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5 Unexpected Causes of Weight Gain

When it comes to being overweight, you know the usual suspects: too many calories, too much sugar and fat, not enough exercise. But there’s much more to weight gain than meets the eye. You may not realize it, but these five factors could be making you fat.

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Weight loss is about more than just counting calories; it’s also about managing other, less obvious factors.

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1. Stress

1. Stress

Stress may actually be the eating trigger that causes the most trouble. When you have chronic stress, your body steps up its production of cortisol and insulin. Your appetite increases, and so do the chances you’ll engage in “hedonistic” eating in the form of high-calorie sweets and fats.

Your goal: to keep your feel-good hormones level. That will provide a steady state of satisfaction so that you never experience those huge hormonal highs and lows that make you search for good-for-your-brain, bad-for-your-waist foods.

Adapted from Reader’s Digest USA – November 2006

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2. Artificial Sweeteners

2. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, long touted as a dieter’s alternative to sugar, may not be so sweet after all. A 2008 study in the journal Obesity found that participants who drank more than 21 cans of diet pop with aspartame each week had over double the risk of becoming overweight than those who did not consume sweeteners.

Some experts now advise overweight patients to avoid artificial sweeteners, though others insist they’re still superior to high-calorie sugar. Bottom line: Don’t overload on either sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Adapted from Best Health Magazine – November/December 2009

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3. Lack of Sleep

3. Lack of Sleep

When your body doesn’t get the seven to nine hours of sleep it needs every night to become rejuvenated, it looks for other ways to compensate for the lack of feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. How does it typically do this? Sugary foods will give you an immediate release of these chemicals.

One Harvard study even found that women who sleep only five hours per night are 32% more likely to gain weight than those who sleep seven hours or more. So make sure you get enough shut-eye. It can help keep you thin.

Click through for more unexpected causes of weight gain.

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4. Eating too Fast

4. Eating too Fast

Eating slowly could help you win the battle of the bulge. A study of more than 3000 Japanese adults published in the British Medical Journal found that those who ate their meals quickly were about twice as likely to be obese as their slow-munching counterparts.

People who ate quickly and who ate until they were full were three times more likely to be obese. The research supports previous evidence that people tend to consume more when they eat quickly, but also that eating quickly is linked to obesity regardless of how much is eaten.

Adapted from Reader’s Digest Australia – January 2009

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5. Factors Beyond Your Control

5. Factors Beyond Your Control

Genes: When first discovered it was called the fatso gene. Turns out, people with two copies of the more politely named FTO gene were 60 percent more likely to be obese than those without it. Scientists now suspect that there are lots of fat genes.

More fat cells: Some people have twice as many fat cells as others have, says Kirsty Spalding, PhD, of the Karolinska Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Gaining or losing pounds will not change your fat-cell count. But, Spalding says you’re better off with more fat cells than with fewer fat cells that become overstuffed and enlarged.

Viruses: Adenoviruses are responsible for a host of ills, from upper respiratory tract problems to gastrointestinal troubles. The link to fat was uncovered when researchers at the University of Wisconsin injected chickens with the viruses and found that certain strains fattened them up.

Adapted from Reader’s Digest USA – January 2009

Read more about weight:

  1. 50 Habits of Naturally Thin People
  2. 19 Ways the World Loses Weight
  3. 6 Tips for Smart Weight Loss