Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 6

Continuing the theme from over the last few blogs, we're looking here at another couple of the Top 20 Reasons We Find Ourselves Overweight In The First Place, and what we can do about it.

Quite often, if we can identify some of the causes of our weight gain or excess weight, this is the first step in overcoming the problem. If we know what some of the causes are, we have a significantly higher chance of being able to control it.

13 Stress

Stress is prevalent in today's fast-paced world. Common triggers range from relationships and finances to work stress and these can take their toll on exercise and weight loss. In addition, chemical responses in the body caused by stress, can bring weight loss to a grinding halt.

Understanding how stress affects the body and recognizing stress triggers can aid in keeping those extra pounds off.

What happens when we’re stressed?

Under the events of stress, adrenal responses in the body are triggered. This response is known as the ‘fight or flight response’. Glycogen in the liver and muscle tissue are activated for use as a quick energy source. This uptake of energy was highly efficient in caveman days, while under attack from a bear for example; cavemen simply used this surge of energy to either run away or fight.

Modern man is wired in the same fashion; however the difference is, stress sources that plague modern life generally do not require running away from or fighting. In fact even the stress caused by weighing yourself too often and not seeing the progress you’d hoped for, is enough to invoke the body’s natural chemical responses. This stress response can lead to a loss of muscle mass, increased fat storage and impulses to overeat.

Increased Cortisol Release

Cortisol release under chronic stress can make weight loss difficult for a couple of reasons: High levels of the hormone attack muscle mass. A reduction in muscle mass slows our metabolism, due to the fact that muscle burns calories to simply exist; the muscle mass we have, the more calories we’ll burn, even while we’re at rest. Additionally, unwanted cortisol release results in the storage of fat mostly in the abdominal area for later energy use. Other symptoms of elevated cortisol levels include high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and fatigue.

Metabolism and Stress

A March 2006 article in the "British Medical Journal" stated that employees with chronic work stress have more than double the odds of metabolic syndrome than those without work stress. Metabolic syndrome is defined as a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for stroke and Type II diabetes.

Food Cravings

Although we often think of them as a reason to eat, food cravings and overeating are often actually caused by the effect of stress. Experiencing stressful situations causes the body to undergo a variety of hormonal changes, including the release of adrenaline and cortisol. When a tense situation is over, the release of cortisol results in an increase of appetite. Under chronic stress, these cravings can lead to unwanted weight gain due to high level of cortisol release in the body.


When we can learn to recognise some of the ways in which stressful situations affect us in advance, that awareness is often all we need to be able to take more control whenever those situations arise, limiting any emotional damage. And although freeing your life from stress may sometimes seem like an impossible task, you can eliminate unwelcome tension by applying a few techniques to your day.

Identifying stress triggers in your life is the first step. By finding the root of your tension, it is easier to gain clarity on how to overcome them. If work is a cause, take five to 10 minutes out of your day, away from any distractions, just to sit, focus on your breathing and ‘be in the moment’. Additionally, make time in your schedule for exercise. As well as the obvious weight loss benefits, a routine exercise plan will also decrease the risk of depression and assist in a better night's sleep, which is another key factor in reducing cortisol release and weight gain.

14 Illness, Injury, Sickness and Accidents

There are always going to be times when we’re not feeling so good or have an accident and this of course, may temporarily disrupt our weight-loss plans.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are temporarily bedridden, this can obviously be worrisome in that you may fear you can't lose weight in your situation. The fact is, it is possible to lose weight when you are not active; you just need to reduce your calorie intake appropriately (taking care not to cut back on those much needed nutrients). Drinking plenty of water may also help you with your weight-loss efforts.

Basal Metabolic Rate

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories you burn being completely inactive. Your BMR is the number of calories essential to simply maintain vital bodily functions and is dependent on your sex, age, height and weight. You can determine your BMR by inputting your information into one of several online calculators.

When you are bedridden, your calorie intake should match your BMR, so that vital bodily functions don't suffer. Keep in mind that your BMR decreases when you are inactive, so the number may be different if you calculated BMR during a different period of your life.

Gastric Viruses (eg, Winter Vomiting Disease, Food Poisoning, etc)

Stomach upsets can develop from various reasons;

Common causes include traveling, viral infections, food poisoning and certain prescription drugs.

When you travel, you may be exposed to certain parasites or bacteria that your gut isn't accustomed to.

Viral infections cause infection in the intestines that causes the digestive tract to empty itself, to rid the body of the infection.

Food poisoning occurs when you consume a food or beverage containing bacteria, viruses or parasites.

Certain prescription drugs, such as antibiotics kill helpful bacteria in the gut that can lead to diarrhea.

Any of the above are likely to cause a loss of appetite and whilst the idea of not feeling hungry might seem like a handy way of losing a few extra pounds, our body has an in-built ‘correctional’ mechanism that will try to return us to our pre-illness weight (and more sometimes!) once we’re well again, unless we’re smart;

Being even more mindful of drinking plenty of water plays a huge part in keeping your body hydrated during illness, as well as helping to flush away those unwanted toxins from your system – Staying hydrated is an absolute must.

Also, it’s very important to gradually return your eating habits back to normal after such an illness. Starting with small, bland, very low fat, low carb meals to begin with, slowly building back up over a number of days, is one way of bypassing your body’s natural tendency to ‘store’ more energy after a period of fasting (illness), and therefore, regaining all the weight lost during your illness.

Of course, many injuries or accidents quite often result in us retaining more fluid than normal, or perhaps a period of rest and recuperation where we just can’t be as active as we’d like to be. Weighing ourselves during these times really is a pointless exercise, as any weight reading simply doesn’t offer us a ‘like for like’ comparison with weight readings when we’re well and able bodied.

The reality is, if we’re ill, we’re ill. We often just have to ‘sit tight’ through it and let it pass. If the road to losing weight is likened to a ‘journey’, then as occasional setback due to illness, sickness or accident is like being stuck in road-works. It might slow our momentum at times, or even bring progress temporarily to a halt, but sit tight, be patient and you’ll soon be on your way again. Keep it going; persistence will get you to your destination.
... More of the Top 20 Reasons We're Overweight next time ...
Couch to 5k in 9 weeks

How would you like a 'kick-start' to your activity regime for 2013?

I think most of us would appreciate any assistance that allows us to become more active, burn off more calories, feel more energised and speed up our metabolic rate.

But, if we're still at the 'Sat on the Couch' stage, just where the heck do we start...?

I have to thank Helen for pointing me in the direction of a fabulous free program run by the NHS that is designed to get just about anyone off the couch and running 5k (5 kilometres or about 3 miles) in just nine weeks.

It includes tips for new runners, how to run correctly, a 'Couch to 5k Nine Week Plan', a Couch to 5k Diary, tips for running in the cold and much more. It also includes downloadable podcasts, that you can listen to whilst you're running.

Again, this program is designed for just about anyone, so if you're currently doing ZERO activity, this program could be for you.

By the way, if you get started in the next few days, you could be running 5k by Easter..!! (Good Friday is Friday 29th March)

If you're really committed to doing something about your weight and your health over the next couple of months, take a look at the link below, this could be for you;

Couch to 5k

Of course, if you'd rather stay on the couch and do nothing, you could just click this link;

Stay on the Couch Link

Have a great couple of weeks and I'll catch up with you again soon..


Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 5

Happy New Year..!
I hope you has a wonderful Christmas time and are looking forward to getting back to your weight-loss plans now that we're into the new year.

Quite a few people picked up on an idea that I mentioned in the last blog and have fed back some very positive comments. It's the idea of not having 2 unhealthy meals in a row, which is a really good 'rule of thumb' to use in helping you to get back on track; so I thought I'd mention it again.

Of course, in the real world, it's unrealistic to expect every meal that we eat to be healthy. So (and a bit of planning ahead may be required), why not make a commitment to yourself today, that if you do happen to have a meal that you know, in your heart of hearts, is unhealthy, make sure your next meal is a healthy one.

For example, if your weekend breakfast looks like this ...

... your Sunday dinner should perhaps look more like this ...

Also, if your evening meal looks like this ...

.... it might be a good idea if your breakfast, the next day, looks something like this ...

And, if you are ever tempted by the occasional ....

... only do it, bearing in mind your next meal ought to be more of a ......

As a foot-note to this rule of thumb, it's worth pointing out that on the rare occasions that you end up having two consecutive meals that you know are unhealthy, make sure you that whatever you do, you DEFINITELY don't have a third...!

Anyway, we're up to Part 5 of the Top 20 Reasons People Find Themselves Over-weight In The First Place, based on a study of nearly a thousand over-weight people over three years. If you've missed the first four parts, you can find them by clicking the following links;

Part 1
1 Water - 2 Time - 3 Activity

Part 2
4 Portions - 5 Breakfast - 6 Eating Speed 

Part 3
7 Snacking and Grazing

Part 4
8 Eating Times - 9 Food Choices

Part 5....

10 Sleep
When we’re scrambling to meet the demands of modern life, cutting back on sleep can sometimes seem like the only answer. Who can afford to spend so much time sleeping? The truth is you can’t afford not to. Even minimal sleep loss takes its toll on your mood, energy levels, ability to handle stress and, you’ve guessed it, your weight!


Many of us want to sleep as little as possible … or feel like we have to. There are so many things that seem more interesting or important than getting a few more hours of sleep. But just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal health and happiness, so is sleep. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and of course, your weight! In fact, no other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!


Sleep isn’t merely a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance tasks that keep you running in top condition and prepare you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you’re like a car in need of its routine service; you just won’t function at your best. You won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential.

It’s not just the number of hours in bed that is important, it’s the quality of those hours of sleep. If you’re giving yourself plenty of time for sleep, but you’re still having trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleep; especially deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. By understanding how the sleep cycles work and the factors that can lead to those cycles being disrupted, you’ll be able to start getting both the quantity and the quality of sleep you need.


Your internal 24-hour sleep-wake cycle or ‘biological clock’, is regulated by processes in the brain that respond to how long you’ve been awake and the changes between light and dark. At night, your body responds to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so you feel more awake and alert.

This sleep-wake cycle can be disrupted by factors such as night shift work, travelling across time zones, or irregular sleeping patterns, leaving you feeling groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times. The production of melatonin can also be thrown off when you’re deprived of sunlight during the day or exposed to too much artificial light. This disrupts the sleep-wake cycle, preventing you from getting the sleep you need.


While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more. And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, older people still need at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.

There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can ‘get by on’ and the amount you need to function optimally. Just because you’re able to operate on 6 or 7 hours of sleep, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed. The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day. If you’re logging enough hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you wake up until your regular bedtime.

11 Alcohol.

Now, if there’s one thing in life that many of us find almost as satisfying as burning fat, it’s the odd glass of something chilled at the end of a busy day! Trouble is, even just the odd beer or two or the odd glass or two of wine, actually reduces fat burning by up to a third. Life can be SO unfair…!!

Here’s why - When you drink alcohol, it's broken down into acetate (basically vinegar), which the body will burn before any other calorie you've consumed or stored, including fat or even sugar. So, a person who drinks alcohol and consumes more calories than they need, are far more likely to store the fat from the pizza they ate and the sugar from the Cola they drank because their body is getting all its energy from the acetate in the Sauvignon Blanc they consumed.

Studies have also shown that alcohol temporarily inhibits "lipid oxidation"; in other words, when alcohol is in your system, it's harder for your body to burn fat that's already there. Think about it like this; eating fat is the most metabolically efficient way to put fat on your body. I know that sounds obvious, but when we consume excess carbs or proteins, our body actually uses up a small amount of those calories converting them into body fat. But excess fat slips right into our grab handles, no calorie sapping transformation needed…! – With this in mind, hypothetically speaking, following a high-fat, high-alcohol diet, would be the easiest way to put on weight.

Alcohol is by no means a diet drink. In fact, a regular glass of wine contains around 150 calories, or if you’re partial to those ‘large’ measures, those calories are nearer 250…!

So in theory, for every drink you have, you have to subtract something else from your diet, log another mile on the treadmill or risk weight gain.

Furthermore, alcohol dehydrates us, which tricks us into eating more. This is because alcohol is also a diuretic; meaning that it acts on the kidneys to make you pee out more than you take in; so we ourselves needing the toilet so much more. Even cutting down on the volume you drink (eg, from beer to shorts) won’t help; it’s the alcohol content that causes the dehydration, not the volume of fluid. As a result, people generally eat about 20 per cent more calories when they drink alcohol with a meal.

So, what’s the best way to tackle this without becoming teetotal?

By far the best way to stop yourself from straying too far away from your weight loss target is to make sure you stay hydrated. If there’s wine or beer on the table at mealtimes, make sure there’s at least as much water. Have a pint or two of water before you go out and/or when you get back in. Try to alternate your alcoholic drinks with sugar free, non-alcoholic ones. Keeping yourself hydrated helps to flush the toxins out of your system, keeps you more alert and in control, means you’re consuming fewer calories, means you’re far less likely to call for that dodgy take-away on the way home and is less likely to leave you with a banging headache the next day.

12 Medical Conditions and Medication.

You're following a weight-loss eating plan. You're exercising almost every day. You're proud and in control of the new healthy habits you've learned and developed. Yet week after week, the scales barely seems to budge. What going on?

Chances are your water intake is started to go by the wayside. Or perhaps your food portion sizes may have crept up (time to get out measuring cups again). Or maybe even your workouts are not be quite as intense as you though (could be time to start ‘mixing it up’ at the gym to get more muscle groups involved).

But if you know you've followed your weight reducing plan religiously, there's another possibility; A medical condition -- or medication -- may be to blame.

If you haven't been able to lose weight and you can't understand why, it’s a good idea to determine whether there's an underlying medical condition that’s causing your weight problem. If there is such a condition, this needs to be addressed, alongside your regular weight loss plan if you are going to be successful at pursuing your weight loss goals.

Medical Reasons for Weight Gain
Several conditions can cause weight gain or hinder weight loss. Among them are;

Chronic stress.
When you live with anxiety, stress or grief, your body can produce chemical substances -- like the hormone cortisol -- that make your body more likely to store fat, especially around the waist. That's the type of weight gain that really increases your risk of serious health problems. (Extra weight around the hips and thighs poses fewer health risks.)

Cushing's syndrome.
This happens when the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) produce too much cortisol, which leads to a build-up of fat in the face, upper back, and abdomen.

Hypothyroidism. (Under-ctive Thyroid)
If your thyroid is under-active, your body may not produce enough thyroid hormone to help burn stored fat. As a result, your metabolism is slower and you will store more fat than you burn -- especially if you're not physically active.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
This disease, the result of a hormonal imbalance, afflicts around a million women in the UK. Common symptoms are irregular menstrual bleeding, acne, excessive facial hair, thinning hair, difficulty getting pregnant, and weight gain that is not caused by excessive eating.

Syndrome X.
Also called insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels), syndrome X goes hand-in-hand with weight gain. Syndrome X is a cluster of health conditions thought to be rooted in insulin resistance. When your body is resistant to the hormone insulin, other hormones that help control your metabolism don't work as well.

Many people who are depressed turn to eating to ease their emotional distress.

Hormonal changes in women.
Some women may gain weight at times in their lives when there is a shift in their hormones -- at puberty, during pregnancy, and at menopause.

A Prescription for Weight Gain?

It's not only medical conditions that can add pounds. Some medications can also cause us to gain weight, or keep us from losing it. It's quite common for medications to cause weight gain. In fact, around 25% of us that regularly visit our GP, will be on some type of medication or have an illness, that is in some way causing us to gain weight or hinder losing it.

Among the medications that may cause weight gain in some people are:

Type 2 diabetes medications (such as sulfonylureas)

Antipsychotic or schizophrenia medications, including chlorpromazine (such as Thorazine), thioridazine (Mellaril), and olanzapine (Zyprexa)

Beta-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure, and some heart conditions)

Anti-depressants such as amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Norpramin), or trazodone (Desyrel)

Hormone replacement therapy

Birth control pills

Corticosteroids taken for conditions like asthma and lupus

Anti-epileptics taken to control seizures, especially valproic acid (Depakene or Depakote) and carbamazepine (such as Tegretol)

The reasons certain medications cause weight gain can vary. Anti-psychotic drugs, for example, may increase appetite as well as lower the metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories). Beta-blockers are thought to lower a person's metabolic rate by about 80 calories a day. And hormone replacement therapy increases the body's level of oestrogen, a fat-storing hormone.

Weight gain can be a very troublesome and unpredictable side effect of certain medications. We can experience a substantial weight gain if we find ourselves sensitive to that particular medication.

But if you're gaining weight on one medication, your doctor may be able to help you find a similar drug that won't have the same effect. For example, an older class of anti-depressants known as tricyclics may cause weight gain, while a newer class of depression medication called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) usually doesn't. (SSRI's include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft).

Medications cause weight gain in both men and women, but because women gain weight more easily than men in general, and have a harder time losing it, they may notice more added pounds than men taking the same medication.

Work With Your Doctor

It seems obvious, but bears repeating: If you suspect you are having trouble with weight loss because you have a medical condition or medication, talk to your doctor right away.

And don't give up on getting fit. Although it is difficult to lose weight gained because of a medical condition or medication, it's not impossible; some of us just need to work a little harder at it than others.
There'll be more of the Top 20 Reasons We're Over-weight later in the month; I'll catch up with you then.
Best wishes