Weight Gain, It’s Complicated

Weight gain is often boiled down to exercise and diet. Don’t get me wrong, these two components are important for anyone trying to manage their weight. However, when we focus solely on these two factors, other aspects of health are often overlooked.

Your hormones have a huge role in regulating your body weight. Hormones are chemical messengers and there are several different types of them in the human body. Some key metabolic hormones include: insulin, thyroid hormone, estrogen, leptin, and ghrelin. Hormones tell us when we’re full, stimulate our appetite, store fat, regulate the muscle to fat ratio, and control our metabolism. If you have underlying hormonal imbalances, one can see how weight would be impacted.

Weight gain can also be a symptom of chronic stress. When our bodies are under stress frequently or for long period of time, the level of cortisol in the blood increases. Cortisol increases fatty acid and glucose in the blood stream. When these fatty acids and glucose are not used up by the body, the hormone insulin is signaled to take this glucose from the blood and bring it into the cells. Tissues then store this excess sugar as fat. The changes in our blood sugar also causes hunger and cravings for sweet food or high-carbohydrate foods. Have you even been under a lot of stress and headed straight towards some chocolate? Yeah, me too.

Sleep is crucial to weight management for several reasons. A lack of sleep leads to poor decision making, a lack of motivation, increased cravings for energy-dense food and a lack of self-control. Studies show that when people don’t get enough sleep, late night snacking increases as well as overall caloric consumption. Chronic lack of sleep is associated with obesity.

Several common medications can also lead to weight gain either through increasing your appetite, impacting your body’s metabolism, as well as the way you use and store nutrients from your food. There are also indirect impacts of medications. For example, if your medication makes you feel exhausted or out of breath, you may be less likely to exercise. Medications can increase water retention, which leads to a change in number on the scale and may impact the way your clothes fit, even if you did not actually gain any more fat tissue. Just like any side effect, each person is going to react to a medication a little bit differently. Although it may be frustrating, it is important to look at the benefits of the medication versus the risk of weight gain. Perhaps you gained 10 pounds since starting your anti-depressant, but your quality of life if much better.


There are several other components which play a role in weight loss such as genetics, environment, food sensitivities, etc. If looking to make sustainable changes to your weight, make sure you get the whole picture before aggressively restricting your diet and blaming your lack of motivation or self-control.

Looking to get to the root cause behind your weight gain? Let’s Chat!

Yours in Health,

Dr. Maille

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Dr. Maille Devlin, ND

Dr. Maille Devlin, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor practicing in virtually for patients across Ontario, as well as in person in the east end of Toronto. Dr. Devlin has particular interests in: weight loss, cardiovascular health, diabetes, hormonal health, stress management and healthy aging. She considers true health not only the absence of disease, but rather a state where an individual is thriving both physically and mentally. Dr. Devlin graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and completed internships at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Teaching Clinic, Sherbourne Health Centre and the Rose Health Clinic. Prior to CCNM, Dr. Devlin obtained an undergraduate degree in Honours Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Dr. Devlin believes that education and preventative medicine are the greatest steps toward wellness and is focused on empowering individuals to take the appropriate steps towards being their own health advocate. In her practice, Dr. Devlin uses a combination of dietary changes, herbal medicine, supplements and lifestyle counseling to treat patients.