Weight is a deeply personal and sensitive subject for many people. As people get older, many experience weight fluctuations. Stress and poor eating habits can lead to weight gain, but in some cases there’s an underlying health issue causing weight changes. So, how can you lose weight and keep it off? Keep reading to learn more!
Common Reasons for Weight Changes
Any time you experience an unintentional or unexpected weight change, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. While weight loss is cause for concern, weight gain can also be dangerous.
Unhealthy lifestyle choices are the reason for weight gain in many cases. It’s convenient to swing by a drive thru on your way home from work, or get a three course meal delivered to your door with the tap of a finger. But these meals are often packed with calories, sugar, and fat far in excess of what you need or what’s healthy. Additionally, it’s easy to plop on the couch to binge your favorite tv show when you’re home instead of getting in some heart-healthy exercise. Before you know it, you’ve put on 10, 20, or even 30 pounds!
An unhealthy lifestyle isn’t the only reason you may experience weight gain. There are also health-related reasons you may have unexpected weight gain, according to Dr. Krista Gonzales, an endocrinologist at ThedaCare. A hormone imbalance or certain medications may be a contributing factor.
Many medications are responsible for rapid weight gain that is difficult to lose. Antipsychotics, antidepressants, and corticosteroids are common culprits. Doctors don’t usually prescribe these treatments lightly. They come with a host of side effects, including weight gain, but they are usually necessary.
If medications are the root cause of your weight gain, discuss it with your doctor to see if there’s something you can do to address your weight concerns. They may change your prescription, suggest a special diet, or prescribe another medication to help you control your weight.
“Hormones can also cause weight gain, especially for women,” Dr. Gonzales explained. “You should discuss weight concerns with your primary care provider who can refer you to an endocrinologist to rule out an underlying disease.” People who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism experience weight gain caused by hormones.
PCOS affects 10% of women in the United States. Higher than normal insulin and male hormones are the root cause. The result is a hormonal imbalance that results in increased body and facial hair, male pattern hair loss, and weight gain among other symptoms. People with PCOS may also experience irregular periods that make family planning difficult.
On the other hand, hypothyroidism is when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that 5% of Americans have some form of hypothyroidism. It’s caused by a variety of conditions, including Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, or radiation treatment. Weight gain is common, but people with hypothyroidism also experience fatigue, pain in their joints and muscles, and other symptoms.
Weight Loss Tips
No matter the reason for your weight gain, losing stubborn fat can be difficult. While your personal circumstances influence your ability to lose weight, it’s not impossible. Here are some sustainable tips you can use to lose weight and keep it off for good!
- Keep a food log
Many people don’t realize they’re overeating. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), portion sizes in restaurants have tripled since the early 90s, making it easy to overeat. Tracking your calories is a simple solution to help keep an eye on your calories and nutrients.
Dr. Gonzales suggests using “an app like Fitness Pal to get an idea for how much you’re eating.” Log your food into the app at meal and snack times, and it does the rest! This is a convenient and efficient way to keep your habits in line with your weight loss goals.
- Plan meals in advance
Deciding what you’re going to eat ahead of time is another great way to lose weight. Planning your meals in advance allows you to determine how to divvy up your calorie allowance each day of the week. You cook your food one or two days out of the week and store them in your refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to eat.
Another upside to this method is that you don’t have to cook as frequently. As a result, you’re less likely to order out or pick up fast food on your way home.
- Move your body
Exercise is a great way to control your weight, improve your mood, and support a healthy lifestyle. “Exercising for 150-200 minutes each week (30 mins a day at least five days a week) is essential for maintaining a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle,” recommends Dr. Gonzales.
This doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, though. Plenty of people live an active lifestyle without regular gym visits. Taking a walk, playing outside with your kids, and dancing are alternative ways to move your body that you may enjoy instead!
- Talk to a therapist
Some people gain weight because of an underlying mental health issue. People who experience heightened anxiety, depression, or stress are more likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Most notably, they are more likely to overeat and drink excess alcohol to help cope with their symptoms. They may also lack the motivation to engage in a regular exercise regimen.
Talking to a therapist can help you understand how your choices impact your health, and the reasons behind these choices. “Cognitive behavioral therapy is key to any successful weight loss journey,” Dr. Gonzales says. ”The way we think about and approach food directly impacts our success and relationship with food.”
A last resort
No matter the reason for your weight gain, you may continue to struggle despite implementing these suggestions. You may wish to pursue a more aggressive approach like medication or surgery, but these options aren’t for everyone.
Dr. Gonzales says, “medications for weight loss are a great way to jumpstart the process or help when you’ve reached a plateau in your weight loss journey. They may even be useful for preventing weight gain after you’ve reached your goal.” Side effects like constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are possible. However, this is a great improvement from older medications that caused long term heart problems.
If all else fails, surgery may seem like a quick and easy fix, but going under the knife for any procedure is a serious decision. It’s a last resort when other options aren’t working. If you’re considering gastric band, bypass, or other surgical interventions, discuss it with your primary care provider. They can let you know if it’s a safe treatment option for you.