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9 Medical Issues That May Be Causing Your Weight Gain

So you are doing a great job of taking care of yourself- eating well, getting in lots of activity, taking care of your body- but you are not seeing the results you were hoping for on the scale. Or perhaps the scale is moving in the wrong direction despite your best efforts to control your weight! Well, before you jump on some unhealthy and restrictive crash diet, consider the possibility that there may be a medical explanation. There are server medical conditions that be prevent weight loss and can even cause weight gain! Here is a summary of the most common medical explanations:

Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s Syndrome is a medical condition in which the adrenal glands produce WAY too much cortisol, otherwise known as your stress hormone. This can result from prolonged exposure to corticosteroid medication or from a benign tumor on the pituitary gland. Either way, the result of all this cortisol is a much slower metabolism. Specifically, fat tends to build up in the face, upper back, and abdomen. In addition, symptoms such as acne, high blood pressure, and muscle weakness also tend to occur. The condition is treatable with either medication or possibly surgery to remove the tumor.


Your thyroid produces a hormone (thyroxine) which is basically responsible for your metabolism, your body temperature, and ultimately, your energy. With hypothyroidism your thyroid is underactive, meaning it is not producing enough of this hormone to burn up your stored fat. So, when your thyroid slows down like this, everything slows down! Your metabolism is one of the first things to slow and you start storing more fat that you burn—definitely a recipe for weight gain. In addition, you may feel exhausted and stressed and experience night sweats and cold sensitivity. Fortunately oral medications can help restore your thyroid to normal functioning.

Hashimoto’s Disease

Hashimoto’s is often confused for hypothyroidism because the outcome is very similar. With Hashimoto’s the thyroid gland becomes chronically inflamed and ultimately ends up underfunctioning, similar to hypothyroidism. The difference is that Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the white bloods in the body start attacking the thyroid and cause the inflammation. Similar to hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s is also treatable with medication.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is the result of a hormonal imbalance that develops in women in the late teens or early twenties. PCOS has a direct impact on insulin processing and sets the body up to not respond to insulin effectively. As a result, the body has a hard time turning glucose into energy, which leads to weight gain. Additional symptoms include acne, facial, hair, and irregular periods. Fortunately, PCOS can be managed with lifestyle changes and/or medication. (If you have PCOS and want a guide through the necessary lifestyle changes, click here)


Depression can all sorts of symptoms including emotional eating, lack of motivation, excessive fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, and appetite changes. All of these symptoms can result in overeating, dramatically reduced activity levels, and reduced metabolism leading to (you guessed it!) weight gain. Therapy, exercise, mindfulness, and medication are all tools that can be effective at treating depression.


Hormonal shifts can trigger the body to hold on to weight and this is especially true during menopause and perimenopause. During this time, most women’s metabolisms show down and fat storage increases, especially around the abdomen. Fortunately this weight gain is controllable with the right balance of eating, exercise, and self-care. (And I’ve packaged it all up for you here!)

Low Testosterone

It’s not just women that struggle with these hormonal changes leading to weight gain. Men get some of the burden as well. As men age, testosterone levels can begin to naturally decrease. As testosterone decreases, abdominal fat storage starts to increase. Additional symptoms such as reduction on muscle mass, fatigue, low libido, and concentration issues can also occur. Not to worry though- this hormone can be supplemented to bring testosterone levels back to normal.

Congestive Heart Failure

With congestive heart failure, the heart muscles weaken and cause the heart to pump inefficiently. So the heart doesn’t pump enough to meet the body’s needs and the blood and fluid start to build up. This causes swelling and rapid weight gain. Additional symptoms include joint swelling, excessive urination, and coughing or wheezing. There are many medical treatment options depending on your stage of heart failure.


Insomnia is a disorder involving frequent and debilitating sleep issues- either inability to fall asleep or inability to stay asleep. The problem with this is not just that you are incredibly tired and irritable, but also that you throw off your body’s natural circadian rhythms. When this happens it, in turn, throws off several of your hormone, including the ones that control your hunger and satiety. So, you end up eating more, not registering your fullness, and sometimes impacting your metabolism in the process. In addition, when you are sleep deprived, it is much harder to stay active. The good news is insomnia can be treated without medication! (And I’ve got a 5-week program for you that will do it!).

So, if you are struggling with your weight despite your best efforts and feel you might have a medical condition causing the problem, please don’t wait. Talk to your doctor today and see what can be done. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of success!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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