Are you feeling confused by your recent weight gain? Many people mistakenly believe that the concept of gaining weight is simple; you are eating more calories than you are burning.
While this may be partially true, many other factors could be working behind the scenes to produce those extra pounds.
1. Lack of Sleep
For some people, weight gain may be related to not getting enough sleep.
Feeling tired throughout the day may cause you to overeat. Snacking, especially on high-calorie or sugary foods, seems to be a quick fix for those dips in energy. Although it helps in the moment, those snacks can really rack up the calories.
Also, the longer you are awake, the more opportunities to eat. Late-night snacking in front of the television can be detrimental to your waistline.
Lack of sleep also affects hormones in the body. Two of these hormones, leptin and ghrelin, are responsible for appetite regulation. If these are out of balance, you may find yourself hungry more often and unsatisfied when you do eat.
Several studies have examined the link between sleep deprivation and weight gain; although more research is needed, there is a definite correlation between the two.
When your body is under stress, it produces more cortisol. Cortisol helps regulate blood sugar and metabolism, among other things. Too much cortisol can cause wide fluctuations in blood sugar and stimulate your appetite, causing overeating.
Many people under stress seek food for comfort. Unfortunately, these food choices tend to be unhealthy. Also, people under stress do not have the time or energy to think about food and will eat whatever is quick and convenient.
Research has been able to link chronic stress with weight gain. One recent study published in Obesity (2017), examined cortisol levels and their effect on weight gain over time. Those with higher cortisol levels were more likely to have an increased body mass index and a larger waist circumference. Also, those who were overweight or obese were more likely to remain that way.
3. Skipping Breakfast
You may think skipping breakfast will help you shed those extra pounds. Missing a meal means fewer calories, right?
Skipping breakfast may actually cause you to gain weight. First, missing breakfast may cause your metabolism to slow down. Your body recognizes when its not being fed and stubborning clings to fat for later use.
Also, if you skip breakfast, by lunchtime, you may be voraciously hungry. At this point, health-conscious choices and self-restraint go out the window. You may eat whatever you can get your hands on. Then, you may have to eat larger amounts of food until you feel satsified.
Medications, like antidepressants, may be causing you to gain weight. Diabetes medications, mood stabilizers, corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, beta blockers, and allergy medications may also cause weight gain. See your doctor if you have concerns about your medications.
5. Mindless Eating
Mindless eating can really add extra calories to your diet. Maybe you absentmindedly finish your toddler’s breakfast. Next, you walk by the candy dish at work and grab a handful of M&Ms. At lunch, you scroll through Facebook, plowing through a bag of chips, oblivious to the fact that your body was full fifteen minutes ago. Later, you may congratulation yourself on refusing to eat a freshly-baked cookie, all the while forgetting about the large amount of cookie dough that never quite made it to the oven.
Somehow, all of these bites, licks, and tastes don’t seem to count in our minds. But day after day of mindlessly eating has the potential to silently pack on the pounds.
6. Drinking Your Calories
Drinks can be a hidden source of calories in your diet. You may mentally excuse them because they don’t require chewing. However, pop, sugary coffee drinks, energy drinks, and alcohol can add up to hundreds of extra calories over the course of a day and thousands throughout the week. Even seemingly healthy drinks like juices and smoothies can boast a hefty calorie-punch.
Also, the sugar in many of these drinks can have disastrous effects on your blood sugar. High spikes in your blood sugar will cause the body to produce more insulin to help counteract the sugar. This surge in insulin will quickly drop your blood sugar, making you feel falsely hungry.
7. Low Thyroid Hormone
For some people, unexplained weight gain may be related to low levels of thyroid hormone; a condition called hypothyroidism. If low levels of thyroid hormone are produced, the body’s metabolism slows, resulting in weight gain.
Awareness is Key
If you find yourself gaining weight and you are not sure why, take a good honest look at your diet and lifestyle. Pay attention to every single thing you put in your mouth; not to obsess, but to gain awareness of those hidden calorie traps.
Evaluate your sleep habits and stress levels. Educate yourself on your medications and see if they could be contributing to weight gain. Speak to your doctor about any specific concerns you may have.