During the holidays, it’s no surprise to any of us when we step on the scale and see a less-than-ideal number appear. But what about the rest of the year when the pounds slowly creep on? Why is it easier for some people to lose weight than others? Besides the usual culprits of poor diet, lack of exercise, and an all-around unhealthy lifestyle, what reasons are behind unexplained weight gain? While every body is different, there are shocking reasons that could be to blame for your weight gain.
This goes beyond a simple lack of self-control or the occasional over-eating binge. Many major corporations have spent years developing processed foods specifically designed with a taste so good, we have to keep going back for more. Essentially, they are creating foods to addict us. Our brains respond to the taste of junk foods the same way it responds to other abused substances like alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine.
The problem is these highly processed products have little to no nutrition, leaving our bodies without the nutrients it needs to function properly. Other problems such as insulin resistance (a rise in insulin causing excess fat storage) and leptin resistance1 (our brains ignoring the hormone communicating we’re full) begin to arise.
High Stress Levels
While short-term stress contributes to temporary weight loss, chronic stress ultimately leads to an increased appetite and thus weight gain. Other factors like a chronic lack of sleep during a stressful time also play into weight gain. Beyond the “usual” stress of life, however, other stressors are at play. Recent research3 indicates some people experience cold weather as a stressor, causing their bodies to release higher levels of stress hormones which are ultimately causes of weight gain. There’s no way to change your genetic makeup, but you can keep your diet healthy by keeping warm during winter eating soups and stews while also focusing on upping your probiotic intake.
Poor Gut Bacteria
Our gut is home to a wealth of bacteria that aids in digestion, and each person has a unique variety. Many factors affect gut flora. Taking a round of antibiotics, for example, will wipe out all the bacteria in your system – including good bacteria. Eating fermented foods such as yogurt or kimchi and taking a probiotic are natural ways to populate your digestive tract with a healthy dose of bacteria. Recent research revealed a difference in bacteria between slim and obese people. The main difference was the diversity of bacteria in overweight individuals.
One cause of an under-diversified gut is a steady diet of too many highly-processed, low-nutrient foods2. Adding a probiotic is a good place to start improving your gut flora, but ultimately eating foods containing good bacteria naturally will be the best way to start seeing a difference.
Where You Live
Surprisingly, the location you live in has an impact on weight gain. In a 2014 study3, researchers found people living in northern regions had higher levels of gut bacteria linked with obesity. The reason is a tribute to the complexity of the human body: these specific types of gut bacteria are necessary in colder climates to more effectively digest food and transform it into energy. Historically, this was important for survival in harsher, colder climates. Today, however, the result makes it challenging for certain individuals to lose weight at no “fault” of their own.
Last but not least, genetics very legitimately increase the probability that certain people with predisposed DNA will become obese. Just like some people are wired to hate exercise, some people are wired with a tendency to gain weight. The important thing to remember, though, is that while your odds of being overweight are higher if your parents were overweight, that doesn’t mean you’re fated to become obese. As one expert said4, “the signals we send our genes can have a major effect on which genes are expressed and which are not.”
These causes of weight gain might be significant hurdles to overcome and you might have to work harder at losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but ultimately, the ability to influence and control your weight is still yours. Don’t let these causes become excuses. Instead, let them become powerful information you can use to strategically plan for weight loss.