What makes you gain or lose weight even when you have been eating well? Weight continues to be a hot topic today as many people strive to either lose or gain it. But do you know what causes your weight to fluctuate the way it does? While some factors that affect your weight, such as diet, are easy to identify, others are not so obvious.
Although diet is one of the leading causes of weight gain and weight loss, it is not the only factor that affects weight. You could be dieting or even overeating, but you might still see no change in your weight, or you could do neither and notice changes. Two of the most common questions people ask themselves or Google when trying to determine what is affecting their weight are, ‘Why do I keep gaining weight even though I eat healthy’ and ‘Why am I losing weight even though I eat?’
Many other factors affect weight besides diet and exercise, and any of them could be the reason why your weight keeps fluctuating or remains stagnant.
If you are looking to either gain or lose weight, it would be great to know what determines your weight and whether there is anything you can do to change it to achieve your fitness goals. In today’s post, we are discussing the other factors that affect your weight gain or weight loss besides diet.
Factors That Affect Your Weight besides Diet
This one is almost just as obvious as diet. Your lifestyle, whether it is a physically active one or a sedentary lifestyle, is a factor that affects your weight. These two types of lifestyle affect your weight differently, in that a physically active one will help you burn more calories and stay fit or lose weight, whereas a sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity due to lack of activity.
- Mental health Issues
Have you ever noticed that you tend to lose or gain weight when feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed? This could happen even without changes in your eating habits. Mental health issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression are other factors that affect your weight gain and weight loss besides diet and exercise.
Some of the effects of depression on your body include lack of appetite, overeating, and a less active lifestyle. All these eventually affect your weight because with a lack of appetite, you will lose weight, while with overeating and leading a more sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight.
Additionally, chronic stress can make you fat even without necessarily stress-eating. The reason for this is that your body produces the stress hormone cortisol at elevated levels when you are stressed. Cortisol not only increases your appetite but also influences where you put on the weight you gain. Most times, the fat deposition ends up happening in your abdominal area.
Moreover, another study found that when you are under a lot of stress, your body metabolism slows down, hence burning fewer calories.
Why can some people eat whatever they want and never gain weight? If you ever asked yourself this question, genetics could be the answer. Your genes play a role in determining your ability to gain or lose weight and how well you maintain your current weight. You could be predisposed to be overweight or thin due to your genetic history.
According to research, obesity is hereditary, which could be why you have trouble with weight management despite dieting and exercising regularly. The same applies to staying thin because persistent thinness despite unhealthy food choices can also be inherited.
If you have been overweight most of your life and other people in your family are too, examining whether genetics could be the reason for your unexplained weight gain would be wise.
Though many people underestimate it, sleep is another factor that affects your weight besides diet. Insufficient sleep has been associated with increasing your chances of becoming obese and unexplained weight gain. Research shows that sleep deprivation causes hormonal imbalance that then increases your appetite and hunger levels for carbohydrates.
Furthermore, lack of sleep makes you feel tired even the next day, making it difficult for you to get the willpower to make healthy food choices or get the energy to be physically active. Spending more time awake also increases your opportunities to eat, leading to weight gain.
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As a younger person, in early childhood and your teens, gaining, losing, and maintaining weight can be easier because your body is still growing and you are probably more active. However, as you advance in age, this changes, and many people experience age-related weight gain.
Studies show a gradual increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) among adults up to their 50s and 60s, followed by a decrease past the 70s. As you grow older, keeping weight off becomes difficult even without any changes in your eating habits or physical activity.
Age-related weight gain has been attributed to a decrease in your lipid turnover in the fat tissue as you become older. After age 30, you begin to lose muscle mass by 3-8% per decade. Since lean muscle uses calories and not fat, you will most likely gain weight if you continue with your current calorie intake as you age.
- Hormonal fluctuations
Besides cortisol, other hormonal fluctuations could also affect your weight. For example, women experience hormonal weight gain around their midsection during menopause because of a drop in estrogen levels.
Similarly, as men grow older, testosterone levels decrease by 1-2% per year after age 40. Testosterone is the hormone that regulates muscle mass, increases the burning of calories, and also affects mood. With lower testosterone levels, your motivation to stay active might decrease.
Other hormones whose imbalance can result in unexplained weight gain or weight loss include insulin, leptin, ghrelin, and many more. These hormonal fluctuations affect your appetite, mood, metabolism, as well as body-weight distribution.
- Drugs and Medications
Drugs, whether prescribed or not, can also lead to weight fluctuations. Some medications that could lead to weight gain either because of the drug itself or its side effects include steroids, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, and mood stabilizers. They all affect your body in ways that make it easier to gain weight.
For instance, some medications increase your appetite, others affect your body’s metabolism by slowing down the rate your body burns calories, others cause water retention and bloating, others change how and where your body stores fat, and others make it harder for you to exercise because of shortness of breath and fatigue.
However, prescription medications are not the only ones that affect your weight. Substance abuse of narcotics, alcohol, and smoking could also lead to either weight loss or weight gain. The reason for this could be poor nutrition, irregular eating patterns, and the side effects of these substances.
Where you live as well as the values of the people surrounding you can be other factors that affect your weight. For instance, your community, workplace, religion, home, and culture influence your eating habits and attitude towards weight gain and weight loss.
Studies show that African and African-American people are less likely to consider themselves overweight than Caucasian-American people because of differences in body image perceptions and beauty standards.
Another example is how your work environment can affect your weight. If your job requires sitting for long hours or taking clients out to eat for meetings, you have a higher probability of gaining weight. However, if it involves a lot of walking around, say if you are a door-to-door salesperson, you could lose weight faster and be fit.
Other factors that affect your weight include pregnancy, race, medical conditions, and hydration, among many others.
As you can see above, many factors affect weight besides diet, and they could be the reason why your weight gain or weight loss efforts through dieting could be failing. In case you have been dieting and exercising and still not getting your desired results, learning to identify which of these other factors could be affecting your weight would do you a lot of good. You can then try a better weight loss or weight gain plan that targets it or seek help from a professional.
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