The key to managing weight comes down to managing calories and not all calories are created equally. Some come packaged in very nutritious foods while others come in the form of calorically dense but unhealthy junk. Regardless of where your calories come from, if we wind up consuming more calories than we burn, we are going to gain weight. There are three very common triggers or behaviors that lead to overconsumption of calories and unwanted weight gain:
Sitting and Screen Time
The average American does not meet the minimum activity guidelines but even those who are meeting them still spend a significant amount of their time sitting and that time spent sitting is usually in front of a screen. Whether it is seated at a computer, television, tablet or otherwise, it is very common to consume food while doing so. This distraction can lead to an overconsumption of calories. So, not only are we sitting and not expending calories, we are now consuming even more calories that need to be burned off. Cutting back on sitting and screen time can prevent the overconsumption of calories.
Calories from alcohol add up fast and can be consumed very quickly. An average 12 ounces of domestic light beer has about 150 calories, while only 5 ounces of wine can run around 100 calories and 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits can also have about 100 calories. Many people under the influence of alcohol can experience “drunk munchies” that can result in the additional consumption of several hundred extra calories for the day because of the lack of awareness that occurs with alcohol.
Alcohol reduces blood flow and increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, causing increased fat depositing and fluid retention. It can create imbalances that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatty liver and hyperlipidemia (build-up of fats in the bloodstream). In terms of fitness and physical performance, alcohol also reduces supply of oxygen to the brain, depresses the brain’s ability to function, reduces reaction time, reduces accuracy, reduces balance, reduces hand-eye coordination and reduces endurance. Alcohol is also a diuretic that may contribute to dehydration.
It is often believed that a drink before bedtime can help a person fall asleep. However, alcohol’s affect on sleep patterns results in increased fatigue and physical stress to the body. Therefore, alcohol consumption indirectly affects a person’s strength-training ability due to increased fatigue and a lack of healthy restorative sleep. Alcohol can also cause sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time and the time required to fall asleep. This brings me to the 3rd behavior that may be causing you to gain weight.
Lack of sleep quantity or quality
I have several other articles that explain how and why sleep impacts weight gain. But in a nutshell, sleep regulates very important hormones that help us manage appetite and leave us feeling satisfied or “full”. If we don’t get adequate sleep we will feel hungry when we aren’t and we won’t feel satisfied or full when we actually are. This is a recipe for weight gain. Working to improve sleep quality can help with weight management.