One of the most discouraging things that can happen to anyone is to gain 30 pounds in under a year (after losing it all the previous year before no less.  I’m not going to lie, it’s one of the most demotivating things that can happen to anyone- luckily I’m on the right path and the scale is again moving to the left.

These top 8 ways serve as a cautionary tale. It’s nothing to aspire to at all, but rather something to look out for when you find your waist expanding. Luckily (I guess this is a matter of perspective) with most people, gaining weight is a slow creep. Save for pregnancy, it’s nothing that just “pops up” (no pun intended.) So getting a grip on a few pounds “here and there” can really help people start drawing the connections between weight gain and specific external factors.

I’m here to tell you that it’s NOT just about calories in and calories out. 3500 calories does in fact equal a pound, on paper. But there are many other contributing factors to gaining weight. Below are all the REAL reasons (or ways), we gain and keep the weight on.

Get Really Stressed: Stress for me was one of THE contributing factors to my weight gain. When you’re stressed an apple just isn’t an apple. A salad just isn’t a salad. Its weight gain pure and simple and it goes back to cortisol the stress hormone and likely evolution. Yes, you can blame the caveman for your hips. Seriously though, cortisol is produced when the body is in danger.

And based on evolution, your body can’t really distinguish between an impending famine or drought or the fact that you hate your job. Your body elevates your cortisol hormonal levels to protect you. It holds on to fat (nothing but stored energy) because it doesn’t know when more food is coming, which was how cave man were able to survive when food was no longer available. Solution: Since you likely can’t just immediately remove the forces that are stressing you out, like a job, you can begin to deal with those stressful circumstances differently. Maybe it’s time for some time off. Perhaps it’s time to look for another job (while you take some time off). Meditation or finding other means of pure relaxation could be another way to deal with stress that’s causing your weight gain.

Don’t Drink Your 8 Glasses of Water or More a Day: One of the other biggest culprits  is to not drink enough water. Similar to the stress hormone cortisol, the body also goes in to protect mode, when it feels it’s dehydrated. And research studies point to the fact that most people are at some level of dehydration.

When the body isn’t getting enough water, it seeks to conserve all the fluids in the body, because it’s not sure when more water is actually coming.  Solution: Drink more water. This is obvious. 8 glasses is pretty standard, however if you’re a coffee addict like me, consider at a couple of glasses more because coffee and other caffeinated drinks are dehydrating.

Don’t Eat Your Spinach: Vegetables like spinach, collards, kale etc., is essential for your inner plumbing. These vegetables have a great source of fiber and get everything working and regular like it should be. Imagine what not going to the bathroom regularly does to your waistline. It’s true that the average person carries around 5-10 pounds of impacted waste in their intestines. The major food group that cleans our system are leafy veggies. Solution: Eat more leafy veggies. Experiment with yummy low carb, no sugar dressings like raspberry vinaigrette. Season your spinach and your kale with garlic and a little olive oil. Anything to add a little kick to your routine, especially if you don’t enjoy the taste.

Don’t Eat: It’s my opinion that a lot of overweight people dieting don’t eat a lot; to the contrary, they don’t eat enough.  Everyone who would like to maintain an average weight should be eating six meals a day. This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and three small snacks. Snacks could include a handful of almonds and cheese, apple slices, low calorie, low carb, no sugar meal replacement protein shake etc. Again, when the body senses any form of deprivation from happiness (see number 1), to water to food, it senses a crisis and something to protect.  Solution: Eat six meals as itemized look for snacks that you enjoy which include nuts, low sugar fruits, cheese etc.

Eat Too Much:  Eating too much can obviously work against you, especially when eating out of stress and unconsciously (not really being aware of what we’re eating). All of the fast foods chains have contributed to the obesity epidemic with supersize this and supersize that. Solution: Use a smaller plate and make sure that NO portion for your breakfast, lunch or dinner, is larger than the palm of your hand. Eat consciously, slow down and be aware of your surroundings. How does your food taste? Note the flavors. Chew your food well.

Consume Sugar: If you don’t walk away with any fact, know that Sugar is the DEVIL. Sugar causes rise in your insulin levels and anything your body can’t use in regards to the sugar and insulin it will store it as fat. The sugar you get naturally from foods like tomatoes, berries and other low calorie fruits and veggies are fine. But the table variety you put in your tea and coffee are not. The sodas are even worse because they contain higher servings than anybody needs in a day. Solution: look for sugar alternatives preferably Stevia and Agave. These are completely natural and don’t cause a rise in insulin.

Drink Diet Sodas: If Sugar is the Devil, then Splenda, Aspartame and all the other sugar free additives is its nasty kissing cousin. There are even some links to Splenda and Aspartame being harmful to digestion (and causing constipation) and some research pointing to Splenda as pointing causing formaldehyde in the brain. Solution: Refer to number 6. Embrace Stevia and Agave, they are your friends. Additionally look for really good drinks flavored with above alternatives like Vitamin Zero, Zevia and DRINK MORE WATER.

Don’t Exercise or Exercise Very Little: For obvious reasons exercise is important. It’s not only good for cardiovascular heath, but also the waist line and research is pointing mental health as well. Getting the recommended 10,000 steps in a day is very important for obvious reasons that you already know and that I’m sure your doctor has told you. Solution: Find exercises you love doing from walking, zumba, indoor rock climbing, dancing and do them at least 5-6 days a week. Consistency is the key.