Do You Have Weight Gain? 9 Potential Causes of Unintentional Weight Gain

Gaining weight can be extremely frustrating, especially when the cause is unknown.

While diet plays the most significant role in weight gain, other factors may also contribute, such as stress and sleep deprivation.

Here are 9 unintentional weight gain causes.

1 – You consume too many processed foods

Numerous nutritious foods undergo minimal processing, including oats, frozen fruit, and yogurt.

However, highly processed foods, such as sugary cereals, fast food, and microwave dinners contain unhealthy ingredients, including added sugars, preservatives, and unhealthy fats.

Moreover, numerous studies link highly processed foods to weight gain and rising obesity rates in the United States and globally.

A 2019 study of 19,363 Canadian adults revealed, for instance, that those who consumed the most ultra-processed foods were 32 percent more likely to be obese than those who consumed the least.

Typically, highly processed foods are dense in calories but lack essential nutrients, such as protein and fiber, which keep you feeling full.

In a 2-week study involving 20 participants, those on an ultra-processed diet consumed approximately 500 more calories per day than those on an unprocessed diet.

Therefore, you should consider eliminating processed meals and snacks in favor of whole foods.

2 – You consume too much sugar.

Regularly consuming sugary foods and beverages, such as candies, cakes, soda, sports drinks, ice cream, iced tea, and sweetened coffee drinks, can cause your waistline to expand rapidly.

Numerous studies link sugar consumption to weight gain and an increased risk of chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, in the United States, sugary beverages are the largest source of added sugar and are strongly associated with weight gain.

A review of 30 studies involving 242,352 children and adults linked consumption of sweetened beverages to weight gain and obesity.

One study involving 11,218 women found that consuming one sugary soda per day led to 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) over two years, suggesting that avoiding sweets may have the opposite effect.

You can reduce your sugar intake gradually to facilitate the process.

3 – You have a sedentary lifestyle 

Inactivity is a frequent cause of weight gain and chronic diseases.

Sedentary activities include working a desk job, watching television, driving, and using a computer or phone.

A study of 464 obese and overweight individuals revealed that their average daily sitting time was 6.2 hours on workdays and 6 hours on non-workdays. The most significant contributor was work-related activities, followed by watching television.

Changes to one’s lifestyle, such as exercising and sitting less, can significantly impact.

In a 3-month study involving 317 workers, replacing 1 hour of sitting with 1 hour of standing reduced total fat mass and waist circumference while increasing lean muscle mass.

Research indicates that excessive screen time significantly contributes to unintentional weight gain.

Small changes, such as taking a walk after dinner instead of watching television, exercising or walking during your lunch break, purchasing a standing or treadmill desk, or riding your bike to work, can prevent weight gain.

4 – You engage in yo-yo dieting

Yo-yo dieting is characterized by cycles of deliberate weight loss followed by unintentional weight gain.

Notably, this pattern is associated with an increased risk of long-term weight gain.

In a study of 2,785 individuals, dieters within the past year had greater body weights and waist circumferences than non-dieters.

Other studies indicate that restrictive eating and dieting may result in future weight gain due to the body’s physiological responses to such behaviors, including changes in hunger and fullness hormones.

In addition, most people who lose weight through restrictive dieting gain most or all of it back within five years.

To maintain a healthy weight over time, you should make sustainable lifestyle changes. These include exercise, avoiding processed and sugary foods, and consuming whole foods, nutrient-dense, fiber- and protein-rich.

5 – You have an undiagnosed health condition


Certain medical conditions may contribute to unintentional weight gain and lifestyle factors. These consist of:

  • Hypothyroidism. This disorder affects the thyroid gland and may result in weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
  • Depression. This prevalent mental disorder is associated with weight gain and obesity.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (PCOS). PCOS is characterized by hormonal imbalances that affect reproductive-aged women. It may cause weight gain and make weight loss difficult.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED). BED is characterized by recurrent bouts of uncontrollable overeating and can result in numerous health complications, including weight gain.
  • Other conditions, such as diabetes and Cushing’s syndrome, are also associated with weight gain; therefore, it is essential to receive the correct medical diagnosis.

In addition, some medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics, can cause weight gain. Consult a medical professional if you believe your medication is causing you to gain weight.

6 – You don’t get enough sleep

Sleep is vital to one’s overall health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can result in weight gain, among other adverse effects.

A study of 92 women found that those who slept less than 6 hours per day had the highest body mass index (BMI) and levels of visfatin (a protein secreted by fat cells) compared to those who slept 6 hours or more per day.

In a two-week study involving 10 obese adults on a low-calorie diet, those who slept 5.5 hours per night lost 55% less body fat and 60% more muscle mass than those who slept 8.5 hours per night.

Increasing your sleep duration may therefore aid in weight loss.

7 or more hours of sleep per night is associated with a 33 percent greater likelihood of weight loss than sleeping less than 7 hours per night.

If you have trouble sleeping, you can try limiting your screen time before bed, reducing your caffeine consumption, and sticking to a regular bedtime.

7 – You do not consume enough whole foods.

If you regularly consume processed foods, switching to a diet richer in whole foods is a simple and effective way to lose weight and improve many other aspects of your health.

Choosing whole, minimally processed foods is the most critical factor in weight loss.

One study divided 609 overweight adults into groups that followed a low-fat or low-carb diet for one year.

Both groups were instructed to increase their consumption of vegetables, limit their consumption of added sugars, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates, consume primarily whole, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods, and prepare most of their meals at home.

The study discovered that both diet groups resulted in comparable weight loss: 12 pounds (5.4 kg) for the low-fat group and 13 pounds (5.9 kg) for the low-carb group. This demonstrated that diet quality, rather than macronutrient content, was the most influential factor in their weight loss.

Including whole foods in your diet does not have to be challenging. Start by gradually incorporating more nutrient-dense whole foods into your meals and snacks, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, eggs, nuts, and seeds.

8 – You are anxious.

A common problem that can affect your weight is chronic stress.

It has been shown that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase appetite and the desire for highly palatable, calorie-dense foods, leading to weight gain.

In addition, research indicates that people with obesity have higher cortisol levels than those who do not have this condition.

Stress management may, surprisingly, promote weight loss.

In an 8-week study involving 45 obese adults, those who practiced relaxation techniques such as deep breathing lost significantly more weight than those who received only dietary advice.

Try incorporating evidence-based relaxation techniques into your daily routine to reduce stress. These include yoga, nature immersion, and meditation.

9 – You consume too many calories.

Overeating continues to be a leading cause of weight gain.

If you consume more calories per day than you burn, you will likely gain weight.

Mindless eating, frequent snacking, and nutrient-poor dietary choices contribute to excessive calorie consumption.

If you struggle with overeating, it can be challenging to determine your calorie needs; therefore, you should consult a registered dietitian.

Paying attention to hunger and fullness cues by eating mindfully, following a high-fiber, high-protein diet rich in plant foods, drinking water instead of calorie-rich beverages, and increasing physical activity are simple ways to avoid overeating.


Numerous variables can contribute to unintended weight gain.

Inadequate sleep, sedentary activities, and excessive consumption of processed or sugary foods are among the behaviors that may increase the risk of weight gain.

Nevertheless, a few simple steps, including mindful eating, exercise, and focusing on whole foods, can help you achieve your weight loss goals and improve your overall health.


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