Gaining weight can really be exasperating especially if your lifestyle includes regular exercise and a healthy balanced diet.
There are several things that you must consider if you are gaining weight while on a controlled diet and are physically active. According to Michelle May, MD, author of Am I Hungry? What to Do When Diets Don’t Work, "Weight gain is so complicated; there are so many factors that can impact your weight. It is more likely a combination of things more than just one factor."
May names 5 surprising factors that pull your weight up without you knowing it:
Lack of sleep
May says, "When you don’t get enough sleep, your body experiences physiological stress and, biochemically, you store fat more efficiently."
When you are tired you are also unable to deal with stress properly, so you tend to reach for "comfort foods’ to cope with it. You may also be getting extra calories from late-night snacking. Some people believe that eating helps them get back to sleep, when in fact all it does is add more calories to their daily total.
Try to get hours of sleep each night. May suggests adding 15 minutes to your bedtime. "Continue to experiment with additional 15-minute increments until you find the amount of sleep that is right for you." When you develop good sleeping habits – and get regular exercise – you will be able to sleep better, adds May.
Living in a fast-paced world does take its toll on our health and fitness. Stress helps us deal with the pressures of daily life, but it has a negative effect on our moods and emotions.
May says, "Stress response, whether it is ‘fight-or-flight,’ juggling too many responsibilities, or coping with financial pressures, triggers a biochemical process where our bodies go into survival mode." Going into survival mode causes our bodies to store fuel, slow down metabolism and chuck chemicals such as cortisol, leptin, and other hormones, that are likely to cause obesity in the abdominal area.
Some people handle stress by reaching for food. But of course, this does not help in the long run. It does not address the real stressor that triggers eating and weight gain.
According to Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, stress eaters tend to reach for high-carb foods because they cause an increase in the brain chemical serototin, which has a calming effect. "It is almost like self-medicating," says Bowerman. "Many people binge on starchy foods to make themselves feel better."
May and Bowerman recommend practicing relaxation techniques and exercise which not only calms you down, but also burns calories and offers many health benefits.
Some medical conditions cause weigh gain. The most common of which is hypothyroidism. It is a condition characterized by a deficiency of thyroid hormone which can decrease metabolism, cause appetite loss and weight gain.
According to May, "If you are feeling fatigued, lethargic, swelling, hoarse voice, intolerance to cold, sleeping too much, or headaches, you should see your doctor for an easy test to determine if you have hypothyroidism."
Another condition which causes weight gain is Cushing’s syndrome. It is a disorder caused by an excess in the hormone cortisol.
Women experience menopause at a wide range of ages, but most are in midlife and are usually less active when they were younger. Aging causes metabolism to slow down. At the same time, hormonal changes can wreak havoc on your system, including triggering hunger, depression, and poor sleep.
"It is multifactoral. When women go through menopause, they lose estrogen, causing their shapes to change — usually a loss of hip and thigh weight. And they start to gain more in the middle," says Bowerman. She adds that estrogen encourages fat deposit in the body. When women lose this hormone during menopause, fat is more likely to be stores in the midsection.
To avoid belly fat, maintain and increase the amount of lean body mass, which in turn, will boost your metabolism. "Women need to understand how critically important weight lifting and strength training is to their health," says Bowerman.
Exercise also helps make up for bone loss that comes with menopause. The key is to include exercise, and a healthy calorie-controlled diet rich in calcium and vitamin D in your lifestyle.
Some prescription meds such as those used to treat depression, mood disorders, seizures, migraines, blood pressure, and diabetes can cause weight gain, from a moderate amount to as much as 10 pounds per month.
Some steroids, hormone replacement therapy, and even oral contraceptives may also cause steady weight gain.
"Every drug works a little differently to cause weight gain, from increasing appetite, altering the way fat is stored, to how insulin levels change," says May. "And not all drugs have the same side effects on all people."
With antidepressants, weight gain may not be the action of the drugs so much as the improvement in mood. Feeling better can result in a heartier appetite.
Some drugs may cause fluid retention which may register on your weighing scale. But this is easily corrected.
Experts say some of the most common meds that cause weight gain include:
- Antiseizure medications
- Diabetes medications
- High blood pressure medications
- Heartburn medications