The Top 5 Causes of Unintentional Weight Gain

June 26, 2021

Have you ever considered the causes of unintentional weight gain?

Think about it: One day you’re just living your life and the next, BAM! You tried to button your favorite jeans and they don’t fit.

You step on the scale and realize you’ve gained a few pounds. But when you think back, you can’t recall any major dietary or lifestyle changes that would explain it. And you start to wonder about the causes of sudden weight gain. Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there, so today we’re going to talk about some of the top causes of unintentional weight gain and what you can do about them.

There’s no need to feel stuck or hopeless—you just have to know what the problem is in order to remedy it. So, let’s dive in!

5 Surprising Causes of Unintentional Weight Gain

Here are five of the top surprising causes of sudden weight gain. See if you identify with any of these causes and then take a look at the suggestions to minimize their impact on your weight.

1. Stress

As we’ve discussed before, stress and weight gain are undeniably linked. They’re so linked, in fact, that a 2015 study revealed that having higher levels of stress can cause you to gain 11 pounds in just one year—regardless of your diet, exercise habits, or other factors. [1]

Additionally, one study revealed that men who had elevated levels of norepinephrine (a hormone released by your adrenal glands in response to stress) gained more weight over a period of five years than men who didn’t have elevated levels. [2]

But there’s more: Studies have also shown that experiencing psychological stress is linked to visceral fat, which is a type of belly fat that appears just under your skin and can collect around your organs, resulting in inflammation. [34]

So, what can you do about stress and the fact that it’s one of the top causes of unintentional weight gain? After all, stress is pretty hard to avoid, right?

The single best thing you can do is to follow a protocol designed to support your body’s stress response and combat adrenal fatigue.

To learn more about this protocol and how it can help stop unintentional weight gain, check out my article that dives more into the link between stress and weight gain.

2. Dehydration

Many people are often surprised to hear that dehydration is one of the major causes of unintentional weight gain, but it’s true.

The simple truth of the matter is that your body can mistake thirst for hunger. And when that happens, you may wind up eating more, which leads to weight gain.

Amazingly, studies have shown that just by drinking a couple of cups of water, you can combat one of the top causes of unintentional weight gain.

According to one study, drinking just over 2 cups of water can actually boost your metabolism by an astonishing 24 percent in just 60 minutes! [5]

And another study revealed that drinking that same amount of water before each meal for 12 weeks resulted in 44-percent greater weight loss when compared to not drinking water before each meal. [6]

So, how does it work? Well, your body requires water to get rid of the toxins you encounter each day as well as to stay energized. Water increases your thermogenesis, which results in a faster metabolism.

I recommend drinking half your body weight in water each day to maintain adequate hydration. Start by filling up a big water bottle and making it a habit to take a sip every few minutes throughout your day.

Make sure to carry it with you to remind you to keep hydrating yourself. You’ll be amazed by how much more energy you have and how much better you’ll feel. The perk? You’ll feel less hungry and more satisfied through the day—resulting in less binge eating and snacking!

3. Thyroiditis

Did you know that about 20 million Americans have thyroid disease? [7] And did you know that many more go undetected because they have what’s known as subclinical hypothyroidism or low-functioning thyroid?

Unfortunately, subclinical hypothyroidism is commonly missed in screening tests, yet hypothyroidism remains one of the top causes of unintentional weight gain.

Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) is more common than hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). [8] And along with many other symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, constipation, depression, and more, comes unintentional weight gain.

In fact, studies have shown that obesity and hypothyroidism are commonly linked closely together. This is because hypothyroidism is associated with decreased thermogenesis, decreased metabolic rate, and a higher BMI and risk of obesity. [9]

If you suspect you may have hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism, take a look at my article covering all aspects of thyroiditis and learn about five natural ways you can help prioritize the health of your thyroid.

4. Medication

Believe it or not, more than 131 million Americans use prescription drugs. That’s about 66 percent of all American adults. And, unfortunately, many of these medications are some of the top causes for unintentional weight gain.

Some of the top medications linked to weigh gain include medications for diabetes, epilepsy, antidepressants and antipsychotics, steroids, and blood pressure-reducing medicines. [10]

So, why is this happening? Simply put, most medications come with a long list of side effects. While some stimulate your appetite, others slow your metabolism—and yet others cause you to retain water.

All of these side effects can bump up that number on the scale rather quickly—seemingly out of nowhere.

If you suspect that your medication(s) may be causing unintentional weight gain, it’s best to speak with your physician about alternatives that you can turn to. You can also check out the FDA’s Index to Drug-Specific Information to educate yourself beforehand.

 5. Eating "low-fat" foods

For many years now, we’ve been told that eating low-fat foods help promote or sustain weight loss. But the reality is that those foods aren’t doing you any favors and may actually be one of the causes of unintentional weight gain!

Why is this? Well, many foods marketed as “low-fat” foods actually contain high amounts of hidden sugar, which means they’re high in calories and cause weight gain as a result.

Instead of choosing prepackaged foods with the “low-fat” promise on the label, consider making some healthy swaps for all-natural whole foods. Doing a quick comparison of the nutritional offerings of the two will often provide some additional incentive.

But, I know it can be tough to make the switch at first, so if you need some help getting started, check out my article on six easy and healthy food swaps you can start making today.

Try these out first and then expand from there. Prioritize eating “the rainbow,” meaning you should try to incorporate as many colors as possible onto your plate.

When you focus on nutrition instead of fat content, you’re setting yourself up total health—and your waistline will benefit as well!


Causes of unintentional weight gain - Dr. Pingel


Key Takeaways

  • Sometimes it can feel like weight gain has snuck up on you and you're left wondering about the causes of unintentional weight gain.
  • Some of the top causes include: stress, dehydration, thyroiditis, medication, and eating "low-fat" foods.
  • By prioritizing your body's stress response, staying hydrated, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and speaking with your doctor about your thyroid and medication, you can mitigate many of the top causes of unintentional weight gain.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram