What Causes Weight Loss, or Gain?


Figuring out what causes weight change is a complicated process and varies so much from person to person. Much of which depends on factors such as:

  • genetics;
  • fat to muscle tissue ratio;
  • eating habits;
  • hormones;
  • bone density;
  • movement habits;
  • whether you’ve been through puberty;
  • whether you’ve birthed children;
  • whether you’re going through (or have gone through) menopause;
  • hydration;
  • and much more.

By looking at this list, you can see there are few factors that can be modified. In other words, we can’t do anything about our bone density, or genetics, or whether you’ve gone through puberty, etc. It’s important to remember that weight IS NOT a behavior that can be controlled.

Weight is a by-product of all these as well as other factors. Yet, often people try to control it through a very simplistic formula: calories in vs calories out. Sure, those two variables do affect weight, but that’s an incomplete formula (which incidentally, ends up in weight gain for 95%+ of people).

You may be saying, “yeah, but – I’m overweight”. Well…maybe, but then again maybe you’re at your healthy weight already. After all, it’s not necessarily something that can be found on a chart.

But let’s assume you’re right, and your body is not at its healthy weight. Assuming you’re interested in your health and that various lifestyle variables of yours are unhealthy, which may be impacting your body (in many possible ways, weight perhaps being one), then how do you get to health (perhaps also including a healthy weight)? By focusing on health behaviors.

Put the Focus on Health Behaviors

Often people will focus on weight changes and dieting. This is a detour from health. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing healthy about dieting. It’s restrictive, which doesn’t equate to healthy eating. I know, I know, we’re splitting hairs here. But we have to. When people focus on weight and weight changes, it often leads to dieting. Even if you’re not on a named diet, if you’re ‘cutting’, ‘watching’, ‘limiting’, etc., you may be depriving your body of nutrients it needs (enough of them, or enough of a variety), making your body react appropriately and destine you to survive what it perceives to be a state of ‘famine’. This is why 95%+ of diets fail.

Instead, put the focus on health. Whole health of the body AND the mind is what will actually get us closer to health. And it’s only by engaging in health-focused behaviors that weight changes MIGHT happen IF your body is not at its healthy weight. If it is and you still don’t like your body, that’s not a weight problem, that’s a body image problem.

The Formula for Overall Wellness

So, what are those health behaviors that actually get us closer to health? Over 45 years ago, our program was founded on the fact that – despite the media and billion dollar diet industry – diets don’t work and cause even more damage than just weight regain. We’re here to empower and support women to find freedom from weight struggles through sustainable life strategies that are built upon and naturally incorporated into daily life, instead of the fear/rule-based thinking that causes more overall harm than good. While we can’t fit our whole program into a blog post, here is the simplified formula for overall wellness:

  • Eating in a specific way:

    • In balance – not restrictively, not overeating or binge eating, but in balance. My favorite eating mantra: mostly plants, and sometimes cake.
    • Mindfully – paying attention while eating, as opposed to being distracted or dissociated.
    • Intuitively – allowing your body to guide when, what, and how much you eat, as opposed to fearing cravings. We can allow the body to guide, because we eat mindfully.
    • With pleasure – as it should be! Eating is pleasurable. If you hate kale and quinoa, why eat it? There’s plenty of other greens or grains to enjoy.
  • Moving in a specific way:

    • Pleasurably – you may not love to exercise but find something you kind-of-like.
    • Consistently – when you do find something you enjoy doing (even if just a bit), doing it again… and again.
  • Living your daily life in a specific way:

    • Lowering and managing stress – stress effects health, as well as weight, so that taking charge of those areas of your life that stress you and adding things that bring you joy, peace, ease. Again, even if only a little.

Note – remember above we talked about perhaps being at your healthy weight but not liking your body? It’s here where the issue is resolved…in the stress management arena. Working on your body image is a stress management focus. Think about how long you’ve disliked or hated your body and whether your weight has changed up or down? In other words, have you ever been to your ‘goal weight’, but still disliked or hated your body? Again, this is not a weight problem, but a body image problem.

To sum it up, if you’re thinking about measurable, quantifiable health, or if you want to see changes to blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. – follow the formula above. If you’re looking for overall wellness – in mind, body, and spirit (and body image) – follow the formula above. And if you’re still interested in weight changes, research shows that the ONLY way to your body’s healthy weight is through engagement in the above health behaviors (here is a link to some research).

Kickstart Your New Year and Join Us This January

New Year, New YOU: What to Do When Diets Don’t Work

Take charge of your new year by joining a program that has helped thousands of women find the sustainable change to transform their lives. You’ll wish you did it sooner.

Join us at Green Mountain at Fox Run, nestled in the mountains of Vermont, for an immersive experience that will change your life. You’ll focus on redefining “healthy eating” and other key nutrition topics, stress management, the importance of self-care, what success really looks and feels like (hint, it’s not defined by the scale), finding fitness options you love and will sustain long after you leave the retreat, and so much more.

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2 responses to “What Causes Weight Loss, or Gain?”

  1. Laine Jacob says:

    Starting the New Year with a Thank You for all your very sane and understandable posts.

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About the Author

Shiri Macri, MA, LCMHC

Since 2004, Shiri’s approach as a therapist for treating binge and emotional eating is holistic, focusing not only on the presented issue at hand but also considering overall health. Working in this way often includes mindfulness-based approaches. Now as a trained MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, Shiri’s love of mindfulness and meditation practices are at the forefront of her blog writings and recordings. Shiri is the Clinical Director at the Women's Center for Binge & Emotional Eating, affiliated with Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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