Maintaining a healthy weight can be pretty tough, and losing excess kilos – even tougher, especially in our eat-and-run and massive-portion-sized culture of the present times.
If you have tried to lose weight and you did not succeed, you might start to think that diets don’t work in your case and you are probably right. They don’t work for everyone because our bodies respond differently.
But don’t worry, because even if there isn’t an easy way to losing weight, we guarantee you that there are plenty of steps you can take in order to achieve a healthy and lasting weight-loss success.
Why Do We Gain Weight?
First of all, it’s important that we acknowledge the main reasons for which we gain weight, especially if this happens fast and unintentionally. Unintentional weight gain occurs when you put on weight without increasing the consumption of liquids or foods, and it can be caused by some health conditions.
Unintentional weight gain can be periodic, continuous or rapid. Continuous unintentional weight gain can be the result of pregnancy, periodic unintentional weight gain includes regular fluctuations of weight but rapid weight gain will usually indicate a serious medical condition, or it can be caused by some medication and its side effects.
The symptoms of unintentional weight gain include the following: abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, flatulence, constipation, visible swelling in the abdomen or other areas of the body, swollen extremities. There are various ways to treat unintentional weight gain, and the best method is the treatment of the condition that caused it.
Medical/Health Conditions as Possible Causes for Putting on Weight
Most people are putting on excess weight because they eat and also drink more calories than they consume through body functions and everyday movement. But there are also cases in which weight gain may be due to various underlying health conditions. Here are the most frequent health issues that can cause excess kilos and that should raise awareness:
Hypothyroidism – Underactive Thyroid
An underactive thyroid involves the fact that the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones which play an essential role in regulating the metabolism. Although an underactive thyroid can develop at any age, it is most frequent in older women.
Without enough thyroid hormones, the metabolism slows down, and this will lead to weight gain. This condition is usually treated with a daily tablet of hormone-replacement. Hypothyroidism symptoms include the following:
- Being sensitive to cold
- Weight gain
- Slow thinking and movements
- Muscle cramps, aches, and weakness
- Dry and scaly skin
- Brittle nails and hair
- Loss of libido
- Memory problems
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Numbness, pain and a tingling sensation in the fingers and hands (carpal tunnel syndrome)
Weight gain is also a common side effect for people who take insulin to manage their diabetes. Insulin helps them to control their blood sugar levels. There are some patients with diabetes who tend to eat more than they need to prevent low blood sugar levels. Such excessive snacking for preventing hypoglycemia definitely contributes to an excessive caloric intake and overall weight gain.
Aging and Less Muscle Mass
As we’re getting older, we begin losing modest amounts of muscle, mainly because we become less active. Muscles are an efficient calorie burner, and loss of muscle mass will lead to fewer calories burnt. If we continue to eat and drink the same amount as we always have but, on the other hand, we are less active; this will lead to weight gain. To reduce muscle loss, we should stay positive and try to do regular muscle strengthening exercises.
Steroid Treatments for Asthma and Arthritis
Also known as corticosteroids, steroids are used as a treatment for a variety of conditions, including some health issues such as arthritis and asthma. Long-term use of steroid tablets seems to increase appetite in some cases, and this obviously leads to weight gain. The longer you are on steroids and the higher the dose, the more weight you are likely to gain. This happens because steroids will make you feel hungry, and this affects the areas in the brain which are responsible for controlling the feelings of hunger and also satiety. We can prevent eating more than usual during the steroid treatment by being extra careful about what we consume.
This is a very rare health condition which affects around 1 in 50.000 people, and the cause is high levels of the hormone called cortisol. This health condition can develop as a result of long-term steroid treatment or as a side effect of a tumor. Weight gain is usually a common symptom, especially in the chest area, face, and also stomach. This occurs because cortisol leads to the redistribution of fat in these locations. Depending on the cause, the treatment usually involves the withdrawal of the use of steroids or even reducing it or surgery to remove the tumor if it is the case.
Low Mood and Stress
People respond in different ways to anxiety, stress and depressed mood. Some of us lose weight, while, on the other hand, others gain excess kilos. There are times when people might turn to food as a coping mechanism, and this can lead to a vicious circle. Weight gain due to depression can you one more depressed, and this can lead to more weight gain. People who know they’re emotional eaters need to find other forms of distractions such as a hobby, or physical exercise, friends and so on.
Studies have shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours a day have the tendency to gain weight unlike those who get at least 9 hours of sleep. The reason why this happens is not yet clarified, but one theory might be that sleep-deprived people also have reduced levels of leptin, the chemical substance that is related to satiety and that makes you feel full. They also seem to have higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone which stimulates hunger. If you feel tired all the time, you are more likely to reach for high-calorie snacks which will keep your energy levels elevated throughout the day, and also you’ll do less physical activity – this means you’ll burn fewer calories.
Retention of Fluids
Fluid retention causes parts of the body to become swollen, and this means weight gain. The increase is caused by fluids that accumulate in the body. Some quantities of fluid retention are reasonable and have different reasons such as standing up for extended periods of time or pre-menstrual days and so on. The swelling can develop in one particular part of the body such as the ankles, or it can be a more general one. Severe fluid retention can lead to breathlessness and, if you notice that you have swollen ankles, for example, if you have to get up and pee overnight, or if you have to sleep on a few pillows in order to avoid breathlessness, you should see your doctor, because these examples of fluid retention can indicate other health conditions such as kidney or heart problems that need assessment.
PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
This is a pretty common condition that affects the ways a woman’s ovaries work. The symptoms can include trouble getting pregnant, irregular periods, weight gain and excess hair in unnatural locations of the body. The exact cause of this health conditions are not yet known, but they’re thought to be related to hormones including too high levels of testosterone and insulin.
Women who suffer from PCOS will usually gain weight around their waist. The more weight you gain, the more insulin your body produces and this can cause even more weight gain. Weight loss through exercise and dietary changes, sometimes even through medication will help to break this cycle.
Digestive issues including slow bowel movements may also account for excessive weight. Ideally, when you eat, after at least an hour you will have a bowel movement, but if you are not functioning regularly, the cause might be dehydration, low fiber, medications, lack of healthy intestinal flora from the gut. If your only problem is constipation, then the solution might be a good probiotic that will help your digestive tract to work properly. Staying hydrated is also beneficial along with a healthy diet rich in fibers.
Being low in iron, magnesium or vitamin D can compromise your immunity, your energy levels or can alter your metabolism, and these can lead to weight gain.
Many musculoskeletal conditions such as plantar fasciitis and also osteoarthritis and knee/hip pain can result in unintentional weight gain. This health condition can force you to cut back on exercise and activities, and this causes weight gain. You should seek a physical therapist who can design an appropriate program for your specific needs.
There is quite an extensive list of medications which can lead to weight gain. These include the following: birth control pills, excess hormones for hormone therapy, steroids, anti-seizures meds, beta-blockers for heart disease and blood pressure, breast cancer meds, some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, some migraine and heartburn pills.
Some of these treatments may affect your appetite, other- the metabolism, either way, they can cause weight gain. If you suspect that your current medication is affecting your waistline, your doctor may be able to find another treatment option as an alternative without any side effect that causes excessive kilos.
Reasons that Lead to Unintentional Weight Gain
Overeating Healthy Foods
It’s crucial to remember that portion size is just as important as eating healthy and the reason is the fact that many nutritious foods (such as oatmeal, avocados, quinoa, butter, nuts, dark chocolate) can also lead to weight gain when they’re consumed in excess.
According to some studies from the University of Utah, it seems that drinking 2 cups of water before each meal may significantly accelerate the weight loss process. Therefore it’s no surprise that not drinking enough water will have an opposite effect on your weight. Water gives us energy, it helps maintain our body temperature, and it also helps us feel full. Not drinking enough water will cause us to eat more calories and this will obviously lead to weight gain. Also, when we are not hydrated enough, our bodies will conserve water for the vital functions, and this will result in water retention which means more excess kilos.
Being Obsessed with Working Out
We won’t deny the fact that working out is an essential weight loss factor, but in a strange way, thinking too much about your upcoming sports session too often can make it harder to lose excessive weight. Research and studies have shown that when we think too much about our next gym session, we will tend to consume more calories because we assume that afterward, we’ll lose more calories at the gym than we do.
Staying Up Too Late
You exercise, and you also eat right, but nearly all of your efforts seem useless, and this might be because you stay up too late watching your favorite shows. Various studies have already proven the fact that shorter amounts of sleep are associated with higher BMI levels and also more kilos. The main reason for this is that lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and also to decreased levels of leptin, the satiety hormone. It also seems that when we are deprived of enough sleep our brains respond more strongly to junk food, and unfortunately they have less ability to stick to portion control.
It seems that our modern diets are saltier than necessary, starting with our packaged snacks and finishing with our restaurant order, and this makes our bellies bloat. When we retain water in our gut, it can make our pants snug as if we’ve gained weight overnight and this is only water weight. But, as specialists usually say, the sodium-related weight comes easy and goes smooth.
Not Eating Enough Protein
Consuming enough protein is essential for two reasons: protein digests more slowly than refined carbohydrates, therefore, it’s satiating, and it combats overeating; it also helps maintain lean muscle mass. Nutritionists explain that if we are not consuming enough protein to keep our muscles and our cells healthy, the body will end up breaking down muscle to access the nutrients it craves for. And less muscle means a slower metabolism and of course weight gain.