Mind & Body

9 reasons you might be gaining weight


Have you ever unintentionally lost or gained weight, and been unsure about what was behind the change? Nutritional biochemist Dr Libby reveals nine common factors that might be influencing the growing or shrinking of your body.

Whether consciously or subconsciously, many people are frustrated by how they feel about their body or its appearance, and this frustration can take up head space and significantly influence their moods. This in turn can affect their self-esteem and the way they relate to the people around them.

There is more to the way your body accesses and uses body fat as fuel than the outdated theory of “calories in, calories out”. In my Weight Loss for Women course, I focus on the nine common puzzle pieces that can contribute to the growing and shrinking of your body:

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1. Calories

Fat was shunned for too long due to it being the macronutrient offering the most calories, yet what was never considered, was the metabolic effects of where calories come from. For example, glucose drives insulin production, an excessive amount of which signals fat storage. Food is designed to energise and nourish us. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel. Nature gets it right when it comes to food so, choose whole, real foods.

2. Stress hormones

Cortisol, one of your stress hormones, is catabolic, meaning it breaks your muscles down. This slows your metabolism, and although you continue to eat and exercise the way you always have, your clothes will slowly get tighter when there’s excess cortisol. It can be difficult to decrease body fat until the stress response is reduced. We must get to the heart of the stress and either change the situation, or change the perception.

3. Sex hormones

Sex hormones can be delicious substances that give you energy and vitality, yet they can also wreak havoc in your life. When it comes to fat burning, beautiful skin, mental clarity, a sense of calm, the ability to be patient and not make mountains out of molehills, as well as fertility, very few substances in our body impact us more than our sex hormones.

4. The liver

When it comes to fat utilisation, the liver packs a mighty punch. In conjunction with the gallbladder, it works endlessly to help us detoxify and excrete problematic substances. Fat can accumulate in the liver – known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease – and this disrupts body fat being used efficiently as well as countless other processes, such as cholesterol management.

5. Gut bacteria

Ever feel like your pants get tighter as the day progresses, even though you feel like you’ve eaten with your health in mind? Sometimes this is due to the foods you are choosing or insufficient stomach acid production. However, it can also be related to the bacterial species living in your colon, which can also alter what calories are worth.

6. The thyroid

The thyroid gland makes hormones that play an enormous role in your metabolic rate, as well as bodily functions such as temperature regulation. The thyroid gland can become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism), and it is the latter scenario that can lead to weight gain that is a challenge to shift until this issue is addressed.

7. Insulin

The pancreas is another gland that makes a hormone intricately linked to body-fat burning or accumulation called insulin. In regulating blood glucose levels, in excess, insulin can become a fat storage hormone, plus it can impact our energy, sleep, the foods we crave, and even our ability to know when we’ve eaten enough food.

8. The nervous system

The nervous system influences the fuel the body uses. In any given moment you are always using a combination of glucose and fat. But is your ratio 50:50, or 80:20 or 30:70? When we spend too much time with the fight or flight arm of the nervous system activated, it thinks your life is in danger and that the most appropriate fuel to use to help you escape is a fast-burning one, which is glucose. Long-term, this can significantly disrupt efficient body fat utilisation.

9. Emotions

Emotions play an enormous role in what we choose, or don’t choose to eat or drink. A helpful question to ask is: why do we do what we do, even though we know what we know? Reflecting on this can be the key to some of the driving forces that are contributing to your health challenges.

Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) is a nutritional biochemist, speaker and best-selling author of 13 books. Her next nine-week Weight Loss for Women online course (where you will have the opportunity to solve so much more than just your weight loss puzzle) begins April 12.