Archive for the tag - weight gain

Is “Happy Fat” Real?

tumblr_m9y694AJqk1qiv9dfo1_500Hey Davey,

In the six  years of my relationship, I’ve put on what my friends call “happy fat.” Happy fat is the extra weight that a person gains during a relationship. Do you have any tips for reversing this trend or am I doomed to be happy fat forever?


Hey Duane,

The idea of being “fat and happy” during a relationship is quite popular, but there’s a few points we need to clarify:

  • You don’t need a partner to be happy
  • Having a partner doesn’t need to result in fat gain
  • Having a partner doesn’t necessarily make you happy

Having said all of that, research does show that married individuals have a higher body mass index (BMI) than single people. All other variables held constant, a recent study found that the increased BMI for married men and women translates to about 4.5 pounds of extra fat. Another poll found that 62% of respondents reported gaining 14 pounds or more after starting a relationship.

We can certainly speculate at the causes. For one, the aforementioned study found that married individuals are less likely to engage in sport; decreased physical activity, especially as other family commitments increase, can certainly be a factor. In other instances, being “off the market” might decrease superficial motivations for staying trim.

Whatever the cause, the “happy fat” narrative doesn’t need to be your story. In fact, staying in shape as a couple can become a great bonding experience. During our current stay in Austin, for example, my boyfriend and I spend a half hour at a nearby playground doing a bodyweight workout each afternoon. For us, it’s a great way to connect while prioritizing our fitness goals.

To that end, here are a few tips to turn “happy fat” into “happy healthy”:

  1. Create opportunities for shared physical activity. Even if it’s small, commit to consistent physical activity. A few calories burned, when repeated over and over again, can result in transformative changes. Some ideas include going on a walk with your partner, doing yoga together, take a hike or have an outdoors bodyweight workout.
  2. Cook healthy food together. While exercise helps increase calories out, it’s important to be mindful of the calories going into your body. With your partner, go on a culinary adventure and explore healthy foods and recipes that you can enjoy together. Go to the market and get excited about fueling your body with the nutrients it needs.
  3. Take responsibility for your health. Your partner can not make you gain weight without your permission. You control what goes into your mouth. You control the amount of physical activity in which you engage. Having a partner isn’t a reason for gaining weight; it’s an excuse. At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices. If you’ve made choices that have resulted in fat gain, you can make choices that result it in coming off.

Having said all of that, it’s worth noting that BMI and body fat aren’t the only measures of health; overall, despite the fat gain, married individuals tend to enjoy better health when compared to their single counterparts. Indeed, married people live longer, eat better and drink less. So let’s keep it all in perspective.

P.S. If you’re looking for a fun bodyweight workout that you can do with a friend or partner, try Davey Wavey’s Bootcamp Workout. As a free gift, you’ll also receive my Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter. Both programs are great tools for getting on track!

Answered: Why Am I Exercising But Gaining Weight?

Dear Davey,

I’ve been working out for almost two months. Two months ago, I had a 38 inch waist and weighed 210 lbs. After all this exercising, I’m now 215 lbs and my waistline has increased by an inch. I’m extremely discouraged. What is happening?


14405029672_43f234844f_zHey Peter,

That is very frustrating. But as it turns out, you’re not alone. Gaining weight while exercising is actually quite common. In fact, a recent study demonstrated this reality by enlisting 91 healthy but overweight women in an exercise program. At the end of the 12 week program, 70% of the women had added fat mass - despite being more aerobically fit and healthier.

The study didn’t focus on the other variables in the women’s lives. And therein lies the problem. Exercise is just one part of a very complicated equation. For example, it’s entirely possible that the women ended up increasing their calorie intake during the study or became more sedentary in other aspects of their lives.

If you’re gaining weight while exercising, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is it muscle? Depending on your exercise program, your weight gain may be due (at least in part) to added muscle mass. If this is the case, you may notice a transformation in your body such as increased biceps, larger pectorals or increased glutes. A larger waistline, on the other hand, is an indication that you may be adding body fat.
  2. Have your eating habits changed? In the simplest terms, weight loss is the result of a calorie deficit. When we eat fewer calories than we burn, a calorie deficit occurs. Exercise can increase calories burned, but many exercisers also increase their caloric intake. Exercise may increase your appetite - and it’s possible to consume more calories than you burned during exercise. This can result in excess calories being stored as body fat. In other words, working out isn’t a free pass to eat anything and everything.
  3. Is your workout effective? Going to the gym isn’t enough. Your workout must be connected to your goal of losing weight. Endlessly walking on a treadmill, for example, could actually be counterproductive. If you need help creating a workout that targets fat loss, download Davey Wavey’s Weight Loss Program or enlist the help of a personal trainer.
  4. Are you sleeping well? Besides exercise and nutrition, other variables can impact body fat storage. Not getting enough sleep is one of them. Changes in hormone levels can increase your appetite and decrease satiety after eating.
  5. Are you stressed? Increases in stress result in the release of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol can increase appetite and may result in the accumulation of fat in the body’s midsection.
  6. Are you taking any new medications? If you are on any new medications, talk to your doctor about side effects. It’s possible that weight gain is one them. This is especially common with anti-depressants, anti-inflammatory steroids and medications that treat migraines, seizures, high blood pressure and diabetes. Don’t stop taking medications without talking to your doctor.

Don’t be discouraged. Gaining weight when working out isn’t a sign of failure. Instead, use it as an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of your training, your diet and the other factors in your life. And then, if possible, make changes and press forward in the achievement of your goals.


Late Bedtimes and Less Sleep Lead to Weight Gain.

couch potato catYou’ve probably heard the age-old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I’m not sure about the wealthy or wise part, but healthy - at least, according to a growing amount of research - has some truth.

Researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania published a study in the July issue of SLEEP; it’s the largest and most diverse healthy-sample study ever conducted in laboratory conditions. For the study, 225 healthy participants were recruited for up to 18 days in the laboratory. The participants were broken into two groups and either spent only 4 hours in bed for five consecutive nights or 10 hours in bed for five consecutive nights. Throughout the study, meals were served and food was readily available.

When researchers crunched the data, they discovered that the sleep-restrictive group ate a significantly larger amount of calories due to late-night calorie consumption. During their extra awake time, the participants ate… and ate. And ate some more. Moreover, the proportion of calories from fat was higher during late night snacking.

Though it’s totally possible and very healthy to snack on celery sticks or carrots, the data shows that we’re less likely to make those choices late at night. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s not when you eat, but what you’re eating - and how much of it - that counts most.

In other words, it’s always important to be mindful of your food choices, but this is especially true at night. Don’t fall for a case of the mindless munchies!

Is Juice Healthier Than Soda?

Dear Davey,

I always assumed that drinking juice was healthier than drinking soda. Due to my dislike of water, I tend to drink huge amounts of it. Is drinking juice really any healthier than soda? Or am I just replacing one unhealthy beverage with another.


Most fruit juice’s are really just soda’s evil twin.

First and foremost, a recent study found that the average “fruit” drink contains less than 10 percent of actual fruit juice. The rest is just sugar, water, flavoring, coloring and a few added nutrients.

Second, even 100% real fruit juice beverages are nothing to celebrate. They are a very calorie-dense food product. A half cup of apple juice, for example, contains as many calories as an entire apple - but without the fiber that makes it both healthy and filling. You’re left with a sugary beverage that’s marginally healthier than soda. Sugar consumption, regardless of the form in which it is consumed, has been linked to everything from heart disease to diabetes to cardiovascular disease and liver disease.

And don’t be fooled by clever packaging. “No sugar added” doesn’t mean, for example, that a product is low in sugar. Serving sizes are also often manipulated. Though the package my list the serving as a half cup, consider how much juice you’ll actually drink in a glass. Your actual portion may be 2 or 3 times larger.

Moreover, the sweetness of fruit juices can be addicting. When you consume sugary foods or drinks, you feed your sweet tooth - and then crave more sweetness. In many ways, sugar is like a drug - and fruit juice contributes to that negative cycle. In fact, a 2009 study concluded that sugar bingeing causes withdrawal symptoms and cravings much like addictive drugs.

When you’re reaching for a glass of fruit juice, you’re not doing your body a favor; water is the preferred beverage of choice. Having said that, if you can’t get yourself to drink water, try these tips:

  1. Water down your juice. Doing so will cut the calories and sugar per serving, and you’ll still get much of the flavor.
  2. Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to your water. You won’t be adding calories - but you’ll get an extra kick.
  3. Switch to vegetable juice. Vegetable juices tend to be lower in sugar, but check the label.

Most people recognize that soda is an unhealthy choice. I’d recommend thinking of most fruit juices in the same way. The bottom line is that you’re certainly not doing your health, your body or your fitness goals any favors by drinking fruit juice.

Even Small Weight Gains Raise Blood Pressure.

Staying active and healthy in college is important; even small weight gains can translate to increases in blood pressure and complications down the road.

It’s back-to-school time! And with 150 million individuals heading to university around the world, the dreaded “freshman 15” will be on many minds. According to research and contrary to popular belief, most university students don’t actually gain 15 pounds their first year. The real number is closer to 5 pounds.

Still, as reported by a new University of Illinois study, even small annual weight gains can raise blood pressure in young folks - and the effect is even worse for young women. For the study, data was collected from 795 students ages 18 - 20 over the course of one year.

According to Margarita Teran-Garcia, a professor at the university:

In our study, a small weight gain was enough to raise a college student’s systolic blood pressure by 3 to 5 points. If young people continue to gain 1.5 pounds a year and think it doesn’t matter, they’re misleading themselves and increasing their risk for heart disease.

But there’s some good news. The reverse was also true. In other words, even small reductions in body weight were associated with improved blood pressure. And over time, those small changes add up.

If you’re a university student in need of some guidance, check out my 11 tips to avoid the freshman 15.

And remember, by making simple and small changes to your diet and activity level, you’re able to vastly improve your health and prevent larger complications down the road.

Does Yo-Yo Dieting Slow Your Metabolism?

Yo-yo dieting, often called weight cycling, occurs when an individual loses and gains weight over and over again. In the Western world (including the United States wherein two-thirds of the population is considered overweight), weight cycling is thought to affect some 10% to 40% of the population.

But does constant yo-yo dieting and weight fluctuations slow down a person’s metabolism long term? And does a history of weight cycling affect an individual’s ability to lose weight from an effective diet or exercise program in the future?

Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research center conducted a study to answer these very questions. The study included several hundred overweight or obese women who were randomly assigned to various testing groups.

Of the women in the study, 42% were categorized as either severe or moderate weight cyclers. Researchers set out to determine if these weight cyclers would be a disadvantage compared to non-weight cyclers.

At the end of the twelve month study, and despite the yo-yo dieters being an average of 20 pounds heavier, there was no significant difference between the results of weight cyclers and non-weight cyclers. Both were able to successfully participate in the programs and there was no difference in weight loss, decreases in body fat or muscle mass gained. Moreover, other factors like blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood concentrations of hormones were similar among weight cyclers and non-weight cyclers.

The study’s senior author, Anne McTiernan, M.S., Ph.D., concluded:

A history of unsuccessful weight loss should not dissuade an individual from future attempts to shed pounds or diminish the role of a healthy diet and regular physical activity in successful weight management.

In other words, a history of yo-yo dieting or weight loss and gains won’t hamper your future results - and it’s certainly not an excuse for not getting your life on a healthier, more productive path. This study is scientific proof that you can break the cycle!

Feeling Fat Makes You Fat.

This morning, I came across an absolutely fascinating study by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. According to the study, normal weight teenagers who perceive themselves as fat are more likely to become overweight adults.

Back in the mid 1990s, researchers surveyed nearly 1200 teenage boys and girls with normal bodyweights. Roughly ten years later, the researchers followed up with the now-adult participants. While half of the participants still had normal bodyweights, the researchers found some interesting insights about the now-overweight individuals:

  • 59% of the girls and 65% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 78% of the girls and 55% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In contrast:

  • 31% of the girls and 29% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 55% of the girls and 48% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In other words, far more of the normal weight teens who felt fat (even though they weren’t) actually became overweight as adults. In fact, their BMI averaged .88 higher and their waistlines were 3.46 cm larger. But why?

Researchers speculate that teens who felt fat were more stressed than their counterparts. Since stress is associated with weight gain, this could offer one an explanation. Moreover, these teens may have tried to lose their perceived fat by skipping meals and starvation - a strategy that ultimately results in weight gain.

Personally, I think the answer could be a bit deeper. If we have a good, healthy relationship with our body, then we’re more likely to do things that honor it - like eat a healthy diet and engage in exercise. If, on the other hand, you don’t like your body and use negative words against it - like calling it fat - then that relationship can deteriorate and lead to unhealthy habits.

And let’s not forget the power of visualization. By visualizing something, you can help bring it into reality. If you see yourself winning the gold medal or lifting a certain amount of weight or just eating your vegetables, you can breath life into your thoughts. Perhaps, by seeing themselves as fat, these individuals subconsciously cultivated habits that made their belief an reality.

Obviously, it will take subsequent research and data to draw stronger conclusions - but, in the meantime, this study is great food for thought.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the results of this study?

Started Exercise and Gaining Weight.

Dear Davey,

Five weeks ago I decided I need to change my life, and I started to do cardio and strength training.

I’m working out at least 6 days a week. I’m obese but I’m making progress and can lift much more weight than before. Every day I like to challenge myself physically and I’ve finally made it up to 25 minutes on the elliptical. My diet is not perfect, but I’ve been eating a lot healthier than before I started working out. Instead of eating one big meal a day, I now eat many small meals.

Everyone I speak to says I shouldn’t judge my progress by the number on the scale - however, it’s very discouraging to know that I have gained 3 lbs since starting 5 weeks ago. Because I’m so overweight, the number on the scale is such a huge issue for me. It has become an obsession! I think I’m starting to see a very slight change in the way my shirts fit - but I feel like I’m only going to be convinced that my hard work is paying off by seeing the number on the scale drop.

Is it normal to gain weight when exercising and how long you think it will be before I see the number on the scale start to drop?

Thank you,

Dear Christine,

Congratulations on being so motivated to transform your body and your life! It’s always an inspiration to hear stories like yours.

First of all, I’d recommend re-evaluating your gym commitment of “at least” six days a week. It’s not realistic - and more importantly, not sustainable - for an exercise beginner to commit to six days at the gym. And secretly, I’m sure you understand that this is true as I can already hear the frustration in your words. It’s been five weeks and you’re not satisfied with the results. This is the point at which many people experience burnout and ask themselves, “Why bother?”

By simply your workout routine down to three days a week, it will be much easier to make exercise a lasting part of your lifestyle. And that’s really what it’s all about. Three days a week is sustainable and it will yield fantastic results, especially for a beginner in your situation. And, over time, you can gradually increase that commitment.

Now let’s talk about the weight gain.

Don’t panic. Gaining weight when starting to exercise is very common. The first step is to determine if you’re gaining fat or muscle.

Since muscle is more dense than fat, it’s possible that you’re losing fat but gaining muscle. You said that you’re able to lift more weight than before, and so undoubtedly you’re adding muscle to your frame. To determine if your weight gain is fat or muscle, have a body fat test completed at your gym. In another 4 or 6 weeks, take another test and compare the results. If that’s not an option, you can always measure different parts of your body and record it in a journal. Every few weeks, repeat this process. If you notice that you’re losing inches but still gaining weight (or even staying at the same weight), you can know that your weight gain is muscle - and that you’re still losing fat.

You also may be gaining weight if you’re eating too many calories. I would encourage you to keep track of the calories that you consume. Use this formula to calculate your caloric requirement, and make sure that your meals are within that amount. As a person that has gone from one meal a day to several smaller meals (which is definitely smarter!), it may be that you’re overestimating your servings.

Certain medications or conditions also make losing weight more difficult - so it’s also worth touching base with your doctor.

And, at the end of the day, don’t give the scale more power than it deserves. It’s just one tool in a toolbox of many - and it’s far from the best way to measure your results. Congratulations again on your commitment, and I look forward to your progress! Keep us updated!


P.S. If you have a question for Davey, ask it! And for more information about losing weight, download The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

Study: Don’t Take a Winter Break from Exercise.

Winter isn't a time for fitness hibernation.

It’s winter. The days are shorter, darker and colder. When it comes to exercising and working out, hibernation may seem like a tempting alternative.

But not so fast: Research shows that adults who work out consistently have significantly lower levels of depression. Moreover, pounds gained from gym hiatuses are very difficult to shed - even after you start exercising again.

When it comes to exercise, consistency is extremely important to achieve your fitness goals. It’s not about exercising for two months and then taking one month off; exercise is a lifetime commitment. But regular and consistent exercise is also important to experience the many other benefits of exercise - like improved sleep, increased energy, weight control and better moods.

To determine the impact of exercise regularity on depression, a 2010 study followed nearly 200 individuals for 2 years. Participants were put into two distinct groups of regular and irregular exercisers. Based on the findings, researchers found a significantly lower level of depression in regular exercisers - and thus concluded that consistent exercise is fundamental for improving mental health.

In another study, researchers studied weight gained during breaks from regular exercise. It’s no surprise that reducing physical activity can result in weight gain - but can that weight be lost by resuming exercise? According to the study, not easily. Weight gained because of reductions in weekly exercise in men and women “may not be reversed by resuming prior activity.” In other words, the weight gained during exercise breaks tends to be stubborn - and it isn’t lost by resuming your same workout a few months later.

The days are short and cold, and our schedules are busier than ever - but, to truly enjoy the many benefits of exercise, consistency is key. Keep honoring your body with the movement it craves. A day isn’t a day unless you’ve broken a sweat.

How to Bulk Up & Gain Mass Fast.

Dear Davey

I just recently began going the gym. I am 6 ft tall and 135 lbs. I’m 18 years old and really have been working hard to see results. I recently started creatine for an extra boost because it was hell trying to lift weights. What are some tips you can give me to gain weight in muscle and get a more cut look?


Dear Joey,

It sounds like you’re ready to make the transition from twinkville to beeftown.

You’ll want to pay careful attention to your diet. For a week or two, keep tabs on what you typically eat. If you can, count the calories to give yourself a benchmark. Since you want to gain muscle mass - and since you’ve already taken the important step of hitting the gym - don’t be afraid to crank up your intake.

When someone is looking to lose weight, we tell them to create a calorie deficit. That is, they are taking in fewer calories than they are burning. For you, it’s just the opposite. You’ll want to take in more calories than you are burning. It doesn’t need to be dramatic; even a 10% or 20% increase will make a difference. If you find that you are gaining weight too quickly - or it is coming on as fat instead of muscle - you can always scale back.

Having said that, it’s not a free pass to eat cheese puffs, bonbons and make frequent visit to McDonald’s. You’ll still want to eat healthy foods including lean meats, healthy fats (i.e., nuts and avocados), fruits, beans, veggies and the like. You’ll just be eating more of them - and perhaps more frequently - than before.

When it comes to exercise, focus most of your efforts on strength training. While it’s still fine to perform some cardio (definitely no more than 30% of your gym time), acquaint yourself with the free weights. Since you’re looking to build muscle, you’ll opt for a low number of repetitions of very heavy weights - and you’ll target muscle failure. Here are some more muscle-building tips.

And yes, you may find that the creatine will help. Many individuals report significant weight gains in just the first month. Ensure that you are cycling the creatine (i.e., one week of 20 grams followed by one week of 5 grams, and an occasional week off) for best results.

Also, be realistic: As a skinny guy, you probably don’t have the frame to look like a muscle daddy. But embrace and rock what you do have - and know that many of us would give our right testicle to have your metabolism.