Regardless of whether you have just started trying to lose weight or if it has been a continuous theme in your life, I would like to change how you view weight loss. As a primary care physician, most of my patients view weight loss as a two-part equation involving both food deprivation and excessive exercise. 

However, there may be other secret factors of weight gain at play that reveal why your attempts to shed a few pounds might not be as successful as you had hoped. This article will highlight five areas that may be weighing you down and will share a more holistic approach to adopting a new lifestyle, increasing your chances of accomplishing your weight loss goal this year.

1. Medications 

Several medications can cause weight gain and impact the number on your scale. These medication categories can include birth control (e.g., Depo-Provera), diabetes medications (e.g., insulin) and psychiatric medications/antidepressants (e.g., Citalopram, Escitalopram).

Steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are also on this list. They are used to treat a variety of conditions like asthma and arthritis, but the long-term use of these medications may increase appetite, leading to weight gain. It is important to review your medications with your primary care physician and discuss which medications may result in weight gain.

2. Liquids

Secret Factors of Weight Gain

It is easy to overload on calories when drinking juices, specialty coffees, sodas, sports drinks and alcohol. These items have a high amount of added sugar and little to no nutritional value. Consider increasing your water intake instead. You can even add flavor to your water by adding fruits, flavored powders, herbs or trying sparkling water. 

For some people, it can be difficult to remember to drink water. To help increase your water intake, keep a bottle with you, drink throughout the day and use your smartphone to set sipping reminders.

3. Medical Conditions

Underlying medical conditions can also promote weight gain, especially if they are undiagnosed or your medication is not optimal. This can include polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism, heart failure, kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea or Cushing’s syndrome. At your next medical exam, ask your physician to determine whether you may be suffering from an underlying medical condition that is negatively affecting your weight. 

4. Mental Health

In the United States, mental health issues skyrocketed as our physical health, jobs, schooling and ability to socialize became significantly impacted. Though stress can cause weight loss for some, it can cause weight gain for others. It is important that you develop management tools for the stressors in your life.

For many, increased food consumption is one of those tools. But weight gain from stress can actually make you more depressed, which can lead to further weight gain. Increasing physical activity by going out for a walk can help with your mood and your weight. If you can’t manage the effects of stressors on your own, it may be helpful to seek the guidance of a therapist.

Secret Factors of Weight Gain

5. Inadequate Sleep

Studies show that an average of seven to nine hours of sleep can help to improve weight loss. However, I believe it is more important to understand how many hours of sleep you personally require to feel rested rather than pick an arbitrary number of hours. When you are tired from sleep deprivation, you are more likely to reach for high-calorie foods to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.

Also, if you are too tired, you will most likely avoid physical activity. This ultimately means that you burn fewer calories. In addition, it is theorized that sleep-deprived individuals have lower levels of leptin — the chemical that makes you feel full — and higher levels of ghrelin — the hunger-stimulating hormone. Consequently, the less you sleep, the more you will eat.  

Stick to the Basics

A balanced diet using the USDA’s “MyPlate” method and a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly is a recommended place to start when working toward your weight loss goal. Choose an exercise that you enjoy. Personally, I have enjoyed cycling as it gets me outside and has a low impact on my joints. 

But again, don’t forget these other five factors that may impact your weight, and don’t “weight” another minute!


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