With an alarming obesity rate the affects well more than one-third of U.S. adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we’re all familiar with the dangers of obesity. (1) Large weight gain is associated with an increased risk for almost all major chronic diseases, along with an increased mortality rate. But what about something as small as a 10-pound weight gain as an adult? After all, isn’t putting on a few as we age normal?
Well, according to new research released by the American Medical Association, even moderate amounts of weight gain — yes, even just a 10-pound weight gain or less — during early to middle adulthood were associated with a variety of adverse consequences later in life, including an increased risk for many of the chronic diseases associated or exacerbated by obesity. (2)
The Study: What Happens to Your Body When You Have a 10-Pound Weight Gain
The 2017 study led by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School wanted to determine “the association of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with health outcomes later in life.” Researchers did this by looking at weight change from early adulthood (18 years old for the female participants, 21 for the male participants) to middle adulthood (age 55).
Participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (1976–June 30, 2012) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–January 31, 2012) were asked to recall their weight at roughly age 20. Health outcomes were ascertained through age 55 through medical records and death indexes.
Among the 93,000 women and 25,000 men who were analyzed — 97 percent of whom were white — weight gain beyond 5.5 pounds during the study period was associated with a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity-related cancers. Risks increased significantly with weight gain beyond five to 10 kilograms (or roughly 10 to 20 pounds). There was also an increased incidence of cataracts, severe osteoarthritis and mortality.
Researchers ultimately concluded: “In these cohorts of health professionals, weight gain during adulthood was associated with significantly increased risk of major chronic diseases and decreased odds of healthy aging. These findings may help counsel patients regarding the risks of weight gain.”
That means a 10-pound weight gain as an adult, even over decades, can be hazardous to your health. That’s a scary thought, particularly given the culture in the U.S. in which it’s almost expected that adults put on some pounds over the years.
In reality, something as seemingly innocuous as a 10-pound weight gain should be taken seriously, and steps should be taken to avoid unnecessary weight gain as an adult.
7 Reasons You’re Gaining Weight
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress causes an increase in cortisol, which turns on fat storage within the body.
- Allergenic food: Gluten, dairy and soy can trigger excess inflammation within the body, making it almost impossible to burn fat and to achieve real body transformation. In fact, many experts believe that wheat products are some of the biggest contributors to weight gain, fatigue and blood sugar imbalances.
- A sedentary lifestyle: According to researchers from Vanderbilt University who followed 6,300 people, the average person spends 55 percent of waking hours (7.7 hours) sedentary or sitting. In 2010, the American Cancer Society reported that if you sit for more than six hours per day, you are 48-95 percent more likely to die prematurely than people who sit only three hours per day. The good news? If you reduce the amount of time you spend sitting, you’ll also reduce your risk of gaining more weight and developing serious health issues, brain fog and even muscle loss.
- Imbalanced gut bacteria: Did you know that 90 percent of all disease can be traced back to the health of your gut? So, it’s no surprise that one way to turn on your body’s fat-burning switch is by balancing your microbiome. The average body houses slightly more microbes than the number of cells in the entire body. Your body has a symbiotic relationship with these microbes, but when you eat unhealthy food and are exposed to excessive stress, unhealthy microbes being to thrive and disrupt the balance of order. Unhealthy microbes feed off of stress hormones, sugar and starches. The resulting spike in sugar cravings negatively affects your body’s gene expression, prompting fat-burning pathways to be turned “off.”Certain bacteria are also called “fat-promoting bacteria,” as they influence your body to gain weight and store fat. When the normal balance of bacteria shifts over to the negative, it’s called dysbiosis. Having more fat-promoting bacteria (unhealthy bacteria) than “skinny-gut bacteria” (healthy bacteria) isn’t just linked to obesity and weight gain, but many other systemic conditions as well.
- Toxins: Over 100,000 new chemicals have been introduced into the market since World War II. These chemical toxins are now being shown to cause hormone dysregulation and promote weight gain within the body. In fact, many of these chemicals are considered to be obesogens. Toxins can be broken down into two categories: 1) environmental toxins (non-living) and 2) biotoxins (living).Environmental toxins bio-accumulate within our bodies when we are exposed to heavy metals, plastics, paints, new carpets, household cleaning supplies, cosmetics and more. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals found 287 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants. (11) Over 200 of these chemicals were neurotoxic and many were obesogens. Also, the number of airborne chemicals are 10 times greater indoors than outdoors, which is especially troubling considering the amount of time we spend inside homes, offices and classrooms during our lifetime.
Biotoxins come in the forms of viruses, unhealthy bacteria and yeasts, parasites and mold exposure. Can toxins actually make you fat? The answer is an emphatic “yes!” A study published in The Lancet showed that environmental toxins indeed contribute to abnormal metabolic function. In two-thirds of Americans, toxins were central metabolic disruptors that contribute to the overaccumulation of body fat. Biotoxins and environmental toxins alike can cause hormone signaling problems, thyroid issues and low energy levels.
- Sugar overload: In the early 1900s, the average American consumed less than 20 grams of sugar per day. Now we consume over 100 grams of sugar per day. This taxes the body’s organs and cells and can create systemic damage.Sugar increases dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles along with atherogenic cardiovascular risk factors. It also has been shown to be as addictive as nicotine, alcohol and even recreational drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Sugar is easily converted into stored fat, with its over-consumption leading to a phenomenon called insulin resistance. When you eat a high-sugar or starch-containing meal or treat, your body doesn’t receive the proper signals to feel full and, before you know it, you overeat. Furthermore, a high-sugar diet causes leptin resistance, which is directly connected to increased cravings and weight gain.
- Genetically modified foods: While your current body condition may not be your fault, it is your responsibility — or rather opportunity — to change. Here are some of the biggest challenges with some of the so-called “foods” that we are eating:Our consumption of grain-based oils, also known as “vegetable fats,” has skyrocketed. Surprisingly, these fats aren’t derived from vegetables at all; rather, they come in large part from genetically modified (GMO) canola, soy and corn oils. GMO-containing grain and seed oils can cause imbalances within our bodies, leading to weight gain.
Today, 43 percent of our food budgets are spent on fast food and takeout meals, compared to just 13 percent back in 1929. More staggering? A study published in the BMJ Open Journal found that 58 percent of the average American’s daily energy intake comes from ultra-processed foods such as cakes, white breads and diet sodas.
How to Avoid a 10-Pound Weight Gain
Given all we know about obesity-related health issues, it’s only natural that the health community focuses on how to curb childhood obesity and instill healthy eating and lifestyle habits from an early age. However, as this research shows, adult weight gain is a major issue as well, one that results in severe consequences.
In an editorial published by JAMA, William H. Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity for the CDC, writes that although weight-control efforts have been focused on children, “efforts to prevent and control obesity in young adults should be accorded a high priority.”
That means preventing even a 10-pound weight gain in adulthood — across decades, not just a few years.
That may seem like a tall task, but there are many ways to avoid a 10-pound weight gain or more. For instance, instead of falling trap to the sedentary lifestyle of a common American, you can focus on moving around, particularly at work, where too much sitting can cause a host of health issues, including weight gain.
Also, did you know that biking to work lowers mortality rates as well? It’s true, so if you can manage to ditch the car and public transportation in place of the trusty, old bicycle, you can help lower the risk of the chronic diseases associated with weight gain.
You can also lower mortality risks by eating better. What does this entail, exactly? It means practicing things like mindful eating, focusing on real foods, and limiting or eliminating unhealthy foods.
It’s all about incorporating a healthy diet with a healthy, active lifestyle.
How to Lose 10 Pounds (or More)
Obviously, preventing that 10-pound weight gain in the first place is the preferred way to combat these issues. However, if you’ve already packed on the extra, unwanted pounds and are concerned you’re doomed, don’t fret. It’s never too late to alter your diet and lifestyle habits in order to lose weight fast.
So if you’re looking to shed that something extra, here are some helpful ideas on how to lose 10–20 pounds in a healthy way.
1. Cut Out Sugar
There’s no two ways about it: Sugar is bad for you. In fact, it causes weight gain more than fatty foods themselves. That’s why it’s important to limit sugar consumption and ideally cut it out as much as possible. Instead, use natural sweeteners in place of sugar, and beware — there are hidden sugar foods everywhere that you want to avoid.
2. Stop Eating Processed Foods
One of the biggest issues with the standard American diet is how many processed foods are consumed. This is dangerous and at the heart of the obesity epidemic — and guess what? Processed foods are loaded with sugar and all sorts of unnatural ingredients.
Eating processed foods is a surefire way to gain weight, making that dreaded 10-pound weight gain or more in adulthood almost certain to occur, putting your health at risk.
3. Up Your Consumption of Healthy Fats
As I mentioned above, fats themselves aren’t as bad for you as sugar, and in fact there are healthy fats you should eat more of in order to lose and manage weight. It’s true.
Foods loaded with healthy fats include avocados, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil and omega-3 foods. These fats lower bad cholesterol, help you shed excess weight, and improve skin and hair health.
4. Eat More Vegetables and Low-Sugar Fruits
Leafy green vegetables and low-sugar fruits like berries are excellent high-fiber foods that can help you lose weight. These nutrient-dense, natural foods help you feel fuller quicker, which curbs appetite and prevents overeating. Plus, the nutrients they provide are beneficial for weight loss as well, so long as you buy organic, natural fruits and veggies that aren’t treated with harmful chemicals.
5. Try a Low-Carb Weight Loss Plan
While many people assume limiting fat consumption is the key to weight loss, the truth is low-fat diets don’t result in more weight loss than other diets. Meanwhile, low-carb diet plans, such as the keto diet, are the most effective diets to lose weight. These low-carb, high-fat plans focus on using the body’s fat stores for energy, resulting in weight loss and enhanced health benefits, rather than using carbs as fuel.
The keto diet can result in a drastically healthier weight, helping you prevent or lose that dreaded 10-pound weight gain that can do so much damage.
Final Thoughts on the Dangers with a 10-Pound Weight Gain
- According to recent research published in JAMA, weight gain beyond 5.5 pounds in adulthood — even over decades — is associated with a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and obesity-related cancers, among other health issues. Further, risks increased significantly with a 10-pound weight gain or more.
- This means it’s important to focus on weight management for even seemingly innocuous weight gain as we age. You can do this by avoiding a sedentary lifestyle — instead, focus on exercise and lifestyle changes like standing and walking at work, biking as transportation, and even walking to lose weight.
- On top of that, you want to practice mindful eating and focus on real, natural foods.
- If you’ve already hit that 10-pound weight gain and are looking to lose weight and improve health, cut out sugar, stop eating processed foods, consume more healthy fats, eat more veggies and low-sugar fruits, and try a low-carb weight loss plan like the keto diet.