11 Other Reasons People Gain Weight
Most people can name the top two reasons people gain weight: consuming more calories than you burn and not exercising enough. However, there are many more factors that contribute to the ongoing struggle to lose weight, and you can do something every one of them.
Recognizing and acting upon these other reasons is helpful because
- It offers people more actionable ways to drop those extra pounds
- It can serve as a morale booster
- It can help improve your overall health and quality of life along with weight loss
Other reasons people gain weight
You can find scores of diets and diet programs on the market, but once you eliminate all the fads and unhealthy options, you are left with a few approaches that are designed to last a lifetime, help with weight loss, and support overall health as well. They include DASH, MIND (which is a combination of DASH and Mediterranean diet), flexitarian (close but not fully vegetarian), Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig. All include an exercise component, even if it is only to recommend it.
Now that we’ve mentioned the two top reasons, let’s explore 11 more.
1. Stress. Several hormones are involved with stress and weight gain. One is serotonin, a pleasure hormone whose levels decline when we are stressed. The drop in serotonin can increase our cravings for sugar and carbs, leading to overeating and weight gain.
The other hormone is cortisol, aka the stress hormone, which kicks into high gear when stress is ongoing. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol are associated with a buildup of belly fat, which then produces more cortisol, setting a vicious weight-gaining cycling into motion.
2. Environmental Toxins. The presence of environmental toxins is ubiquitous in our society, as they are found in everything from our food and water to our medications, furniture, building materials, plastics, air, cars, clothing, and personal care products. Some of these contaminants (e.g., BPH, phthalates, xenoestrogens) have a negative impact on hormone function and can contribute to weight gain. That doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your exposure by choosing organic foods, filtering your water, avoiding plastics (e.g., those containing BPA, phthalates), not dry cleaning your clothes, and using natural, organic cosmetics and health care products.
3. Food allergies and sensitivities. Many people have food allergies or sensitivities and don’t realize it. When they continue to eat foods that they cannot tolerate or are sensitive to, they develop systemic inflammation, and inflammation leads to insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels. This in turn causes fat to be stored, especially around the abdomen.
4. Artificial sweeteners. Not only are artificial sweeteners associated with health issues, including allergic and sensitivity reactions, reproductive problems, and cancer, they also can work against your weight loss efforts. Research shows that use of artificial sweeteners can actually promote weight gain rather than weight loss.
In an article appearing in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Susan Swithers, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University, reported that artificial sweeteners seem to interfere with how the body perceives calories, which in turn may encourage weight gain.
5. Gut environment. Overall health and a healthy weight depend on a balanced gut environment, where good and “bad” microbes exist in harmony. However, high-fat, high-sugar, low-fiber diets, along with the use of antibiotics and other medications, exposure to stress, and environmental toxins, can cause the bacterial population in the gut to go awry, resulting in inflammation and a leaky gut.
The result can be obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and a variety of autoimmune diseases. By paying attention to the factors mentioned, as well as getting probiotics in your diet, you can help keep your gut in healthy shape.
6. Medication use. A wide variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications have the possibility of weight gain as a side effect, with some more likely to cause added pounds than others. Among the seven medication types that can contribute to weight gain are allergy drugs, antidepressants, antihypertensives, diabetic medications, nerve pain and antiseizure drugs, psychiatric medications, and steroids.
If you are concerned about weight gain and are taking any of these types of medications, talk to your doctor. You may able to switch to another drug.
7. Genetics. We know that genetics play a role in weight, but just because your parents may have been obese does not mean you will be, too. Experts have noted that “Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in …[obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors.”
Among the nongenetic factors are those mentioned in this article. The children of obese parents are not destined to be obese or overweight themselves, since they have control over the other factors that impact weight.
8. Depression. Are people overweight because they are depressed or depressed because they are overweight? Yes! However, if you are interested in tackling both issues, you should know that research has shown that depression contributes to weight gain, so working on your emotional/mental health can lead to better physical health.
In a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study, experts confirmed the relationship between depression and abdominal obesity in a study that spanned 15 years. They found that young adults at the beginning of the study who reported high levels of depression gained weight faster than other people in the study, and that individuals who were overweight at the beginning of the study did not demonstrate changes in depression over time.
According to UAB Assistant Professor of Sociology, Belinda Needham, PhD, the study showed that “if you are interested in controlling obesity, and ultimately eliminating the risk of obesity-related diseases, then it makes sense to treat people’s depression.”
9. Hormones. Perimenopausal and postmenopausal women are especially affected by the impact of hormones on weight gain. As a woman’s estrogen levels decline, metabolic rate drops, poor sleep can develop, insulin resistance worsens, and lean muscle mass declines, all of which contribute to weight gain.
10. Sleep. Insufficient sleep has been shown to contribute to weight gain. In a study of nearly 14,000 adults conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that those who got six or fewer hours of sleep per night were more likely to have excess belly fat or to be obese than those who slept 7 to 9 hours nightly.
One thing that is impacting sleep quality is electronic devices. Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and iPads emit blue light, which can have a detrimental impact on the normal release of melatonin, a hormone necessary for sleep. These devices do not belong in the bedroom.
11. Electromagnetic fields. Increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), especially from cell towers, WiFi, cell phones, and multiple wireless devices, is believed to have a detrimental impact on weight. The impact appears to be on the thyroid gland.
In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that individuals living within 100 meters of a cell phone station for six years had significantly lower release of certain hormones, especially thyroid hormones. This situation can result in low thyroid function (hypothyroidism), which is characterized by fatigue and weight gain.
Tackling weight gain and trying to drop excess pounds takes a multifaceted approach. By addressing these factors found to be involved in weight control, you may lose weight as well as improve overall health and wellness.
Also Read: Could your plastic water bottle make you fatter?
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Eskander EF et al. How does long term exposure to base stations and mobile phones affect human hormone profiles? Clinical Biochemistry 2012 Jan; 45(1-2): 157-61
Ford ES et al. Sleep duration and body mass index and waist circumference among US adults. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2014 Feb; 22(2): 598-607
Hill JE, Trowbridge FL. Childhood obesity: future directions and research priorities. Pediatrics 1998; 101(3)Suppl 571
Hyman Mark MD. Are your food allergies making you fat?
Swithers SE. Artificial sweeteners produce the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 2013 Sep; 24(9): 431-41
US News and World Report. Best diets overall
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