11 Sneaky Things That Could Cause Unexpected Weight Gain

by Joyce Chua
WEIGHT LOSS  |  August 17, 2019
  • If you feel like you’ve been trying really hard to lose weight but the kilos just keep piling up, these may be the reasons why.
    1 / 12 If you feel like you’ve been trying really hard to lose weight but the kilos just keep piling up, these may be the reasons why.

    You know that eating junk food and being inactive are obvious causes of weight gain. You might be very conscious about your diet, skip supper, and even manage to work out a few times each week. Yet, in spite of all your conscientious efforts, you just can’t seem to keep your weight down. Why is that?

    The truth is, there is more to weight loss than just keeping score of your calorie intake. The reasons can lie in unexpected places, from innocuous ingredients within your diet that are causing more harm than good to your lifestyle habits. When it all adds up, it keeps you from shedding the extra baggage. Here are some sneaky saboteurs that may be causing your weight gain.

    All photos: Shutterstock

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  • 1. Sleeping with the lights on
    2 / 12 1. Sleeping with the lights on

    A new study has found that even if you clock the optimum amount of sleep, sleeping with the lights or TV on might nevertheless cause weight gain. This is possibly because the absence of darkness prevents you from going into deep sleep, which is necessary for memory and overall learning, increasing blood supply to muscles, boosting the immune system, cell regeneration, and repairing and growing tissues and bones. Without deep sleep, you may wake up feeling even more tired and crave a big high-calorie breakfast to replenish your energy, thus standing a higher chance of gaining weight. So be sure to turn the lights out before you hit the sack.

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  • 2. Fruit juices and smoothies
    3 / 12 2. Fruit juices and smoothies

    Fruit juices and smoothies can contribute a lot more calories than you expect. Because of their high sugar content (fructose), they can make your blood sugar spike and dip very quickly, causing fluctuations in your insulin level and making you crave more sugar after you crash. Fructose, found in fruit juices and flavoured yoghurt, stimulates insulin, telling the body to convert calories into fat.

    Plus, one cup of fruit juice uses more fruit than you’d normally consume, with all the nutrients and fibre blended out. You’re better off eating a piece of fruit – and getting its fibre – instead.

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  • 3. Nuts
    4 / 12 3. Nuts

    Nuts have a justifiably good reputation as a healthy snack. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, protein, antioxidants and fibre. But the daily recommended amount of nuts is no more than a handful (i.e. 20 almonds or 15 cashews). And when was the last time you kept to just one serving of nuts? Good fat is still fat, and will contribute to an expanding waistline if you don’t watch your serving. Portion out your serving sizes or buy pre-packaged 100-calorie packets, because those calories can add up quickly when it comes to nuts.

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  • 4. Energy bars
    5 / 12 4. Energy bars

    Unless you’re eating these in place of a meal, be mindful of having them as a snack. Most energy bars contain 200 to 250 calories, more than a snack should contain, and are loaded with sugar. The high levels of sugar can send your body into storage mode, converting them into glucose that stays in the bloodstream instead of getting expended as energy.

    (Also read: Healthier Snacks to Satisfy Your Late Night Hunger Pangs)

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  • 5. Peanut butter
    6 / 12 5. Peanut butter

    Yet another irresistible item that we tend not to realise we’re overeating. Peanut butter is calorie-dense, and its savoury flavour makes it hard to stop at just one tablespoon. But two tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 220 calories, more than a snack’s worth. So go easy on the dipping, even if you’re having apple slices or celery sticks.

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  • 6. Artificially sweetened drinks
    7 / 12 6. Artificially sweetened drinks

    But it’s artificial sugar, you protest. It’s not the real thing, you add. Nope, artificial sugar can throw your taste buds out of whack, making you unable to discern a healthy amount of sweetness, triggering you to crave more sugar and making you more prone to reaching for that doughnut. Studies have shown that consuming sweeteners is linked to weight gain and obesity because our body gets confused when it tries to digest something that has a calorie count that is disproportionate to its sweetness. When that happens, our body stores those extra calories as fats.

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  • 7. Fat-free foods
    8 / 12 7. Fat-free foods

    Think it’s safe to go to town on fat-free food? Think again. Fat-free snacks are typically loaded with extra ingredients such as salt, sugar, flour and thickeners for more flavour, making them a calorie trap that you unwittingly load up on. It might actually be a better idea to snack on a handful of raw almonds than a packet of fat-free rice crackers, or an avocado-on-toast for breakfast than a bowl of fat-free cereal.

    (Also read: 7 Things You Need to Know About Trans Fat)

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  • 8. Packaged "health" foods
    9 / 12 8. Packaged "health" foods

    A large part of packaged foods are processed, and some of the so-called health foods can irritate and inflame fat cells. Foods that are purportedly good for us, such as fruit yoghurt, fat-free cereals or granola, even gluten-free pasta and soy milk usually comprise ingredients that can cause inflammation, such as soy, corn and, of course, sugar, sending us into a vicious circle of weight gain.

    Fight fat inflammation by filling your plate with fruits and vegetables that can put your body back into equilibrium. Opt for low-sugar fruits such as blueberries and low-starch, leafy veggies such as spinach, broccoli, kale and bell peppers for their antioxidative, cancer- and inflammation-fighting properties.

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  • 9. Mindless eating
    10 / 12 9. Mindless eating

    You might be at a party or working at the computer or binge-watching a Netflix series. But you’re also constantly eating. And eating. Not being mindful when you’re eating can cause you to overeat, and before you know it, a simple snack or meal would have made up your entire day’s calorie count.

    Try to pay attention when you eat, and eat more slowly (try chewing 20 times for every mouthful). You will be more attuned to your body telling you that it’s full and stop eating when you need to.

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  • 10. Fatigue
    11 / 12 10. Fatigue

    Insufficient sleep can be a contributing factor to weight gain. For one, sleep suppresses the hunger hormone leptin (which regulates appetite and metabolism), so when you’re up late, you tend to go on a fridge raid. For another, lack of sleep makes you crave high-fat and high-carb comfort foods, so your snack choices won’t be the smartest. Plus, you’re less active at night, so all the calories you consume will be stored as fat instead of getting expended through physical activity.

    Sleep deprivation can also mess with your hunger hormones the next day, making you more prone to having a sugary muffin for breakfast.

    (Also read: Stressed And Sleep-Deprived? Head to ESPA For This Sleep Ritual)

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  • 11. Stress
    12 / 12 11. Stress

    Stress is almost unavoidable in our fast-paced society. But chronic stress can be really taxing on the body and contribute to inflammation and, in turn, weight gain. Stress stimulates our body’s production of cortisol, the stress hormone that raises insulin levels, causing blood sugar to dip and you to crave fatty or sugary foods that are high in calories. This is why we tend to turn to comfort foods when we are stressed. Eating offers solace to us when we’re stressed because our brain releases chemicals in response to food that directly calm us. The solution would be to get to the heart of the problem and manage stress, instead of giving in to our cravings and then desperately try to run it off on the treadmill.

    (Also read: 5 Yoga Breathing Exercises That Will Relieve Stress And Clear Your Mind)

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