If you’re struggling to lose weight despite your best efforts, you may be wondering why you haven’t seen any progress yet.
While unhealthy eating and lack of exercise are definitely two of the most common causes of weight gain.
There’re other reasons that can be more surprising and that might be holding you back from reaching your goals.
But that doesn’t mean you should give up!
Here’re 10 surprising reasons you’re gaining weight, along with advice on how to overcome them and start losing those unwanted pounds once and for all.
Are your hormones out of whack?
We know stress can make us fat.
That’s because cortisol, a hormone that regulates energy, is increased under stressful situations—like when you’re worried about work deadlines or money.
Cortisol tells your body to store fat and increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods (such as sugary desserts).
Since long-term stress can increase your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
It’s best to reduce it whenever possible with relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises.
One word of caution:
It may not be enough to simply calm down on your own.
If stress is severe enough, consider meeting with a professional counselor or therapist.
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The less connected you are to others, the more likely it is that your weight will go up—and it’s not just a feeling.
Studies show that people who feel lonely eat up to 500 calories more each day than their socially connected counterparts.
It makes sense:
If you don’t have anyone to share meals with or discuss feelings with, eating becomes a coping mechanism for dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
One study found women who weren’t very close with their families gained about five pounds over four years.
Men weren’t as affected by female companionship, but they did tend to gain a few pounds when their relationship status changed from single to married.
3. The blue light in electronic devices
The blue light from our smartphones and laptop screens can suppress melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep.
Try to avoid staring at your phone or other gadgets in bed.
Not only does it make falling asleep harder, but also some studies have linked exposure to potentially harmful blue light to an increased risk for cancer.
If possible, give yourself a half-hour after using a device before hitting the hay.
Otherwise, dim its screen as much as possible or use apps like flux that tone down screen brightness at night.
4. Lack of sleep
It’s estimated that around 100,000 deaths a year in America are linked to not getting enough sleep.
Sleep is important for keeping your metabolism steady, which will keep you from packing on pounds.
Be sure to get at least eight hours every night.
It’s a good idea to limit your screen time before bed too.
TVs, computers, and phones can all disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
And don’t forget that being well-rested is also crucial for exercising.
If you don’t get enough sleep (or have low energy), it’s going to be much harder to go for that morning jog or fit in an afternoon workout.
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5. Too much sodium in your diet
In addition to raising your blood pressure, sodium can put on pounds.
Salt is a preservative that’s so valuable for food manufacturers it’s often referred to as white gold.
Check nutrition labels, watch out for added salt (sodium nitrite) in processed foods, and limit your intake to 2,300 milligrams a day.
That may be difficult:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of Americans eat too much salt.
But it’s not just processed food that contains sodium.
One reason is our lust for fast food:
A single serving at some chains packs more than 1,000 milligrams—or one-third of your daily allotment!
Fast food isn’t alone though; other culprits include pizza and sandwiches.
6. Poor posture
It’s been said that your body is an excellent indicator of how happy or stressed you are.
Are your shoulders rounded and forward?
Do you look like a hunchback?
Poor posture has even been linked to increased risk for heart disease and back pain, according to researcher Dr. Lewis Yelin.
It’s time to take stock:
Realign yourself against a wall and check out what happens when you tilt your head forward or backward.
Does it change anything about how your body feels?
Make an effort to sit up straight when working at your desk, walking down the street, and snuggling on the couch with Netflix.
You’ll feel better in just a few days’ time.
At times, we sabotage our efforts to lose weight.
We know that a donut or bagel isn’t in our best interest, but for some reason, we decide to ignore logic and indulge anyway.
Part of it might be biological;
Humans have been conditioned since childhood to respond positively to food rewards like sweets and fats (aka junk food).
Still, self-sabotage can be overcome by making small, incremental changes.
Start by adding more plant-based foods—fruits and vegetables—to your diet.
That way, if your body craves junk, you’ll at least be consuming healthy fats and fiber instead of empty calories.
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8. Sugar addiction
Sugar addiction is a real thing, and it can wreak havoc on your diet.
It’s not as simple as saying I don’t like sugar, but rather that we have both neurological and physiological responses to foods high in sugar.
In other words, our bodies react to refined sugars in ways similar to alcohol or drugs.
If a food triggers a response like feeling tired or fatigued after eating it, that might be a sign you have an issue with sugar.
According to Dr. Lustig (more on him later), many Americans consume roughly 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day —
That’s 5 pounds of extra fat annually!
While cutting out all processed sugars isn’t necessary, avoiding added sweeteners is key.
9. Medication side effects
Did you know that certain medications have been shown to cause weight gain?
If your doctor has recently prescribed a new medication, check its side effects.
Also, if a pill is making you gain weight and you don’t want to stop taking it, ask your doctor about potential alternatives.
One woman shared on Reddit that she gained almost 40 pounds in two years after starting an antidepressant.
I did not realize until I stopped taking it what all those pounds were from, she says.
10. Substituting other fluids for water
Drinking too much alcohol, coffee, or juice, as well as eating too many carbonated beverages, can all lead to you not drinking enough water.
Excessive consumption of these fluids leads to dehydration and a buildup of waste in your bloodstream, which can lead to weight gain due to excess fat storage.
If you are craving a cup of coffee or a glass of juice and don’t think it’s related to replacing water intake, see how much water is being consumed during that beverage consumption.
Many times, we simply drink too much without realizing it.
You can eat less than 500 calories and still gain weight.
This sounds odd, but it happens when you’re consuming excess sugar.
Although sugar is low in calories, your body converts them into fat much faster than complex carbohydrates like whole grains or vegetables.
That said, a handful of chocolate chips every now and then isn’t enough to cause serious harm.
It’s only when sweets comprise a large portion of your diet that things start to take a turn for the worse.
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