I gained weight, and the world didn’t end.  That’s because gaining weight as a result of a period of overindulging is normal.

And, it’s okay.

In fact, it’s very likely that you’re going to gain weight sometime in the near future. Does the thought of that scare you? Don’t let it, because you’ll be fine. You just need to know how to manage weight gain in a healthy way.

The truth is, weight gain is sometimes part of what results from the ups and downs of life, which might include a food-drenched vacation, a bad breakup or death in the family, or back to back holidays (I’m talking about you, Thanksgiving>Halloween>Christmas>New Year’s).

I want you to be confident that nothing bad is going to happen to you if you go with the flow and don’t take drastic measures to suddenly lose that weight. Freaking out about gaining a few pounds can make the situation worse both physically and mentally, and getting anxious about it is completely unnecessary. Life’s messy. Whatever, you’ll clean it up.

And just because I know you think that dietitians are the best eaters in the world and we couldn’t possible empathize with your situation, let me tell you my personal story.

This past winter, I had a really rough time. My dad got sick, and then he died eleven weeks later. Yeah, that was pretty much…well…UNSPEAKABLY HORRIBLE. My dad was my spirit animal, so I was a bit stunned, to say the least.

During those eleven weeks, I knew that he was dying, and everything in my life went on to the back burner. I barely exercised (weirdly, I acquired a running injury at the same time, so the option wasn’t even there anyhow), and I sat by his side on his bed writing blogs, watching old movies, and talking to him for hours upon hours. He loved to hear about what I was writing – rolling his eyes at the crazy diets I was reviewing – and talking to me about food photography. When your parent has weeks to live, nothing else matters but soaking up those last hours with them.

I got my time in with my dad, but as you would expect, that time was sad. Really, really sad, and very stressful. I’m sure my body was pumping out stress hormones at 1000 times the normal rate from all the nights I lay awake out of sadness, and my eating habits were totally erratic. Ever the dietitian, I’d sometimes bring my big salads to my dad’s house for dinner, but there was a lot of unhealthy food kicking around there, brought over by well-meaning friends and relatives. Add that to the fact that all my dad really wanted to eat was chocolate Haagen Dazs, and you know the end of the story: A lot of croissants and ice cream, and a tire around my middle. Great.


The illness and/or death of a loved one can cause you to gain weight (among other things)


I was too tired to give a crap, and maybe that’s why instead of making a big deal and perseverating about my weight gain like I did years ago, I concentrated on treating myself and my body with care. After what I had just gone through, I chose to focus on the positive times that I had enjoyed during those weeks with my dad. All of those hours with him had been so precious. My weight gain paled in comparison to that!

Once I returned to my typical life, the weight disappeared. No crazy diets required.

This wasn’t the first time I’d gained and lost weight, and no way it’s the last – developing recipes means a lot of weight ebb and flow, and above all else, I like to travel and I love to eat. But after all my years counselling clients about this, and taking my own advice, I’ve learned a few things.


I love to travel, and I love coconut cake. Not necessarily in that order. Sometimes, I overdo it a bit..just like anyone else.


I’m going to let you in on the dos and don’ts of dealing with weight gain in a healthy way:

Do: Relax, and understand that this is a normal part of life.

The world isn’t going to end when you gain a few pounds, trust me. We all inadvertently gain weight, and it’s okay: You overindulged, no big deal. Get over it and move on. I’m not saying that it’s good to weight cycle back and forth constantly, but every once in a while, you’re going to put on a few. Completely normal.

Stop talking about it to your friends, who probably couldn’t care less about how much you weigh, and stop getting on the scale to check how much weight you actually put on. Focus instead on the good things in your life, instead of your weight. Don’t you feel better already?

Don’t: Freak out and do the classic diet overcorrect.

I see this far too much: some people who gain a bit of weight will get really motivated to lose that weight, and do some crazy cleanse or strict diet. Nope nope nope, people. Don’t do that. Restricting calories or entire food groups because you want to drop weight fast is the best way to enter the soul-sucking vortex of the yo-yo diet.

Stay calm, and stay away from idiotic fad diets and cleanses. You never need a diet/liver/kidney detox so don’t buy into that shit.

Do: Go back to your normal habits.

It sounds really simple and intuitive, doesn’t it? If you’ve always been a pretty healthy eater, just do your thing. Stop the behaviour that caused the weight gain, and return to your normal diet. Your body will do the rest.

Don’t: Berate yourself.

It literally makes me feel sick when people come into my office and put themselves down because they’ve eaten poorly or gained weight. There’s so much power in your words, and to turn them against yourself for any reason is not okay. My diet sucks sometimes too, everybody’s does. That’s not a reason to put yourself down, and there’s also a scientific reason not to do that, as well: research suggests that negative self-talk may actually cause weight gain and emotional stress.

Remember this rule: if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend or your child, don’t say it to yourself. Instead, practice reframing your negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, instead of telling yourself, ‘I’m so disgusting, I shouldn’t have eaten so much food on my vacation’, say, ‘I had such a great time on vacation, I really needed to get away!’

Going around in circles in your mind about what you did ‘wrong’ in order to gain the weight is stressful, exhausting, and not productive. Treat yourself with kindness, always. You deserve it (no matter how much you think you don’t, you DO)

Do: Stock the house with healthy food.

Access is everything. Just as having access to all sorts of crap at my dad’s that I don’t usually have at my house played a part in my weight gain, make sure that you do the opposite. Make sure your home is full of healthy, minimally-processed food, and get rid of the junky stuff that’s tempting to you.

Don’t: Do the all or nothing thing.

Overindulging is fine every once in a while, but continuing the party because you figure you’ve blown it already? Not helpful. All or nothing thinking can really impact your health (read my blog on it here), and it can set you on the diet merry-go-round. Trust me people, that is NOT fun.

A three-day bender is easier to reverse than a three-month one, so try not to prolong things.

Do: Seek professional help if you feel out of control.

I think everyone needs counselling at least at one point or another in their lives. If you feel like you can’t get rid of the diet mentality or you’re engaging in some seriously negative self-talk, it may be time to book an appointment with a registered dietitian…and maybe a therapist as well.

Cleaning out your closet, so to speak, can be life-changing. Consulting an expert in the field that you require help with is essential.

Take that step if you need to, when you’re ready.

Don’t: Listen to unqualified people or ‘health gurus’ who dispense diet tips.

Seriously, my next blog is going to be about this…but until then? STOP believing in crappy diet advice from celebrities/celebrity trainers/health gurus/lifestyle experts/random celebrity chefs/total IDIOTS/Gwyneth Paltrow.

I’m finding that seeking credible nutrition advice has never been as confusing as it is now, partially because of all the self-proclaimed ‘nutrition experts’ out there, spouting bullshit craziness everywhere people turn.

Keep calm, and move on.


  1. Thanks so much for this post. I’m also an RD and a challenging year personally has left me with an unwanted weight gain that I’ve been feeling uneasy about. It’s so easy to beat yourself up when you feel like you should know better and do better because you’re a dietitian. Thank you for putting things back into perspective!

  2. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your father. I lost my father back when I was 15 (about 23 years ago). I understand the feelings of loss. During my father’s last months, I stuck to his side and he became one of my best friends. I remember thinking, “Heather, you have two choices, 1. go off the deep end and get stupid or 2. take the time to get to know my dad, absorb as much knowledge as I can.” I decided on option 2 and I don’t regret it. I also was so into my own grief that I don’t remember my high school years after he passed. At a recent high school reunion, I discovered how much I missed out on and honestly, I hate to say it, but I’m glad I did. Anyway I digress. I think that the grief period that I don’t remember is the one where I initially gained my weight. I was unhappy, I ate chips and chocolate bars and drank pop during my spare classes, and I gained weight. I was a size 16 by the time I graduated and I am 5’4″ so it was pretty noticeable. Did I feel overweight, no.

    Even now I have a hard time seeing the weight on me, every once in a while I see it but otherwise what I see in the mirror and other people see in real life are two different things. I am now a size 20-22, I’ve obviously gained more weight over the years. My husband and I don’t have children so I can’t blame the weight on “baby weight”. After reading some of your blog posts and some serious thoughts, I took a long hard look at myself. My story isn’t so different from anyone else’s. My management of stress isn’t so different from anyone else’s. I thought, you know, maybe it’s time for a change. In the last 3 or 4 years our doctor has been having my husband and I in once a month for a weigh-in to monitor our weight and to encourage us to eat chicken and vegetables and exercise and we have felt more and more unhappy to take the time off work and our schedule to do it. I don’t want to say we are regular exercisers, in the winter we go to the gym for 45 to 60 minutes after work 3 or 4 times a week and in the summer we try to walk when we aren’t busy doing summer stuff like yard work (so mainly we do the yard work and in our brains its enough exercise). Through the years we’ve steadily gained weight. This summer was the breaking point for us or at least for me but my husband was willing to come along for the ride (he is 5’8″ and 312 lbs and I was now 258lbs). Obviously, the exercise alone or at all wasn’t doing what it should be and chicken and vegetables is a meagre existence at best (on top of that, asking our doctor if there was such thing as too much vegetables, like how big of a salad can I eat or should I eat? We never really got an answer, just to make sure that half our plate is vegetable however didn’t say how big of a plate – what I’ve learned, a serving bowl size of salad is TOO much, and by serving bowl I mean like the one you pile full of potatoes or whatever when you have a family of 6 or more at the table, who knew?!) and I had been mulling over asking for a referral to dietician for a while and finally, I just asked. It wasn’t so hard. I know I’m overweight but it’s still a hard pill to swallow at times and to admit that I have a problem and need help, its hard. I’ve been reading about how to lose weight in a healthy way for years, that fad diets don’t work. I’m cheap by nature on certain things so I was never tempted to pay the money for the fad diets cause they always cost something. In the last few months, I’ve been telling myself that if exercise alone wasn’t working (I was just convinced I was lazy at this point), then it had to do with what I was putting into my mouth. So in mid-July we did it we went to see the health nurse and a dietician. We have our set of goals and challenges for the next month or so. We are now learning to eat all over again. Learning how much we should be eating compared to what we were eating. So far I’ve learned we’ve be sorely overeating and sometimes eating 2 or 3 times the amount that we should really be eating. It’s retraining the brain to allow for parts of my plate to show through, that I don’t have to have food from one side to the other. I mean like who eats like that?! Our plate size has also shrunk which is really helping us cut down our portion sizes. I’m not sure when this bad habit started for me, was it compensating for the loss of my father all of those years ago? We’re also learning what to eat. How come there isn’t a class in high school that teaches this stuff? (And all the other important adult stuff for that matter?) For me, I didn’t care what other people thought of what I looked like, whatever, it’s their insecurities that they’re really scrutinizing, but I just want to be healthy. I doubt I’ll ever be a size 2 and to be honest, I don’t want to be. I just want to be able to maybe do yoga and the poses and to be able to bend forward completely without my stomach and lower paunch in the way, that would be fun, or shop in a store that isn’t just for plus sized people. I also know I’m just shy of 40 and my family health history doesn’t include longevity. I’d like to be more active without carrying the weight equivalent to another person around. But luckily we’re taking baby steps. We’re learning that that this is a lifetime lifestyle change. We’re learning that it’s okay to stumble as long as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and get back on track. Life is a constant learning playground, we have to open ourselves up to learn. Luckily both my husband and I love to learn new things and are willing to open ourselves up to learning new things. To be honest, I know that this is going to be a long hard journey, it’s not going to be all ups and there will be some downs. Maybe just maybe with help and support we will learn how to manage our ups and downs a little bit more and know we’re not alone.

    I want to thank you for your blogs. I love reading your no nonsense reviews of diets. Your positivity is encouraging and I can’t wait for your next post.

  3. These kind words have helped my ?. I understand the grief of losing your dad-so very sorry, as we can never prepare ourselves for such a loss. Within a 15 month time period recently, I lost my mom-oldest brother & lovable senior dog. I’m still trying to work through that—not well as I’ve also put on weight & can’t seem to get motivated to lose it & eat better. I’m also a foot/ankle surgery recovered person! Yay! That’s been less than a year-now if I could go to the dog park w my retirement gift (a crazy coonhound mix) & not get taken off my feet-life would improve. The love, caring & actions of dear friends have been a lifesaver (walking said pup after getting 3 partial tears in a knee at the park!!). Some are active ppl, others aren’t-but bless them, they’re gently giving me time to heal inside & out. It’s easy to be hard on ourselves. In my teachers desk-that I left for someone else to fill, I had a note…”take a deep breath.” Good advice! Thanks so much for letting me remember “all in due time”. Getting back to wanting to cook healthy-it’s coming soon!!

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