Identifying Triggers for Weight Gain

There are many different lifestyle triggers that can profoundly affect the way we eat. In fact, any change in life can produce changes to our eating patterns and activity level. Here are just a few.

Career: Do you have a job that is sedentary or involves a long commute? Is your job stressful? Do work associates bring donuts, pizza, and cakes into the break room? Stress leads to high levels of cortisol, and cortisol causes cravings for salty, sweet, and fatty foods.

  • 69% of administrative assistants have reported weight gain
  • 51 % of K-12 teachers have reported weight gain
  • 51% of Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistants have reported weight gain
  • 17% of workers say workplace celebrations contribute to their weight gain
  • 70% of workers snack during the day
  • 35% eat because of stress

Marriage: After the honeymoon, lifestyle patterns tend to change. Typically, more food is consumed, and there is less physical activity. Typical reasons include-

Young elegant wedding couple

  • Watching more television. You watch your favorite program, you spouse’s show, and then one you both like.
  • Snacking during the television viewing.
  • Having a spouse who is a good cook. Often saying no to a particular food or trying to cut down on portion size is perceived in a negative way by the spouse who prepared the meal.
  • Entertaining and going out together to eat. Perhaps your circle of friends and family encourage you to overindulge. It’s much easier to follow the group.
  • Beware of emotionally based childhood eating habits that can carry over into adulthood, affecting both you and your spouse. Did your parents reward good behavior with food? Eating can also be driven by cherished memories. My husband is comforted by memories of a home cooked pasta dinner. I remember my mom’s holiday baking.

Pregnancy: Women often find it difficult to lose weight after birth and may continue to gain weight. What might be some of the issues?

Mother and baby playing with sea waves

  • Some women develop low thyroid function during pregnancy. If you’re having persistent problems with weight gain, you may want to talk to your OB and have a thyroid test.
  • Women who lose sleep tend to gain weight. A study found that women who were sleeping less than five hours a night, six months postpartum were three times more likely to have gained additional weight.
  • Stress. Being a new mom is stressful, and stress hormones can promote weight gain. In addition, women are more likely to eat when they are stressed.

Pregnancy weight gain does not just affect women. Expectant dads often pack on the pounds as well.

Shocked young man with popcorn

  • Stress: Dads worry about impending life changes and new responsibilities.
  • Many times dads will eat more simply because mom is eating more.
  • Loss of sleep. Both parents are up with the baby.

The Solution: Be Specific and Make a Plan

goals, efforts, results, feeling good

  1. Identify what changed in your lifestyle to cause the weight gain. Was it one of the triggers listed above or a different one?
  2. Activity level: Were you doing more exercise before you gained the weight? Was the type of exercise different? For example, you played tennis 3 days a week before you got married, but now that racket is collecting dust in the garage.
  3. Eating habits: Was your pattern of eating different before the weight gain. What types of food were you eating? How often were you having meals? Did you eat out or prepare your food at home?
  4. Develop a plan:
  • Answer the questions without self judgement. Acknowledge that a shift occurred in your life and when it happened.
  • Be very clear, specific, and honest with your answers. Change cannot occur without understanding the triggers.
  • Use your responses to develop a simple plan.
  • Simple changes are key. Rather than focusing on losing 40 pounds, reach for short- term milestones. For example, commit to walking for 20 minutes a day and modifying portion sizes rather than obsessing about losing 40 pounds.


CareerBuilder. Teachers, Engineers and Scientists Among Most Likely to Gain Weight on the Job. May 20, 2013

USA Today. Gaining Weight at Work? You’re not alone. May 31, 2013

The Huffington Post. Marriage Weight Gain: Reasons You’ve Gained Weight Since the Wedding. February 14, 2013

Body Weight, Marital Status, and Changes in Marital Status. Journal of Family Issues. January 1, 2016 37: 74-96

Emotional Eating vs. Mindful Eating. Help Guide: Mental, Emotional, and Social Health. Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A. April 2016.

University of Utah Healthcare. The Scope. University of Utah Health Sciences Radio. Why Am I Gaining Weight After Birth? July 3, 2014

Parenting. Dad’s Pregnancy Symptoms: More Than Just Sympathy Pain? 2016


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