Causes of weight gain – 22 reasons why your weight increases

Causes of weight gainMost people are clueless to the causes of weight gain. Weight does not come on by itself. All causes of weight gain are directly or indirectly influenced by two main elements. This is your lifestyle and hormonal balance. From this article, you can assess if these causes of weight gain apply to you. You can then take the necessary remedial steps to overcome them. Since this is an exhaustive guide, you may want to bookmark it since you will need to keep coming back to it.

Why we gain weight

Wikipedia defines the causes of weight gain to be a caloric imbalance. This is a rather simplistic view. According to this theory, you gain weight when you consume more calories than you expand. This theory is coming under increasing attack in recent times. Most people gain weight because of the way their bodies partition calories. When you eat something, your body decides how to use those calories. Some portion may be used by the body for energy while the rest may be stored as fat for use at a later stage. Your hormonal system is the single biggest influence on how your body partitions the calories that you consume.

Gary Taubes goes to great length to explain the effect of calorie partitioning in his book entitled “Why We Get Fat“. This book is worth reading as Gary has backed his writing with extensive scientific research.

Lifestyle and your genetics

Most people blame their genes as one of the main causes of weight gain. Genes do have a role to play but genes cannot act alone. Genes react to your lifestyle. If you have genes that will increase your propensity to gain weight, your lifestyle will ultimately affect how bad the effect will be. Genes are like a loaded gun. Lifestyle can either help pull the trigger or keep the loaded gun in the holster.

Hormones and weight gain

Your lifestyle affects key hormones that ultimately decide how your body partitions calories. One of the main hormones that comes into play is insulin and it is one of the main causes of weight gain. Insulin is a very potent fat storage hormone. You will find it extremely difficult to lose weight when your insulin levels are elevated. When insulin is elevated, the body is inclined to store calories as fat rather than burning it. This is a condition known as insulin resistance. Learn more about the role of insulin as one of the main causes of weight gain from the following resources ;

  1. Glycemic index, Glycemic Load, Insulin Resistance and Weight Loss

Lifestyle and hormonal balance is inter-related

Your food and exercise choices will affect if your insulin levels remain elevated. It will also affect the release of fat burning hormones such as testosterone or human growth hormone.

Hormonal balance is also affected by aging. When you age, your hormonal balance is compromised and there is a tendency to gain weight. Aging affects the production of testosterone, growth hormones and other fat burning hormones.

Your lifestyle directly affects your hormonal balance. Your hormonal balance influences your cravings and energy levels. This gravitates you more towards a unhealthy lifestyle. An imbalance in your hormonal system could cause you to become sluggish. An unhealthy lifestyle could accelerate aging which increases the rate of weight gain. Accelerated aging disrupts your hormonal system even further. As you can see, these factors are inter-related.

22 causes of weight gain

As mentioned earlier, causes of weight gain are largely influenced by lifestyle, hormonal balance, aging or a combination of the three. You will find below the 22 most common causes of weight gain.

1. Calorie dense food – This is the amount of calories contained, in say a pound of food. This is one of the major causes of weight gain. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 identified calorie density as one of the obvious causes of weight gain.

One such culprit is fast food. Most fast food also contains lots of trans-fatty acids which cause severe havoc in your body’s metabolism. Most calorie dense food are filled with sugar, fat or a combination of the two. The body has its inbuilt mechanism to assess satiety levels. Calorie dense food such as a large bugger does not give your body’s satiety system enough time to react. By the time your body realizes that you have overeaten, it is usually too late.This was also evident in the 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Calorie dense food also have the lowest nutrient density.

Refer to the following resources for more information on calorie dense food ;

  1. List of calorie dense food
  2. 5 food combinations that are potent fat storage recipes
  3. Energy density is the key to healthy and high volume eating

2. Simple carbohydrates – Simple carbohydrates cause insulin spikes. Repeated insulin spikes bring about a condition known as insulin resistance. This is a condition where the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin. Insulin is required to allow cells to absorb glucose molecules. With insulin resistance, the cells become desensitized to insulin. More insulin is required to accomplish the same task. The high levels of insulin linger around thus making it extremely difficult to lose weight. It makes it very easy to gain weight.  You should completely remove refined carbohydrates from your diet.

Learn more about the effects of carbohydrates in weight loss from the following resources;

  1. Complex and refined carbohydrates for sustainable weight loss
  2. Carbohydrates protein and fat for correct weight loss
  3. Learn more about insulin resistance from the PubMed website

3.  Liquid calories – Liquid calories are drinks that contains calories. These includes soda, gourmet coffee, milk or any other beverage that contains carbohydrates or fat. Liquid calories are potent causes of weight gain because these are absorbed very quickly by the body. This is one of the reasons why you should limit yourself to plain water.

For more information on the effects of liquid calories as one of the causes of weight gain, refer to the following resources;

  1. Minimize liquid calories when losing weight
  2. How liquid calories may be making you gain weight

4.  Alcohol consumption – Alcohol consumption is another one of the insidious causes of weight gain. Even a single drink of alcohol can halt fat burning for up to 24 hours. This is further aggravated when you consume calorie dense food with alcohol. Your body will store the calories from food as fat while it burns the calories in alcohol.

Learn more about alcohol as one of the causes of weight gain from the following resources;

  1. Alcohol and fat loss
  2. How drinking alcohol before meals affects weight gain
  3. Alcohol’s effect on your exercise sessions

5.  Skipping breakfast – Studies have shown that people who skip breakfast have a tendency to accumulate abdominal fat. Most people do not realize this as being one of the causes of weight gain. People who skip breakfast put the body into a prolonged state of starvation. When they finally eat during lunch, the body greedily stores calories as fat. The body thinks that there is a shortage of food and thus becomes paranoid of wanting to store calories as fat.

For more information on the effects of skipping breakfast as one of the causes of weight gain, please refer to the following resources;

  1. Skipping breakfast and weight gain
  2. Breakfast prevents weight gain

6.  Skipping meals –  The body needs to know that it can get its meals at a predefined time. When you skip a meal or eat it at an irregular time, the body becomes paranoid. It thinks that there is a shortage of food and enters into starvation mode. In starvation mode, the body wants to store calories instead of burning fat. Eating 5 to 6 small meals can help your weight loss efforts tremendously by assuring your body that there is a constant supply of food. This avoids your body from moving into starvation mode.

Refer to the following resources for more information about skipping meals as one of the causes of weight gain;

  1. The myth of skipping meals to lose weight
  2. 6 symptoms of a sluggish metabolism

7.  Inverse tapering of calories – Most people have no breakfast, a very light lunch and a large dinner. This is a proven recipe to gain weight. In order to lose weight, you need to taper calories as the day progresses. Breakfast should be your largest meal and dinner the smallest.

Learn more about this subject from the resources below;

  1. Tapering calories for weight loss
  2. The Sumo wrestler diet

8.  Sedentary lifestyle – Most people recognize this as one of the leading causes of weight gain but may have become numb to it. Anyone with a sedentary lifestyle will inevitably gain weight. Exercise must be an integral part of your life and must remain so. The effects of exercise are well documented within the records of the National Weight Control Registry which tracks people who have lost weight and kept it off. People who have managed to keep the weight off have incorporated an hour of exercise into their daily routine. Read more about what it takes to lose weight and keep it off.

9.  Lack of strength training – This is one of the overlooked causes of weight gain. Strength training is important to build your muscle mass irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman. Increased muscle mass helps hormonal balance as well as keep your metabolism at a higher level. One of the main reasons that most people gain weight as they age is because they lose lots of muscles. In order to prevent weight gain, strength training must be a core part of your exercise regimen.

Read the following resources to understand why a lack of strength training is one of the causes of weight gain;

  1. How strength training helps weight loss
  2. 8 benefits of strength training for women
  3. Strength training improves body image significantly

10.  Plate size – Your plate size directly affects your waist size. The larger your plate size, the more calories you will consume at each meal. We have been programmed to finish the food on our plates. Research has shown that this is exactly what happens. You should ideally limit your plate size to not more than 9 inches.

Refer to the following resources to understand better why plate size is one of the causes of weight gain;

  1. Plate size and its effect on weight loss
  2. Smart management of your plate for easier management of your waistline

11.  Pregnancy weight gain – Most women gain more weight than necessary during pregnancy. A lot of women have been found to overeat during the course of their pregnancy. Pregnancy weight gain has been steadily increasing in the US and most other developed countries. A recent study has found that 40 to 50% of women gain more weight than is recommended by the guidelines from the Institute of Medicine.

Find out more about one of the leading causes of weight gain in women from the following resources;

  1. What is healthy weight gain during pregnancy
  2. Pregnant overweight women will find it more difficult to lose weight

12.  Lack of education – Most people would not gain weight if they understood weight loss 101. Lack of fundamental weight loss knowledge is very glaring in a large number of people who are overweight. They do not understand how their bodies interact with the environment and consequently influencing their hormonal balance. This can be very quickly addressed as there is lots of useful information that is easily available on the internet.

Get more insight from the following resources on why lack of weight loss education is one of the causes of weight gain;

  1. Importance of weight loss education
  2. Transformational education is key to losing weight correctly

The reader can get most of the useful information required about healthy weight loss from this Correct Weight Loss Blog.

13.  Dieting – Most people do not realize how influential diets are in being the leading causes of weight gain. Most popular diets force people to go on a temporary dietary regimen. They remain on this dietary regimen until they achieve their weight loss goal. Examples of popular diets include the low-carb diet, zone diet and many other popular fad diets. The moment one gets off the diet, the weight starts creeping back on. It is not long before one has gained all the weight back and more.

Read the following resources to understand how diets cause you to gain weight;

  1. Why fad diets don’t work
  2. Why do you lose weight and put it back on just as fast
  3. Dieting and pregnancy weight gain

14. Aging – Aging is one of the inevitable causes of weight gain. As you age, you lose muscle mass. There is also a steady decline in fat burning hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone. You can counter these negative effects of aging by slowing down the loss of your muscle mass. This can be achieved by incorporating strength training into your lifestyle. Bob Delmonteque and Jack Lalanne are examples of superseniors who have maintained very lean physiques even when they were well into their 80s.

15. Influence of your friends – Your weight should be very close to the average weight of your 5 closest friends. Your social circle has a strong influence on your lifestyle. If your friends are overweight, it is very likely that you are overweight too.

For more information on how your friends can influence your waistline, refer to the following resource;

  1. Can we blame our growing waistlines on our friends and spouses

16.  Sleeping patterns – Many people do not realize sleep as being one of the main causes of weight gain. Studies have shown that too much sleep and too little sleep can affect your waistline. Sleep seems to have a “U” shaped influence on weight loss. Lack of sleep greatly influences your hormonal balance and thus affecting your body’s fat metabolism.

Read more about the effects of sleep on weight loss from the following resources;

  1. Too much sleep as one of the causes of weight gain
  2. Too little sleep as one of the causes of weight gain

17.  Weight loss drugs – Weight loss drugs are usually the easy way out for most people. They do not want to take responsibility for their actions. As such, most people go about their obesity promoting lifestyle hoping that these drugs can help manage their weight. These drugs may succeed temporarily but the weight loss usually plateaus. Worst still, the weight comes back on with a vengeance.

Refer to the following resources to understand better how sleep affects your waistline;

  1. Can drugs provide long lasting weight loss
  2. Can drugs help you lose weight (Mayo Clinic)
  3. How much do diet pills help weight loss

18.  Medication – Some medications disrupt your metabolism and cause weight gain. Corticosteroids are one such family of medicines. These steroidal medication is usually taken to suppress inflammation. There is nothing much anyone can do about this as doctors have very good reasons to prescribe such drugs.

19.  Marriage – Marriage is another one of the causes of weight gain. Studies have found that most couples seem to gain weight after marriage. Divorced individuals have been found to have a lower rate of weight gain as compared to married individuals. Researchers have suggested that most people let themselves go after marriage. One of the incentives to stay in shape is to look attractive to the opposite sex. We have an in-built mechanism that drives us to look for a suitable mate. Once one is married, the motivation to stay in shape seems to be lost.

Read more about the effects of marriage on weight gain in the following resources;

  1. Weight gain after marriage
  2. Why marriage affects your weight

20.  Weekend binges – A lot of studies have found that people are fairly disciplined with their exercise and diet on weekdays. Most people let themselves go on weekends where there is an absence of routine.

Read more about this in the following resources;

  1. Weekend weight gain
  2. Are you putting on too much weight on the weekends

21.  Procrastination – Most people realize that their weight is creeping up but just do not take any action. They procrastinate on efforts to lose weight. Before they know it, they could be 50 to 100 pounds overweight. At this juncture, they wonder where all the weight came from. Weight gain does not happen overnight. It takes months and years. You should take immediate action the moment your clothes are getting tighter. Read a related article that gives 7 ways how you can use your clothes to lose weight.

22.  Time management – Poor time management is another one of the causes of weight gain. Most people are so overwhelmed with their daily schedules that they cannot find time to eat regular meals or exercise. This is simply a misalignment of priorities.

Causes of weight gain: A final word

With a thorough understanding of the possible causes of weight gain, you can take the necessary measures to counter it. As already mentioned, causes of weight gain originate from your lifestyle. Aging also affects your lifestyle and hormonal balance. Your lifestyle affects your hormonal balance and the rate of aging. Your lifestyle, hormonal balance, aging and a combination of the 3 affect how your body partitions calories and gains weight.

The only factor that you have full control over is your lifestyle. With a healthy lifestyle, you can ensure that your hormones are in balance and the negative effects of aging are not accelerated.

Alex  Chris assisted in providing content for this article. He maintains a weight loss tips blog. In his blog you can read many articles on why you should lose weight and how to do it correctly and healthily. Identify the major causes of weight gain and get into action today!


  1. says

    Strength training is effective only for body building but not for weight loss, in some cases, people practice this type of training for weight gain due the fact that this training do build up body mass with proper protein intake.


  2. says

    Great post, There are indeed many reasons why people gain weight. Understanding all of the possible causes is key to changing your body. Dr. Tom Halton

  3. says

    Why we get fat because nowadays are not the day that used to be. Today is quite a busy day making less time for exercise and so the only option for us to lose weight is through means of diet but the main reason why we gain weight is because were too lazy to lose weight or just don’t have the commitment to do it

  4. says

    I have to disagree with you Simon. Strength training can be used by anyone and should not be limited only to bodybuilders. This is the kind of myth perpetuated that is a disadvantage to people at large. There is lots of scientific research that show the health benefits of strength training for men and women who are trying to lose weight. Even teenagers, older children and senior citizens can derive health benefits from strength training.

  5. says

    Ever since I fell pregnant with my first, my midsection have never been the same no matter what I do in terms of exercise, nutrition and ab training.

  6. says

    Oh I have to concur with Paramjit in regards to strength training. It is a necessity and should be incorporated in any ‘optimal’ weight loss program. Strength training help you maintain your muscle mass while dieting and this will help keep your metabolism up. And this applies to women as well and no, we will not grow too much muscle and is extremely unlikely as we do not have high level of testosterone as men.

  7. says

    You said it earlier in your article, ” it’s the junk food”, that is so true of tdays living, I never saw an obese person during the war years.
    You don’t see many obese people in the Mediterranian countries.
    A lot of weight can be put on by the intake of “grain” foods, bread, etc.
    I am a believer in salad, fish and fruit diet.

  8. Debrielle Smith says

    by understanding the reasons why you gain weight you would also get to know the right steps for you to shed effectively.

  9. Debrielle Smith says

    The first step you need to take is to know what causes gaining considerable amount of weight, by knowing this you would also be able to know how to counteract it.

  10. Hanna Rodriguez says

    By evaluating all of these you would be able to know the reason why you gain considerable amount of way, and in turn it would guide you on what sort of weight loss program which would work for you.

  11. Reduce Bad Choresterol says

    You have taught me about calorie partitioning, something i did not know about prior to reading your article. I can also see a few reasons why i have gained weight previously and i have got to thank you so much for taking your time to research all these useful facts. And i have to commend your writing style too.

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