Weight gain can be extremely frustrating, especially when you don’t understand what’s causing it.
While diet typically plays the largest role in weight gain, other factors — including stress and lack of sleep — may contribute.
Here are 9 causes of unintentional weight gain.
1. You eat too many highly processed foods
Many wholesome foods, like oats, frozen fruit, and yogurt, are minimally processed.
But highly processed foods, including sugary cereals, quick food, and microwave dinners, pack a slew of harmful ingredients, in addition to added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy fats.
What’s more, numerous studies link highly processed food for weight gain, besides rising obesity rates in the USA and around the globe.
For instance, a 2019 research in 19,363 Canadian adults found that people who ate the most ultra-processed meals were 32 percent more likely to be obese than people who consumed the least.
Highly processed foods are generally packed with calories nevertheless devoid of vital nutrients, such as fiber and protein, which keep you feeling full.
In reality, at a 2-week study in 20 people, participants ate roughly 500 more calories per day within an ultra-processed diet than in an unprocessed diet.
Therefore, you should consider cutting out processed foods and snacks, focusing rather on whole foods.
2. You eat too much sugar
Regularly downing sugary foods and beverages, such as candies, cakes, soda, sports drinks, ice cream, iced tea, and sweetened coffee drinks, can quickly enlarge your waistline.
Many research link sugar intake not just to weight gain but an increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Specifically, carbonated beverages would be the largest source of added sugar in the United States and strongly related to weight reduction.
As an example, a review of 30 studies in 242,352 children and adults tied sweetened beverage intake to weight gain and obesity.
1 study in 11,218 women revealed that drinking 1 sugary soda per day led to 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of fat reduction over 2 years — meaning that cutting out sweets might have the opposite impact.
It is possible to try gradually lowering your sugar consumption to alleviate the process.
3. You have a sedentary lifestyle
Inactivity is a common contributor to weight gain and chronic diseases.
Running a desk job, watching TV, driving, and with a computer or phone are all sedentary pursuits.
Research in 464 individuals with obesity and excess weight discovered their typical daily sitting time was 6.2 hours on working days and 6 hours on non-working days. Work-related tasks were the biggest contributor, followed closely by watching TV.
Making a few simple lifestyle modifications, like exercising and sitting less, can make a big difference.
For example, a 3-month study in 317 employees found that substituting only 1 hour of sitting with 1 hour of status during the workday diminished total fat mass and waist circumference while increasing lean muscle mass.
Research has also shown that engaging in excessive display time contributes significantly to unintentional weight reduction.
Even tiny adjustments, such as taking a walk after dinner rather than watching TV, working out or walking during your lunch break, investing in a position or treadmill desk, or riding your bike to work, can counter weight gain.
4. You Participate in yo-yo dieting
Yo-yo dieting refers to cycles of deliberate weight loss followed by unintentional weight recovery.
Notably, this routine is linked to an increased risk of weight reduction over time.
In research in 2,785 people, those who had dieted over the prior year had higher body weights and waist circumferences than those of non-dieters.
Other studies show that restrictive dieting and eating can cause potential weight gain due to your body’s physiological reactions to such behaviors, such as changes in hunger and fullness hormones.
Plus, most people who lose weight via restrictive dieting gain most or all of it within 5 years.
To keep weight off long term, you need to focus on sustainable lifestyle modifications. These include cutting out processed and sugary foods and eating nutrient-dense, whole foods full of fiber and protein.
5. You’ve got an undiagnosed medical issue
Although a lot of lifestyle factors contribute to unintentional weight reduction, certain medical conditions can also play a role. These include:
- Hypothyroidism. This condition impacts your thyroid gland and may lead to weight gain or a problem with weight reduction.
- Depression. This common mental condition is connected to weight gain and obesity.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is marked by hormonal imbalances that impact women of reproductive age. It may lead to weight gain and make it hard to shed weight.
- Binge eating disorder (BED). BED is categorized by recurrent episodes of uncontrollable overeating and can result in many health complications, including weight reduction.
Other conditions, including diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome, are likewise associated with weight gain, therefore it’s important to find the right diagnosis from the medical practitioner.
What are more certain medicines, including antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs, can result in weight gain. Speak to a health professional if you believe you’re gaining weight due to your medicine.
6. You do not get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for total wellbeing and well-being. Insufficient sleep may trigger weight gain, among other negative effects.
A research in 92 girls demonstrated that those who ate fewer than 6 hours daily had the maximum body mass index (BMI) and the greatest degrees of visfatin (a protein secreted by fat cells), compared with women who slept 6 hours or longer daily.
At a 2-week study in 10 adults with excessive weight after a low-carb diet, those who ate 5.5 hours a night lost 55 percent less body fat and 60% more muscle mass than people who slept 8.5 hours each night.
Therefore, boosting your sleep time can aid in weight reduction.
Some evidence partners 7 or more hours of sleep per night with a 33% greater probability of weight reduction, in comparison with sleeping fewer than seven hours.
If you have poor sleep quality, you can try limiting screen time before bed, reducing your caffeine intake, and going to sleep at a constant time.
7. You do not eat enough whole foods
If you frequently eat processed foods, then changing to a diet that’s higher in whole foods is a simple and efficient means to encourage weight loss and improve many other areas of your health.
In fact, the most crucial element in losing weight is picking whole, minimally processed foods.
One study divided 609 adults with excess weight into groups that followed either a low-fat or low-fat diet for 12 months.
Both groups were instructed to maximize their vegetable consumption, restrict their consumption of added sugars, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates, eat mostly whole, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods, and prepare most meals at home.
The analysis found that individuals in both dietary groups lost similar amounts of weight 12 pounds (5.4 kg) for the low-fat category and 13 pounds (5.9 kg) for the low-carb category. This demonstrated that dietary quality, maybe not macronutrient content, was the most crucial factor in their weight loss.
Incorporating whole foods into your diet does not need to be difficult. Start by gradually adding more nutrient-dense whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, eggs, nuts, and legumes, into your snacks and meals.
8. You’re stressed out
Persistent stress is a frequent problem that may affect your weight.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and your appetite for highly palatable, calorie-dense foods, which may result in weight gain.
What’s more, studies indicate that individuals with obesity have higher cortisol levels than people without this condition.
Interestingly, stress management can encourage weight loss.
In 8-week research in 45 adults with obesity, individuals who engaged in relaxation techniques like deep breathing lost significantly more fat than those who only received standard dietary information.
To reduce stress, consider incorporating evidence-based comfort practices into your own routine. These include yoga, spending time in nature, and meditation.
9. You eat a lot of calories
Overeating stays a prominent source of weight reduction.
If you take in more calories than you burn per day, you will probably get weight.
Mindless eating, frequent snacking, and producing calorie-rich, nutrient-poor dietary options all encourage excessive calorie intake.
It can be tricky to determine your calorie needs in your, so consult a registered dietitian if you struggle with overeating.
A few basic ways to avoid overeating include paying attention to hunger and fullness cues by eating mindfully, after a high-fiber, high-protein diet full of plant foods, drinking water rather than calorie-rich drinks, and increasing your activity level.
The bottom line
Many factors can result in unintentional weight gain.
Poor sleep, sedentary tasks, and eating a lot of processed or sugary foods are just some of the habits which may increase your risk of weight gain.
Yet, a couple of straightforward measures — for example mindful eating, exercise, and focusing on whole foods — can help you reach your weight loss goals and improve your overall health.