I have had periods of my life when I would literally starve myself because I just didn’t feel like eating. I had been losing weight, as much as 10-15 pounds and then I noticed that when winter came here in Alaska, I gained at least 12 pounds. I am very upset and along with gaining the extra weight I have an upset stomach and it feels like I am going to explode. I am scared and don’t know what to do. Can you give me a reason why this is happening to me? My small frame can’t handle this much weight. I have been doing pilates everyday but I have not noticed any results.
Let me first say that if you actually have pain in your stomach, make sure to consult with a physician immediately. You may have physical issues which need to be examined. Assuming you are healthy from a medical standpoint, let’s take a closer look at why you may be experiencing these fluctuations in weight.
All things in nature move through cycles based on the environmental changes throughout the year. In the spring and summer, nature is teeming with activity. Plants are in bloom, trees are sprouting leaves, and animals are very active. Contrast this to the fall and winter where everything tends to slow down. Trees and plants go dormant, animals move around less and mammals tend to pack on fat. Humans, because we too are mammals, tend to follow this same trend in the winter months. In cold environments, this is an essential function to the conservation of life. And I can tell you from personal experience, people don’t know winter until they spend a winter in Alaska. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time in Alaska because my dad was there for work. It is impossible to describe to the uninitiated how cold, dark and long the winters are there so I can definitely sympathize. The point here is that it is completely natural to put on 10-12 pounds in the winter months.
Within this topic of anxiety I also want to include stress and depression as they are all very close cousins. I mention these because you stated you would “literally starve yourself because you didn’t feel like eating” and that you were “very upset and feel as if your stomach was going to explode”. In my mind, these statements are manifestations of anxiety. Though I am not a psychiatrist I do have a lot of experience dealing with these emotions as well. Eating is one of the most common ways to comfort ourselves from the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. This emotional eating also has a very common cycle to it, especially when the anxiety stems from the way we look. When we feel bad about gaining a few pounds, that creates anxiety which leads to more comfort eating which leads to depression which leads to more comfort eating. It really is a vicious cycle. Couple this with the long dark winters in Alaska and it’s the perfect storm for weight gain.
There is no doubt you are in a difficult situation but you absolutely can work through it. There are two habits you can get into that will dramatically change the way you feel on a daily basis. And if you change the way you feel the rest will follow. The first is to get into the habit of moving first thing in the morning before those negative emotions have a chance to take root for the day. Some good cardiovascular exercise in the morning will leave you feeling great the rest of the day. Shoot for at least 20-30 minutes first thing in the morning. It will not only rev up your metabolism for the rest of the day but it will give you a sense of accomplishment. You can also add in your Pilates after your cardio workout or later in the day. The second habit is to keep a nutrition journal. Write down absolutely everything you put into your body. The best way to do this is to write it down while you are eating. This will keep you mindful of healthy eating throughout the day and keep your mind focused on the positive. Along with this, try to keep these meals small and full of nutrient dense fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. You can find a list of these foods as well as sample meals in the nutrition 101 article.
In terms of the weight gain, if you don’t really know how you gained the 12 pounds, try keeping a journal of your diet for the next two weeks to really see what you’re eating. Most of the time, it simply comes down to slipping up on your dietary plan and eating high calorie foods. Over time, these calories add up and you start to slowly gain weight.