Hidden Causes Of Weight Gain

I often have conversations with new clients who have been stuck in their weight loss attempts, even though on the surface their nutrition looks pretty good. There are several hidden causes of weight gain that can ruin your weight loss efforts. Watch out for these common problems:

#1 Hidden cause of weight gain: Portion Creep

When you’ve build a solid nutrition foundation of protein + plant, you’ve got 90% of your weight loss problems solved.

But it’s easy to eat too much of a good thing!

Calories do matter, even when your food choices are healthy.

Here’s the math:

100 extra calories each day — which is hardly anything, just a few bites here and there — will equal 10 POUNDS OF WEIGHT GAIN IN A YEAR.

hidden causes of weight gain

Slow-cooked oatmeal and fruit with a scoop of whey protein for breakfast? Great choice.

But if you unknowingly add 100 calories of extra fruit or oatmeal every morning, you’ll end up gaining weight from the portion creep.

So the solution to this hidden cause of weight gain is simply to be more aware of how much food you’re actually eating.

Try measuring some portions for a day or two as a good reality check.

(See How Much Is A Serving for good portion reality check)

Watch out for the little nibbles here and there — pop a Hershey’s kiss here and there, finish the kids’ last couple french fries, a scoop and a half of rice instead of just one scoop — these all add up to a daily overage that will kill your weight loss efforts.

Awareness is crucial to success, so here is your Reminder In Chief reminding you to pay attention!

#2 Hidden cause of weight gain: Zero Sum

Another reason you may be having trouble losing weight:

We call it the Zero Sum Problem. It’s very common. Zero sum frustration sounds like this:

“I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight! I eat great most of the time.”

Here’s where your hidden problem may be:

Yes, you’re dedicated to eating well most days of the week — Paying attention to portions, making sure you combine protein + plant every time you eat, timing your meals and snacks correctly, choosing real food instead of processed food, etc.
All good.

And when the weekend rolls around, you cut loose a little.

  • A sugary dessert you don’t usually eat at a restaurant.
  • A couple drinks at a get-together.
  • Grab some a burger with french fries for a quick lunch while you’re running errands.

No problem with any of those in concept.

But here’s where one of the hidden causes of weight gain comes in:

If you’re not careful, you can end up “exceptioning” enough to cancel out all the weight loss you managed during the week.

For example, if you ate to give yourself a 500 calorie deficit over 5 days (very easy and doable, by the way), great! You’re losing weight.

But if on the “loose” days you end up overeating those 500 calories, then your net gain or loss for the week is zero.

We must remember that our weight is the average of how we eat over blocks of time.

So five great days can be zeroed out by 2 not-so-great days.

If you do that a few weeks in a row, then it’s

“I’ve been watching what I eat for a MONTH and I haven’t lost any weight.”


First, do NOT fall into the all-or-nothing trap of trying to NEVER have treats or “exception” days. That never lasts, so please don’t put yourself through that.

What you SHOULD do is try to minimize the damage from the exceptions and treats.

  • Enjoy a few bites of dessert instead of eating the whole thing.
  • One glass of wine instead of three.
  • Grab a sandwich out, skip the chips.

This way you can still have some looser nutrition days, but your net for the week is still a minus.

You can literally have your cake and weight loss too 🙂

(If you want to have a strategy talk to make this work for you, just drop us a note and we’ll schedule one.

#3 Hidden cause of weight gain: Stress

Stress can sabotage weight loss efforts in a number of ways. When we experience stress, our bodies release the hormone cortisol, which can have a number of negative effects on our weight and metabolism.

Firstly, cortisol can increase appetite and lead to cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods. This is because cortisol triggers the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which can lead to feelings of hunger and the desire to consume foods that provide a quick energy boost. As a result, people who are under stress may be more likely to overeat and consume more calories than they need, making it harder to maintain a calorie deficit and lose weight.

Secondly, cortisol can also lead to the storage of fat around the abdomen. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, cortisol can slow down metabolism, making it harder to burn calories and lose weight.

Finally, stress can also lead to poor sleep quality and insomnia, which can disrupt the balance of hormones that regulate hunger and satiety. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.

#4 Hidden cause of weight gain: Waiting for “the right time”

There’s a sneaky little trap that we’ve all been caught in at least once.

And I’m not talking about a tiny mousetrap; it’s more like a massive bear trap waiting to clamp down on your dreams.

You’ve probably thought like this:
“I’ll finally focus on my health and fitness when _______”

Just fill in the blank with anything that is going on in your life right now that you’re waiting to be over.

  • Hectic schedule settling down.
  • Kids getting out of school.
  • Things “calming down” at work.

Whenever you’re imagining that you’ll feel less pressured and more in control.

But that time never comes, does it?

Bestselling author Bill Phillips said, “If you wait until everything in your life is perfect before you begin something challenging and new, you’ll be waiting forever.”

That’s right, there is NEVER a perfect time to improve how you’re living.

Every minute you keep holding out for that imaginary perfect moment, that celestial alignment that will make things “easier” or “better,” you’re losing the chance to experience how much better you could feel RIGHT NOW!

So, stop waiting!


So ask yourself: What CAN I do today?

Pick something simple like:

  • Take a 10-minute walk after dinner.
  • Plan a healthy lunch for tomorrow.
  • Chop up some vegetables so they’re ready to go when you’re in a hurry.

And if you want some professional help picking some small steps to move the needle for you, just drop us a note and ask for a free call.

We’re here when you’re done waiting.

#5 Hidden cause of weight gain: Focusing on the details instead of the foundations

Mastering the basics is all you probably need to greatly enhance your health, fitness, relationships, finances, and career.

Few people really need to move beyond the basics. Our lives would change for the better if we spent more time mastering the basics and less time worrying about the complex.

I’ll go so far as to say that the simpler we keep or lives, the happier we are.

Keep these facts in mind:

1. The basics provide at least 80-90% of the results of nearly anything you want to accomplish. Mastering the basics is the most important first step toward mastering anything. In fact, unless we want to take something to the very highest level, the basics are likely all you need.

Let’s take our health, for example. What are the things that matter the most?

  • Diet. If you eat your fruits and vegetables, consume some protein, and avoid the foods you know are unhealthy, you’re in a good place.
  • Exercise. As little as thirty minutes of basic exercise five times a week is sufficient to maximize your health.
  • Sleep. Get enough of it. How much is enough? If you’re not tired when you wake up, you’re getting enough.

There’s really not much else that matters. Eat well, get some exercise, and get enough sleep. If you do these three things well, you’ll look and feel great.

2. It’s easy to learn the basics. This is good and bad. Since the basics are easy to learn, we assume they’re not relevant. But if you realize how relevant the basics are, you can make a lot of progress in a short period of time.

3. The basics might be boring. The details and the complex are always more interesting than the basics. Eating your veggies and getting 8 hours of sleep isn’t as interesting as figuring out the perfect blend of amino acids or finding the optimal training shoes.

The basics might not be interesting, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

4. The details and the complex contribute little. The small details only contribute incremental improvements. It’s not beneficial to spend valuable time on complex strategies until you have the basics mastered

5. You’re addicted to the complex. Our brains love complex things. We’re addicted to trying to figure things out. This makes mastering the basics much more difficult. Recognizing the value of the basics makes it easier to avoid the trap of becoming obsessed with the details.

6. The complex can take a lot of time to master. Another downside to focusing on complex ideas and strategies is the vast amount of time it can take to make any real progress. Spending a lot of time on something that contributes very little is a poor strategy.

That’s not to say that the more complex ideas and techniques are never worth your time. Get good at the basics and then see if there is a need to go further.

The fundamentals matter, whether you’re talking about boxing or dating. Completing five advanced courses on flirting won’t help your dating life as much as looking your best, having a life you’re excited about, and being pleasant and sociable with everyone you meet.

Consider these impactful words of Bruce Lee:

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Let go of the complex and develop a desire to master the basics of life. Most of the challenges in our lives are from a failure to master and apply the basics consistently and intelligently.

hidden cause of weight gain basics

#6 Hidden cause of weight gain: Ignoring your relationship with food.

The danger of going from one diet to another, over and over and over again, is that we put all our focus on “calories”, what you “can’t have” on this or that diet, and “what the scale says.”

But without spending any time fundamentally changing our relationship with food, any diet — even a smart one — becomes temporary.

We go on a thing for awhile, lose some weight while feeling restricted and deprived, then stop. We look forward to the day we can “go off this and get back to normal.”​

That is what needs to change!

We need to create a nutrition plan that will work whether we count our calories, or we don’t.

We need to follow a way of eating that works whether we weigh ourselves every day, or we never step on a scale again.

We need eating habits that work at home, at a restaurant, or on the road.

How does one find such a path?


If you struggle with healthy eating, there’s a reason.

It’s not like you don’t know what you should do, right?

I have never in my 30 years of nutrition coaching had to teach a client that a mixed green salad is better for you than a box of donuts.

Everyone knows what they SHOULD be doing.

But they don’t.


Our relationship with food is often not based on what we know.

It’s based on unconscious habits and emotional eating reactions that we develop over a lifetime.

And until we start to change how we go about managing those habits and reactions,


So if you’ve had enough of the yo-yo diets and the stress eating binges, just ask for a free consult.

We’re ready when you are.

Your friend and Coach,