I generally know when I have been careless about my eating and gain unwanted weight. Currently, despite my overfilled schedule, I don’t feel that I am overeating, but my weight is edging upward. Are there causes of weight gain other than overeating?
The most common cause of weight gain is an increase in fatty tissue through an increased intake of calories compared to expenditure of energy through exercise/physical activities. Small daily fluctuations in weight may reflect changes in fluid balance and fluid retention. Increased intake of salt may result in further fluid retention. Female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) variance may result in fluid retention with weight changes over the monthly menstrual cycle in women.
Some illnesses may result in weight gain. One of these is decreased production of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). Heart failure can result in fluid buildup, salt retention, and weight gain. There may be associated swelling of the ankles, feet, and even of the abdomen. Added symptoms would be shortness of breath and fatigue. Kidney dysfunction may also result in fluid retention and increased weight unrelated to excessive food/caloric intake.
You mentioned having an overfilled schedule. This may certainly contribute to weight gain, as stress leads to an increase of the hormone cortisol, which stimulates appetite and increases the storage of fat in the body. Stress may also be associated with the intake of comfort foods, which are usually calorie-dense, full of sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. Additionally, poor sleep patterns may increase the levels of hormones that encourage eating and decrease the hormones that mediate the sense of fullness (satiety) when eating.
Certain medications may affect one’s weight. Commonly used anti-inflammatories may cause fluid retention, with fluctuation in daily weight measurements. Certain antidepressants may stimulate appetite, with subsequent weight gain.
We’ve mentioned fluid retention a number of times. Drink pure water and avoid sugary drinks. Even pure fruit juices are laden with fruit sugar (calories), which promote weight gain without the benefit of the fiber consumed when the whole fruit is eaten. Beware of artificial sweeteners. We’ll talk more about this in an upcoming column.
The beginning of a new year is a good time to reevaluate our health habits. Let’s not just make resolutions that we will soon break. Rather, by God’s grace, let’s set realistic goals with an accountability partner (spouse, close friend). Consider five things to do this year:
Weigh yourself every morning before breakfast and before drinking water. Individuals who weigh themselves daily are more likely to lose weight and maintain their weight loss.
Chart your weight.
Drink primarily pure, fresh water.
Eat regular meals and avoid in-between and before-bedtime snacking.
Have an annual health checkup and metabolic screen, including sugar, cholesterol and lipids, and thyroid screening. Measuring the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level may suffice.
Remember the apostle Paul’s encouragement: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). May this new year be a year of health and happiness in Him. Maranatha!
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Photo by Samuel Ramos on Unsplash