Poor eating habits and inactivity aren’t the only reasons for packing on unwanted pounds. According to Dr. Robert Hedaya, M.D., of Georgetown University Medical Center, your body may be reacting to factors you can’t control. You probably won’t suspect that these top five causes could keep you from achieving your ideal weight.
1. Sleep Disorders
Research shows that sleep deprivation decreases the hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism while increasing another that stimulates hunger. Astudy found that sleeping four or less hours per night instead of seven to nine boosts obesity risk by 73 percent. Six hours per night accounts for a 23-percent higher likelihood of being substantially overweight.
In another study, two four-hour nights raised hunger by 24 percent over two 10-hour nights. Dr. Ayaz Virji, M.D., from Morton Plant Mease Primary Care Weight Management, advises that treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders can encourage weight loss. If you have trouble sleeping, save on over-the-counter sleep aids.
2. Digestive Issues
Slow bowel movements and other digestive issues may explain excess pounds. Having a bowel movement an hour or so after eating is ideal, but once or twice a day is within the healthy range, Hedaya said. If you aren’t that regular, dehydration, low fiber, or insufficient good flora in your gut could be to blame.
Regular hydration and a fiber-rich diet are key. When constipation is your only symptom, probiotics can help your digestive tract work properly. If troubles persist, your doctor can rule out various disorders including hypothyroidism and neurological problems.
3. Musculoskeletal Conditions
Consider many musculoskeletal conditions like plantar fasciitis (jogger’s heel), osteoarthritis, and knee or hip pain, said Donald Bohay, M.D., of the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Pain can make you reduce your activity level enough to cause weight gain. Bike or swim instead of doing weight-bearing exercises. Or a physical therapist can design an appropriate program for your specific needs.
4. Missing Nutrients
Low iron, magnesium, or vitamin D levels can compromise your immune system, sap your energy, or alter your metabolism. You may use caffeine, sweets, and simple carbs as energy boosters. Or you might feel too weak to work out, Hedaya said. Get iron from red meat and spinach. Brazil nuts and almonds increase magnesium. But consuming enough milk or getting enough sunlight to compensate for low vitamin D is nearly impossible. Your doctor can rule out hypothyroidism or other conditions that might cause insulin resistance and thus weight gain before starting avitamin D supplement or prescription.
5. Cushing’s Syndrome
High blood pressure, osteoporosis, and skin changes like abdominal stretch marks and ruddy cheeks accompanying weight gain could indicate a cortisol-producing tumor on an adrenal gland. Cushing’s syndrome can prevent your body from processing nutrients properly. Dr. Steven D. Wittlin, M.D., from the University of Rochester Medical Center, notes that fat settles around your middle while your limbs look thinner. A blood test and urinalysis can check cortisol levels. If they’re excessively high, a CT scan can detect a tumor, which may require surgery. Steroids can help regulate the remaining adrenal gland.