Weight gain is usually a result of consuming more calories than daily activities burn up. Excess calories are converted to fat and stored in adipose tissue. In addition, metabolism slows down with age, reducing the number of calories that are needed for the same amount of activity. Thus, if a person continues to eat as much at age 40 or 50 as he or she did at age 20, he or she is likely to put on weight — the familiar middle-age spread. The solution lies in eating a bit less and exercising a bit more.
Before embarking on a diet and exercise program, however, check with a doctor to make sure any weight gain is not related to some other medical problem. In addition, weight gain is desirable in some circumstances, such as during pregnancy.
Causes of weight gain
Beer, wine, and spirits all contain calories, but many people do not regard them as fattening. The snack foods served with alcoholic beverages — nuts, chips, cheese, and other fatty foods — also tend to be high in calories. A heavy drinker may skip regular meals but still consume large numbers of calories from alcohol and snacks. In addition, alcohol abuse can cause liver disease, which may, in turn, result in bloating.
An excessive amount of Cortisol or other steroid hormones causes this disorder. The excess hormones may come from the adrenal glands or from a tumor of the pituitary gland or of some other gland in the body's endocrine system. Chronic use of steroid drugs in the treatment of severe asthma, for example, can also cause symptoms similar to those of Cushing's syndrome. Its most familiar symptom is weight gain and a redistribution of body fat. Increased fat usually accumulates in a pad on the neck and upper back that looks like a buffalo hump, as well as on the trunk of the body, while the arms and legs become thin and spindly. The face becomes moon shaped, and the skin is thin and bruises easily.
A sudden change in weight — either a gain or a loss — accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and an inability to function normally may be due to
depression. People sometimes resort to overeating to ease the "down" feeling of chronic depression.
A sudden weight gain may be due to a buildup of fluid in body tissue. The swelling may be confined to the abdomen, as in ovarian cancer and kidney or liver disease; or to the legs and feet, as in circulatory disorders; or it may be generalized throughout the body Many women experience generalized bloating and a weight gain of 5 or 10 pounds in the premenstrual phase of their monthly cycles. Any unexplained weight gain accompanied by swelling or puffiness should be checked by a doctor.
A number of drugs can cause weight gain. Hormonal drugs, especially steroids, estrogen, insulin, and danazol (a drug used to treat endometriosis and fibrocystic breasts), commonly cause weight gain. Other medications may cause fluid retention, resulting in swelling and rapid weight gain. Any change in weight linked to taking a medication should be reported to your doctor.
Obese people are generally more disease prone and have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, and complications after surgery.
Anyone who weighs 20 percent more than the desirable weight for persons of his or her height, build, sex, and age is considered obese.
Also known as toxemia of pregnancy, this is a dangerous condition that can lead to the death of the baby and the mother if it goes untreated. A sudden, large weight gain in the second half of pregnancy is a warning signal of pre-eclampsia. Other symptoms include a rise in blood pressure, swelling of the face and hands, blurred vision, and protein in the urine. Severe pre-eclampsia can lead to convulsions.
Current thinking is that weight gain within certain guidelines is desirable during pregnancy. Most women should plan to gain at least 24 pounds during the course of pregnancy. Women who are underweight
Unexplained weight gain requires medical investigation.
when they become pregnant may need to gain as much as 30 pounds. Those who are overweight should not diet during pregnancy, but may need to gain only 20 pounds.
This condition is the result of an underactive thyroid gland and usually occurs in an adult when the immune system turns against the body and slowly destroys the gland. All the body's processes gradually slow down, and one of the results is gaining weight even when eating less. The person may also feel sluggish and apathetic, have muscle aches, and experience an increased sensitivity to cold. The skin becomes dry, cool, and rough, and the voice becomes lower and huskier. Pulse rate and reflexes slow down, and, in women, menstrual periods may become irregular and heavier than normal. The body temperature may drop below normal, and constipation and anemia are common.
Advice about weight gain
- Moderate weight gain with age is normal. To avoid excess gain, however, you may need to reduce your food intake and increase exercise. For every decade after 20, reduce calorie intake by 2 percent.
- Avoid crash diets. Rapid weight loss alters metabolism and is likely to result in increased weight gain.