Many dieters and maintainers are mystified when the scale starts to go up. “But I’m doing everything the same!” they usually proclaim. That’s when I ask them a series of questions to try to figure out what has changed:
- Are you taking any new medication?
- Are you eating all your food sitting down, slowly, and enjoying every bite?
- Are you eating at others’ houses or in restaurants more often—or doing take-out?
- Have you been traveling or going to special events that involve food?
- Have your portions slowly become larger?
- Have you added more food to your daily intake? For example, are you having an extra snack? Have you added an extra side dish to a meal?
- Are you drinking more alcohol or caloric beverages?
- Are you getting less exercise?
What often happens is that dieters/maintainers either start to eat out more or get a little looser, or both. They allow themselves to make changes, such as eating grapes straight from the refrigerator or adding more ingredients to a salad, without reducing their intake elsewhere. They “get away” with these changes for a short period of time—the scale may not go up initially and they start to think, “I guess I can eat a little more.” Then they slowly increase their food intake in other ways. But biology always catches up with them. Take in more calories than you expend and you WILL gain weight.
There is always a reason why the scale has gone up, even if we can’t figure it out. But if it goes up and stays up, dieters/maintainers need to go back to carefully monitoring everything they eat (and they need to monitor their exercise, too). They may decide that they like being able to eat a little more and are willing to maintain at a higher weight. This is a perfectly reasonable decision, if they are in good health. But they should make a conscious decision to do so, and not let a lack of vigilance lead to continuing weight gain.