Let’s be honest, most of us understand that how much we eat and exercise affects our weight. How many people have counted calories, exercised regularly and still did not see the scale budge? I’ll raise my hand to that question! Based on personal experience and research evidence, I can share that there is more to diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss. Here are a few not-so-obvious causes for packing on those extra pounds.
Lack of sleep
If you’ve been skimping on sleep, you could be missing out on the easiest weight loss strategy ever. There are numerous studies that suggest that people who sleep less tend to weigh more. A study followed 68,183 women, all part of the Nurses’ Health Study, for 16 years and found that those who slept 5 hours or less a night were nearly a third more likely to gain 30 pounds or more than women who slept 7 hours per night (Patel, 2006). We already know sleeping less than 6 hours per night is associated with an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases and it appears weight gain and obesity can be linked as well. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to maintain a healthy weight and optimal health.
Research has shown that environmental toxins can make you fat and increase your risk of certain diseases, including diabetes. A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of American Neurotoxicology and Teratology states that only small to moderate amounts of pesticides in rats cause excessive weight gain by damaging brain structures like the hypothalamus and the pituitary. (Lassiter, 2008).
There are numerous ways in which toxins can lead to weight gain. Toxins can affect the hormone leptin, which affects appetite. Toxins destroy our hormonal balance and often act as endocrine disruptors – substances that change the way our hormones usually work. Toxins are stored in fat cells and as we accumulate more toxins in our body, more storage space is needed and the body holds onto fat cells.
Unfortunately, we are all exposed to toxins and most can benefit from detoxification. I’m not talking about a crazy colon cleanse or juice fast. True detoxification occurs by using products that detoxify the body at a cellular level. Also, do your best to minimize your daily exposure to toxins. Choose organic produce, non-toxic household cleaning products, and pure supplements.
Did you know that numerous medications, such as steroids, allergy drugs, and anti-depressants, have been linked to weight gain? These medications have different mechanisms of actions when it comes to weight gain. Some drugs cause fluid retention. Some increase appetite. Some alter the way fat is stored or cause a change in insulin levels. Not all drugs have the same side effect on all people. Take a look back at when you started gaining weight or began having difficulty losing weight. If it was after beginning a new medication, you may want to talk with your doctor.
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Patel, SR, Malhotra A, White DP, Gottlieb DJ, Hu, FB. Association between reduced sleep and weight gain in women. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2006. November 15: 164 (10): 947-54.
Jones OA, Maguire ML, Griffin JL. Environmental pollution and diabetes: a neglected association. Lancet. 2008 Jan 26: 371 (9609): 287-8.
Lassiter, TL. and Brimijoina S. Rats gain excess weight after developmental exposure to the organophosphorothionate pesticide, chlorpyrifos. Neurotoxicology and Teratology. Volume 30, Issue 2, March-April2008, pp 125-30.