How Does Weight Gain Affect Your Body? These Are the Effects of Gaining Weight
Dietitians explain what happens when you pack on those pounds.
Life would be a whole lot easier if losing weight was as easy as gaining it. It only takes a few days of veering from your normal routine to start noticing a difference in the way you look and feel. And it's not just lifestyle habits that can cause weight gain, either. Those extra pounds can come about from a range of different health conditions, too. Whatever the cause of your weight gain, it's helpful to know exactly what happens to your body when you are packing on the pounds. We talked to registered dietitians to find out what's going on inside of your body when that number on the scale increases.
It could be due to water, fat, or muscle.
If you've been eating unhealthy meals lately and notice a change in your weight, it could be due to an increase in water weight—someting that's a lot more temporary than gaining fat or muscle.
"When you eat foods high in sodium, you can gain water weight," says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. "Think of the morning after you've had sushi and also ate a lot of soy sauce. The scale is usually up a little, right? That's water weight. Sodium attracts water and holds onto it." Women may also gain water weight around their period "because your body is more likely to retain fluid during that time," Gorin adds.
While water weight can come and go, the weight you put on that's longer lasting is often fat. "When you take in more calories than you need, your body stores those calories as fat. Specifically, the calories are stored within adipose tissue," Gorin says. "Existing fat cells may be enlarged through this process, or your body may create new fat cells."
However, if you've been hitting the gym a lot lately and are wondering why you're gaining weight, it's probably just muscle. "You can also gain weight as muscle, and this type of weight gain is a good thing," Gorin says. "When you gain muscle, that muscle actually burns more calories—even when you're resting—than body fat."
And it may be out of your control.
Sometimes you know why you're gaining weight, whether it's because you're eating poorly or not getting enough exercise. But Gorin says the reason behind your weight gain isn't always so straightforward.
"Weight gain can happen for many reasons, including your personal genetic make-up, medical conditions such as PCOS or hypothyroidism, and even your lifestyle," she says. "Not getting enough sleep, being stressed, and having a change in physical activity can all impact your weight, too."
You could experience a change in your mood.
Gaining weight you don't want to gain can easily result in a change in your mood. And if you don't get things under control, it could spiral. "Someone may experience distress if they're unintentionally gaining weight, and this can cause anxiety, disrupted sleep, and even more weight gain from stress-related eating," says Miami-based registered dietitian Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition.
If you're wanting to gain weight, on the other hand, you may experience the opposite effect: "If someone is purposefully and consciously gaining weight in a healthful manner, this can be empowering and healing and contribute to an elevated mood and serenity," she says.
It could negatively impact your mobility.
One major downside to gaining excess weight is how it could affect your day-to-day life, and a big part of that has to do with your mobility, i.e., how easily you're able to move and get around. "Mobility may be impacted by weight gain and joints may also be affected adversely," Moreno says.
However, that wouldn't be the case if your weight gain is due to an increase in muscle. "Of course, if this is done in the scope of safe exercise, joint health can improve as they strengthen and stabilize from proper exercise, regardless of weight," she says.
It could be hurting your overall health.
Another problem with gaining excess weight is how it could hurt your health overall. "Being overweight or obese could increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, and more," Gorin says. That's why it's so important to keep that excess weight off. More than just your waistline, your general well-being depends on it. And for more reasons to appreciate your health, check out the 40 Amazing Things Only Really Healthy People Know.
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