Photo courtesy: Marin
Have you ever made an excuse about your weight gain like, “I went for a vacation”. One of my friends came up with a bizarre excuse, “I have to cook”! Surely your family has to eat, but how can you blame cooking for your chubbiness. Women going through menopause blame hormonal changes for their heftiness. And wait till you hear this: “I have big bones”. While having larger frames does contribute slightly to weight gain, it definitely doesn’t equate to being fat. Sandra Bullock is a fine example of big-boned women and she looks gorgeous. Yet another very common reason why people don’t want to lose weight is ‘people should accept me the way I am’. Why?The basic equation of weight gain is simple: a higher intake of calories than is being burnt by the body. And this looks easy enough to reverse in order to control one’s weight. Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Sometimes, you end up gaining weight despite an active lifestyle. This unwanted and unexplained weight gain can be a cause for concern and it becomes important to dig deeper and do the required investigations to understand what lies behind it. More so because too much weight gain is a precursor to diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and heart diseases, to name a few!Let’s take a look at the top 10 reasons behind weight gain and understand how these can be managed:
- Choice and Availability of Food: It is extremely important to understand the food that you eat on a daily basis.The easy availability of junk food, packaged fruit juices, and ready- to-eat frozen meals attracts working adults and children alike. These not only have high sugar and fat content, the two weight gain culprits, but are also engineered to hook you to them. On the other hand, real food is more expensive and requires time and effort for cooking. All the same, it is one of the easiest ways to exercise some control over what and how much you are eating and successfully managing your weight! While it may not be possible to avoid eating out totally, disciplining yourself on the number of times in a week or a month you can have junk food would be a good step towards a better toned body.
- Middle Age Weight Gain: By the time you are in your 30s, your body composition begins to change and the calorie equation no longer works! Your metabolic rate drops and food energy starts getting stored as fat in your belly area. This continues for the next couple of decades till the body starts losing mass in 60s. As such, aging coupled with lifestyle issues may result in a serious risk of weight-related diseases. But don’t be disheartened, you can reverse some of this by taking a protein-rich diet and opting healthy snacks like almonds and fruits, and doing weight training for stronger muscles! Also, it is important to relax and get sufficient sleep as stress and late nights alter our dietary pattern and lead to an increase in appetite and a craving for junk food.
- Genes Play a Role: Genetics are strongly related to weight gain and children of obese parents tend to become obese. They may feel hungry constantly and end up eating more, or faulty genes may cause most of the calories they intake to get stored as fat. While this may be true, it is no reason to give up on your weight loss goals. Eating right and exercising regularly can help keep your weight under control or at the very least, make you feel healthier despite the weight.
Photo courtesy: Mister GC
- Hypothyroidism: The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland located in your neck is responsible for controlling the body’s metabolism or how the cells use energy from the food that you consume. A dysfunction of this gland may result in insufficient production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. This may result in an increase in weight coupled with constipation, constant fatigue and an increased sensitivity to cold. Though the disease cannot be cured, it can be effectively managed by taking synthetic thyroid hormone Levothyroxine every day after consulting a physician. Once the condition is under control, your metabolism will improve and you will feel less tired. This would be the right time to join a gym, or do Yoga, and maintain a healthy diet in order to shed those excess pounds.
- Medication: Many a times, weight gain is caused as a side effect of a medication that has been prescribed to you to treat a chronic condition, many a times conditions that are themselves related to weight gain like diabetes, depression and high blood pressure resulting a vicious circle. Below is a list of some such medicines that may cause weight gain in some people:
- Anti-depressants and Anti-psychotic drugs
- Anti-diabetes drugs
- Oral contraceptives
- Steroids for treating auto-immune disease.
And if that is indeed the case with you, you should NOT stop taking the medicine but consult with your physician and if possible, try an alternative medicine that may not have the same side effect. The next step would be to exercise daily to improve your metabolism. You could go for interval training for the same which involves short periods of rigorous workout in between light aerobic exercises. You would also do well to watch the calories in your food and have a high- fiber diet with healthy fats and lean proteins. And don’t forget to have lots of water!
- Fluid Build-up: Fat isn’t always the reason behind weight gain. Fluid retention in your body may also cause some unexplained weight gain. Try pushing a finger tip on your body and if doesn’t spring back and instead causes a dent, it’s perhaps time to see a doctor and understand what’s behind it. This may be a precursor to kidney or heart failure and is usually accompanied by decreased urine output and loss of appetite in case of kidney issues, and shortness of breath in case of heart congestion. Other reasons behind fluid build-up may be liver diseases and even cancer so it’s better not to take fluid build-up lightly and book an appointment with your physician.
- Quitting Smoking: Now, if you have recently quit smoking, chances are you are feeling hungry quite often and the resulting overeating is piling up the calories. Don’t worry; you have made the right decision by quitting. The hunger pangs are just temporary and usually go away in a few weeks. In the mean time, doing regular workouts may help you burn off some of those calories!
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): This is a common hormonal problem in women of child-bearing age and is characterized by small cysts on ovaries. It results in hormonal imbalances that cause acne or extra body hair as well as disruptions in menstrual cycle. The disease makes the body resistant to insulin thereby resulting in an insulin build-up in the blood which, in turn, increases the production of male hormones androgen leading to male pattern weight gain, especially around the belly. Hormone therapy, exercising, and taking a balanced diet may help in controlling the disease which otherwise, has no cure.
- Leptin Issues: Now here is something many people don’t pay attention to in their quest to understand why they are constantly hungry, crave junk food, and are unable to diet and lose weight. While you may be blaming your will power, the actual problem could be leptin-resistance. Leptin is the satiety hormone produced by the fat cells of our body and is responsible for regulating energy balance by inhibiting ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Managing leptin levels involves making dietary and lifestyle changes like avoiding sugary foods, simple starches, fructose, and refined foods, having a protein and healthy fats rich diet in the morning, avoiding snacks, getting sufficient sleep, taking walks, etc.
- Cushing Syndrome: If you are gaining weigh progressively, it could be a result of Cushing Syndrome. The fatty deposits are mostly around the face (moon face), on the upper back, between the shoulders, and the middle. Fatigue, lack of sexual interest, infertility, high blood pressure, increased thirst and urination are some other symptoms. The disease is caused by an excess of cortisol hormone in the body. The disease can be treated and the type of treatment depends on the specific reasons for increase in cortisol level in the patient’s body.
Staying slim or maintaining a healthy body weight is important for overall physical and mental health and it can only be achieved by eating nutritious food and working out on a regular basis. Though these are the mantras
for staying fit, one needs to pay closer attention to abnormal changes in the body and seek medical help where necessary.