Are you gaining weight but don’t know why? When the numbers on the scale are inching upward, investigate what factors might be at fault. Unexplained weight gain can be the result of simply overeating, a side effect of your prescription medication or a more serious medical condition.
Unintentional overeating is a likely cause for unexplained weight gain. You may not be consciously overindulging but you could still be consuming more calories then you need. Anytime we eat more calories than we use up with activity and biological processes, we gain weight. Small calorie overages that occur each day can add up quickly!
Here are some common mistakes that can result in consuming too many calories:
- Drinking several high-calorie drinks each day.
- Not paying attention to proper serving sizes.
- Eating while doing other things. Researchers have found that people who eat while distracted tend to eat more that those who focus on their meals do.
- Frequently eating at restaurants. Commercially prepared food tends to be calorically dense.
- Drinking alcohol. Not only does this add calories to your meal, it increases the likelihood you’ll overeat.
Many people take prescription drugs without being fully aware of the side effects. If you’re on one or more prescription medications and experiencing unexplained weight gain, talk with your healthcare provider to figure out whether or not your medication is causing the problem and what the solution might be.
These are a few commonly prescribed drugs that list weight gain as a potential side effect:
- some allergy medications
- The injectable birth control depot (DMPA)
Unexplained weight gain could be the symptom of a more serious medical condition. If you’ve ruled out other causes, you may want to see your doctor, since a few weight gain culprits are hypothyroidism, menopause, PCOS and Cushing Syndrome.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of two hormones, tetraiodothyronine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3.) T4 and T3 are involved in normal metabolic functions. They help you use energy from the food you eat, regulate chemical reactions in your body, and maintain of cells, bones and muscles. If your body doesn’t have adequate amounts of these hormones over an extended period of time, you may start to gain weight.
Other symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Heavier menstrual flow
- Brittle hair and nails
Menopause isn’t a disease or a syndrome but rather a natural biological process that occurs in every women’s life. This is the period of time when a woman’s ovaries stop making eggs and her body produces less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
The hormonal fluctuations that occur during menopause can make you more susceptible to weight gain. However it’s important to know that hormones are not the only factor in menopausal weight gain. A decrease in physical activity is common during this phase of life and can lead to weight gain as well.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a complex condition in which a woman’s levels of estrogen, progesterone and insulin can be out of balance. This condition is one of the most common causes of female infertility, and it currently affects up to five million women in the U.S. alone.
The exact cause of PCOS is difficult to pinpoint. However, research has suggested that both genetic and lifestyle factors play a role in the development of this condition.
Symptoms of PCOS include:
- Weight gain and trouble losing weight
- Missed menstrual periods
- Excess hair on the face, chest, stomach, thumbs and toes
- Decrease in breast size
- Deeper voice
- Thin hair
- Weight gain
- Pelvic pain
- Anxiety or depression
Having PCOS puts women at a higher risk for developing several chronic conditions like heart disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and some cancers.
Cushing syndrome is another condition characterized by a hormonal imbalance. This condition is the result of abnormally high levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by your adrenal glands that’s essential to many physiological processes.
When the body has excessive amounts of cortisol it will exhibit a variety of symptoms including a more rounded face, upper body weight gain, and skin that bruises easily. The most common cause of Cushing syndrome is the use of corticosteroid medications (like prednisone) in high doses for an extended period.
If you’re gaining weight, it’s important to get to the cause the problem. Weather it’s simple overeating or a more complicated medical condition, your medical practitioner can help you get to the bottom of it, and help you get back to a healthy weight.