Why We Gain Weight

Weight loss and January, like gluten free bread and butter, right? Often at the beginning of a new year patients discuss with me the desire to lose weight, to manage their eating and maintain a size that makes them feel great and healthy. Patients are generally looking to feel good first and look good second. They usually have a general understanding of good eating habits, have tried different eating regimes and are at a loss to realize their goal.

Like all naturopathic doctors; getting to the root cause is a major target in moving forward towards optimal health in a sustainable and achievable way. To do this lets consider a few reasons why people might gain weight and what to do about it.

First Step:

Complete a diet diary. Track what you eat for 7 days without changing your diet.   Take note of:

  • What you are eating,
  • When you are eating
  • Feelings of fullness / hunger
  • Triggers to eating
  • Emotional responses before and after foods.

This may seem tedious but recon work is invaluable.

Next check out these categories and see what applies to you.

1. Eating too much

Do you knowingly eat too much? Eating until you are very full or just constantly eating throughout the course of a day?

What to do:  Portion control. Try simply to eat until you are about 80% full (this will take time to figure out). Eat slowly and with no distractions. See also #6

2. Is your meal timing off?

Are you eating constantly throughout the day or going over 4 hrs between meals?

What to do:  Timing can help to influence hormone regulation and influence the types of fuel sources your body uses (sugar versus fat). Aim to eat every 4 hrs.

3. Not eating enough fats and protein?

Constantly craving carbs? Cautions about consuming fats?

What to do: The body needs to receive a balance of carbohydrate, fats and protein. Aim to boost your protein and fats to alleviate some of these cravings.

4. Not getting enough sleep?

Going to bed late? Waking super early?

What to do: The later you go to bed the more likely you are to indulge in poor food choices. Poor sleep quantity and quality also may lead to poor food choices and cravings for foods with poor nutritional quality. Aim for 7 hours of solid sleep. Make sleep a priority.

4. Not knowing?questions or decision making concept

Does all the information on foods, food choices etc make you confused? Have you never had a formal education on nutrition?

What to do: Invest in your health and discuss what might be healthy food choices for you. See a naturopath (ND) or registered holistic nutritionist (RHN).  If doing your own research, make sure you check credentials of the sources. Take a nutritional class instructed by a reputable institution.

5. Emotionally eating?

Do you find you run for food when stressed, sad, and overly excited? Do you know that sugar can stimulate the production of feel good hormone dopamine? Giving you a temporary sense of feeling satisfaction.

What to do: If you are eating a lot or restricting food severely based on negative emotional feelings explore these emotional states further and aim to shift the response to these emotions by recognition. Check out this blog.  Want or need additional support see psychologist Karyn Zuidhof.

6. Endocrine Disruption

Fatigued all the time? Moods swinging all over the place? No energy? Difficulty gaining / loosing weight despite good nutrition?

What to do: The hormone system is responsible in maintaining alertness, sleep, metabolism, appetite, satiation etc. Thyroid and Adrenal hormone health can often require investigation and support to bring these actions into harmony. Talk with your Naturopath (ND) or other health care provider to see if this might be necessary for you in achieving optimal health.

Good luck on your health journey and ensuring that food and food quality play an important role in it!


Dr. Sarah Kent, ND

Sarah KentDr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health.  She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.





Kumar, Abbas, Fausto, Mithell, Robbins Basic Pathology 8th Edition. Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

Prousky, J ND. Textbook of Integrative Clinical Nutrition. CCNM Press; Toronto Ont. Canada. 2012.

St-Onge, M. P., McReynolds, A., Trivedi, Z. B., Roberts, A. L., Sy, M., & Hirsch, J. (2012). Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(4), 818-824.


Turner, N. Hormone Diet. Randon House; Canada. 2010


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