I Gained Weight, but It's Probably Not For the Reasons You Think

POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Faulstich
POPSUGAR Photography | Emily Faulstich

During the last few months of 2016, I gained about 10 pounds, an amount that would send some people into a tizzy if they gained it over the course of an entire year. But I did it in a mere three months, my body noticeably transitioning to an entire pant size higher.

In January, I found myself in a spot where I was able to get back on track, and it didn't have anything to do with the whole New Year's resolution obsession thing. When I mention the return of my gym-going, roasted-broccoli-eating habits to others, some immediately say, "Oh, I know (patting tummy) where you're coming from. The holidays were so hard with all that food around, right? Then Super Bowl and all the food that comes with that territory has to happen."

Here's the thing. Weight gain is not always about shoveling a plate of Grandma's chocolate chip cookies in your mouth in one fell swoop. It can be — as was the case for me 10 years ago when I was 70 pounds heavier — but it's not always. So please don't assume that I — or anyone else who has gained some weight — have done so because I sit around eating all day.

It's not always about the pizza, the holiday (or birthday, or anniversary, or promotion) dessert trays, or the inability to refrain from devouring an entire block of cheese in five minutes. Nor is it about a fear of the gym or coming up with an excuse to skip the treadmill.

Case in point: the last few months of 2016 saw me in and out of the hospital for several procedures, tests, and a surgery. Then my father-in-law died less than two weeks before Christmas, which was nearly two years after my own father passed — hardly moments causing me to sign up for a 5K. Incessant worry about why my digestive system was acting up meant more time with my doctor than the elliptical.

All the worrying also became tiring. Who wants to go to the gym when the bed will do? I can often become mentally and physically paralyzed when health worries strike. I become quiet, often attempting to become my own doctor while simultaneously reflecting on the intricacies — both healing and hindering — that make up the human body. So this was no time for me to head to the gym or make my usually healthy meals. Why wait to preheat the oven, chop, roast, and then eat olive-oil and hemp-seed-infused broccoli when a handful of prunes would suffice?

I was on a health carousel — an endless loop of doctor's visits, calls, and questions became my never-ending norm. If it wasn't the worry and research that kept me from exercising, it was the sheer fact that I was physically unable to perform, well, much of anything in the way of fitness.

I also needed time to heal. After having a skin graft done, I was in a cast for one week. Even after it was removed, I wasn't about to attempt gripping a dumbbell with recently removed stitches and palm soreness. Plus, doctors specifically told me to lay off physical exertion in order to ensure an ideal healing process.

The only time my eating habits strayed was when my father-in-law passed away. Between hospital visits, trips to other family members' homes, and discussions with medical staff, flax seed and insoluble fiber habits weren't even a thought. Grabbing breakfast burritos on the go or enjoying the hospital room's cart of assorted muffins was convenient and seemed a logical move. Of course, eating such sugary, warm, and buttery foods comforted me during this time of sadness. Vivid memories of my own father's death resurfaced during this time, even the ones that I'd forgotten. Facial expressions, fidgeting, words, the changing body, dying, death. New sadness mingled with old sadness, temporarily undone by the rush of life I felt when eating yet another cherry pastry puff, and another.

There are ebbs and flows in life, and sometimes weight gain is a part of it. Nothing is truly constant. Life is filled with changes and challenges, so why shouldn't we expect the same when it comes to our weight? It's time for people to stop instantly jumping on the stereotypical "lazy, potato-chip eating" bandwagon whenever they encounter someone who's gained weight. It's a quick, unfair judgment. It's not always about food, whether it be the kind or the amount of it. It's about so many more things, including time constraints, physical setbacks, and emotional fluctuations — good and bad.

As is typically the case in any situation, there's often more to the story than our hastily made assumptions. So in this case, let's look beyond outward appearance and welcome the notion that maybe, just maybe, there's more than meets the eye.