10 Most Common Non-food-related Reasons We Gain Weight

The conventional opinion as to why people gain weight is typically: eat too much, exercise too little, get fat.  

But this is actually far from the truth.  And there is no simple answer to what causes one person's weight gain over another.  Of course, food plays a big role, but there are many other things to consider.  

1. POOR SLEEP, or undiagnosed sleep apnea.  

Many who read this will skip over this, but if you are not getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, toss and turn at night, are waking up groggy, and are tired during the day, you are detrimentally affecting your body's time to heal and "reset" the hormones that keep your metabolism optimal.  More on this in an upcoming blog post...

2. STRESS.

Stress involves the release of adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that stimulate an increase in blood sugar (increasing the risk of diabetes, and increasing the fat storage hormone known as insulin).  Stress can come in many forms - from the obvious (a high-pressure job), to the not-so-obvious (strenuous workouts).  When the body is under stress, it is not interested in shunting energy to burn fat, but rather you go into survival mode and store fat/breakdown muscle as a mechanism of protection.

3. NOT EATING ENOUGH.

You heard that right.  If you don't eat enough (especially eating at least 3 meals a day - stop skipping breakfast!), your body perceives you are starving and puts your limited food quantity into fat cells for storage.  If you are working out in addition to eating too few calories, you are not going to burn this fat, but rather breakdown your muscles.  

4. HORMONE IMBALANCES

Many hormones play a role in maintaining your weight.  These include thyroid hormones, sex hormones (testosterone, estradiol, progesterone), fat hormones (adiponectin, leptin), adrenal hormones (cortisol), and gut hormones (insulin, ghrelin, incretins).  All of these are impacted by the amount of inflammation in your body, by nutrient deficiencies (many vitamins and minerals are needed to make hormones), by stress, by our level of activity, and especially by what/when/how we eat.

5. NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES/IMBALANCES

As mentioned with hormone imbalances, vitamins (especially B vitamins, iron, fat--soluble vitamins like vitamin D) and minerals (especially zinc, magnesium) are vital in the pathway to create hormones.  And these are not always deficient - they may be in excess, which is why you need a comprehensive blood test (and a practitioner who knows the "optimal" numbers, not the "normal" ranges) to assess your nutrients.

7. CHRONIC, LOW GRADE INFLAMMATION.

Inflammation is your body's way of protecting itself from a perceived stress or harm.  It's important in short bursts (for example after an injury), but if it is ongoing or chronic, it can disrupt metabolic pathways and prevent optimal functioning of your metabolism.

8. POOR GUT HEALTH

Most of your immune system is in your gut, and if this is out of balance, you may not only have symptoms (heartburn, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), but imbalances lead to more work from your immune system (and thus less focus on your weight).  Eating more vegetables, taking daily probiotics and having daily servings of fermented foods are a good first start to improving your gut health.

9. SOCIAL INFLUENCES

How often have you been at a restaurant with friends, and told yourself you would not order that dessert or that appetizer, but your friends encouraged you to "live a little" and you order it against your best intentions?  One of the top influences on your weight is with whom you associate.  If your friends, spouse, and/or coworkers are at an unhealthy weight, and are not motivated to improve their health, you are twice as likely to fail in achieving your weight loss goals. 

10.  FOCUSING ON "CARDIO" AND IGNORING YOUR MUSCLES

Cardiovascular exercise is good at burning calories and improving your heart health, but our muscles actually have the highest concentration of our mitochondria (which are responsible for keeping our metabolism revved up throughout the entire day).  And we all know that a higher metabolism helps with weight loss.  Not to mention, weight resistance training (e.g. lifting weights, doing yoga/pilates, body resistant exercises such as push ups or squats) protects our bones from osteoporosis!

In summary, weight loss is not as easy as it sounds.  If you need guidance/support, contact us for more information!