disease/chronic disease

A growing number of people have underlying conditions like Thyroid Disease, Diabetes and Cushing’s disease (increased production of cortisol in the body) .  People end up gaining weight and medical treatment is necessary to help in weight loss or slowing weight gain down.   Due decreases in hormone levels, the body is unable to raise metabolism which burns extra calories

8. Genetics

Research shows that genetics may play a part in weight gain.  Evidence shows some people may have higher chances of weight gain.  However, even though genetics may play a role in weight gain, environmental factors and individual choices play a much bigger role in a person being overweight then genetics.

7. Stress

Our natural defense against stressors is the Fight or Flight system.  With increased stress levels, our bodies prepare for us to fight or run.  When stress levels rise, cortisol is released in the blood stream, causing changes in the body.   Cortisol helps release sugar, stored in the muscles and liver, into the blood stream for quick energy use. This hormone is responsible for accumulation of fat in the abdomen which is hard for the body to get rid of.  Cortisol suppresses the immune system making it harder to fight infections.  Stress is always there so our cortisol levels are always high.

6.  Portion Size

Have you ever super-sized your meal at a fast food chain? I am pretty sure most of us have.  Portion control is a leading factor in weight gain.  We tend to over eat foods that are high in fat and calories, and do it on a constant basis.    We have lost our control over our portion control.  Plates and cups are bigger, so taking in extra calories is easier.

5.  Skipping meals

Skipping a meal is just as bad as portion control.  It slows down your metabolism because of lack of calories and nutrients in the body to refuel us.  When you skip a meal, 9 out of 10 times we overeat when the next meal comes.  Food choices are usually affected and portion sizes become monstrous.  This leads to too many calories, lethargic moods and storing those calories being stored as fat.

4.  “Low-fat” Labeling

How many of us have been duped into thinking that low fat is low calorie?  Low fat labeling means that there is 3 fat grams or less. Just because a label says low fat does not mean lower calorie.  So before you grab that low fat product, remember look at the label and see how many calories and what the serving size is.   We tend to over-eat low fat products, because we think low fat means low calories.  Sometimes, eating the “real deal” can be better for you because of the serving size.

3.  Lack of exercise

Strength training and cardiovascular exercise help increase the amount of calories that we burn.  We find ourselves doing less and less exercise and eating more calories.  The combination of lack of exercise and high calorie intake is why we gain weight.  The more strength training, the more muscle we have, which leads to higher metabolism.  This helps us burn more calories at rest and during exercise.

2. Slower Metabolic Rate

A slower metabolic rate helps with weight gain.  Muscle is more metabolically active (meaning it burns more calories) than fat so we need more muscle than fat.    One common myth is that as we age, we lose more muscle.  If we stay active then this is not true.   Continuing to do strength and cardiovascular exercises will keep the lean mass on our bodies which keeps out metabolism burning.  Then we can continue to eat those extra calories and not worry about gaining weight.

And the Number 1 Reason why people gain weight is….

1. Unhealthy Diet

Let’s face the facts: generally our diets are not good.  Our diets are filled with processed foods that are easy to prepare and probably are not good for us.   Portions are out of control and meals are lacking essential foods like fruits and veggies, and complex carbohydrates that help fuel our bodies.  Fast food and prepackaged foods can lead to extra weight around the waist due to a lot of fat and extra calories.

Diet and exercise help monitor weight gain as we get older.  Making better food choices, monitoring your portions and not skipping meals will help you lose weight.  Substituting a healthy snack or meal replacement will help you not to skip meals and will give you plenty of nutrients to satisfy you until you eat again.