10 Surprising Reasons for Weight Gain

You may put it down to ‘just the menopause’ but these other causative factors may surprise you.


Obvious reasons for weight gain, other than the hormonal factors of menopause, are taking in more calories than usual or reducing the amount of physical activity in your life.

However, some people seem to gain weight even when they are eating and exercising the same as always. So what could be causing it?

1. Not enough sleep

Lack of sleep affects many of our bodily functions, and not for the better. This could be the reason it might be adding on the pounds: biochemical changes in your body resulting from sleep deprivation can make you hungrier and leave you feeling less full after eating.

2. Stress

This is the second major factor that affects all our bodily functions, and particularly our hormones. Cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone,” increases in our body when we’re stressed out.

This hormone, in turn, increases our appetite. Add to that the tendency to reach for comfort foods at times of stress, and you have a perfect opportunity for weight gain.

3. Antidepressants

A side effect of many antidepressant medications is weight gain. Recently women have been put on antidepressants rather than HRT, and if this is happening to you remember you should never stop taking any medication suddenly and without consultation.

You could consider a bioidentical combination of hormones instead such as 20-1, which is a combination of progesterone and two natural oestrogens with the progesterone being the largest ingredient.

You can talk to your doctor about changing your medication and some people may experience weight gain because they may and feel better and have a better appetite. Depression on its own can cause changes in weight as well.

4. Steroids

Steroids reduce redness and swelling to help with inflammatory conditions such as asthma and eczema. They also reduce the activity of the immune system, the body’s natural defence against illness and infection.

They are well-known causes of weight gain due to fluid retention and increased appetite. The amount of weight gain depends both on the dose of the drug and the length of time it is taken.

Steroids can also cause a temporary change in body fat distribution, with increased fat in the face, back of the neck, or the abdomen.

5. Other drugs that may cause weight gain

Other prescription drugs can also cause weight gain: examples include antipsychotic drugs used to treat disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, as well as drugs that are used to manage seizures, migraines, diabetes, and hypertension.

You can talk with your doctor about choosing medication that have fewer side effects.

6. Hypothyroidism

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland include tiredness, feeling cold, and gaining weight. Having too low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) slows your metabolism and increases the chance you’ll gain weight.

Low thyroid is usually treated with medication and bioidentical progesterone can also be helpful.

7. Menopause

Unfortunately it is very common to gain weight at this time due to a number of reasons. Oestrogen dominance is a key factor, if hormones are not in balance, and menopause can also affect the location of fat deposits in the body, increasing the likelihood of accumulating fat around the waist, hips and thighs.

You can counter the effects of excess oestrogen by rebalancing with bioidentical progesterone and remember that ageing slows the metabolism, so weight gain is likely if your dietary habits remain the same. Changes in lifestyle, like exercising less, can also play a role.

8. Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is a condition characterized by elevated levels of the hormone cortisol. It can occur if your body makes too much cortisol or if you take steroid medications for asthma, lupus, or arthritis.

Cortisol excess can cause weight gain and an increase of fat around the face, neck, waist, and upper back.

9. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is a hormonal condition that usually affects women of reproductive age, but effects can still be seen at menopause.

Women with PCOS typically have many small cysts within the ovaries. PCOS causes hormonal imbalances that can lead to excess body hair, acne, and insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain. In PCOS, the weight gain tends to occur in the abdominal area, increasing the risk for heart disease.

10. Smoking

People who quit smoking may gain a small amount of weight and most people who quit gain 10 lbs. or less. This is usually due to the fact you feel hungrier, although this effect tends to disappear after a few weeks, and your metabolism may decrease.

You may enjoy food more or feel it tastes better, which could lead to overindulging and want more high fat or sugary snacks, or drink more alcohol.

BUT, the health gain you get from quitting definitely outweighs the risk of a few pounds extra in weight, and don’t panic if you gain weight due to water retention as a medication side effect if your doctor has prescribed this.

This side effect may decrease with time or when your doctor tells you to stop the drug and you can avoid fluid retention by following a low salt diet and using bioidentical progesterone to help expel the excess water.