Weight Gain Shockers from Medications to Healthy Foods

7.18.12  (HealthNewsDigest.com) – New York, NY

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It’s no mystery that a high fat diet full of greasy foods, sugary desserts, beer and soda will lead to weight gain. And there’s little doubt why your clothes are a bit too tight when exercise and physical activity is non-existent in your life. But how do you explain weight gain when your lifestyle includes regular exercise and a healthy diet? Anyone who has ever dieted knows how difficult it can be, and most of us assume the reason is a lack of discipline or a failure of willpower. But Dr. Sue Decotiis, New York City based Medical Internist and weight loss management specialist presents surprising reasons to prove that there was more to it.

Is Your Medicine Cabinet Making You Fat? This may be a hard pill to swallow, but a medication your doctor prescribed could be making you gain weight. Certain prescription drugs used to treat mood disorders, seizures, migraines, diabetes, and even high blood pressure can cause weight gain – sometimes 10 pounds a month. Some steroids, hormone replacement therapy, and oral contraceptives can also cause unwanted pounds to creep up on you. But even if you suspect a prescription medication is causing weight gain, never stop taking the drug without consulting your doctor.

“Eating too much and not exercising enough are the main reasons people put on extra pounds,” says Dr. Sue Decotiis, Medical Internist & Weight Loss Management Specialist. “However, some prescription and over-the-counter medications also can cause weight gain. You might gain as much as a pound a week.”

According to Dr. Decotiis, the most common prescription medications to cause weight gain include drugs that treat depression, heartburn, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Birth control pills and high doses of, or long-term therapy with corticosteroids also can cause weight gain. Some over-the-counter medications, including antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, sleeping pills, and drugs to prevent motion sickness, can lead to weight gain if taken regularly.

Drugs that cause weight gain usually do so by either increasing appetite, slowing down resting metabolism or causing fluid retention. “Whatever the reason, any weight that’s gained can be lost—or not gained in the first place—by eating less and exercising more,” advises Dr. Decotiis. “To deal effectively with medication-related weight gain, call your doctor if you suspect you’re adding extra pounds because of a medication you’re taking. Don’t abruptly stop taking the medication before you consult with your doctor.”

Healthy Foods that Cause Weight Gain. Some foods that we consider to be healthy are still full of calories. You may not realize that these supposedly good-for-you foods are packed with hundreds of calories, so day after day, you may be eating more than you thought, which could cause gradual weight gain.

“What’s tricky is that some foods with healthy reputations are actually worse for your weight than some meal options at fast food restaurants,” says Dr. Decotiis. “For example, when we’re in the mood for a light dinner, many people opt for sushi. Sushi is often viewed as acceptable on any diet; in fact, some seem to think that it is virtually calorie free. However, when you are referring to ‘Americanized’ sushi, this is simply not the case.”

According to Dr. Decotiis, although the veggies and seaweed wrap in sushi are low-cal, many of the most popular rolls are slathered with cream cheese or mayo, and the seafood inside may be tempura-battered.

Other healthy foods that can make you fat:

• Yogurt. Although many brands have live and active cultures that are good for the gut, some brands are full with sugar, including added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. According to the American Dietetic Association, added fruit and sweeteners on average contribute about 14 grams of sugar, making the total sugars about 26 grams (5 teaspoons) per 6-ounce container. Consider buying plain yogurt and sweetening it yourself with added fruit or honey.• Protein Bars. Commonly available in supermarkets and health food stores, protein bars have a ton of carbs relative to the amount of protein. These foods contain high amounts of sugar raising insulin levels that cause a drop in blood glucose levels. “After about an hour, you feel hungry again,” says Dr. Decotiis. According to Dr. Decotiis, foods with higher protein are more filling and better for your metabolism.

• Bran Muffins. Bran muffins are notoriously high in sugar and have a very high glycemic index. It is made up of refined carbohydrate and often also contains a fair amount of partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats); exactly what you want to stay away from if you want to get into shape.

“It always amazes me that people still think that there is some inherent good in having bran muffins for breakfast,” says Dr. Decotiis. “Trust me, there isn’t, even though they do contain some fiber. Carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index will give you a nice sugar rush, followed by a nasty crash.” According to Dr. Decotiis, whenever your body consumes a high glycemic rated food your insulin levels will go up dramatically. Increased insulin levels causes your body to store fat – which is not your goal nor are they healthy for your body as over time it can lead to pancreatic problems and the onset of type 2 diabetes. The key is to eat only complex carbohydrates that are naturally occurring foods.

“Low-fat foods are loaded with crabs,” warns Dr. Decotiis. “My message is ‘read labels’. Ask yourself how many grams of carbs are there per serving? So if you are consuming 28gm of carb per 6 gm of protein in a 200 calorie protein bar, that is not good for you. If you are overweight, you need to be very mindful of the carbs you are consuming.” Dr. Decotiis’ patients at the Manhattan Medical Weight Loss Physician center often discover after the initial consultation that they are consuming way too many carbs and not enough protein. Before coming to my weight loss practice many of these patients undergo aggressive exercise programs in an attempt to control their weight with no desirable results. Dr. Decotiis continues, “Many of my patients ask me ‘why?’ My answer? You’re not getting enough protein, not eating early in the day and you’re not incorporating enough calories in your diet.”

Your Sleeping Habits May Be Causing Your Weight Gain. In addition to age, no exercise and too much food, lack of sleep may be causing you to add on the extra pounds. According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, inadequate sleep fosters weight gain, not just by increasing hunger, but also by slowing the body’s metabolism and speed at which it burns calories. Lack of sleep decreases leptin, a protein that acts as an appetite suppressant and tells the bodywhen it is full. People who are overweight have elevated leptin levels. A persistently elevated leptin level leads to resistance, meaning your brain does not respond normally to the hormone. Your brain’s capacity to “ignore” an elevated leptin level is similar to developing tolerance to pain medication, caffeine or alcohol. Exposing your brain to these substances on a regular basis leads to less responsiveness to the chemical in question. It also inhibits our production of insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

“Losing weight is difficult for so many people because we don’t understand how our body works,” adds Dr. Decotiis. “It is not all eating less and exercising more. A lot of this is metabolic and hormonal change.”  Dr. Decotiis screens for medical conditions that cause weight loss increase and treats those conditions. “I diagnose and treat disorders. Good nutrition is only the first layer,” says Dr. Decotiis. “We address hormonal imbalances, thyroid sex hormones, low Leptin levels and insulin levels. My patients are liberated to learn that there are factors other than personal lifestyle choices when it comes to gaining and losing weight.”