What Causes Weight Gain

It’s easy to think that weight gain is controlled only by the mechanism of calories in and energy out. Although this is mostly the case, and you certainly won’t lose weight unless you burn more calories than you consume, there are a number of other reasons for weight gain – and you may find some of them surprising.


It’s official! Studies now prove conclusively that dieting makes you fat. It’s simple really. When you restrict your food intake, your body thinks there’s a shortage of food and it doesn’t know how long this “famine” is going to last. As a result, it does a number of things.

First, your body slows down your metabolism so you don’t’ burn so many of the calories it thinks are scarce; and, second, it lets go of muscle and water first to preserve your fat reserves. The overall result is that it looks as though you’re losing weight, but in reality, you’re losing water and muscle and slowing down your metabolism. The result is that you eat like a bird, but after an initial loss, your weight plateaus. When you eat normally again, the weight piles on – as fat.

Overeating and under-exercising

“Calories in” have to be fewer than “calories out” for you to lose weight. If they’re greater, you’ll gain weight. However, it isn’t quite that simple. To lose weight sustainably, you need to consider not just how many calories you consume, but what type. You need to eat healthy food from the three food groups: fats (mainly unsaturated fats), carbohydrates (mainly unrefined carbohydrates and healthy simple carbohydrates, such as fruit), and protein (such as fish, eggs, nuts, seeds). Omit one of these three important food groups and you’ll hamper your efforts at weight loss.

Many overweight women simply eat too much bad fat and too many refined carbohydrates (such as cookies and cakes). Low-fat and no-fat diets don’t’ work, either because they restrict the essential fats that help boost your metabolism. In addition, no-fat and low-fat foods often contain other unhealthy ingredients (often salt or sugar) to make them tastier. Anything that contains extra sugar triggers blood-sugar imbalances, encouraging weight gain.

Nutritional deficiencies

You need good levels of vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and amino acids for your body to be in good health and for it to burn off excess fat when appropriate. If your body registers that you have an increased need for certain vitamins and nutrients, it can create cravings. Or, if you have a particular nutritional deficiency, it may increase your appetite in the hope of plugging the gaps. If you respond by eating food that’s of poor quality and lacking in nutrients, your body may continue to prompt you to eat in order to get enough nourishment – the cravings go on, and so does the weight.

Food intolerances and allergies

A food intolerance is a reaction to certain foods that doesn’t involve your immune system – perhaps you lack certain enzymes that permit your body to process a food correctly, resulting in abdominal pain or nausea. A food allergy, on the other hand, involves an immune reaction. Your immune system thinks you’ve eaten something harmful and releases histamine to defuse the harmful substance. Common allergic reactions include hives, rashes, and throat swelling. Perversely, reactions as a result of some food intolerance can lead to a slight addiction to the culprit food, leading you to crave and then overeat that food and so gain weight.

Prescription drugs

Some drugs can cause weight gain. The most obvious culprits are steroids – although never be tempted to come off steroids suddenly, always talk to your doctor first. The pill, hormone replacement therapy, and anti-depressants may also cause weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners

Sugar is fattening, and many women use artificial sweeteners to help them to cut calories. Ironically, though, artificial sweeteners can actually increase your appetite, causing you to gain weight. The problem is that because they give you a sweet taste without the calories, your brain gets confused and starts looking for the “missing” calories by triggering your appetite.

Candida infection (yeast overgrowth)

If you suffer from a yeast infection, such as Candida, your digestion is compromised because the proportion of “healthy” bacteria in your gut is low in comparison to “unhealthy” bacteria. If your digestion is poor, you aren’t getting the nutrients you need to lose weight.

Treatments for Prenatal Depression

Your Diet

What you eat can have an enormous impact on your brain chemistry. Although charges in your diet – perhaps feeling that you don’t want to eat, or bingeing on junk foods – are a common symptom of prenatal depression, try to keep to good eating habits. Ask someone else to cook for you, if need be.

Balancing your blood sugar is essential, so eat little and often (aim for six small meals a day) and eliminate added sugar (such as in cakes, cookies, and many juice drinks) and stimulants (such as caffeine). Try to combine foods in the right way, too.

Many antidepressants, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) because they optimize the use of serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters involved in controlling mood. Amazingly, starchy carbohydrates help increase serotonin levels – only study showed that making your evening meal carbohydrate-rich and protein-poor can reduce symptoms of depression and fatigue.

But why? In order to manufacture serotonin, your brain needs additional help in the form of tryptophan. This amino acid occurs naturally in dairy products, fish, bananas, dried dates, soy, and almonds, but these and other forms of protein also contain other amino acids. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into its constituent amino acids, and these enter your bloodstream. When they get to your brain, they meet your blood-brain barrier, which lets only some of the amino acids through. Because there are always fewer tryptophan molecules than the other amino acids, the others get through, leaving the tryptophan behind. However, all this changes if a meal contains starchy carbohydrates as well. Carbohydrates help the body release insulin, which makes use of the other amino acids before they get to the blood-brain barrier, leaving the tryptophan to dominate. So make sure you always combine a protein with a carbohydrate. For example, if you’re having fish and vegetables, have potatoes, brown rice, or wholegrain pasta with it, too.

When we feel depressed we tend to want to eat bread, cakes, sweets, and sugary foods, all of which are starchy carbohydrates. In a sense, the body is trying to prescribe its own medication. But remember that much of the quick-fix food we crave combines sugar and refined carbohydrates, which will give you a quick high followed by a crash. Try to train yourself to resist temptation and go for good-quality starchy carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole grain bread, and so on.


Deficiencies in certain nutrients can contribute to depression. So it’s vital that you take your prenatal vitamins and supplements. Also include more zinc, low levels of which can affect your mood. Take at least 30mg daily altogether. Finally, take a good omega-3 fish oil supplement (1,000 mg containing at least 700 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA, daily). Good levels of these oils are known to help relieve depression and low mood.


Although several herbs, such as St. John’s wort, are well known to treat depression. It is strongly advised against self-prescription of any herb during pregnancy. However, do visit a qualified herbal practitioner, who will be able to advise you on what’s safe.

Other natural treatments

Homeopathy You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by using homeopathy if you suffer from prenatal depression. It’s important to get help from a professional homeopath, but the following are some useful remedies to try at home. Take the remedy that is most appropriate for your symptoms in a 30c potency, three times a day between meals.

• Lycopodium can help when your depression is accompanied by a bad temper
• Pulsatilla can help when you feel tearful and sad but you can find no obvious reason
• Sepia can help if you feel irritable, weepy, and emotionally flat

Aromatherapy Essential oils can be extremely useful for lifting mood during pregnancy. However, use them only once you’re in your second trimester (or week 24 in the case of lavender essential oil). Use 2 or 3 drops of each of the following oils in your bath water, or use a total of 15 drops in 6 tsp, carrier oil (such as sweet almond oil) for a massage.

• To reduce depression and irritability: bergamot and Roman or German chamomile
• To ease depression and anxiety: jasmine
• To encourage sleep: lavender
• To lift mood: rose


Do some exercise You may not feel like exercising at all, but the effort will be well worth it. Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that help you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem which is important if your confidence has taken a dip since becoming pregnant. Swimming, yoga, and waling are good forms of exercise for pregnant women. Try to take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.

Keep a journal Noting down your feelings and thoughts each day can provide a release for some of the confusion that often goes with depression. Also, each day make a note of the things that are good in your life and the positive things that have happened that day.

Use visualization Sitting or lying down in a quiet room, without any distractions, and imagining yourself somewhere beautiful, such as a pretty garden or a beach somewhere warm, can be highly effective if you practice it every day for around ten to 15 minutes (the longer the better). Try to capture all the sights, sounds, and smells of the place you visit in your mind’s eye.

Music help Any music has happy connotations for you can lift your mood. Choose a piece of music and listen to it quietly, imagining all your anxiety flowing out through your fingers and toes. Focus on the wonderful life growing inside you. Transmit feelings of positivity to your baby – and imagine the baby doing the same back to you. Put your piece of music on an MP3 player and carry it with you. Listen to it when you feel sad. Before long, the music should provide a trigger to quickly lift your spirits.


Leaky gut is the root cause of many chronic health conditions—including food allergies and autoimmune disease—as it allows unwanted organisms and larger antigenic moieties into the bloodstream. This causes the immune system to “react” to these foreign invaders, as it assumes these particles are dangerous and creates antibodies against them. This can also lead to a situation where different foods set off an immune reaction every time they are eaten. These antibodies may also attack cells in the body that are structurally similar to the unwanted antigens.

Autoimmune diseases include psoriasis, eczema, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, Crohn’s and inflammatory bowel disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes type 1, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, autoimmune hepatitis, ankylosing spondylitis, pernicious anemia, Sjögren’s syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. To prevent and manage these conditions, it is important to fix the gut.

1) Remove the potential causes of the leaky gut or damage to the intestinal lining. Such things include a long list: alcohol, caffeine, parasites, bacteria, chemical food additives, inadequate chewing, excessive fluid with meals, enzyme deficiencies, refined carbohydrates, processed food, prescription hormones such as birth control pills, medications, fungus or mold, mercury amalgams and other dental toxics, gluten (a protein found in wheat and other grains), and stress.

2) Replace all the enzymes necessary for the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, including protease, cellulose, and lipase, strengthening the system and improving overall digestive function.

3) Reinoculate with probiotics or friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium to help restore the proper bacterial balance in the gut. Bifidobacteria should predominate in the small intestine while Lactobaccilli should be the predominant species in the colon.

4) Repair the intestinal lining to prevent further damage. Fortunately, if the offending substances are removed and other nutrients are added, new intestinal cells can emerge, tightening the junctions and repairing the leaky gut condition.

Diet and Lifestyle Prevention Recommendations for Cardiovascular Disease

In 2006, the AHA created diet and lifestyle recommendations to reduce the risk for or manage cardiovascular disease in adults and children over the age of 2. Here are some highlights of their recommendations:

• Balance calorie intake and physical activity to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.
• Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other high-fiber foods; high-fiber diets can reduce cardiovascular disease risk by decreasing cholesterol production in the body and increasing removal of harmful cholesterol from the body. High-fiber diets can also slow the progression of cardiovascular disease in those at high risk.
• Eat fish, especially oily fish, at least twice a week (for a total of about 8 ouces); fish provides the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which can lower the risk of both sudden death and death from cardiovascular disease. For those with cardiovascular disease, the AHA recommends 1 gram of EPA and DHA from fish and/or fish oil supplements. For those with hypertriglyceridemia, the AHA recommends 2-4 grams of EPA and DHA from supplements (in capsule form). Be sure to consult a physician before you take fish oil supplements.
• Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total calories, trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories, and dietary cholesterol to less than 30 mg per day.
• Minimize intake of beverages and foods with added sugars.
• Choose and prepare foods with little or no sodium.
• If you consume alcohol, so in moderation (up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men).

Consuming foods that are naturally rich in and enriched with plant stanols / sterols can reduce the absorption of cholesterol to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. According to the AHA, maximum effects are seen with intakes of 2 grams per day of plant stanols. Those who reduce their cholesterol levels by taking plant stanols and sterols will need to consume them each day to maintain their benefits.

Following the previous recommendations and those of MyPyramid can reduce the risk for cardiovascular and other diet-related diseases by promoting weight loss, reducing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raising HDL cholesterol.

Those with diagnosed cardiovascular diseases or with risk factors such as high total and/or LDL cholesterol levels can also be prescribed medications as part of treatment, and many (or all) work more effectively when taken as part of an overall healthful dietary pattern.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a condition in which coronary arteries, which carry blood to the heart, are narrowed so much they may slow or stop blood flow to the heart.

Myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked.

Angina pectoris, or angina, is chest pain that occurs when the heart can’t get enough oxygen from the blood. It is a common symptom of CHD.

Heart failure resulting from a cardiac disease, which compromises ventricular systolic or diastolic function, or both. Heart failure results when the heart is unable to generate a cardiac output sufficient to meet the demands of the body without unduly increasing diastolic pressure. Heart failure can be of the body without unduly increasing diastolic pressure. Heart failure can be manifested by symptoms of poor tissue perfusion alone (for example, fatigue, poor exercise tolerance, and confusion) or by both symptoms of poor tissue perfusion and congestion of vascular beds (for example, dyspnea, chest rales, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema, distended neck veins, congested liver, and peripheral edema).

Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fat, and other substances that build up on the inner walls of blood vessels.

Cardiomyopathy is a weakening or change in the structure of the heart muscle; it often manifests as inadequate heart pumping or other problems with heart function.

Lipoproteins are made up of lipids, and protein; they dissolve in water and carry cholesterol through the blood and around the body either to or from blood vessels.

Refined carbohydrates are simple sugars or starches that have undergone processing.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) – created in 1985 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLB) – provides information for educators and the public to reduce the number of Americans with high blood cholesterol and prevent illness and death from CHD.

Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection both externally and internally.

Hypertriglyceridemia is elevated blood triglycerides (blood fats).

Plant Stanols / Sterols are beneficial compounds found naturally in small amounts in plant foods that block cholesterol absorption.