Exercise & Fitness

What’s really making you gain weight

Many people run into frustration when they realize they are gaining weight–despite making conscious efforts to eat fresh, healthful and low-fat meals.

What’s often the culprit? Portion sizes. Fitness trainer and author Sherri McMillan has a great post about exactly how giant portions cause good-intentioned dieters to fall off track.

We are victims of a society that is hooked on supersizing everything…supersized drinks, monster-size cookies, muffins and astronomical-sized restaurant entrees. For many of us, it might not be that our food choices are poor, we might just be eating too much of a good thing. Out-of-control portions lead to weight gain and drain you of energy. If you are trying to lose weight or add muscle, you’ve got to pay attention to your portion sizes.

Here is a very important message to remember. If at the end of the day, you have expended fewer calories than the number of calories you have consumed from any source, you will store these calories as fat.

Here is how it works:

Let’s say you consume an extra 1,000 carbohydrate calories in the form of plain pasta. It takes about 30 percent of the calories consumed to break down the dietary carbohydrate and store it as body fat. So out of the 1,000 extra carbohydrate calories, 700 will be stored as body fat. Now, let’s say you consume an extra 1,000 fat calories in the form of creams. It takes about 3 percent of the calories consumed to break down this dietary fat and store it as body fat. So, out of the 1,000 extra fat calories, 970 will be stored as body fat.

It is obviously better to be consuming a diet rich in carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products because less of the excess will actually be stored as body fat. But, you will still store excess carbohydrates as body fat and gain weight, whether your diet is low in fat or not. If your diet contains more calories than you expend in a day, you will gain weight regardless of the source of the calories.

When reducing food intake and portion sizes, the reduction should typically occur in the following order:
*Reduce fat intake
*Reduce alcohol intake
*Reduce sugar intake
*Reduce starches (pasta, breads, rice)

It is also wise to pay close attention to serving sizes listed on labels. Sometimes what is listed as one serving size is unrealistically small. So you may trick yourself into believing that you are consuming an item that is low in caloric and fat content, when in fact, what you are actually consuming is four times the listed serving size.

Here are some realistic portion sizes:
*A serving of meat, fish or poultry should be about the size of the palm of your hand
*Your fruit and vegetable servings should be about the size of a tennis ball
*A serving size of cottage cheese, rice, pasta, cereal or other starch is the size of a tennis ball
*A slice of bread, one small roll, or a half bagel or bun counts as one serving
*A serving of sandwich cheese is one slice
*A serving size of fats, oils, nuts, seed is about the size of your thumb

Watch for the next blog where I give you some more tips on portion sizes.


 Jill Stoppel has been involved in the fitness industry since 2009 and has been personal training full-time since 2002. She is the sole owner of Excel Wellness Studio, is certified through the American Council of Exercise and holds several certifications in group exercise, spinning and kickboxing. She also maintains memberships, affiliations and mentorships within the major health and fitness organizations in the nation to stay connected to other top professionals. She and her team offer fitness advice to Kansas Citians exclusively for Good Health KC magazine online.