Weight Gain

After a night of binging on pizza and beer, an unfavorable change on the scale the next morning is pretty much expected.

But sometimes we step on the scale and find we’ve gained weight without any obvious cause or explanation. This can be a fairly frustrating experience, especially if the weight gain continues, despite our best efforts to curb it.

Common Causes of Weight Gain

The following factors are the among the top reasons that people gain weight (listed in order of obvious to less obvious):

  1. Unhealthy diets are one of the most obvious and pervasive causes of weight gain. If you’re eating too much junk food, skipping out on the fruits and veggies, and partaking in one too many rounds of drinks at the bar, you’re sure to see negative results on the scale. Many people aren’t aware of the calorie content in foods they commonly consume. Soda, for example, is a highly caloric beverage. A large soda (32 oz.) can contain up to 400 calories. A regular packet of salad dressing at a fast food restaurant can have 300 calories or more. Get smart about what you consume and start reading nutrition labels before you buy food Similarly, you can also ask for lighter meal options when you eat out. Becoming an informed consumer is the first step to managing your weight and eating healthfully.
  2. Physical inactivity is another leading cause of weight gain. In today’s world, it’s increasingly easy to become a couch potato, or to opt for the convenience of the elevator instead of taking the stairs. It’s easier than ever to be inactive, which is why so many people find themselves putting on extra pounds. Becoming more physically active doesn’t need to be an onerous task. Even simple, daily activities like vacuuming or picking up after your toddler, can burn calories. The best way to increase physical activity is to find a hobby or sport that you love and that will inspire you to get out and move. Dance, martial arts, golf, hiking and swimming are all examples of fun activities that can also help you to stay trim!
  3. Age unfortunately makes it more difficult to stay fit. A natural part of the aging process is a decrease in metabolism and a loss of muscle mass, both factors that contribute to weight gain. It’s especially important to stay physically fit as you age in order to avoid metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes (also known as “adult diabetes”) and hypertension (also known as high blood pressure). Individuals with excess body fat are more prone to such diseases.
  4. Genetics can play a big part in determining an individual’s risk of becoming obese. Genetics inform the fat-to-muscle ratio in a person’s body, variations in appetite and metabolic rate.
  5. Psychological factors, such as stress or depression, can also contribute to weight gain. When dealing with difficult emotions or stressful situations, a person is more likely to turn to “emotional eating” as a comfort.
  6. Medications, including some common prescriptions, have been linked to weight gain. Anti-depressants, birth control and corticosteroids (a class of steroid hormones) can all cause an individual to gain weight.
  7. Quitting smoking, which is extremely beneficial to your long-term health, can unfortunately cause short-term effects, including weight gain. Ex-smokers gain an average of 8 pounds when they quit. Experts recommend keeping healthy snacks close at hand and beginning an exercise regime in order to counteract the weight gain associated with smoking cessation.

The above seven factors are not intended as diagnostic tools. If you’re experiencing an unexplained shift in your weight, it’s best to make an appointment to consult with your doctor. Most of us tend to gain weight from inactivity and unhealthy diet, the first and most common factors listed above. It’s important to be aware of the other reasons for weight gain, however, and to use unexplained gain as an indicator that you may need to check in with your health professional.