Eating Less & Gaining Weight

It's a frustrating experience -- you've been cutting calories like crazy in order to shed pounds, but the number on the scale is creeping up. You might have an underlying medical condition that affects your metabolism, or you may need to incorporate additional diet and lifestyle changes. If you continue to gain weight inexplicably, consult your doctor about the possible causes.

Man standing on a scale in the living room. (Image: Luc Ubaghs/iStock/Getty Images)

Hormonal Issues

A common cause of unexplained weight gain, especially for women, is a problem with the thyroid gland. Even if you've tested "normal" for thyroid-stimulating hormone, a sluggish thyroid could affect your metabolism, says nurse practitioner Marcelle Pick. Pick reports that selenium supplementation or a low dose of thyroid hormone may be in order; consult an endocrinologist for more thorough thyroid testing and a proper course of action.

Quality of Calories

Conventional nutrition advice is that cutting calories while increasing activity is a simple recipe for losing weight -- but that doesn't always work. If the calories you choose are subpar, you might still have trouble dropping pounds, says Mark Hyman, M.D. Calories from sugar and flour, which cause insulin spikes and promote inflammation, are not the same as calories from fresh vegetables and lean protein. Make sure you're avoiding processed foods and following a whole-foods diet, Hyman recommends, to avoid weight-loss resistance.

Food Sensitivities

Certified Nutrition Specialist J.J. Virgin says that sensitivities to certain foods -- particularly those you are drawn to and tend to eat often -- can develop over time, leading to an inability to shed weight. Examine your diet to see if your daily calories include a lot of wheat and dairy, the two most common culprits. An elimination diet, in which you remove a suspect food such as wheat from your diet for several weeks, may underline your sensitivities and put you back on track for weight loss, Virgin reports.

Insufficient Sleep

If you aren't getting sufficient sleep, you could find it hard to lose weight, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Take a look at your sleep patterns to see if you are getting the recommended seven to nine hours a night. Authors of a study published in the "American Journal of Epidemiology" in 2006 stated that lack of sleep affects metabolism, which in turn causes weight gain. In the long-term study, women who slept five hours or less a night gained an average of about 2.5 pounds more than those who slept seven hours.

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