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Does your food intake decide your weight?

It is no secret that your food intake determines your weight. A healthy weight is often linked to healthy food choices. What you eat and drink, however not instantly, affects your weight.

For example, if you eat big chunks of food for several months without staying physically active, you will realize that you are gradually adding weight. The converse is true. If you are mindful of what you eat and have some level of physical activity, you are certain to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. 

Here are a few things you could be asking yourself when it comes to food intake and health. 

How long does it take for the food you eat to affect your weight?

Have you recently started monitoring what you eat and drink with the hope of losing weight? It could be that all you want is to maintain your current healthy weight and therefore have been monitoring the foods and drinks you take. 

One certain thing is that the food you eat and drink does not abruptly affect your weight outcomes. Do not get on the weight scale just a week after starting to follow a healthy nutrition plan expecting to see some changes to your weight. You will be disappointed.

The opposite is true. You could be on a weight gain plan because you have recently discovered that you are underweight (with a BMI below 18.5) and therefore are at risk of complications. Healthline outlines some risks of being underweight as malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies or anaemia, osteoporosis from too little vitamin D and calcium, decreased immune function, increased risk for complications from surgery, and fertility issues caused by irregular menstrual cycles. 

Research shows that while calories in the food you eat start the process of turning into fat as soon as 3-4 hours after eating them, it would take about two weeks for the calories to actually show a significant effect on your weight. Now, eating small portions of foods and drinks with the hope of losing weight the next day does not make sense. Eating large portions of food with the hope of gaining weight in a week is not helpful either. 

Do you gain weight immediately after eating?

Yes and no. It depends on whether the food you eat has a high-fat percentage or not. 

If the food is low in fat, the calories contained in the food usually start converting to fat in about three hours after eating, but you will not significantly gain weight immediately.

Interestingly, however, Daily Mail records that recent research by Oxford University found that dietary fat takes only an hour to enter the bloodstream after a meal and two more hours to enter the adipose tissue typically found around the waist. This means that you can gain weight in just 3 hours of eating food portions rich in dietary fats. But that also depends on your physical activity level. If you are physically active you are less likely to instantly gain weight because your body is constantly burning calories. 

It is important to note that gaining weight depends not just on the foods and drinks you consume. 

Factors that can cause weight gain

Some factors including physical activity level, environment, genetics, diseases and drugs can also cause significant weight gains other than one’s dietary habits. 

Physical activity level

If you are physically active you are certain to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. However, if you are less physically active, the calories you consume from foods and drinks are not effectively burned and this may lead to weight gain and subsequently becoming overweight or obese. 

Therefore you can become overweight if your calorie intake is more than the calorie expended- something often attributed to low levels of physical activity. 


The environment you live in can largely affect whether or not you gain weight and develop obesity over some time. For example, if your neighbourhood lacks sidewalks and parks, you are less likely to be physically active unless you go to the gym or use online fitness apps. The lack of sidewalks will influence you not to walk or run as often as you want. 


Your genetic composition is another factor that can determine your weight outcome. 

However, genes in themselves do not fully dictate someone’s future healthy weight outcome. They function best with other factors such as physical exercise and the portions of foods and drinks consumed over time. 

Diseases and drugs

Some diseases can cause someone to gain significant weight and otherwise cause obesity.

For example, Cushing’s disease and polycystic ovary syndrome have been linked to weight gain. 

Steroids and some antidepressants may significantly cause weight gain. Medical advice is always recommended to those using steroids and antidepressants to ensure that they are aware of potential weight gain. 

Can you eat a lot and not gain weight?

Yes, you can eat a lot and not gain weight. But eating a lot in itself should not be your dietary habit. 

You can eat a lot but are physically active- you are less likely to gain weight in such a case.

But, you can also eat a lot and gain weight. If your diet comprises large serving sizes of foods and drinks high in fats, be certain you will gain weight- especially if you also live a sedentary lifestyle. 

Be cautious of your food’s portion size by serving only that which you can finish. Eating too much food is unhealthy because you will end up accumulating excess body fat that ultimately leads to obesity. 

Foods that you should strive to always include in your diet are fruits and vegetables. Always aim to drink enough water and avoid sugary energy drinks if possible.

A healthy meal should comprise half fruits and vegetables such as oranges and kales, a quarter of grains such as rice, and quarter proteins such as peas and meat. 

Does looking at food make you gain weight?

Yes! Looking at food could make you gain weight. And no, you would not simply gain weight from mere food videos or photos. 

You could be on a strict diet plan that comprises eating meals with a low amount of calories or low fat and sugar, exercising every day, and maintaining general healthy habits but realize that you are gaining weight- contrary to your expectations. 

Looking at food, however simple it may be, can make you gain weight. For example, watching cooking shows or looking at food videos and photos shared by family and friends online can make you gain weight. But you will certainly gain weight if you take your high craving for food after seeing those photos and videos and eat a real meal. In such a case, you may end up overeating which is otherwise unhealthy. 

Final Thoughts 

The amount of food you eat affects your weight. Both quality and quantity of food determines whether you gain weight, lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.

Other factors that can lead to weight gain include lack of exercise, genetics, built environments such as lack of sidewalks, and health status in terms of diseases and drugs you use. 

Maintaining a healthy weight requires a healthy diet and exercise. You also need to drink enough water, monitor your calorie intake, and maintain a healthy balance physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

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