Weight gain is commonly believed to be a side effect of most types of birth control, however this perception does not stand up to research. A January 2014 review, published in "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews," analyzed data from 49 studies, finding no significant evidence that birth control pills or patches cause weight gain. A May 2014 review in "Cochrane for Physicians" looked at studies performed on progestin-only contraceptives, including depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera), and also found little evidence that these cause weight gain.
Hormone fluctuations, however, may lead to appetite changes or cause fluid retention. And the average American gains about 1 pound per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so birth control or not, any adult could experience weight gain over time. If you experience weight gain and are ready to develop a plan to lose weight, start with a focus on your dietary habits and exercise practices.
Start a food journal. Write down everything you eat for at least a week. This can help you keep track of your food choices, help you be more mindful of your portions, and improve accountability to yourself. But there's another benefit -- you may be more successful losing weight. A study published in the September 2012 issue of "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" followed 123 women and their weight loss efforts over the course of 1 year, and found the women who consistently kept a food diary lost 6 more pounds compared to women who didn't.
Eat regularly and don't skip meals. The study in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" found that women who skipped meals regularly lost less weight -- to the tune of 8 pounds in a year -- compared to women who did not skip meals. While the mechanism for this effect is not clear, skipping meals can lead to overeating, and can potentially lead to eating higher calorie, less healthful choices.
Eat a plant-rich diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Limit fried foods, fatty meats, and low-nutrition snack foods such as chips and crackers. Drink mostly water and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. And take control of your food choices and eat at home more often -- as this may be a crucial to your success. The study in the "Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics" found that women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost 5 fewer pounds in a year compared to women who ate out less often.
Exercise regularly. This helps you to build muscle and lose body fat. Choose an activity you love, and aim for at least five days a week for at least 30 minutes a day. However, a longer duration of exercise may be needed to meet your weight loss goals.
If you are retaining fluids, limit the amount of salt you add to your foods, as salt and sodium can enhance fluid retention. To limit sodium, limit soups, fast food, packaged foods, smoked, brined or dried meats and canned vegetables. Also be careful with condiments such as soy sauce or ketchup, and use salt-containing seasonings sparingly. Drink plenty of water.