The first thing we look at when we gain weight unexpectedly is usually our diet, often blaming putting on the pounds on not eating right or exercising enough but sometimes, there are medical reasons for weight gain and there are some key conditions and diseases you need to be aware of.
If you appear to be gaining weight, despite eating well and exercising properly and aren’t taking any medications that are known for causing weight gain, it may be worth speaking to a GP to establish whether any of these issues could be a concern:
Underactive Thyroid / Hypothyroidism
One of the most common conditions that causes weight gain is suffering from an underactive thyroid which is formally known as Hypothyroidism. This happens when your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones to regulate your metabolism, therefore your metabolism slows down and weight gains occur.
An underactive thyroid is usually treated with hormone treatment, meaning it is a condition that has to be dealt with daily, so if you are suffering with it, you need to get it diagnosed.
Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid include tiredness, muscle aches and weakness, constipation, loss of libido and for women, changes in your menstrual cycle such as irregular and heavier periods.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
A condition that causes weight gain in women is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, often referred to as PCOS. A problem with the ovaries thought to be hormone related and associated with the production of too much insulin and too much testosterone, PCOS can cause weight gain due to this hormone imbalance.
Other common symptoms of PCOS include excess hair growth, irregular periods and trouble getting pregnant.
A rare condition but one worth knowing about if you have been through steroid treatment or diagnosed with a tumour somewhere in the body, Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by abnormally high levels of the hormone Cortisol which leads to weight gain.
Cushing’s Syndrome is most common in people who have gone through long-term steroid treatment or have a tumour. The weight is usually gained in the face, on the chest and in the stomach due to the hormone redistributing fat to these areas.
We’ve spoken before about how menopausal insomnia can cause weight gain but Insomnia or trouble sleeping at any stage of your life can be a contributing factor to why you’re piling on the pounds.
Tiredness causes an imbalance between the hormone that says you’re hungry and the one that says you’re full, meaning you feel hungry more often and full less frequently, leading to you eating more than you actually want or need.
We also tend to crave high sugar and high carbohydrate foods when we’re tired to give us energy which should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet and if eaten to excess, they can cause us to gain weight.
Depression and Anxiety
Often forgotten as being medical conditions but mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have many physical effects on your body, including weight gain in some cases.
Although some people do lose weight when suffering from depression or anxiety, some people turn to food for comfort and support during these hard times which when combined with a lack of motivation to exercise that many people suffer with too, you can find yourself gaining weight.
Don’t forget that medications such as steroids and anti-depressants are also associated with weight gain, so if you have started on tablets such as those, your weight gain may be no more severe than the effects of those but if you are concerned you’re suffering from other symptoms as well as weight gain and feel your diet doesn’t explain this, always go and see your GP!