5 Unexpected Causes of Weight Gain

January is the time of year where we’re eager to get our New Year’s Resolutions into motion. If you overindulged this holiday season, you’re likely looking to get your body back on track and feel good again. But before you radically change your lifestyle or turn to a fad diet, there are a few simple shifts you can make to bring your body back into balance.

While exercise, diet, and lifestyle all come into account when it comes to your health, there are a few weight gain culprits you may not have considered:

1. Lack of sleep

Insufficient sleep can cause poor brain function, a weakened immune system, negatively impact mood, and even cause weight gain. When we are sleep-deprived, we often have sugar and carb cravings, and our appetite increases. Sleep-deprivation also heightens anxiety, which can cause you to self-medicate with excess food and indulgences.

To get your sleep rhythm back on track, I recommend limiting your caffeine and sugar intake - when insulin levels are unable to keep up with the amount of sugar in your blood, your sleep becomes disrupted. By eliminating dessert, coffee or alcohol before bed, you can help to lower your blood sugar, and in turn sleep more restfully. It’s also a good idea to limit screen time before bed, as the light emitted from cell phones and computers can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, or internal ‘clock.’ A few natural supplements can also help you sleep more restfully, such as magnesium, GABA, 5HTP, passionflower and melatonin.

2. Stress

Stress not only causes our health to deteriorate, it can amplify existing health concerns and even cause weight gain. Stress affects cortisol, the body’s natural ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone. When we’re in a stressed state, our insulin rises, our blood sugar drops, we have cravings and we often overeat. This state of “survival mode” means that burning fat is not top priority, rather the body will conserve it instead leading to that dreaded belly fat. In prolonged times of stress, we can become out of touch with hunger signals and the foods our bodies’ need to function optimally,

Ensure you practice managing your stress with picking up a creative hobby, going to a yoga class, listening to a guided meditation on YouTube or getting regular massages or acupuncture treatments. It’s also a good idea to incorporate supplements into your diet such as B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, and adaptogens such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, and Holy Basil.

3. Sneaky sugar sources

We often associate baked goods and candy to be the culprit of our sugar cravings, but turns out there is sugar in many of our pantry items, such as cereal, processed foods like crackers or granola bars, salad dressings, flavoured yogurt and alcohol.

You don’t need to deny your sweet tooth to keep the pounds off, but consider some healthy alternatives to refined sugar. If you love baking, use coconut sugar or honey instead of regular sugar, eat fruit when you’re craving something sweet, or make energy balls using dates to give your baking a little extra flavour.

4. An underlying hormone imbalance

Thyroid issues - such hypothyroidism- can cause weight gain since an underactive thyroid slows down your metabolism. It can also cause fatigue, brittle hair and nails and feeling cold all the time.

Adrenal fatigue can also cause weight gain as well as anxiety and disrupted sleep. Adrenal fatigue is caused by chronic stress and causes the adrenal glands (two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys) to become exhausted, causing the body to become less efficient at adapting to stress.

Estrogen, progesterone and testosterone all have their unique roles in the body and their delicate balance ensures that you feel your best. When these hormones are too low or too high, your metabolism can slow down. For women, this can also lead to problems with their cycle or extreme symptoms of menopause. For men, hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms of andropause.

Your medical/naturopathic doctor can order the appropriate tests to diagnose an underlying hormone imbalance, and get you feeling well again.

5. Use of medications

Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, corticosteroids or birth control may lead to unwanted weight gain. Although you should never discontinue your medications without speaking to your health care provider first, the best thing to do to ward off the excess weight is to take extra time for yourself. Self-care looks little different for everyone, but some great practices to stay healthy include consistent exercise, going to bed extra early, cooking homemade, wholesome meals, and saying no to a commitment. By making it a priority to take time for yourself, your body will eventually come back into its natural, balanced state.

Have a happy and healthy 2019!

Dr. Marita Schauch, ND