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Battle of the bulge

Are you struggling to lose weight? There may be deeper reasons behind your unexplained weight gain.

health and fitness Updated: May 27, 2010 13:17 IST
Hindustan Times

Are you having trouble losing weight despite eating sensibly and putting in hours at the gym? Has your weight loss hit a brick wall? Maybe there is an underlying cause that you haven’t discovered yet. Here are a few conditions that can cause unexplained weight gain:

Hypothyroidism: This means your body is producing too little of the thyroid hormone, which is required to maintain an optimum rate of metabolism. “The thyroid hormone is essential for the metabolism of every cell in your body,” said Dr Vijay Panikar, head of department of endocrinology and diabetes at Lilavati Hospital.

“If your body is producing too little, your basal metabolic rate falls. Whatever you eat becomes excess calories and you put on weight.” There are varying causes for hypothyroidism, including a genetic predisposition. The treatment usually involves a dose of the thyroid hormone.

Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance develops from the body’s inability to absorb insulin and use it efficiently to metabolise glucose. This means there is a surplus of glucose in the system, which in turn leads to weight gain. “Suppose a normal person requires 10 units of insulin to bring down blood sugar, someone with insulin resistance would require 30 to 40 units,” says Dr Panikar.

Ironically, the leading cause of insulin resistance is obesity. “The fat that accumulates in the abdominal cavity is responsible for insulin resistance,” says Dr Panikar.

“So anyone with a paunch or a waist circumference above 90 cm has insulin resistance.” The bad news: most Indians have a tendency to be insulin resistant. The good news: most people can bring it down with calorie control and vigorous exercise.

Basal metabolic rate: The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories expended while your body is at rest. The BMR determines the rate at which you metabolise your food – so a low BMR may lead to faster weight gain and the inability to shed those extra kilos. “You may be programmed genetically to have a low BMR,” says Dr Anjali Tillu.

Regular exercise is crucial to speed up your body’s BMR, according to her. “You may not burn too many calories on your morning walk, but the cascading effect of that walk lasts through the day,” says Dr Panikar.

First Published: May 27, 2010 12:00 IST