The 15 times your weight gain is NOT your fault – and when to see your GP

WEIGHT gain usually occurs when you eat more calories than your body burns through normal everyday activities, sports and exercise.

But if you're doing everything you can to lose weight and you aren't seeing any progress, it might not actually be your fault.

During the coronavirus pandemic many of us became focussed on our weight after Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to shift the pounds after he ended up in hospital with the virus – attributing his weight to one reason he had severe symptoms.

The government has also recently announced a new initiative that could see Brits earn clothing and cinema tickets for eating healthily and getting in more steps.

Previous initiatives also focussed on lowering a person's body Mass Index (BMI), which many experts have slammed for being an inaccurate measure of weight.

Despite this it is still one of the most used measures of whether or not a person is deemed to be a healthy weight or not.But the NHS states that it does have limits and can't tell how much fat a person is carrying.

Looking after yourself is important to overall health and Dr Joshua Wolrich, author of Food Isn't Medicine, said that there there’s always been a huge focus on what we look like and what we weigh.

He explained that weight really can come down to so many different factors.

“The risks of deliberate dieting shouldn’t be underestimated and there needs to be more of a focus on other health issues such as sleep, movement, nutrition and social interaction – without weight loss being a goal. Weight loss is not synonymous with health!", he said.

Despite this many people struggle with their weight and in recent years there has been a move towards using a 'Health at Every Size' (HAES) approach by some doctors, so that patients who are suffering with underlying health issues aren't dismissed for being overweight.

Bina Mehta, Pharmacist at Boots said that weight gain is usually caused by consuming more calories than you burn through exercise and everyday movements.

"In some instances, your weight gain may be attributed to an underlying health condition as simple as fluid retention or can happen as part ageing. Excess weight can often be linked to serious health problems.

“Anyone who experiences rapid weight gain that is not due to the consumption of more calories or a halt in exercise/movement and feels that this is affecting their quality of life should speak to their GP who can investigate for any underlying cause."

Here, several experts reveal the 15 conditions you could be suffering with that could mean you have gained weight.

1. Lack of sleep and insomnia

Factors that influence weight gain are not always obvious, says Nutritional Therapist at Optibac Probiotics Helen Morton.

Speaking to The Sun, she explained that a lack of sleep prompts people to eat more food, which in turn results in weight gain.

Helen said: "This is because when you are sleep deprived less of the hormone leptin, which sends signals to the brain to tell it when you are feeling full, is produced. Your body doesn’t get the signals to stop eating.

"By taking steps to get a good night’s sleep you will be doing your whole body a favour and may find it easier to control cravings."

If you have insomnia and you have had trouble sleeping for months and changing your habits hasn't worked, then the NHS says you should see your GP.

2. PCOS

Registered nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson, also known as Dr Vegan said that around 50 per cent of all patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) present with insulin resistance and obesity.

PCOS affects one in five women and has an impact on how ovaries function – meaning sufferers can struggle to release an egg to be fertilised making it often extremely difficult to fall pregnant

She told The Sun: "Insulin resistance is where the body is producing more insulin than healthy people. It can lead to lethargy, hunger and brain fog. 

"A sign that someone has insulin resistance can be weight gain and obesity. Insulin Resistance means that the body struggles to balance the blood sugar levels. If the blood sugar drops too much, it can lead to food cravings."

She explained that if you have PCOS then you should try and focus on proteins such as lean meats, nuts and seeds. She also explained that using slower released carbs could help if you have PCOS.

3. Thyroid issues

Dr Belinda Griffiths from The Fleet Street Clinic said that Hypothyroidism is a common cause of unexplained weight gain which results from having an underactive thyroid.

This is where your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones which heavily influence your metabolism. 

Nutritionist Emily Shannon added: "If the thyroid produces more hormones than the body needs, you may lose weight unexpectedly, known as hyperthyroidism."

If you think you have PCOS then you can contact your GP who will organise a blood test to get you a diagnosis.

4. Lipoedema

Lipoedema is a problem in the lymphatic system which results in an abnormal build-up of fat in the legs and arms.

It's caused by a problem with the lymphatic system (a network of vessels and glands that help fight infection and drain excess fluid from tissues).

The condition is more common in women and in severe cases it's treated by liposuction to get rid of the fat.

One women recently told had doctors had continuously blamed her for her weight before realised she had the condition.

Choosing to come off your medication solely in the pursuit of weight loss can be dangerous to your health

5. Cushing’s syndrome

Hormonal diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome, which is a condition caused by elevated levels of cortisol in the body can also cause weight gain, Dr Griffiths said.

"Cortisol is responsible for regulating metabolism and so elevated levels can disrupt the body’s metabolism. This usually results in increased fat around the chest and tummy", she added.

6. Prader Willi Syndrome

Prader Willi Syndrome can be another cause of weight gain, Dr Griffiths said.

This is a rare genetic condition that can cause an excessive appetite and overeating which often results in weight gain.

7. Limited mobility

Limited mobility can really disrupt a person's ability to burn calories, Dr Griffiths said.

"Any form of arthritis will make movement painful and any medical conditions which cause muscle paralysis such as cerebral palsy (CP) can also limit a person’s mobility", she added.

If you think you have arthritis then you should see your GP as they will be able to help you get the symptoms under control.

8. Organ failure

Dr Griffiths explained that both heart failure and chronic kidney failure can cause water retention which can lead to swollen limbs, bloated stomach and weight gain.

9. Medication

Dr Wolrich said that it’s not uncommon for medication to have an impact on both weight gain or weight loss, especially as certain medications can affect your metabolism.

He explained: “It could be down to a number of things, such as how long a person has been on the medication for and sometimes it could be that the medication causes fluid retention.

“A common side effect that people who are on antidepressants experience is weight gain as quite a few of them can stimulate appetite.

“Other medications such as epilepsy and blood pressure medication can also lead to weight gain.

“One problem that many of us have – is that we don’t respond to our hunger queues and this is something we should be paying attention to.

“Choosing to come off your medication solely in the pursuit of weight loss can be dangerous to your health.

“The overwhelming majority of people who are on medications like steroids have to be on them for an important medical reason – we don’t prescribe medication to people for the sake of it", he said.

Bina added: "If you are worried about weight gain in relation to your medical condition or medication you should speak to your GP, it is important you do not reduce or stop taking any medication without speaking to your GP.

"Before seeking expert advice, keep a log of everything you eat as well as your exercise habits for 5-7 days to help give a better understanding of your concerns."

10. Stress and depression

Shona said that weight gain is also a possible side effect of stress and depression.

She explained: "This is because people who are depressed often have higher levels of the stress hormone which is called cortisol. 

"This can cause fat to gather around the belly. Medication given to help treat depression also often has a side effect of weight gain."

If you are struggling with your emotions you should see your GP, they will be able to refer you to talking therapies or could put you on medication.

11. Poor gut health

Gut health is another factor that can unknowingly be causing unwanted weight gain, Helen said.

She explained: "Obesity is associated with lower gut bacteria diversity, the number of different types of bacteria naturally residing in your gut. Having a good variety of microbes in your gut is important.

"By eating a wide range of foods, including fermented and prebiotic foods, and taking a probiotic supplement, you will be increasing the diversity of your gut bacteria which could positively influence weight."

Reason why you might unitentionally be losing weight

While it’s important to understand why weight gain might not be your fault there are some reasons as to why you might be losing weight without trying.

Dr Woolrich said that cancer can be one of the main reasons why someone might be unintentionally losing weight.

He explained “This is because it uses a lot of energy to grow and it steals it from other places and uses a lot of fuel.

“An overactive thyroid could also be key as well as undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.

“There are many signs and symptoms, but the main ones are often unintentional weight loss, frequent urination and excessive hunger and thirst.

“People will eat more because they feel continually hungry as the body is struggling to use the energy that’s already been consumed.

“Another reason you might be losing weight unintentionally is issues with the bowel as it could cause problems with how well you absorb nutrients.”

12. Menopause

Sebastian Pole herbalist, and founder of Herbalreality.com said that it's common for women to put on weight during menopause, especially if they have disturbed digestion or are taking HRT to replace the body experiencing a withdrawal in oestrogen.

He added: "Therefore it’s really important to look at your diet and eat foods and herbs that balance oestrogen such as cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower Brussel sprouts and cabbage contain several powerful nutrients that help metabolise oestrogenic molecules.

"Also try to eat foods that are rich in saturated and omega-3 fatty acids plant based fats such as Organic poultry, wild-caught salmon, and 100% grass-fed beef are the best animal-fats for healthy hormone function.

"Good vegetarian sources include coconut oil, hemp seed oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocados, and raw nuts also contain oestrogen balancing plant sterols. Herbal Teas like green tea and liquorice also specifically balance oestrogen levels.”

13. Too much of the good stuff

Many people who live for the gym may sometimes realise they have reached a plateau and this, Lyndsey Forfar, studio manager and head trainer at F45 Vauxhall said is because they might actually be unknowingly adding calories to their diet when trying to add additional nutrients.

She explained: "To lose weight you need to be in what is called a 'Calorie Deficit'. A calorie deficit is any shortage in the amount of calories consumed relative to the amount of calories required for maintenance of your current body weight.

"A deficit can be created by reducing your calories consumed or by increasing output without increasing input.

"If you are doing all the right things; pushing yourself to your limits when exercising, eating healthily and getting enough rest but still aren't seeing results, it could be as simple as you're eating too much of the good stuff."

Lyndsey said that after a workout it could mean that you're having something like  a protein shake with frozen fruit, milk, a big blob of peanut butter, and oats.

She said: "Try switching to water instead of milk, a teaspoon of nut butter rather than a tablespoon and choose just one fruit or replace it with a vegetable that has a lower sugar content, for example frozen spinach.

"Remember that muscle weighs more than fat. So, standing on scales that only give you a weight measurement might not be the most accurate way of tracking your progress", she added.

14. You have a deficiency

Our bodies are pretty good at getting what we need from nutrients found in food, but food can't give us everything we need to function and this is also the case for people who have deficiencies.

Leyla Moudden, naturopath and director of education for Enzymedia UK said a healthy metabolism is when the body can receive the nutrition and energy it needs from the protein, fats and carbohydrates that we eat.

"In order access the nutrition in what we eat, the body must first be able to digest and absorb it.

"If we cannot digest proteins, our muscles do not receive the amino acids in protein and our muscles weaken, without fats we lose nutrients, and without carbohydrates we become nutrient and energy deficient, all of which affect our metabolism and appetite.

"No matter how healthily we eat, the body cannot access any benefit if digestion is impaired."

She added that poor blood sugar balance, low quality and processed food and extreme or yoyo dieting can all reduce the body’s ability to produce digestive enzymes, further reducing access to the nutrients needed to correct metabolism, as well as improving satiety, blood sugar control and appetite.

Therefore, supplementing with a digestive enzyme could help to restore digestive capacity and provide an important step towards a healthier metabolism, Leyla said.

15. PMS (premenstrual syndrome)

Emily said many of us will feel sluggish or bloated the week before and during our period. 

She explained: "Period-related weight gain is caused by hormonal fluctuations and as a result of water retention. Period bloating and gastrointestinal issues might also create the sensation of weight gain.

"You can try and balance your hormones with natural supplements such as evity's Multivitamin for Women which contains some essential hormone-balancing nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin B6 alongside some amazing herbs, traditionally used to support female health including Red Clover and Shatavari extract."

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