Many people eat reasonably, exercise moderately and do the right things for weight control, but still gain weight. Weight loss can be complicated.
Weight control is a major problem for tens of millions of people in the United States. Over 60% of adult Americans are overweight. Most people understand that the major causes of weight gain are poor eating habits and lack of proper exercise. Eating right and moving more seem simple enough, but many people really try to practice a proper lifestyle and still can’t lose weight. They may have special problems.
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A Doctor’s Office is Always a Good Place to Start
Overweight people have greater chances for numerous medical problems — many are serious, including heart trouble, diabetes and psychological problems like depression. A physical examination can reveal existing conditions that might require special care.
Doctors can also determine if there are existing conditions that might interfere with one’s attempts to lose weight. If more exercise and proper eating habits don’t work consider the following:
1. Being female. Women tend to gain more weight as they age. This is due to the fact that women generally have less muscle mass than men. Muscle maintenance requires more calories. Men often can — and do — ordinary things that require more energy as a result of being stronger. Even so, men tend to gain weight with age.
2. Hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland helps control metabolism — the rate at which the body uses energy. Adults may feel that a lower energy level is a natural part of aging, but healthy adults can remain active and energetic much longer than most realize. Young or middle aged adults who experience chronic fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and other symptoms may have an under-active thyroid. A doctor can diagnose the condition and treatment is usually a matter of boosting the amount of thyroxin in the body by taking medication.
3. Lack of sleep. Less sleep or poor quality of sleep can affect can cause weight gain. The reasons can be complex, but it is at least partially related to the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Tiredness resulting from sleep deficit can cause depression and result in increased snacking on high calorie foods.
4. Subtle changes in eating habits. What and how people eat often changes over time. If those changes might involve an increased preference for higher calorie foods, weight gain can result. Slight increases in caloric intake, especially combined with slight decreases in physical activity, can slowly add up to what may seem like a mysterious weight gain aver time. Foods high in carbohydrates — sweets like pastries and candies — are notorious for causing weight gain.
5. Genetics. There is some evidence that genes can place certain people at risk for weight gain. This does not mean that bad genetics condemns a person to a lifetime of obesity.
6. Medication. Some medicines can make weight loss difficult either by increasing appetite or affecting metabolism.
7. Fluid retention. Although women have a tendency to retain fluid associated with their menstrual cycle, this is normal and temporary. Men and women can retain fluid for a variety of reasons some of which can be serious. Swelling of the ankles accompanied by shortness of breath that persists may be a reason for contacting a doctor immediately. Diet and some medications can also cause fluid retention.
8. Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s disease is characterized by weight gain in the face, neck, trunk, and abdomen more than the extremities. It is rare, but generally caused by hormonal imbalances. Only a professional can properly diagnose and treat Cushing’s disease.
Suggestions for Losing Weight
Difficulty in losing weight — especially when accompanied by fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms — is a reason to make an appointment to see a doctor to determine if there are medical concerns.
Fad diets are typically not suggested. Weight loss is generally a simple matter of understanding that the daily calories taken in should not exceed the calories used. Fad diets may emphasize various combinations of foods or some supplement, but also stress two common factors — increased exercise and/or reduced calories.
Knowing what one eats and how much one eats is essential to weight loss. Keeping a diary of foods and beverages that contain calories can often reveal that calorie intake is more than expected. A food calorie chart helps in providing the calorie value of foods. Understanding calories needs for age, weight, and activity level is also helpful.
Losing weight for most people is a simple matter of reducing calories and increasing exercise. Sometimes these traditional methods seem ineffective. Inability to lose weight can have a simple, harmless cause or can be a reason to contact a physician. Knowledge of one’s body and what is normal are essential for weight control.