Reasons why you’re gaining weight out of nowhere – The Advocate

Posted: March 4, 2020 at 6:45 pm

Reasons why you're gaining weight out of nowhere

Its understandable when you gain a few pounds after a vacation or if you break your ankle and spend six weeks propped on the couch binge watching cooking shows (and the sweets to go with them).

But when you can't zip your jeans for no reason at all you swear youre not eating any more or exercising any less it can feel like theres some dark magic at play. You may find yourself standing on the bathroom scale, screaming into the void:

Most likely, theres something in your life thats shifted just enough to make a difference, but not so much that youd notice, says Dr. Alexandra Sowa, an obesity specialist and clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. I see this all the time. You may not step on the scale for a while, and you feel like you havent changed anything, and all of a sudden you go to the doctors office and notice youve gained 10 or 20 pounds, she says.

But that doesnt mean its your destiny to go up another size every year. Here are some of the most likely reasons for unexplained weight gain, and how to stop it in its tracks.

If youve been battling weight issues for a while and none of your efforts are moving the needle, make an appointment with your primary care doctor or a weight-management physician, who can assess you for insulin resistance or prediabetes. Your doctor can also test you for hypothyroidism, in which your thyroid gland doesnt produce enough hormone, slowing down your metabolism and potentially leading to weight gain.

Insulin is the hormone that signals the body to pull glucose out of the bloodstream and store it in the muscles, liver and fat, explains Dr. Tirissa Reid, an obesity medicine specialist at Columbia University Medical Center and Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. But when youre overweight, the cells dont recognize the insulin as well, so the pancreas has to pump out more and more sometimes two or three times the normal amount until the cells respond. This is also common in women who have polycystic ovary syndrom, a condition in which the egg follicles in the ovaries bunch together to form cysts.

These high insulin levels keep the body in storage mode and make weight loss more difficult, says Dr. Reid. The beginning of this road is insulin resistance when your pancreas is working overtime, but blood sugar levels are still normal. All that extra work wears out the pancreas until it can barely do the job of keeping the blood sugar in normal range. Left unchecked, insulin resistance can lead to prediabetes, in which blood-sugar levels are slightly elevated; if thats not treated, you can develop full-blown type-2 diabetes.

What you can do: The most effective way to reverse this trend is to eat a diet low in refined carbs and added sugars, and to become more physically active, since muscles respond better to insulin after exercise, says Dr. Reid.

She recommends either investing in a fitness tracker or simply using the one that comes with your phone. People hear you need 10,000 steps each day, which sounds intimidating, but you can also use it just to see where youre at and make doable increases, Dr. Reid says. If youre at 2,000 steps, try to go up to 2,500 a day next week and continue to increase. Swapping to foods with a lower glycemic index (GI) which means theyre digested more slowly, keeping blood-sugar levels steady is also important for controlling your insulin levels. Dr. Sowa recommends these lower-GI food swaps: riced cauliflower instead of white rice; zucchini spirals or shirataki noodles (made from plant fiber) instead of pasta; and pumpernickel or stone-ground whole wheat bread instead of white bread or bagels.

If youre up at night worrying about your aging parents or your kids, this can affect your metabolism. Stress and lack of sleep can cause a cascade of hormonal changes that change your metabolism and affect your sense of hunger and fullness, Dr. Sowa explains.

Stress pumps up the hormones ghrelin and cortisol, which increase your appetite and can make you crave carbs; at the same time, it dials down the hormone leptin, which helps you feel full. Not surprisingly, a 2018 Swedish study of 3,872 women over 20 years found the more stressed you are by work, the more likely you are to gain weight. Stress also affects your ability to get a good nights sleep, and we know that lack of sleep can also throw off your metabolism rates and hunger cues.

What you can do: You can manage your stress by downloading an app such that helps you work toward personal goals such as thinking positively and decreasing anxiety by sending you meditations and visualizations to do throughout the day. To sleep more soundly, you already know you should put down your phone, computer and iPad an hour before bedtime, but research shows that shutting out all light including that sliver of moon through your window can help with both sleep and metabolism. A study at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that after subjects spent just one night of sleeping in a room with dim light, insulin levels the next morning were significantly higher than those who slept in complete darkness, potentially affecting metabolism rates. So consider investing in some good blackout curtains.

Were not 100% sure why, but its believed that histamines, chemicals produced by your immune system to fight allergens, have a role in appetite control, says Dr. Reid. That means that antihistamines may cause you to eat more, she says. A study from Yale University confirmed that there is a correlation between regular prescription antihistamine use and obesity. Dr. Reid points out that some antihistamines such as Benadryl also cause drowsiness, which could make you less apt to exercise.

What you can do: If you suffer from seasonal allergies and are constantly taking antihistamines, talk to your allergist about alternative treatments such as nasal steroid sprays, nasal antihistamines (which have less absorption into the bloodstream, and therefore less effect on hunger), leukotriene inhibitors such as Singulair or allergy shots, suggests Dr. Jeffrey Demain, founder of the Allergy Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska. He also says that managing your environment using a HEPA filter, washing your sheets frequently in hot water and keeping pets out of your bedroom can help reduce the need for allergy medication. While youre at it, do an inventory of any prescription medications youre taking that are known to cause weight gain (including certain antidepressants, beta blockers, corticosteroids and the birth control shot) and discuss with your doctor if there are equally effective alternatives that dont affect weight, says Dr. Reid.

Anyone whos ever sat in a vinyl booth staring down a big bowl of pasta knows that portion sizes in America are large. But research from the University of Liverpool published in 2018 found after being served large-size meals outside the home, people tend to serve themselves larger portions up to a week later, meaning supersizing appears to be normalized, says Dr. Lisa R. Young, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.

Here's what to do: First, Young suggests you spend a few days getting a reality check on how much food youre actually eating at each meal. When you pour the cereal in the bowl in the morning, pour it back into a measuring cup. What you thought was one cup might actually be three cups, especially if youre using a large bowl, she says.

Also, instead of relying on a government agency (or the chef at your favorite restaurant) at to tell you how much to eat, learn to listen to your own body, says Young. Serve yourself just one modest portion on a small plate, and when youre done, wait 20 minutes, she says. It takes that long for the hormones in your belly to reach your brain and tell it youre full. If you get to 20 minutes and your stomach is grumbling, have a few more bites.

Lets say you switched jobs recently, and dinner is now at 9 p.m. instead of 6:30. Or your new habit of streaming Neflix until the wee hours also involves snacking well past midnight. Even if youre not eating more, per se, this change might account for the extra pounds.

Theres a delicate balance between your circadian rhythm (the way your body and brain respond to the daily cues of daylight and darkness) and your calorie intake. That can mean that same sandwich that you eat at lunchtime may actually cause more of a weight gain when eaten at night. A 2017 study at Brigham and Womens Hospital found when college students ate food closer to their bedtime and therefore closer to when the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin was released they had higher percentages of body fat and a higher body-mass index. The researchers theorize this is because the amount of energy your body uses to digest and metabolize food drops as your inner clock tells it to get ready to snooze.

What you can do: There are a few life hacks to keep the late-night snacking to a minimum. Dr. Sowa suggests you commit to writing down every bite you eat after dinner: Whether its on a sticky pad or on an app, keeping track of what youre eating, how much youre eating and how youre feeling when you eat it will hold you accountable for the calories, and it will also help you figure out if youre truly hungry or just bored, she says. She also suggests capping off your evening meal with a brain-and-heart-healthy tablespoon of fish oil. Its a healthy fat that coats your stomach and makes you feel less hungry later, she says.

Each birthday you celebrate brings on one undeniable change: your basal resting metabolism (the rate at which your body at rest burns the energy you take in from food) slows down. Its not a dramatic drop, says Dr. Cheskin. But as you age, youre probably also getting less active and more tired, and your body tends to lose muscle mass, which burns calories more efficiently than fat. So even if youre eating the exact same amount of food as you did when you were younger, your body is simply not burning it off as effectively as it did during the glory days of your 20s.

Here's what to do: You can only budge your BMR a little, but there are a few things you can do to make the math work in your favor. The first is to build up your calorie-burning muscle, says fitness expert Dr. Michele Olson, a professor of sports science and physical education at Huntingdon College. Keep up cardio three times a week for 30 minutes, but add challenging weight training on top of that, she says.

Another metabolism-boosting strategy: Replace some of the carbohydrates in your diet with proteins, which take more energy to digest, therefore burning off more calories through diet-induced thermogenesis, as well as making you feel fuller for longer. Dr. Sowa suggests you eat about 100 grams of protein over the course of the day, filling your plate with lean chicken, fish, shrimp or plant-based proteins such as garbanzo beans, tempeh and edamame, to give your meals more metabolism bang for your buck. This may only add up to a weight loss of a few pounds per year, but combined with exercise, the cumulative effect can be significant, says Dr. Sowa.

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Reasons why you're gaining weight out of nowhere - The Advocate

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