When we see people who are overweight, many commonly assume that the individual is overeating and not exercising. Neither of these instances is cause for prejudice, fat shaming or other negatives.
There are men and women who seemingly do everything right when it comes to diet and exercise and they are either gaining weight or simply unable to shed pounds. This can be incredibly disheartening and wreak havoc one one’s self esteem. Here are 10 surprising reasons provided by Dr. Christopher Calapai as to why this might be occurring. Dr. Christopher Calapai D.O. is a New York City anti-aging and stem cell specialist, and long-time nutrition advisor to the New York Rangers hockey team.
Lack of Sleep
There are two issues at work with sleep and weight gain. First, if you’re up late, the odds are greater that you’re doing some late-night snacking, which means more calories. The other reason involves what’s going on in your body when you’re sleep-deprived. Changes in hormone levels increase hunger and appetite and also make you feel not as full after eating.
“Many anti-depressant medications cause weight gain—so if you’re depressed and taking pills for it, expect to see a bump in weight between 5 and 15 pounds, with continued gradual accumulation over the years,” says Dr. Calapai. If you’re not taking pills, there’s evidence that feelings of depression can correlate to weight gain. If patients are taking anti-depressants that could be the culprit of their weight gain, they should see their prescribing doctor and be weaned off slowly. “There’s a long list of medications that can cause weight gain: If you’re taking birth control pills, excess hormones for hormone therapy, steroids, beta-blockers for heart disease and blood pressure, anti-seizure meds, breast cancer medications like Tamoxifen, some treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, and even some migraine and heartburn medications, you may notice pounds creeping on,” says Dr. Calapai.
Your gut is slow
Digestive issues, including slow bowel movements, may also account for excess pounds. “Ideally, you eat, and then, an hour or so later, you have a bowel movement,” says Dr. Calapai. “But once or twice a day is still in the healthy range.” If you’re not so regular, dehydration, medications, low fiber, or even a lack of good flora in your gut could be to blame. If constipation is your only symptom, then trying probiotics can help your digestive tract work properly. If you’re still having trouble, check with your doctor to rule out a range of disorders, including hypothyroidism or a neurological issue.
You’re getting older
It’s the one condition that’s unavoidable. “Often, I hear patients tell me they think their metabolism is slowing down,” says Dr. Calapai. “This is real. We don’t burn as many calories at 40 or 50 as we used to burn at 20. So we need more exercise and less foo to keep the metabolism going. “Remember that all calories are not equal when it comes to weight,” says Dr. Calapai. “Eating lean protein will cause your body to burn calories more efficiently. On the other hand, carbs are something your body tends to burn more slowly and even store in your body more readily.”
You have plantar fasciitis
“Many musculoskeletal conditions, including plantar fasciitis, but also osteoarthritis and knee or hip pain, can result in unintentional weight gain,” says Dr. Calapai. “Plantar fasciitis certainly can force you to cut back on your activity enough to cause weight gain.”
You have Cushing’s Syndrome
Weight gain accompanied by high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and changes in your skin tone and quality, including purple or silvery stretch marks on your abdomen and ruddy cheeks, could be a sign that your body isn’t processing nutrients the way it should, due to a cortisol-producing tumor on one of your adrenal glands. The syndrome affects only about 15 in every million adults annually, so proceed with caution before demanding a battery of tests. “Cushing’s Syndrome is not terribly common,” says Dr. Calapai, “but one of the telltale signs is that your fat distribution is more in the midsection of your body, leaving your arms and legs looking more slender.”
It is often overlooked that liquids have calories. Calories from juices and soft drinks can quickly add up and at restaurants where free refills are the norm, the calorie build-up can go unrecognized. Wright also explains that liquid calories have no satiety factor. “Satiety relates to how long we stay satisfied after we consume something. If you ate 500 calories of healthy solid food, he/she would be full and unlikely to eat anything for quite some time, but after drinking the same amount of calories in orange juice, cola or root beer, you might be hungry minutes later.”
Many people do not realize that weight gain is not just fat gain. Weight training can increase your muscle mass, therefore increasing your weight. When you gain muscle faster than you lose fat, your body mass is increasing.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is one of the most common reproductive problems diagnosed in younger women, striking perhaps up to 10% of women who are of childbearing age (i.e. roughly 12-45 years old). It involves the development of many small cysts on the ovaries, as well as menstrual disturbances. The hormone disruption caused by PCOS has many unpleasant consequences, including unwanted weight gain (usually because of a higher resistance to insulin). If you also suffer from acne, find that you are hairier than most women and do not have regular periods, ask your doctor about being tested for PCOS. This usually involves blood tests and an ultrasound of your ovaries. If you do have PCOS then you can lose the unwanted weight, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that you will have to adopt an attitude towards healthy eating and exercise that is substantially more diligent than that of your peers.
Although making the decision to stop smoking is extremely good for your body in a great many respects, most people who do quit smoking end up gaining around 7-10 pounds. Most of this is due to the fact that reaching for cigarettes tends to be replaced with reaching for snacks, but the new absence of nicotine in your body will also lead to a drop in metabolic rate (so you won’t be able to eat as much as you used to without gaining weight).
“Carb intake makes it difficult for your body to burn fat as a primary fuel . Low carb diets work well to burn fat and lower cholesterol and lose weight, “says Dr. Calapai. If you suspect you are gaining weight that you can’t attribute to your eating habits, medications, or lack of exercise, a few tests—including a blood test and urinalysis, to get an accurate check of your body’s cortisol levels, will give your doctor the first clues to this condition. If the levels are deemed excessively high, then your doctor will order further tests, like a CT scan of your pituitary and adrenal glands, to determine if such a tumor exists. If the tumor is confirmed, doctors will likely perform surgery to remove the tumor (and possibly the affected gland), followed by a course of steroids to help regulate the remaining gland.