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20 reasons for weight gain that aren’t food and exercise

Some of them you don’t really have control over…


If you think that food and exercise are the only factors affecting weight, it’s time for a rethink. Of course, you can only gain weight if your calorie intake is greater than your calorie expenditure. However, there are several complex metabolic factors that affect how the body processes calories. And, these could make you put on weight despite your best efforts. Given below are 20 such factors in alphabetical order.

Addiction to phone: The habit of checking one’s phone late at night leads to increased exposure to blue light. This interferes with the body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Poor sleep can negatively impact stress hormone levels and metabolism.

Age: With age, you may put on weight for three reasons. Metabolic rate goes down with age and so does lean muscle mass. Third, levels of thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone also decline promoting weight gain.

Air pollution: People who live close to roadways with a high level of air pollution are more likely to gain weight, says a study from the University of Southern California. Scientists have found out that dust found in homes also has hormone-disrupting chemicals that encourage the body to store fat.

Altitude: Research has shown that people who live at higher altitudes tend to be thinner. Scientists suggest that atmospheric pressure, radiation levels and other environmental issues may be the causes.

Always being dressed up: When you are comfortably dressed you are more active and this could help keep the weight down. University of Wisconsin researchers found that people who wore denim to work took 500 more steps a day than when they wore formal attire.

Antibacterial soap: One of the antibacterial agents, triclosan, can potentially cause weight gain by disrupting the body’s metabolism-controlling thyroid hormones. A study in the journal PLOS One found a detectable level of the compound was associated with a 0.9-point increase in body mass index (BMI).

Avoiding the scale: Looking at your body weight helps to reinforce weight-loss goals. University of Minnesota researchers observed that dieters who weighed themselves daily lost twice as much weight as those who weighed themselves less frequently.

Woman Standing on Scale

Family tendency: There are many genes linked to weight gain and scientists say that family history of obesity is a critical causal factor. Also, if a family follows unhealthy eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, the next generation might follow suit causing weight gain. Another familial factor is that maternal obesity during pregnancy leads to offspring facing increased risk of childhood obesity. 

Food additives: Some food additives are linked with weight gain and obesity, according to a study done by Georgia State University. Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods for texture and to extend shelf life, interfere with good gut bacteria which causes gain in weight. Some artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners and preservatives have also been linked to obesity.  

Generation factor: Bad news for youngsters. They will have to eat less and exercise more to keep obesity at bay as compared to the older generation. According to a study from York University, the average metabolism of both men and women has slowed. 

Green neighbourhood: Close proximity to parks and forests is linked to lower body weight, according to research done by the American Diabetes Association. Parks make physical exertion feel like fun. Moreover, simply being in the presence of nature has been shown to reduce stress, lower weight and improve overall health.

Having a pet: Owning a pet, particularly a dog, slashes a person’s risk of obesity, says the American Heart Association. Dogs need to be walked daily encouraging their owners to walk as well. Also, having a pet greatly reduces stress and depression, two known risk factors for weight gain.

Having friends who are not fit: According to research from the New England Journal of Medicine, when a friend becomes obese, it increases your chance of obesity by 57%. Other studies have shown that when we eat with larger people, we may consume more. Also, finding a partner who shares your drive to get and stay healthy can make it more likely you’ll reach your weight-loss goals.

Income level: According to a study done by John Hopkins researchers, unemployment increases the risk of obesity by 21%. This is because when you are unemployed and broke you are less likely to be able to afford healthy food or a gym membership.

Insufficient daylight: Inadequate exposure to natural sunlight seems to encourage cells to store more fat.

Medicines: The more antibiotics a person takes during their lifetime, particularly during early childhood, the greater their risk of becoming obese. Some antidepressants, antipsychotics, beta-blockers and birth control pills promote weight gain. They do so by stimulating the appetite or slowing the body’s metabolism. Some drugs cause fluid retention or enough drowsiness to reduce physical activity, which can trigger weight gain.


Pesticides: Many pesticides are endocrine disruptors which interfere with the body’s metabolic systems thereby causing weight gain.

Stress: Turning to comfort foods is only part of the problem. The hormone cortisol is released when our body is under stress that causes triglycerides to be relocated to fat cells, increasing storage of belly fat. Elevated cortisol levels also cause an increase in blood glucose, while suppressing the effects of insulin, leading to constant feelings of hunger and can lead to overeating. Unused blood glucose is eventually stored as body fat.

Temperature: Warm and cosy homes and offices may be partly responsible for expanding waistlines, according to a study published in the journal Cell. Lower temperatures boost the metabolism by making the body work harder. Lowering the thermostat by a few degrees or turning the shower briefly to cold could help.

Unhealthy gut: Leaner people have a greater variety of gut bacteria. If your gut bacteria are imbalanced, metabolism becomes sluggish. And, too many bad bacteria can throw your hunger signals out of control, making it practically impossible to lose weight.

So, when you are on a weight loss regime be aware of non-food and non-exercise related factors that may impact the outcome of your efforts.


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