For some people weight loss is easy: Cut out sodas and sweets and exercise regularly. Others can do all that and more and yet weight loss never happens while weight gain seems to happen just from looking at food.
Both easy weight gain and weight loss resistance happen frequently among those with chronic health conditions. This is because immune, metabolic, and neurological disorders can skew the body’s fat burning and fat storage mechanisms. Although fat shaming is popular in our culture, an inability to lose weight or keep it off is not a character flaw but rather a red flag of underlying health disorders.
Don’t beat yourself up. Instead, consider if any of the following root causes may be the cause of why you can’t lose weight.
Nine root causes why you can’t lose weight, or you gain too easily
- You have been low-calorie dieting most of your life. The diet industry is worth billions of dollars, as are the entertainment and advertising industries. These industries are built on unrealistic body standards and the successful conditioning millions of people, primarily women, to starve as a way of life. As you age, this fatigues your metabolism fatigues and encourages it to favor fat storage over fat burning as a survival mechanism.
This means each low-calorie diet further turns down your metabolism so that you are a little fatter every time you resume healthy caloric intake and gain the weight back, which the overwhelming majority of dieters do. Also, low calorie dieting stimulates appetite so you will be hungry for more food than usual after dieting.
This mechanism was most demonstrated in a study of contestants from the The Biggest Loser TV show. Six years after participating in the show, the participants burned 800 fewer calories per day. Most had returned to their pre-show weight and had to under eat by 400–800 calories a day in order to avoid gaining weight.
- Your hunger hormones are out of balance
On the other hand, if you regularly eat sugar, desserts, and processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice, etc.), you probably have leptin resistance and your hunger hormone function is out of whack, causing constant cravings and hunger. Reducing or eliminating processed carbohydrates and daily exercise often improves leptin sensitivity so your hunger signals and fat burning normalize.
- You have low thyroid function
One of the most common causes of weight gain and an inability to lose weight is hypothyroidism, or low thyroid activity. What most commonly causes hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that damages the thyroid gland. Unless you address the root causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you may fail to lose weight even when taking thyroid hormone replacement medication.
- You suffer from chronic systemic inflammation
Chronic inflammation promotes weight gain by causing imbalances in hormone function, metabolism, and gut health.
Some people find they easily weight loss by following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Eating a diet based on nutrient-dense foods, avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, and addressing underlying health issues can help reverse chronic inflammation.
- You’ve suffered a brain injury in the past or have compromised brain function
It’s common for people to gain weight after a brain injury and not able to lose it. Brain injuries inflame the brain. This in turn disrupts metabolic, hormone, and immune function to promote weight gain and inhibit fat burning. Fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms are also common after brain injuries and interfere with the fat burning and storage mechanisms.
- You suffer from mold toxicity
Mold illness is often an underlying cause of chronic health symptoms, including weight gain and an inability to lose weight. About a quarter of the US population is vulnerable to mold illness both genetically and through water damaged buildings. Molds create toxic byproducts called mycotoxins, which seriously affect metabolic, immune, and neurological health. Mycotoxins come not only from black mold but also from more common everyday strains that cause musty odors.
- You were born with an obese gut microbiome
Research into the gut microbiome, the gut bacteria in our intestines, has demonstrated they impact almost every aspect of our health, including whether we are thin or heavy.
Both mice and human studies show that obese subjects quickly lose weight when inoculated with gut bacteria from thin subjects. Likewise, thin subjects become obese when inoculated with bacteria from the obese subjects (in mice, they didn’t do that to humans).
Factors that cause an obese microbiome at birth include being delivered via C-section, being formula fed versus breastfed, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood.
- You suffered childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault and have PTSD
An obesity researcher made an accidental discovery when he learned the majority of his study subjects who couldn’t keep off the weight they lost had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted around the time they started gaining weight. This can drive complex PTSD (CPTSD) and the beginning of a food addiction. CPTSD also triggers the immune and nervous systems to behave dysfunctionally in a way that can promote weight gain and make it hard to lose weight.
Also, research has found a link between food addiction and PTSD in women.
- You have dysregulated brain function
For some people with weight issues, food is the source of addictive behaviors that morph into eating disorders. Research is increasingly showing that addictions and eating disorders are linked to brain-based disorders such as ADHD. Dysregulated neurological function causes the obsessive thought patterns that trigger addictive eating and eating disorders.
Look for the root cause of weight gain and inability to lose weight
I hope this information helps you understand a few factors that cause weight gain and an inability to lose weight.
Ask my office how we can help you.