Keeping yourself at a healthy weight  is no easy feat. But if you’re not succeeding, don’t be too quick to take all the blame. Carrying around a few extra pounds can be caused by other culprits besides a lack of willpower.
There are specific hormones that play an important role in regulating our weight. Some behaviors and health conditions can affect those hormones, making it harder to keep the scale from going up, let alone shed excess weight. Here’s a look at the link between hormones and weight gain.
Bed Down Earlier for Better Health
When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you feel tired and cranky the next day. But that lack of sleep doesn’t only mess with your mood—it also sabotages healthy eating habits. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who slept only four hours a night for a mere two nights had a 28 percent rise in ghrelin (a hormone that triggers hunger) and an 18 percent drop in leptin (a hormone that tells your brain that you’re full) compared to those who got a good night’s sleep.
The result? The sleep-deprived study subjects reported a boost in appetite—and they craved sugary, high-carbohydrate foods, not vegetables. What’s more, if you’re also under constant stress, you’re getting a double-whammy since the stress hormone cortisol increases appetite and the urge to eat high-fat, high-calorie foods.
Making sleep more of a priority is easier said than done, but if fitting into your favorite pair of skinny jeans  doesn’t motivate you to go to bed half an hour early each night, then nothing will. When you’re tired and cravings strike, opt for satisfying snacks that are also healthy and can give you an energy boost—namely, a combination of complex carbs and protein, like all-natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread. And keep stress in check by doing yoga or deep breathing exercises.
Other Factors May Be at Play
Beyond hormones, there are health conditions that can impact your weight. You may not have heard of metabolic syndrome, but it affects more than fifty million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. The syndrome is a cluster of medical conditions including high insulin levels, high blood pressure, and excess weight around the waistline that put sufferers at risk for heart disease and other health problems. The elevated insulin levels are linked to weight gain, according to Jacob Warman, M.D., chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York. In particular, insulin, together with cortisol, causes fat to be stored in the inner abdominal cavity, known as visceral fat, which ups the risk for heart attack and stroke.
The best way to improve the condition: eat a low-calorie, low-fat diet  that minimizes carbohydrates, and exercise for at least thirty minutes three days a week. In some cases, medications, such as the oral anti-diabetic drug Metformin, are prescribed. “Metformin decreases insulin and by decreasing insulin, you decrease the tendency for weight gain,” says Warman. “Studies show that lifestyle modification is even better [at treating metabolic syndrome] than Metformin, but it’s difficult for some to keep up a diet and exercise regimen.”
Another underlying health condition—an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism—can cause weight gain. About three percent of the population has an underactive thyroid, meaning that the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which helps regulate your body’s metabolism. Talk to your physician if you’ve noticed a change in your weight and have symptoms such as fatigue, dry skin, and elevated cholesterol. A simple blood test can detect hypothyroidism, and prescription thyroid medication can help get you back in balance.
By Rachel Grumman for BettyConfidential