You notice that your pants are fitting a little tighter lately and those jeans you fit into last month now can’t be buttoned.
Maybe that muffin top has become a jumbo muffin top or maybe your muffin top just appeared.
Either way, your frustration rises because you have been trying to eat healthy foods and you’ve been staying away from refined sugar but you just can’t seem to get rid of that stubborn fat around your waist, hips and thighs.
Let me encourage you, my friend. Those extra pounds around your hips may not be related to the foods and drinks you are or aren’t consuming.
Ideal Weight Does not Translate to a Number
Before I get into the crux of this post, I want to remind you that a healthy weight is not about getting to a specific number. Everyone’s body chemistry is different. Ideal weight is directly connected to a person’s body composition. One woman who is 5’4″ might have an ideal weight of 122 pounds, while another who is 5’7″ might find her perfect weight at 135 pounds. It’s quite variable and complex.
We need to remember a few keys:
- Muscle weighs more than fat
- Someone can have a low number on the scale and still be “fat” on the inside. It’s called “skinny fat.”
- Being hyperfocused on a number will only be a detriment to you.
- Focus on how you feel at different weights as well as how your clothes fit.
Weight Gain and Weight Loss is Not Always About Food
Though food intake does certainly play a role in whether you are at your optimal weight, it’s not the only thing to consider.
I want to dive into 8 other reasons why you might be struggling to get to that ideal weight where your clothes fit well and you feel great.
If you’d like to know HOW to fix these non-food causes of weight gain get my Proven NON-FOOD Ways to Lose Weight Action Guide below.
8 Non-Food Reasons for Your Weight Gain
1 | Chronic Stress Contributes to Weight Gain
You probably hear it all the time “Stress compromises health.” It’s true!
When you are chronically stressed your cortisol levels are constantly at increased levels in your body.
Increased cortisol levels turn on fat storage in the body and are known to increase the appetite for comfort food which ultimately leads to abdominal obesity. (1) It’s actually a vicious cycle because being overweight can increase stress hormones (like cortisol) as well.
Higher levels of this inflammatory steroid hormone affect blood sugar balance and put a strain on the pancreas, liver and gallbladder which all play a role in how glucose is stored in our bodies. If glucose is not dealt with through the God-given bodily processes, then one way the excess gets stored is in the adipose tissue (fat). The more storage needed, the more adipose tissue you have.
2 | Adrenal Imbalance Allows Your Body to Hold on To Weight
Chronic stress like we talked about above can lead to adrenal gland dysfunction. Your adrenal glands (a part of the HPA axis) are what produce the stress hormones. When they are always on surging stress hormones in your blood, they eventually get worn out.
Daily serum levels of epinephrine and/or cortisol coming from the adrenal glands puts the body in a sympathetic state. It causes our systems to think we are in survival mode.
When the body is in survival mode it focuses on storage for that “just in case” moment.
For example, it tries to store excess energy in various tissues – one being adipose tissue.
Surviving also means your body is not focusing on digesting. Instead, it doesn’t break down foods which, in turn, become inflammatory to the body further increasing weight in the hips and waist.
- If you are gaining most of your weight in the waist area (and a little bit of the hips) it is due to adrenal imbalance.
- If you are gaining more in the hips and thighs then it is due to estrogen dominance and liver congestion. We will get to that below in the obesogens section.
3 | Sleep Deprivation Can Increase Your Weight
One study found that people who sleep between 3.5 and 5.5 hours a night consume nearly 385 more calories the next day when compared to those who sleep between 7 and 10 hours! (2) It’s easy to do that. When we are tired, our body naturally wants to give itself energy so it signals the brain to eat through ghrelin. Sadly, in that tired state, we often don’t choose healthy foods. Instead, we choose comfort which is often high in refined carbohydrates and sugar so we can get that quick energy rush.
Furthermore, sleep and a balanced circadian rhythm have a direct effect on cortisol levels in the blood. When you go to sleep and wake around the same general time each day your circadian rhythm finds a balance and knows when or when not to signal cortisol.
4 | Thyroid Hormone Imbalance Could Lead to Weight Gain
Your thyroid gland controls your metabolism. It’s somewhat like the engine of the body. When you do not have enough triiodothyronine (T3) – the active thyroid hormone, circulating in your blood and tissues fatigue can set in and the body takes a protective measure and goes into storage mode.
Be aware that stress, sleep and adrenal function can all affect thyroid numbers!
5 | Lack of Movement Increases Weight Gain
Overdoing exercise can be a detriment to healing and actually cause your body to hold on to weight. Interestingly, that good ole’ stress response comes into play again here. If you are taxing your body where it needs to put so much energy into repair after exercise, stress hormones increase.
Conversely, if you aren’t moving then your lymph gets stagnant (where toxins are held), digestion slows and excess energy (in the form of glucose) is stored. If you are moving, through the process of lipolysis, your body will convert stored energy, which is in your adipose tissue, to usable energy! The result is less adipose tissue.
6 | Imbalanced microbiome Increases Weight Gain
Did you know there is certain fat promoting bacteria? Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are the two main types of bacteria found in the gut (and in the oral cavity). (3)
According to ATP Science, Firmicutes are like hyperactive little children all hyped up on sugar. (4) They help the body store fat. In contrast, Bacteroidetes speed up your metabolism.
It’s been discovered that if you have more Firmicutes than Bacteroidetes in your gut you will have more of a propensity to gain weight. (5)
7 | Obesogens are Connected to Increased Weight
Obesogens are foreign chemical compounds that cause hormone dysregulation and can even lead to estrogen dominance. They are toxic to the body and impact the endocrine system as well as contribute to disease. They have the ability to increase fat storage in cells as well. (6) (7)
Additionally, fat holds on to these toxins to protect our body (namely our organs) from them.
When obesogens come in contact with the body, the liver has to conjugate them (or break them down). The more chemicals in the body the bigger the burden is on the liver to perform these functions. A sluggish liver, when it comes to detoxification, can be detrimental to your overall health and disease can set in as well as cause weight gain.
8 | Certain Medications Cause Weight Gain
Choosing to be on medications usually comes with a cost. One of the side effects of several mediations can be weight gain.
Some medications can increase the appetite, suppress motivation and even change the function of our neurotransmitters which controls signaling the body’s ghrelin and leptin response. (Hungry vs. Satiated)
Some examples of these medications are corticosteroid medications like hydrocortisone, prednisone. Both play a role in the HPA/stress response process. Other medications that potentially affect weight gain are birth control which can cause fluid retention and appetite changes and antidepressants in which some are known to increase weight.
Weight Gain is Not Only About the Food!
As you can see, there are several non-food areas of your life to address that might be causing that belly fat and thick thighs. The good news is that there are natural fixes to all of them! Chronic stress, adrenal imbalance, sleep hygiene, thyroid hormones, sedentary lifestyle, imbalanced microbiome, obesogens and medications can all be acted on to reverse the weight gain.
There is hope! With some determination and commitment, you can get rid of that muffin top and button your jeans again.
Be sure to download the Proven NON-FOOD Ways to Lose Weight Action Guide below for specific tips on how to fix these 8 factors of weight gain.