11 Causes Of Sudden Weight Gain & When It’s Actually A Sign Of A Medical Issue
While most of us have been conditioned to think otherwise, the truth about weight gain is that it's not always a problem or an indicator of poor health. However, there are times when sudden and unexplained weight gain might be dangerous for health and long-term wellbeing, and so it's important to take note of the differences between a few extra pounds and a fluctuation that could be a sign of a larger problem.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on connecting with their bodies and understanding how certain foods, behaviors, and hormonal changes can interfere with their abilities to maintain health, happiness, and confidence long-term. Being in tune with your body is the best way to realize when you might be experiencing weight gain and how it could be affecting your wellbeing down the road. While some clients work on losing weight for other health reasons, sometimes weight gain can occur for no clear reason, and it can be frustrating to feel at a loss of knowledge.
Look for these 11 causes of sudden weight gain and how they can affect your overall health and wellness. By identifying the cause of the weight gain, you'll be better able to prevent or reverse the gain if you want to, determine if it's a sign of a medical issue, and start feeling more like yourself again.
1. Your Thyroid Is Out Of Whack
If your thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone — which could indicate that you might have hypothyroidism, Graves, or Hashimoto's disease — then weight gain is rather common and can be harmful to your health if not treated appropriately, says Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP on Women To Women, the site of a women's health clinic. If you notice swelling in the neck (a "goiter") or other symptoms, such as fatigue, depressive mood, irregular bowel movements, and irregular body temperature, seek a physician for a diagnosis.
2. You're Taking Birth Control
Experts at WebMD share that birth control might lead to weight gain depending on brand, dosage, and hormonal levels. If you are taking the pill, it is even more likely. Check with your doctor for a prescription that reduces weight gain, or research different types of contraception that might not cause such an effect on your body, if you are concerned with the additional pounds. If it doesn't bother you, no need to change! If you just started taking them, maybe give it two weeks to settle in and see if the weight gain disappears.
3. You're Not Getting Enough Nutrients
While eating healthy is great for weight maintenance, if you are not properly absorbing the nutrients or consuming balanced meals, it is less effective, explains running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle. For instance, vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and must be consumed with healthy fats to be absorbed by the body. If you eat vegetables without a healthy fat, your body won't reap the benefits. Pair healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, fish, and nuts, with meals to get in all the nutritional aspects.
4. You're Depressed
A study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the American Journal of Public Health, as well as UAB Assistant Professor of Sociology Belinda Needham, PhD, in interview with website Live Science explains that depression can cause weight gain. Needham explained that potentially due to higher amounts of a stress hormone called cortisol, depression could result, which could possibly lead to weight gain in patients.
5. You're Working Out Too Much
While working out benefits the body, as it boosts endorphins to make us happier, more creative, more productive, and balances our blood sugar levels to prevent diabetes and heart disease, too much training can cause our bodies to store fat. Excess cortisol can promote fat storage, according to fitness champion, expert, and trainer, Micah LaCerte, in interview with Men's Fitness, and wipe away muscle, which burns more calories than fat. Keep workouts quick and intense and strive to build more muscle in order to maintain a stable weight, if that's your goal.
6. You Have Bacterial Overgrowth
Sometimes bacteria can grow inside the gut, leading to bloat, fatigue, irregular bowel movements, and weight gain. Roughly 60 percent of our immune system resides in the gut, explains certified healthy lifestyle coach Liz Traines over email with Bustle, so when there's an overgrowth and imbalance within it, it can throw our bodies and hormones out of whack. "Poor digestion and even slow bowel movements can lead to sudden weight gain," says Nutrition Coach Darin Hulslander over email with Bustle. "Low fiber, dehydration, certain medications, or even a lack of healthy gut flora can lead to poor digestion and constipation. A probiotic can assist with this," Hulslander adds.
7. Your Work Schedule Has Shifted
If you've noticed a change in work schedule or travel, you might find yourself with diminished sleep or irregular cycles. Plus, if your travel is international, the jet lag can really take a toll on the body, according to a study published in the journal Cell. Not getting adequate sleep can interfere with our hormones, predominantly cortisol and the hunger hormones, ghrelin, and leptin, which can enhance cravings and overeating.
8. Your Electrolytes Are Imbalanced
If you're not drinking enough fluids during the day (water, tea, and coffee, rather than sodas and sugary beverages), or are eating too many salty foods, you might experience water retention, bloating, and weight gain. "A high sodium meal can cause you to store some excess water. This can add some pounds to the scale and can stay on for a few days before it starts to come back off," says Hulslander. Also, "if you weigh in at a dehydrated state, you may see an increase on the scale soon after that," Hulslander adds.
9. You Might Have A Tumor
If you gain weight around your belly, as opposed to your lower body, it can be more dangerous to your health and could signal a larger problem at hand. Sometimes an extended stomach can be the result of a tumor, such as an ovarian tumor, says Howard Eisensen, M.D., director of Duke University's Diet and Fitness Center, to Shape. These can be scary, so it's worth checking with a doctor to rule out any possible tumor complications. If you're just bloated after a meal or during your period, there's nothing to worry about, and the feeling should subside. However, if there's any pain, then a second look is wise.
10. You Have Insulin Resistance
The Western Diet is filled with sugars, fats, additives and other artificial ingredients in processed foods that can really cause our bodies to experience insulin resistance, according to Kris Gunnars, BSc, which can make us more at risk for heart disease and diabetes. If you notice that you've been eating out or ordering in a lot recently, you might be changing your cellular response in a way that could be dangerous in the future.
11. You Are Experiencing Joint Pain
Certain joint pains, such as arthritis, plantar fasciitis, and knee and hip issues can contribute to weight gain, explains running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email with Bustle. Such conditions can lead to injury and future joint complications if not treated properly, so it's important to give your body the rest and recovery it needs and to consult a physician for advice on the healing process, Lemmer explains.
While not all weight gain is dangerous, especially that around the hips and bottom regions, some weight gain — especially if it's sudden, is painful, and is out of the norm for your body — can be dangerous for long-term health and wellbeing and should be looked at by a physician to rule out any serious complications or provide advice on how best to treat the issues. It's always worth a second check if you notice any abnormalities and discomfort!
Images: Pexels (12); Bustle