Weight loss is something that I get asked about often and not many people understand that it is more about fat loss, rather than weight loss, when it comes to being healthy. There are many reasons that people may be gaining weight and most of the common cause are lack of exercise and what people put in their mouths.
There are health issues that may affect your weight also, but at the end of the day, dietary and lifestyle changes are still needed to remain in the healthy weight range for your health. In this article I will look at the many factors that could be causing someone to gain fat and not be able to lose it.
It May Not Just Be Your Food Intake
If you started taking in more calories than usual, or increase your high GI foods, or cut back on exercise, you wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers on the scale crept higher. Just remember that scales aren’t an accurate assessment of body fat and that muscle does weigh more that fat. It is the waist size that is the true measurement we want people to focus on. We should be more worried about waist gain, rather than weight gain. But what if you’re doing everything the same as you always do, and your weight still goes up? It’s time to delve a little deeper into what else might be going on.
Lack of Sleep
There are two things that can affect your when you aren’t getting enough sleep and may have an impact on weight gain. First, if you’re up late, the odds are greater that you’re doing some late-night snacking, which means more intake of foods that may not be appropriate. The other reason involves what’s going on in your body when you’re sleep-deprived. This leads to running on adrenalin and increased cortisol levels as well. Changes in hormone levels increase hunger and appetite and also make you feel not as full after eating.
When life’s demands get too intense, our bodies go into survival mode. That fight or flight response kicks in and adrenalin and Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” is secreted, which causes an increase in appetite. Cortisol also makes you store fat. And of course, we may reach for high-calorie comfort foods in times of stress as well. This combination is a perfect breeding ground for weight gain.
Antidepressants and other Medications
An unfortunate side effect from some antidepressants is weight gain. Most antidepressants will give people a weight gain of around 3kgs per year of taking them. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about making changes to your treatment plan if you think your antidepressant is causing weight gain. There are natural options that can help with depression, without all the side effects. But never stop or change your medication on your own. Realize that some people experience weight gain after beginning drug treatment simply because they’re feeling better, which leads to a better appetite. Also, depression itself can cause changes in weight.
Steroids and Hormones
Anti-inflammatory steroid medications like prednisone are notorious for causing weight gain. All of the fertility hormones and hormone replacement drugs are steroidal based and cause weight gain too. Fluid retention and increased appetite are the main reasons. Some people may also see a temporary change in where their body holds fat while taking steroids. Places like the face, the belly, or the back of the neck are all areas where you can see increase fluid retention. If you’ve taken steroids for more than a week, don’t stop them abruptly. That can lead to serious problems. They need to be tapered down slowly and weaned off properly. Check with your doctor first. Drugs That May Cause Weight Gain.
Several other prescription drugs are linked to weight gain. The list includes antipsychotic drugs (used to treat disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), along with medications to treat migraines, seizures, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Work with your doctor to find a medication that treats your symptoms and lessens side effects.
The Contraceptive Pill
Combination birth control pills (estrogen and progestin) do weight gain and fluid retention. There are other contraceptive methods that do not cause weight gain and fluid retention and have lower side effect profiles. If you’re still concerned about possible weight gain, talk to your healthcare practitioner.
Thyroid issues can definitely be a big factor in weight gain. If your thyroid (the butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck) is not making enough thyroid hormone, you’re probably feeling tired, weak, and cold, and gaining weight. Without enough thyroid hormone, your metabolism slows, making weight gain more likely. Even a thyroid functioning at the lower end of the normal range might cause weight gain. Treating hypothyroidism with medication may reverse some of the weight gain.
Most women do gain some weight around the time of menopause, but hormones probably aren’t the only cause. Aging slows your metabolism, so you burn fewer calories. We need women to realise this reality, which isn’t always easy to accept. Changes in lifestyle (such as exercising less) play a role in weight and waist gain. But where you gain weight may be related to menopause, with fat accumulating around your waist more than your hips and thighs. There are ways to control this in menopause too.
Weight gain is a common symptom of Cushing’s syndrome, a condition in which you are exposed to too much of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn causes weight gain and other abnormalities. You can get Cushing’s syndrome if you take steroids for asthma, arthritis, or lupus. It can also happen when your adrenal glands make too much cortisol, or it could be related to a tumor. The weight gain may be most prominent around the face, neck, upper back, or waist.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a common hormonal problem in all women of childbearing age. It is the most common gynaecological disorder in women and is becoming more prevalent due to our high GI diets and being passed on through genetic and hereditary link. Some women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries, some do not and only have the syndrome and associated symptoms. The condition leads to hormone imbalances that affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and can lead to extra body hair and acne. Women with this condition are resistant to insulin (the hormone that controls blood sugar), so it may cause weight gain. Many women with PCOS are normal, or underweight too. Women with PCOS are also at higher risk of diabetes. The weight tends to collect around the belly, putting these women at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. When you quit, you may gain some weight, but perhaps less than you think. On average, people who stop smoking gain less than 10 kilograms. You should stop feeling hungrier after several weeks, which will make it easier to help lose any weight you gained.
Rules If You Do Gain Weight
Don’t stop taking any medications without first consulting your doctor. Recognize the importance of the drug you’re taking. It may be critical to your health. Also, something else may be causing you to gain weight. Your doctor can help you figure out what’s going on. There are also natural options that you may take also.
Don’t compare yourself to other people taking the same drug. Not all people experience the same side effects on the same drug. Even if a drug caused someone else to lose weight, the same might not be true for you. Please do not Dr Google, or take advice off anyone other than a qualified healthcare professional.
Remember that if the weight gain is just from water retention, it’s not permanent weight or fat. Once you’re done taking the drug or your condition is under control, the puffiness from fluid retention may ease. Stick to a lower GI diet in the meantime too. High GI foods such as breads, cereals, cakes, pasta, sugars etc, all make the body store fats and stop the burning of fats and cause inflammation.
Check with your healthcare practitioner about another medication you can take. In many cases, your healthcare practitioner can switch you to another medication that might not have the same side effects. There are also natural options that you may be able to take without all the nasty side effects of your medication
Learn if the weight gain is from a decrease in metabolism — from either a medical condition or medication. And if so, take the time to participate in metabolism-raising activities. Get moving!
Also realise that it is waist gain you need to worry about, not weight gain. Many people obsess unnecessarily over weight gain and the scales. When you start to exercise, you may in fact be putting on muscle (which is great) and this will equate to the scales being heavier.
Fat does not weigh as much as muscle per square centimeter , so sometimes you wont realise you have actually lost fat and gained muscle. This is why waist measurement, not weight measurement, is the most accurate way to measure proper fat lose and proper waist and weight management.
A woman’s healthy waist size should be 80cm’s, or below and a man’s healthy waist size should be 94cm’s, or below. Take from the belly button level.
A kilo of fat, versus a kilo of muscle
At my clinic we can help you with weight management and more importantly waist management. We have specially tailored fat loss and weight loss programs to help you burn fats, increase muscle and do weight loss the correct way.
If you want to get healthy, feel great and look great for next summer and years to come, please give the clinic a call and book in for a consultation.
Dr Andrew Orr
-No Stone Left Unturned
-Women’s and Men’s Health Expert