By: Keri Peterson, MD — Your favorite jeans are suddenly too tight and your belt size just went up a notch. You step on the scale and see the number is slowly creeping upward. What gives? A survey of more than 2,000 American adults asked just that – Why do you think you have ever gained weight? The answers to the survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Calorie Control Council, were honest and insightful.
You Might Need to Get Active
The number one reason attributed to weight gain, by 55 percent of Americans, is a lack of exercise or physical activity. It’s important to know that as you age, your body changes. First, your metabolism slows down making it easier to gain weight if you maintain the same caloric intake that you did years ago. Also, your body composition shifts – you lose muscle and gain fat as you age. This further slows down the metabolism because fat does not burn as many calories as muscle. In order to keep your metabolism up, it’s important to not only do cardiovascular exercise like running and biking, but also to do resistance training. Lifting weights will maintain and build muscle mass so that you can eat sensibly without gaining weight. You should try to lift weights two to three times a week to stay fit.
Your Portions Might Be Out of Control
The second most common reason Americans cite for weight gain is eating portion sizes that are too big (44%). Restaurants often provide portions much larger than recommended. often times, people skip meals and arrive home late for dinner. Since they are “starving,” they overeat. The perception of recommended portion sizes is often overestimated and may be several times larger than dietary guidelines suggest. For example, one serving of meat is just three ounces, or the size of your palm.
You Aren’t Making Time to Meal Prep
Maintaining a healthy weight requires making good food choices. Thirty two percent of Americans report a history of eating unhealthily is among the main reasons they have ever gained weight. Lack of motivation and cravings can wreak havoc. Finding the time to prepare healthy meals is challenging with the demands of work, family and life. Some people are not aware of what foods are better options.
Your Unhealthy Food Choices Could Be A Coping Mechanism for Stress
Another big catalyst for Americans’ weight gain is stress from home (24%) and work (22%). Home stress was cited more often by women (29%) than men (19%) as a reason. Additionally, Americans who are parents of children under 18 more often reported home (32% vs. 21%) and work (32% vs. 18%) stress than those who are not parents of children under 18. Also, Americans under 45 years old are more likely than their older counterparts to attribute weight gain to home (33% vs. 17%) and work (31% vs. 15%) stress. Stress often leads to eating foods that are unhealthy and eating too much of them.
Gaining weight can be disappointing but it can also be a big motivator for change. Identifying what role diet and exercise play in your life will help you address what lifestyle changes need to be made.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Calorie Control Council from November 16-18, 2016 among 2,074 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,540 want to lose weight. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Stan Samples at the Calorie Control Council, [email protected].
Keri Peterson, MD is a medical contributor and columnist for Women’s Health and a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News and CNN. Based in New York City, Dr. Peterson has been in private practice since 1999 and holds appointments at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center. With a BA from Cornell University and a Medical Degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she completed post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peterson is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, and serves as a medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council.