Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Puzzling Weight Gain

(I solicit your input at the end of the post, so read on!)

Harmony and I have experienced a very slow and fairly miniscule weight gain over the past 6 months or so. This is somewhat puzzling to us, especially since we joined a CSA back in June, and have since been eating many more (in quantity and variety) vegetables.

Stock image - scaleWe weigh ourselves almost daily. So this is not a case of "I weighed myself once back in March, and now I step on in September and have gone up two pounds." ...Two pounds being how much my average weight seems to have shifted upwards. Our scale also does a (very rough?) measurement of body fat percentage, of which mine has, interestingly enough, remained fairly constant in the entire time we've had this scale. We got it maybe July 2007 or so, and my percentage has consistently been between 16% - 19%.

Now on to the subject of food. I have a short memory when it comes to food, so I'm not quite sure how differently we ate before joining the CSA. I'm pretty certain that since then, we've had many more vegetable-based meals though. One would think that eating more vegetables would cause body weight to decrease, but one might be wrong. The CSA takes a good chunk of our weekly food budget, so we are eating less meat these days. Again, you'd think this would cause weight loss, but one might be wrong. Maybe the decrease in protein consumption has us consuming more calories over all?

Another factor to consider is breakfast foods. Within the breakfast category, there are two sub-factors to consider: quantity and carbohydrates. I used to have breakfast cereal every day, and I had it with lots of milk (protein). When we started buying organic milk, I couldn't maintain the daily consumption rate (or else we'd go broke), so we looked for alternatives. Pancakes come to mind, as do blueberry muffins. Pancakes have somewhat gone out of style, as they are fairly expensive for us (3 to 4 cups of milk!). Overall, I think I am eating less for breakfast, and what I am eating has a higher percentage of carbohydrates and lower percentage of protein than Frosted Mini Wheats and milk did.

Current breakfasts at work consist of one piece of buttered-and-honeyed toast and one hard-boiled egg.

In the past, I never bought into the low-carb craze too much, but maybe the carbs have something to do with this mysterious weight gain? But remember that Harmony too has experienced a similar gain, but does not consume as many carbs as I do.

I know that the Internet has probably decreased all of our attention spans, so here's a quick bullet list of possible factors and other contextual things-to-know:

  • Less meat/protein

  • More carbohydrates (for me)

  • Decreased size of breakfast (for me)

  • Metabolism beginning to slow?

  • (Activity levels have been steady in this period, so I don't think they're a factor)

  • I drink plenty of water during the day

If you have either 1) more brains, or 2) more experience in this area, we'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter, whether it's suggestions or further speculation.

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7 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Laura

    Mercy, two whole pounds! Will I even recognize you two when I see you at Christmas? ;-)

    I've always been under the assumption that the problem with carbs came only if you were eating simple carbs instead of complex. But I assume the toast you speak of is whole grain? I would be curious how much butter goes on the toast vs. what percent fat milk you were getting before. (And by butter do you mean Smart Balance?) Eggs have lots of good proteins in them, but I think even the omega-3 ones are kinda high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Carbs may be the high-profile item these days, but fats still get stored for long-term use.

    My husband has started eating bigger breakfasts over the last several months (used to be just a banana or a granola bar, now he eats that plus cereal and milk) -- in that time lost maybe as much as five pounds. His metabolism isn't exactly typical, but from our experience I'd say smaller breakfasts would have the potential for adding weight.

    Of course that doesn't explain anything for Harmony. Maybe she's been slipping some extra butter into the butter beans? ;-) On a more serious note, I think stress can also cause weight changes.

  • JunkMale

    Almost all of our carbs are complex. The toast is from homemade whole wheat peasant bread. The "butter" I speak of is Smart Balance, and I don't put much on there (how do I quantify..?). I would estimate that I put <= 2 tablespoons of honey on the toast. We buy Eggland's Best eggs.

    Of course, I have only done this toast-and-egg breakfast for two days so far, so the sample size is quite small.

    Maybe I'll try bigger breakfasts.

    Perhaps there's something to be said about stress. This year's level of residual stress and emotional malaise has been much higher than any year in recent memory.

  • Alan

    Oh, I have LOTS more experience with weight gain than you two. ;-)

    There are essentially two factors involved: Calories in, and calories out. The post only talks about intake.

    On the "calories out" side, in addition to the obvious aspect of exercise, you are older than you were a year ago. (I know, brilliant statement!) So maybe your metabolism is slowing just a bit.

  • alice

    There is a phenomenon of love fat. When I married my husband we ate healthfully but more consistently. As a single woman on the run, I rarely sat down to full course meals. Also when we were single, we would be out an about running errands, seeing friends etc. After getting married, I rushed home to see my husband.


  • Ewokgirl

    It could be a number of things: slower metabolism, stress, body reacting to certain foods, more sedentary lifestyle (you may not move as much as you think, especially if you have a desk job), medications, underlying medical problem...

    As a teacher, I was always up and running around my classroom. Within in a month of quitting, I'd gained 4 pounds. My doctor tested me since I have a family history, and it was discovered that I have hypothyroidism.

    A few years later, I packed on about 15 pounds due to chronic illness and several rounds of steriods. Unfortunately, I haven't lost that weight, but that probably has much to do with the fact that I don't exercise enough.

    My husband has gained about 25 pounds since we married (which is actually a good thing, as he was skinny) because he finally discovered food. My MIL, Lord bless her, is a sweet lady, but a lousy cook. Steven didn't know food could taste good until he met me!

    If you're concerned, visit the doctor for a physical and blood work-up. Otherwise, maybe just keep close track of what you eat, how much, and how much and how often you exercise. As I said earlier, you simply may not be moving as much as you think.

  • Veiled Glory

    Are you both near age 26?? It seems to be a threshold of "middle age" according to most Drs. and medical folks I know. Usually healthy adults will gain a few pounds around that birthday. Nothing to fear, I would assume. Women need it to prevent osteoporosis.

    One word of advice for breakfast: Eat more calories. I find that if I pack in at least 450 cals., I don't go hunting for snacks later in the day.

  • JunkMale

    Thanks to everyone for the comments.

    I have witnessed this phenomenon of love fat. After getting married, some people just got fatter. I don't think this was the case with us though.

    I do have a desk job, but we do try to get exercise in (probably not enough). And it could just be that we are getting older. I don't think 3-4 pounds is nearly enough to warrant a mention to the doctor though. Maybe if it were multiplied by 10.

    Both of us are, in fact, quite near 26. Perhaps it is just an age thing. I have been eating bigger breakfasts the past two days. That's a fairly small sample size, so we'll see if it leads to a lower average daily weight. Yesterday it had, but that could've just been random fluctuation.