You’re religious about the gym. You only rarely deviate from your usual salads and smoothies. So why TF is the scale creeping up??
Sudden weight gain with no discernible cause is basically the worst—but it may be a sign something is askew in your bod. Think: out of whack hormones or other sneaky health conditions that are causing your metabolism to misfire.
What to do? Before visiting the doc, you keep a log of everything you eat as well as your exercise habits (including outside-the-gym activity) for at least a few days if not a week or two, says Dr. Melina Jampolis, an internist and physician nutrition specialist based in Los Angeles.
“Lots of people have ‘kilojoule amnesia’—they’re eating more kilojoules than they tally up in their head, or it’s not that they’re exercising any less during the week but maybe they’re sitting more,” Jampolis says.
Once you’ve determined that’s not the case, your doc can get to the bottom of whether any of these lingering health issues might be messing with your waistline.
If you’re also exhausted…it could be hypothyroidism.
When a young woman walks into a doc’s office with unexplained weight gain, the thyroid is the first place most physicians will investigate, says Jampolis. And for good reason: a whopping one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her life, according to the American Thyroid Association.
That butterfly-shaped gland in the neck is responsible for secreting a hormone that regulates the metabolism, and if you’ve got an under-active thyroid (called hypothyroidism) the metabolism may slow down, triggering weight gain.
Women with hypothyroidism may also suffer from low energy levels or fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, hoarseness, or constipation, says Jampolis. Notice any of them and you should book a chat with your doc who can check on your thyroid with a simple blood test if necessary.
If your periods are also abnormal…it could be PCOS.
Research shows that as many as one in five women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—an endocrine disorder that throws off the balance of reproductive hormones oestrogen and testosterone, and can trigger a number of unpleasant symptoms like wacky periods, facial hair growth, and migraines.
PCOS can also muck up the way your body uses insulin (the hormone that helps turn sugars and starches into energy), which means (womp, womp) unexplained weight gain around the mid-section is common, says Jampolis.
If your menstrual cycles are off, a gyno will likely take a peek at your hormones to diagnose this one.
If you’re also super-stressed…it could be depression or anxiety.
When you’re chronically stressed, you’re thrown into fight-or-flight mode and get a surge of adrenaline, along with a heavy dose of the hormone cortisol, which is supposed to help you restore energy reserves and store fat. Because, hello, you just sprinted five kays from a tiger—you’re starving.
The problem? Lots of us get stressed sitting at our desk, says Jampolis.
If you’ve persistently felt down in the dumps or anxious, have trouble sleeping, feel fatigued, or you’ve lost interest in the stuff that used to make you tick, talk with a doctor. or mental-health pro who can make suggestions for getting back on track, which (bonus) should help you drop those extra pounds.
If you’re also restless at night…it could be insomnia.
There’s nothing like a busted night of sleep to make a girl crave sugar and fat (anything to survive at work the next day, right?). That’s because missed shuteye does a number on your hunger hormones and metabolism: Sleeping too little raises ghrelin, the hormone that signals it’s time to eat, while lowering your levels of leptin, the hormone that conveys the “I’m full” feeling, says Jampolis. The result: a totally unsatisfying chow-fest the next day.
Putting off sleep to watch just one more episode? That hour could be contributing to weight gain. A 2018 study in the journal Sleep found that people who slept just one hour more per week lost more fat than those who slept an hour less. The people who slept less lost less—even though everyone in the study ate the same number of calories, proportionate to their weight at the start of the study.
If you’re constantly bloated…it could be SIBO
The gut relies on good bacteria to function well (probiotics, anyone?), but there’s also bad bacteria chilling in your digestive tract. When that balance of good to bad gets thrown off, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO, for short) can take place, triggering extra gas in your GI tract along with bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and—you guessed it—sudden weight gain.
Docs aren’t entirely sure how SIBO may trigger those extra kilos, says Jampolis, but treatment for SIBO typically includes antibiotics to treat the bacterial overgrowth, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
If you’re also in your 40s…it could be perimenopause.
The transition period to menopause (a.k.a., perimenopause, which can start in women as early as their mid-thirties, but usually starts in your forties) triggers hormones like oestrogen to rise and fall unevenly, which can cue weight gain in some women, says Jampolis. (Other signs of perimenopause include irregular periods, hot flashes, mood swings, and a change in your libido—symptoms your doc can usually suss out with her eyes closed.)
Compound perimenopause with the other inevitable body changes that happen with age (like a loss of muscle mass and increase in body fat), and it may feel like the scale’s tipping fast. Talk to your doctor to manage “the change” in stride.
If you’re also taking a new pill…it could be your meds.
There’s a laundry list of both prescription and over-the-counter meds that can trigger sudden weight gain or water retention that shows up on the scale as extra poundage. “Antidepressants—most commonly the selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—may affect the appetite centre in the brain,” says Dr. Rocío Salas-Whalen, an endocrinologist at the Medical Offices of Manhattan.
Meanwhile, beta-blockers (meds that reduce blood pressure) can slow your metabolism, and certain steroids can add on kilos. Even OTC antihistamines, which can disrupt an enzyme in the brain that helps regulate food consumption, can trigger noticeable weight gain, says Salas-Whalen.
A word to the wise: Don’t stop taking any pills cold-turkey—chat with your doctor, who may be able to find a more waist-friendly substitute.
If you’re also noticing abnormal fatty deposits…it could be Cushing’s disease.
A super-rare condition called Cushing’s disease (only 10 to 15 people per million are affected, but 70 percent of those diagnosed are women) causes excess cortisol production and can trigger excessive weight gain just around the abdominal area (legs and arms usually stay lean) and the back of the neck, says Dr. Reshmi Srinath, assistant professor of diabetes, endocrinology, and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“Cushing’s typically presents with significantly low energy and complications like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But the telltale sign is very large, red stretch marks on their belly,” she says. If this sounds eerily familiar, talk to your doctor asap.
If you also feel extra bloated after eating…it could be dehydration
There’s a reason behind the bloat, and it may have just as much to do with the water you forgot to drink as the food that you ate.
Kristen Neilan, a dietician at University of Florida Health, says most of us aren’t drinking nearly enough water. That’s because many of us mistake the feeling of thirst for the feeling of hunger. “Confusion, tiredness, and lightheadedness are all signs of even mild dehydration,” she says. Sounds a lot like how we feel when we’re hankering for a snack.
Mixed signals aren’t the only only possible culprits behind your unexplained weight gain. “Adequate hydration increases mitochondrial function—what that basically means is that it increases your metabolism,” says Neilan. Without enough water, your cells can’t do their thing (namely, convert your food into energy) quickly and efficiently.
If it seems like your belly just won’t budge…it could be an ovarian tumor.
In rare cases, an expanding belly is the result of an ovarian tumor and fluid buildup associated with it, says Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, a gynaecologic cancer surgeon at UCLA Health.
“Patients come in with abdominal bloating, and their usual pants are not fitting,” she says. “Sometimes the tumor is so large, it can cause dissention of the abdomen,” says Memarzadeh.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer after menopause. But it’s important for women at every age to look out for this symptom, as well as feeling full too quickly, pain in the lower stomach area, and extra pressure on the bladder. See your doc if the bloating persists, especially if your family has a history of ovarian cancer.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com