Weight gain accompanied by high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and changes in your skin tone and quality, including purple or silvery stretch marks on your abdomen and ruddy cheeks, could be a sign that your body isn’t processing nutrients the way it should, due to a cortisol-producing tumor on one of your adrenal glands. The syndrome affects only about 15 in every million adults annually, so proceed with caution before demanding a battery of tests. “Cushing’s Syndrome is not terribly common,” says Dr. Wittlin, “but one of the telltale signs is that your fat distribution is more in the midsection of your body, leaving your arms and legs looking more slender.”
Fix it: If you suspect you are gaining weight that you can’t attribute to your eating habits, medications, or lack of exercise, a few tests—including a blood test and urinalysis, to get an accurate check of your body’s cortisol levels, will give your doctor the first clues to this condition. If the levels are deemed excessively high, then your doctor will order further tests, like a CT scan of your pituitary and adrenal glands, to determine if such a tumor exists. If the tumor is confirmed, doctors will likely perform surgery to remove the tumor (and possibly the affected gland), followed by a course of steroids to help regulate the remaining gland
“Many musculoskeletal conditions, including plantar fasciitis, but also osteoarthritis and knee or hip pain, can result in unintentional weight gain,” says Donald Bohay, MD, cochairman of the public education committee for the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. “Plantar fasciitis certainly can force you to cut back on your activity enough to cause weight gain.”
Fix it: Modify your exercise program to swap biking or swimming in place of weight-bearing exercise, says Dr. Bohay.
It’s the one condition that’s unavoidable. “Often, I hear patients tell me they think their metabolism is slowing down,” says Dr. Fradin-Read. “This is real—we don’t burn as many calories at 40 or 50 as we used to burn at 20. So we need more exercise—and less food—to keep metabolism going. Some studies show that exercise might be even more important than the diet for long-term weight maintenance.”
Fix it: “Remember that all calories are not equal when it comes to weight,” says Dr. Fradin-Read. “Eating lean protein will cause your body to burn calories more efficiently. On the other hand, carbs are something your body tends to burn more slowly and even store in your body more readily.” Choosing low-fat proteins and reducing carbs are good ways to help avoid unnecessary pounds.
Being low in magnesium, iron or having a vitamin D deficiancy can compromise your immune system, sap your energy levels, or alter your metabolism in ways that make it harder to take healthy-lifestyle steps. “You may compensate for low energy with caffeine, sweets, and simple carbs,” says Dr. Hedaya, “Or find that you feel too run down or weak to exercise.”
Fix it: While you can try to boost your iron levels by eating red meat and spinach and increase magnesium by adding Brazil nuts or almonds to your diet, it’s nearly impossible to consume enough milk or get enough sunlight to compensate for low vitamin D. “It’s important to know that it could take awhile to find your right dose of vitamin D,” says Dr. Hedaya. “If you take too much, you can get kidney stones. You need to have your blood tested every three months, so your doctor can make adjustments to the dose for you.” Adding an iron supplement is a little less tricky—but it’s still wise to let your doctor rule out hypothyroidism or other conditions that might cause insulin resistance, and thus weight gain, before you start taking supplements.
Digestive issues, including slow bowel movements, may also account for excess pounds. “Ideally, you eat, and then, an hour or so later, you have a bowel movement,” says Dr. Hedaya. “But once or twice a day is still in the healthy range.” If you’re not so regular, dehydration, medications, low fiber, or even a lack of good flora in your gut could be to blame.
Fix it: If constipation is your only symptom, then trying probiotics can help your digestive tract work properly. Staying hydrated is key, along with a diet chock-full of fiber-rich foods. But you can also try drinking a fiber powder, like Metamucil, mixed with water. “It may even grab fat globules in your intestinal tract as it scrubs out waste,” says Dr. Hedaya. If you’re still having trouble, check with your doctor to rule out a range of disorders, including hypothyroidism or a neurological issue.
Many anti-depressant medications cause weight gain—so if you’re depressed and taking pills for it, expect to see a bump in weight between 5 and 15 pounds, with continued gradual accumulation over the years, says Dr. Hedaya, who is also the founder of the National Center for Whole Psychiatry in Chevy Chase, MD.
If you’re not taking pills, there’s evidence that feelings of depression can correlate to weight gain. One 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who feel sad and lonely gain weight more quickly than those who report fewer depression-related symptoms. “They may be eating more high-fat, high-calorie comfort foods,” says Belinda Needham, PhD, assistant professor in the department of sociology at UAB and the lead author of the study. “Or they may have [cut back their] physical activity.”
Fix it: “If I see patients who are taking anti-depressants and that could be the culprit of their weight gain, I may wean them slowly off of the drug,” says Dominique Fradin-Read, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor at the Loma Linda School of Medicine in California. “I may then put them on Wellbutrin instead, which actually helps with weight loss.” If your meds are not to blame, seek out some workout buddies or a support group. “Attending meetings, like Weight Watchers, or working out with a group of friends is a great way to increase social support,” Dr. Needham says, “which can help depression.”
We’ve all heard that nighttime noshing is a bad idea. In part because it can wreck your sleep; and more disconcertingly, because it can make yougain weight. And sure, if you’re scarfing down potato chips or ice cream in addition to your regular meals, the pounds will probably pile on. But what if you’re accounting for those nighttime calories? Say, you have your usual dinner, but at 10 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., or you save up to splurge on some popcorn while watching a movie.
If you’re not actually eating more—just eating later—will you still gain weight?
The answer is probably yes. Experts have uncovered a lot about the relationship between sleep and weight in recent years, and while there’s still a lot to learn, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that your body knows when it’s supposed to be awake and getting food, and when it’s supposed to be asleep and not eating anything. And feeding it at the wrong time could spell trouble on the scale.
“The enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation, they’re highly circadian. They know when they’re supposed to be metabolizing glucose,” says Kristen Eckel-Mahan, PhD, who studies sleep and metabolism at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
So when you eat at an unexpected time—say, 11:30 at night, when you should probably be powering down for sleep—metabolic organs like your liver seem to get confused. They’re not prepared to deal with an influx of nutrients at that time, so they process those nutrients less efficiently. That can spell problems for your insulin and blood sugar levels, which prompts your body to store more fat.
In fact, findings show that people who regularly eat later, like night shift workers and those with Night Eating Syndrome (when a person eats more than 25% of their food after dinner), tend to have higher waist circumferences and BMIs compared to people who eat on a more conventional schedule. And even healthy women who eat their meals later metabolize carbohydrates at a slower rate, have a lower glucose tolerance, and burn fewer calories while at rest compared to those who eat earlier, found a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity.
The fix? For starters, skip the late-night eating. It’s no secret that we tend to make less healthy food choices at night (midnight milk and cookies, anyone?), but even a clean, well-planned snack too late in the evening can throw a wrench in your metabolic machine. So aim to cut off food at least two hours before bedtime, recommends Caroline Cederquist, MD, a physician specializing in nutrition and metabolism and the founder of BistroMD.
And for those days when you know dinner is going to be late—the weekends, crazy work days, vacation, business trips—at least make yourevening meal lighter. Most of us tend to eat smaller breakfasts and lunches, and larger dinners, but striking more of a balance can help. What that looks like: Cederquist recommends about 4 ounces of protein, making half of your plate veggies, and having a serving of starch or fruit.
Celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Real Housewives of New Jerseystar Dina Manzo guzzle hot water with lemon as if the liquid was bottled at the Fountain of Youth itself. They’re certain it aids in weight loss—but is the claim too good to be true?
“Hot water with lemon in and of itself does not cause any actual weight loss,” says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, if this drink is replacing a beverage that is higher in calories, like coffee with sugar or fruit juice—and that results in a calorie deficit—then it can help you lose weight.
Drinking water—whether hot or cold, infused with lemon, or plain—also helps keep your metabolism humming. “Staying hydrated is an important component of a healthy diet because it boosts your metabolism,” says Rumsey. “For those that don’t enjoy plain water, adding some lemon is a great way to boost the flavor without adding calories.”
In the short term, drinking water with lemon can also reduce bloating—it acts as a mild, natural diuretic, says Rumsey. However, if you’re experiencing bloating in the long-term, it’s best to figure out what is causing it and work to stop those habits: Eating too fast, drinking through a straw, drinking carbonated beverages, consuming too much salt, and consuming foods with sugar alcohols are common culprits.
You also don’t want to chug water with lemon religiously if you experience heartburn or acid reflux, as the citrus in the lemon will only exacerbate your symptoms, says Rumsey. Now you know!
You eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, sweat several times a week, and slather on the SPF before catching any rays. You’re making healthy choices in nearly every aspect of your life, but could be neglecting one very important issue that increases your risk for high blood pressure and diabetes by two and a half times, says Michael Holick, MD, author of TheVitamin D Solution and professor of medicine, physiology and biophysics at Boston University Medical Center. In fact, one billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
“Insurance and Medicaid often cover a blood test,” says Carole Beggarly, director of GrassrootsHealth, a non-profit that aims to increase awareness about vitamin D deficiency (and how to fix it). “It’s helpful to be thorough and see where you’re at so you know how much to supplement.” If the assay, the most commonly ordered blood test ordered in the US, finds that you’re low in D, talk to your doctor about supplementation. (It will likely take the form of about 600 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, which is chemically the same as the vitamin your body produces with the sun’s help.)
Whether you get pricked or decide to pass, here are the top 5 signs that you might be d-ficient.
Not every case of type 2 diabetes symptoms presents the obvious—unquenchable thirst, nonstop bathroom trips, and numbness in your hands or feet. Look out for these other subtle signs that something may be amiss with your blood sugar:
Just when we think we’ve escaped cold and flu season unscathed, we’re walloped by spring allergies. Understandably, sniffles can be tough to decipher: In a recent survey by Allegra-D, 65% of people said they don’t always know whether they’ve got one or the other. Here’s how to tell, so you can find relief before you finish that box of tissues.
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