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  • Marie Belzile-Davidson, MS, Dietetic Intern

What factors influence your weight? (Hint - It's not just calories)

Body weight is not as simple as calories in versus calories out. You have likely heard this oversimplified equation before. While calories do have some impact on our weight, they are just one of several factors that influence that number on the scale.

At The Functional Kitchen, we work with clients to address the root cause of their struggles. We do not start with weight and hand out strict calorie limits. Why? Because we could provide someone with the most accurate calorie estimates possible and their weight still may not budge if other underlying issues remain unaddressed. We focus on the core of each individual's struggles first, and oftentimes, the weight changes as a result.

Calories are truly just one piece of the larger puzzle. Here is a quick look at some of the many other factors that impact weight:

How we eat

Are you focusing on your food or are you eating distracted? How quickly are you finishing your meals and snacks? Are you chewing food or swallowing large pieces? Eating mindfully, taking at least 20 minutes to eat, and thoroughly chewing your food help you eat an adequate amount of food and get the most out of your meal. Otherwise, your body may not be able to properly digest the food and get all the nutrients you need out of it. This can inadvertently decrease the quality of your meal and put unnecessary stress on your digestive system.


Stress from work, family life, unexpected events, chronic conditions, etc. can all impact our weight. When our bodies experience stress for extended periods of time, it can cause or worsen inflammation. Over time, inflammation can lead to the development of conditions that also make it harder to maintain or lose weight. That can cause more stress, which triggers more inflammation, and creates a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.


Not getting adequate sleep can lead to consuming more calories throughout the day. On top of that, a chronic lack of sleep can increase stress. It can also impair our body's ability to properly heal and recover from otherwise beneficial stressors like exercise. If we are not able to properly recover, our organs (including our digestive system) cannot function as well as they should. Not to mention, finding the energy to do tasks that can impact our weight, like cooking meals, preparing healthy snacks, and getting in some movement, are all the more difficult when we are under-rested.

Metabolic and gut health

Metabolic and gut health affect how well you break down food and nutrients. This directly impacts whether or not you are getting the essential nutrients you need from what you eat. Without these essential nutrients, our bodies cannot properly repair themselves. You guessed it, this can lead to that stress and inflammation cycle we just talked about.

Our metabolic and gut health can be thrown off by a variety of factors, unique to each of our lives and environments. Uncovering and addressing such issues should be done on an individual basis, under the guidance of a qualified provider like a registered dietitian.

Habits of our people

Our eating habits and physical activity habits can be impacted by the people we spend our time with. For example, studies have shown that we often eat at a similar pace to those at the table with us without even realizing it. Additionally, if our friends and family are more sedentary or active, we may find ourselves following similar patterns.

That does not mean you should ditch your family and friends. They may be unaware of their habits and how they may be impacting yours. Rather, start to pay attention to how your habits may be influenced by others in your life and see what adjustments you can make to help yourself stay on track with the habits you want to establish.

Physical environment

Maybe you work in a setting that exposes you to more environmental toxins than others or that promotes a culture of stress and burnout. Maybe you do not feel safe walking around your neighborhood for exercise. Maybe your nearest food options are not necessarily the healthiest. Maybe you have a long commute and it cuts into the time you'd like to spend cooking or exercising. All of these factors can, directly and indirectly, impact our weight and can contribute to some of the factors we already talked about (i.e. stress, metabolic and gut health, how we eat, etc. ).


It is likely no surprise to you that exercise can impact our weight. Have you thought about whether or not you actually enjoy the movement you are doing and if it is right for what your body needs though? There is no one specific way that exercise has to look. Some individuals thrive with high-intensity workouts, others may benefit from lower intensity if their bodies already experience a great deal of stress without movement. Find movement that you truly enjoy and feels right for you.


As we age, our metabolism slows and we experience different hormone shifts in our bodies. Our organs are also functioning less efficiently than they once did. This can impact our weight. However, it is not entirely out of your control. As our bodies change with age, we can adjust our habits accordingly to make sure we are still properly fueling ourselves and taking care of our health. Plus, research shows that a weight range classified as overweight at a younger age may actually be protective to some extent, for individuals 65 years and older.


When something is referred to as "genetic," it can often seem like it is entirely out of our control. That is not always the case though. Yes, we cannot change the set of genes we were born with. However, the way certain genes are expressed can be impacted by a variety of factors, including the food we eat, our environment, and our lifestyle. While some genes may predispose individuals to carry more weight, addressing other underlying factors may still lead to beneficial changes in weight.

Putting it all together

The above list is by no means all-inclusive. There are many other factors that can influence our weight. I do not say this to scare you. Rather, I hope I've shown you that you are not a simple math equation. You are a dynamic and wonderful human being who interacts with and manages a lot throughout each day.

If you are frustrated by your weight, all of these variables may be overwhelming. The good news is that you have control over many of these factors! If you are interested in addressing the root cause of your frustration and learning how best to feed your body for your unique needs, click here to schedule a complimentary call.


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