Why’s the Scale Going Up?

Top five reasons for unexplainable weight gain.

It’s a frustrating experience when you’re watching what you eat and exercising regularly and continue to gain weight rather than lose. Things would make sense if your calorie count increased or your workouts ended when your gym membership expired, but when things aren’t adding up the way you’d expect, something besides calorie intake and burn must be going on. You may need to start thinking outside the box.

Here are five possible reasons you may be gaining rather than losing or maintaining.

1. Stress

When you’re stressed out over finances, relationships, or your health, your body preps itself not only for the task at hand but also for future stress. Entering survival mode, your metabolism may slow down and energy starts to get stored up for later—two factors that contribute to weight gain.

Secondly, when stressed, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite and makes you crave comfort foods.

2. Sleep Problems

It may surprise you to know there’s a connection between your weight and the amount of sleep you get each night. Sleep deprivation causes hormonal fluctuations that have the power of increasing your appetite. Similar to when you’re stressed, tiredness triggers your body into survival mode, your metabolism slows down, and fat is stored for future energy. Keep in mind that sleep abnormalities like apnea disrupt your rest and can contribute to weight gain for the same reasons.

Also, while you’re awake and not asleep, there’s a good chance you’re snacking on a midnight snack.

3. Medications

Many medications have the unpleasant side effect of weight gain. Prescription drugs with this reputation include antidepressants; anti-inflammatory steroids (including prednisone); antipsychotic medication; birth control pills (though the weight gain is minimal); and drugs used to treat seizures, heartburn, diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraines. Work with your physician to decide if the benefits are worth the negative side effects.

4. Health Conditions

An underlying health condition may be to blame for your unexplainable weight gain. Hypothyroidism; Cushing’s syndrome; blood sugar imbalances; kidney disease; polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS); fibromyalgia; and heart, liver, or adrenal gland problems all have the potential of causing weight gain. Talk with your doctor if you’re suspicious your weight gain may be due to an undiagnosed medical condition.

5. Weight Loss Myths

Simple misunderstandings about the way weight loss works may cause you to gain instead of lose. Perhaps you’ve drastically cut your calorie intake and wonder why the weight isn’t disappearing. Extremely low-calorie diets often have the opposite effect than what you’d expect. When in starvation mode, your body is smart enough to slow metabolism and store energy for later.

Maybe you’re skipping meals with the intent of cutting calories. This again has the undesired effect of slowing the metabolism and increases the likelihood you’ll overeat at your next meal.

Just started a workout routine and wonder why the scale is going up rather than down? This is a common experience for exercise newbies, but don’t worry, chances are it’s not fat you’re gaining but muscle. This is a good kind of weight to gain and will actually help you lose weight faster in the future.

Finally, many dieters make the mistake of underestimating the number of calories they consume. You may feel like you’re eating salad for every meal, but salad fixings, while mainly healthy, can also be high in calories (think cheese, nuts, croutons, salad dressing, and avocados).