Those darn peek-a-boo pounds

Surprise! This could be why you’re gaining weight.

You’re eating right and exercising almost every day. So why in the world are you putting on pounds? Weight gain when you’re doing all the right things to stop it is confusing and frustrating to say the least. All your hard work seems futile and you feel like giving up altogether. What’s the point?

Don’t throw in the towel and return to your unhealthy habits just yet. There may be something else going on besides the whole calories in and calories out theory. Keep reading to discover possible reasons you’re gaining instead of maintaining or losing.

1. Medications. If you told your physician your situation, the first thing you’d be asked is what medications you’re taking. Prescription medications come with an array of potential side effects, one of which is weight gain. From steroids, anti-psychotics, beta-blockers, anti-seizure drugs, and anti-depressants to drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, diabetes, and heartburn, they can all cause you to gain weight. Some medications affect your metabolism, others cause fluid retention, and some affect your appetite. Talk with your doctor about switching medications if you notice unexplainable weight gain.

“More stress = more cortisol = higher appetite for junk food = more belly fat.” – Shawn M. Talbott, PhD

2. Not enough shut-eye. You may be disciplined in your workout routine, but if it means you are waking up at the crack of dawn after a late night, your intentions may backfire. A lack of sleep is often an overlooked cause of weight gain. Fatigue during the day may cause you to overeat or snack on unhealthy comfort foods. The amount of sleep you get also affects your appetite hormones. Too little sleep causes your body to produce more ghrelin (the hormone that tells your brain to eat) and less leptin (the hormone that tells your brain you’re full). Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimal weight control.

3. Medical conditions. Sometimes unexplainable weight gain is a symptom of an underlying health condition. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid stops producing enough thyroid hormone. Along with weakness, fatigue, and trouble staying warm, you may also experience weight gain.

Cushing’s Syndrome is rare, but may develop if you’ve been overexposed to cortisol (the stress hormone) due to an adrenal gland defect or a tumor. Taking steroids for prolonged periods of time to treat lupus, arthritis or asthma can also lead to Cushing’s Syndrome. Symptoms include weight gain around your waist, upper back, neck, and face; high blood pressure; skin changes and osteoporosis.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) not only deal with frequent ovarian cysts, abnormal acne and excess body hair, but also suffer from insulin resistance that leads to weight gain.

4. Aging. It’s a fact of life that as you age your metabolism slows down. While you may be tempted to blame your weight gain on menopause or a midlife crisis, chances are you’re just getting older. As your metabolism slows, your body is less efficient at burning calories. This isn’t an excuse to gain weight. Rather, it’s a wake-up call to exercise more and eat less junk food.

5: Stress. How often does stress lead you to eat? When you’re stressed, anxious and under pressure, your body produces cortisol to help you cope. Cortisol increases your appetite and what do you reach for? Comfort foods, which are often high in carbohydrates and calories. Excessive amounts of cortisol cause weight to accumulate around your middle.

6: Slow digestion. Infrequent bowel movements can be another sneaky contributor to weight gain. The longer food stays in your system, the more time your body has to absorb calories from it. An active lifestyle combined with a high-fiber diet that includes probiotics and plenty of water should help keep things moving smoothly through your system.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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