It is not uncommon to step on the scale one day to a surprise of an extra 5… 10… 15… or even 20 pounds. We wonder what happened to the days when we didn’t have to worry as much about our weight. We think back to the time when it seemed as though we could eat and drink what we wanted with occasionally exercising and still end up feeling half way decent about our weight. It is at this time, that we often look at someone else and wonder how they manage to keep the weight off and still look skinny or seem so healthy. Interestingly enough, while there are the few that have the genetic gifts which allow them to maintain, most of us have to work hard to keep ourselves from sliding higher on the scale. Adults under the age of 25 typically gain a small amount of weight each year, but adults whose ages range from 25 to 44 have been shown to gain about 3.4% of their body weight in men and 5.2% of their body weight in women per year. This means that a man weighing 180 pounds at the age of 30 would weigh almost 213 pounds just after 5 years. The younger adults have shown to gain the most weight. It is usually not until individuals are older (age 55) that they typically will start to naturally lose weight and often times this weight is in the form of lean body mass.

In addition to combatting natural weight gain due to the slowing metabolism that is part of the aging process, there are many additional reasons why we gain weight. An individual’s family demonstrates strong ties to the weight of an individual. This may relate to the habits of the family that are followed by an individual and this may mean that there is a genetic component of weight. Health conditions such as depression, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and respiratory problems can be associated with increases in weight. Medications taken for health conditions can also lead to increases in weight. Prescriptions for high blood pressure, diabetes, seizures, mood disorders, hormone replacements, and birth control have been shown to contribute to unwanted weight gain, but may be necessary to prevent other serious consequences.

Environmental factors such as work or family stresses can lead to weight gain. It may be more hours at the job or a longer commute taking away from time to rest or exercise. It may be young children, schooling, or youth sports adding to your daily responsibility. It may be that we drive where ever we go due to the inconvenience of walking or maybe we are traveling away from our home often and this makes it hard to plan and make healthier choices for meals. On top of the environmental factors that we may or may not be able to control, there are many personal factors that may contribute to gains in weight over time. Some of these factors include choosing an inactive lifestyle, poor dietary choices, and poor sleeping habits.

As one can see, there are a lot of factors that may potentially lead to the weight gain. Maintaining a healthy weight throughout our life requires a willingness to focus on our health and a discipline to follow through on decisions that may lead to a improved health status. There are often times when we can’t control some of the environmental factors such as having a sedentary job or genetic factors that may affect body type. What can be controlled are the personal factors that can contribute to a better body weight and overall health. A choice can be made to walk or ride a bike instead of drive. Family choices including children can involve active recreational activities instead of sitting around and watching television. Make healthy food choices over convenient food choices and choose to get the needed 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

For most individuals, weight gain takes time. We vary rarely wake up overnight with an extra 20 pounds. In a sense weight gain can be an act of commission just as much as an act of omission. We can make the choices that lead to the weight gain by choosing to go out to each each day at lunch instead of bring a well planned lunch from home. We can make the choices that lead to weight gain by choosing to plan our evening around the nightly television schedule instead of enjoying an evening of outdoor activities. At the same time we can omit exercise from our weekly activities. It takes effort to make lifestyle choices that lead to weight gain.

It is just as easy to make decisions that can help us maintain a healthy weight. For younger adults it can be easier because an individual may not be trying to reverse years of unhealthy lifestyle habits. Those that make the healthy lifestyle decisions early on may be able to maintain a healthy weight while those that have progressed to a overweight, obese, or an otherwise unhealthy state will have to work harder to return to a healthier state. The first decision that needs to be made is to achieve a healthy state no matter what weight you are. Choose to make better dietary decisions, choose to incorporate physical activity, and choose to make yourself better. When this is achieved then weight goals, fitness goals, and athletic performance goals can then be the focus.


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