If you've recently added or lost a few pounds, do not panic: minor weight fluctuations are common and rarely anything to worry about. However, if you pack 5 pounds or more in weeks or even days, it's time to pay attention. "For a man, five pounds is a kind of thing – thing – something is going on here," says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.
Cheskin explains that weight fluctuations of five pounds are more typical of women, but not men. In particular, if your weight is stable for months or years, the sudden weight gain is remarkable, he adds. What could be the cause? Here are the six most common explanations.
You eat too much salt
Sodium consumption causes your body to contain water, says Cheskin. Water has weight and volume. So, if you eat a lot of salty food for several days in a row, you can quickly gain weight, he says.
Restaurant food and especially fast food tend to be loaded with sodium. If you spent a long weekend away and filled your days with takeaway meals and at the restaurant, this could be responsible for your abrupt influx of pounds.
They are taking a new drug
"There are many medications that can cause weight gain," says W. Scott Butsch, M.D., director of Obesity Medicine at the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute of the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, drugs can trigger up to 1
Depression medications (including SSRIs) and heart disease medications (beta-blockers) are two common culprits, Butsch explains. But prescription sleep aids, pain killers, and even some antihistamines that block allergies can "lead to weight loss," he says.
Add steroids and testosterone-boosting drugs or supplements to this list, says Cheskin. These drugs work on your hormones, which can certainly lead to weight gain. This also includes OTC or Internet order supplements.
They eat (or drink) more
This seems to be obvious. However, if you have consumed more calories than before, this change could result in a weight gain of five or ten pounds over a period of one or more months, says Cheskin.
"Alcohol is also a consideration," he adds. "It contains calories like food." In particular, if you've made a change that regularly adds calories to your weekly intake, you can increase it, he says.
It is important to realize that these changes can be subtle. Maybe you started to attend a weekly happy hour. Or you may have bought new dishes and your portion sizes have increased without you realizing it. "Eating just 500 calories more per week can add up over time," he says.
You move less
Even small changes to your physical activity habits can lead to weight gain, says Cheskin. "Maybe you used to work a lot, and now you drive," he suggests.
Lifting and stopping weights earlier may also be responsible for your weight gain – even if you've replaced this strength training with another type of exercise. Cheskin says that leaning on muscle (and building on that strength training) tends to keep your metabolism elevated, helping you burn calories.
Give up your usual gym – or vary it in a way that leads to a decrease in muscle mass – and shutting down your metabolism could cause you to add some weight, saying it would be really nice if weight decreased got lost. But the exact opposite is the case.
"Our body weight and body fat are tightly regulated, and [our system] will maintain balance," says Butsch. In other words, any pound you drop will probably come back – even as you continue your weight loss routines, he adds.
If you have recently lost some weight, it is very likely that you will put some of it back on, no matter how much you eat or exercise.
You Have Endocrine Disorder
According to the National Institutes of Health, about one in five adults has hypothyroidism – also called hypothyroidism -. While this condition is much more common in women, says Cheskin, many men suffer from hypothyroidism, which can cause a sudden and significant increase in weight.
Butsch says. If you have any of these endocrine disorders, weight gain is not likely to be your only symptom, he adds. Fatigue, weakness, headaches, thinking problems, and depression or irritability are signs of these hormone dysfunctions, according to Mayo Clinic.