Weight gain is not only frustrating, but it can put a toll on your health physically, mentally, and psychologically, especially when you don’t understand the cause.
We all know that a poor diet is the most significant contributor to weight gain around the globe. However, other factors such as how you eat, when you eat, sleep patterns, and stress levels can also play a part.
This article goes through the common and not so common causes of weight gain that you could be ignoring.
1. Skipping meals
Logically, if you skip meals, your body will burn the stored energy to provide it with the fuel needed for bodily processes. As a result, weight loss will occur. That’s why up to 20 percent of Americans are skipping meals to lose weight, only that it’s either not working or not sustainable enough.
Unless you’re on a planned intermittent fasting regime or any other form of fasting, skipping meals will increase your hunger levels and slow your metabolism, putting your body under fat storage mode. You’re also likely to compensate for the lost calories by eating a larger meal in one sitting.
Research published by The American Journal of Epidemiology found that skipping breakfast was associated with increased incidences of obesity.
2. Genetic susceptibility
Most weight gain and obesity cases in the family, especially where the parents are obese, are strongly connected to genetic composition. However, your genetic makeup is highly influenced by your lifestyle, including diet in a process known as epigenetics. This simply means different foods and lifestyle habits can either express or suppress the genes associated with obesity and weight gain.
For instance, someone on a typical American diet, which is highly processed and high in unhealthy fats, will easily trigger their obesity genes to find expression. In contrast, a whole food healthy diet will suppress such genes and promote good health.
3. Refined carbohydrates
Highly processed carbohydrates are full of sugar with zero nutrients. They are also full of additives to improve taste and keep you hooked. This, in turn, causes you to overindulge, leading to high-calorie intake.
When digested, these foods increase glucose levels in the blood. This triggers insulin that carries glucose to the cells and stores the excess glucose as fat, causing weight gain.
At any given moment, the body requires only 4 mg of sugar circulating throughout the body. So any extra amount in the blood has to be put away and, in this case, by conversion into fat and stored around your midsection and internal organs. This increases the risk for chronic conditions, including childhood obesity, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and even cancer.
4. Food addiction
Food addiction is often equated to the same way someone will behave when addicted to substance of abuse.
Most junk and sugar-sweetened foods, often referred to as palatable foods, trigger the brain’s pleasure centers, producing the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin. This associates food with pleasure causing you to crave more. To some extent, one may lose control and the inability to cut back on these foods. This, in turn, leads to high consumption causing an increase in glucose and insulin levels, resulting in fat storage and weight gain.
Foods that can easily cause addiction include:
- Ice cream
- French fries
- Soda (not diet)
- Fried chicken
- Popcorn (buttered)
- Breakfast cereal
- Gummy candy
Table sugar is a soluble carbohydrate that offers a quick energy boost since it’s quickly digested. However, it doesn’t offset hunger for long, causing you to keep eating throughout the day. This leads to excessive calorie intake, causing weight gain.
Also, prolonged use of added sugar increases blood glucose, elevates insulin levels, and contributes to insulin resistance, all of which is linked to excess body fat and weight gain.
6. Leptin resistance
Leptin is a satiety hormone that tells your body to stop eating. When the body has had enough, leptin is released from the fat cells. This signals the brain that you are full, thus inducing satiety.
However, with leptin resistance, the brain cannot pick up the leptin signal causing one to overeat. It also leads to uncontrolled cravings for high carbohydrates and fatty foods to replenish the fat stores.
Common causes of leptin resistance
- Insulin resistance
- Inadequate sleep
- High-stress levels
- High triglyceride level
- Yo-yo dieting
- Too little or too much exercise
- Overly processed foods
- Excessive snacking
Tips to reduce leptin resistance
- No snacking between meals
- Limit processed foods, including table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined or highly processed foods
- Managing stress
- Exercising regularly
- Getting adequate sleep – How To Sleep Better
7. Certain medications
Pharmaceutical drugs such as antidepressants have been linked to weight gain over prolonged use.
Diabetic medication may also contribute to weight gain and obesity.
When stressed, the stress hormone cortisol goes up to provide the body with glucose by stimulating fat and carbohydrate metabolism. It also increases appetite and cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods, increases insulin, and stimulates overeating, causing weight gain.
Stress may also lead to unhealthy habits associated with weight gain, such as
- Emotional eating
- Sleeping less
- Eating fast food
- Skipping meals
- Exercising less
Strategies to help you deal with stress and reduce cortisol
- Drink adequate water – Benefits Of Drinking Water
- Keep a food journal
- Incorporate stress relief strategies such as listening to music, deep breathing exercises, or taking a walk
- Eat healthier foods
- Make exercise a priority – 8 Life-Changing Benefits Of Exercise.
- Practice mindful eating
9. Inadequate sleep
If you’re sleep-deprived, you have less leptin, a satiety hormone but high ghrelin hormone. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that increases food intake, causing weight gain.
To reduce ghrelin hormone:
- Get enough sleep
- Consume healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds
- Eat high fiber foods
- Consume adequate amounts of protein
Weight gain is a significant risk factor for different chronic conditions. However, mastering it is not so apparent for most individuals. While some causes are too obvious, such as high intake of sugar and processed foods like carbohydrates, some may be completely unintentional. These include inadequate sleep, stress, medication, leptin resistance, genetics, food addiction, and skipping meals.
So in case you’ve been gaining weight or trying to lose it to no avail, check through your lifestyle because addressing one or more of these issues may be all you need for the new you.
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