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.
Beyond hormones, there are health conditions that can impact your weight. You may not have heard of metabolic syndrome, but it affects more than 50 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 30 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.
Rachel Grumman is a freelance health and beauty writer based in New York City.