Friday, September 2, 2011

Have You Had Unexplained Weight Gain?

Have you experienced a significant, unexplained weight gain during your life?

In other words, a weight gain clearly not related to other possible causes like poor eating habits, a side effect of a medication, aftereffect of a major diet, an eating disorder, etc.?  If so, would you be willing to share your story?

I have a reason for asking but don't want to explain yet.  I just would like to hear your stories; what age you were, how much weight you gained, what you tried to do about it, etc.  Be brief, but include whatever you think is most relevant to your situation.

Share your stories in the comments section here, or if you prefer to share more privately, send me an email with a brief summary of your story.

Thank you for sharing.  More on why I'm asking this later.


Janie said...

Yes. - all with hormonal birth control. Pills, depo and oh boy the Nuva ring - gained almost as much as a pregnancy (in three months.)

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Thank you for sharing. Yes, wt gain with some types of hormonal birth control is common. And apparently with some SSRIs too.

But what I'm looking for are examples where the wt gain is NOT explained by medications like these, or regain after a big loss, etc.

I'm looking for gains that can't be explained by any obvious means.

Janie said...

sorry, re-read afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify - Do you also mean where the weight gain is not the result of a medical condition, such as one related to insulin resistance (diabetes, PCO)? How about a weight gain whose cause you later figured out, but not at the time the weight was gained? What about one related to stress?
I would guess you're speaking only of weight gain whose cause has never been satisfactorily explained, even long after the fact, correct?


Anonymous said...

When I was 19, I gained 60 pounds in 3 months. I also had severe pain, but was told nothing was wrong with me. Whoops - turned out it was a (benign) ovarian tumor that was blowing out my ovary. I've had two major reproductive episodes since then: each of them, the first sign was rapid weight gain.

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Janie, no worries. You're right, some women experience major gains with hormonal BC and that deserves its own's just not what I'm asking about here. Easy to misunderstand.

Anonymous, I'm looking for a mystery weight gain....a gain that happens despite no change in your usual habits that could explain it, and where nothing obvious (like a medication that causes wt gain) could be blamed.

I recognize that some gains are in a gray area, like those associated with PCOS or insulin resistance. I'd personally include those stories here because they often happen despite no change in habits, yet few care providers believe that.

You could also include a story that was unexplained originally but accounted for later (like hypothyroidism). Just specify that.

But what I'm NOT looking for is a gain related to medications, one related to binge eating or discontinuing exercise, one that occurs after a major diet (as regain is common and pretty much normal), that sort of thing.

I'm looking for gains that happen even when your habits remain normal and no other obvious explanation is to be had.

Does that help? Sorry I was unclear.

deeleigh said...

I have a friend who gained 30 or 40 pounds without changing her habits. She'd been in a car accident and had a back injury, and it was while she was at university. You might think that it was because she became less physically active - but she hadn't been physically active to begin with. She was under huge amounts of stress at the time, and she thinks that may have been somehow responsible.

Kerpickle said...

I did...When I was around 19-20. Nothing changed as far as diet and exersize was concerned. I gained a lot. Probably around 50 lbs. I later found out it was due to an autoimmune thyroid condition.

Sexy Witch said...

A few years ago, I gained about 25lbs for no reason. Was extremely tired and had no energy. Had blood tests done and all levels were "normal" except for a slight deviance in T3 levels, but that was brushed off. Dr. said it couldn't possibly be my thyroid, though I'm not convinced. I've researched that thyroid levels could be "normal" yet you can still have hypothyroidism.

O.C. said...

I've gained fifty pounds or more over the past year or so, with no change in my diet, and while exercising more than I ever have in my life.

I went to see an endocrinologist for another unrelated concern, and asked him about it.

"You should see a nutritionist" he said.

"But my diet hasn't changed, I'm exercising more, and prior to this my weight had been stable for ten years."

"Then you should see a nutritionist. Did you know that eating too much cereal will make you gain weight? Also fruit juice."

"I don't eat cereal. And rarely drink fruit juice."

"Then you should see a nutritionist!"

Suffice it to say I have not seen a nutritionist, have probably gained additional weight since then, and still don't know why. I wouldn't mind except I'm RIGHT at the line where this puts me outside of most plus sized clothing lines, and RIGHT at the edge where this can cause reach problems in terms of certain personal maintenance tasks. But I don't want to have that conversation again for the zillionth time, so I've given up asking doctors about it.

Ashley said...

I did. I was about 125 pounds when I went off birth control, and very quickly started putting on weight. Within a few months I was up to the 140s and I started seriously trying to diet and exercise. Lots and lots of walking, swimming laps, limiting intake pretty significantly (but not counting calories), no dice. Once I hit the 150s I got seriously depressed and continued my failed attempts at dieting. Nothing specific, but just reducing what I ate. I was eating just white rice for dinner, for example. I hit the 160s and got pissed, realized this whole calories in calories out thing was bullshit, and found fat acceptance. I was 175 (BMI 31) when I finally got diagnosed with PCOS, was put on metformin, and I've since stayed there. I'm really really pleased to have stabilized, even with medication.

Kate said...

Sexy Witch, a 100 million times yes, you can have "normal" thyroid levels and still need to be treated with a thyroid replacement. My numbers were "normal" but my symptoms were not. My doc finally started treating me and my life go so much better, really, really fast. So keep trying. My cycle normalized IMMEDIATELY after starting the meds, that was a change I didn't even know would happen since my messed up cycle was, according to the docs, due to my fatness and certainly not due to any chemical issue. Yeah right.

O.C., I'm sorry you had to go through that, it feels like it's impossible to have a conversation with your doctor about weight that doesn't result in the same conversation you had. Don't you just want to smack them?

Sorry I don't have a story of unexplained weight gain, but I'm super curious about what you're working on and can't wait to see it. I have tons and tons of post diet gain, a quitting smoking gain, and birth control gain.

Anonymous said...

I gained just over twenty pounds in the month before my wedding for no apparent reason. Thank goodness for corset-backed dresses! I tried exercising more, but my weight remained stable for about five months. Then the weight disappeared again over a two-week period while I maintained exactly the same routine as I had held for the preceding four months.

Anonymous said...

I gained 30lbs between January & April this year. At the beginning of that time, I'd actually started exercising. By the time I finally went to the dr, I could barely move from exhaustion. I didn't change anything about my eating habits. I might have even been eating a bit less.

Anyway, went to the dr, my TSH was "borderline" at 2.95, he agreed to me trying thyroid meds & the weight started falling off (9lbs in 3 weeks). Until I got pregnant.

Johnny W. said...

I don't have an anecdote to share, just a response to O.C.: maybe see an allergist? If you've developed an allergy to foods you regularly eat, it can often result in inexplicable weight gain, along with other unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue or depression or a host of aches and pains. If you have insurance and they will cover it, I can't recommend this highly enough.

KellyK said...

My weight gain was mostly unexplained. I did stop dieting, but I had dieted on and off before that and my weight had always bounced around between 145 and 180. I couldn't lose anything while dieting (Weight Watchers core plan) and once I stopped, I gained 50 pounds within about a year. I should also note that I joined a gym *after* I stopped dieting (I got into health at every size) and that I didn't go on any crazy binges. I just let myself eat when I was hungry and did things like have dessert and put croutons on my salad or real sugar in my coffee. I eventually plateaued at 250ish, after being diagnosed with PCOS and hypothyroid, and starting on Synthroid.

It took 3 different doctors to get one who was willing to treat the thyroid, even with a TSH of 4.5, being miserably tired and freezing cold all the time. The general practice PA I saw first was going to try synthroid, but the doctor overruled her. The first endo said there was no way either my PCOS or my thyroid were causing the weight gain and that a 4.5 was subclinical, despite the nodules in my thyroid, which she did a biopsy for.*

Once I was on synthroid, the gain stopped and my weight stabilized around 250 pounds. (My highest weight as a teenager had been 180; this was way above what had previously been normal for me.)

I should note that I am on Lexapro and have been on and off hormonal birth control, but none of my doctors think either of those meds would be responsible for the total gain I saw.

*As a side note, I hate it when doctors lie about pain. A thyroid biopsy is nothing like a blood draw, unless perhaps the phlebotomist is drunk, and is sticking you from across the room with the largest needle they can find. And topical lidocaine is completely inadequate as a pain reliever when someone is rooting around in your neck with a large needle.

Diana said...

In my 20s, I gained over 100 pounds in about fives years for no discernible reason. I went to doctor after doctor, and was told over and over to put down the Big Mac and start moving my fat ass.

Finally, in my 30s, I was diagnosed with insulin resistance/metabolic disorder...and it had been going on so long that I had liver damage for it. After I had my son, my thyroid finally went below normal levels (it had always been low...just not "below normal") and I was put on medication for that.

Around the time that I had started gaining weight, I started swelling inexplicably - my hands and feet would swell to the point that I couldn't use them, my tongue and lips would swell, and my eyes and throat would swell shut. After nine years, I was diagnosed with Hereditary Angioedema, a horrible blood/immune system disorder for which there is no cure. The only treatment at the time was periodic plasma infusions (to replace the blood protein patients are missing) or steroid treatment.

Imagine my surprise when the thyroid medication seemed to solve my Hereditary Angioedema. Guess what? Unexplained hives and swelling are a lesser-known symptom of....chronic low thyroid. Because I was held to the "standard" levels, my body had been through terrible things, and I even had to go on disability because I was swelling My medical care was in excess of 12K per month....when a $4 generic would have done, had anyone decided to critically think about my situation.

Dolcina said...

When I was 15 I put on 30lbs in the space of about three months. I hadn't changed my lifestyle at all and couldn't even see where the extra weight had gone - my clothes all fit the same, it was just the number on the scale that was changing. The doctor dismissed me with a two page leaflet on healthy eating, so I never got to the bottom of it.

I've never had such sudden weight gain since, but I think I'm still about 30lbs heavier than I look like I am. One of the last times I let them weigh me at the doctor's office, the nurse looked at the figure and said 'Goodness, where are you hiding it?' 'Well, it's funny you should ask that...'

Heather said...

When I was about 8 years old I suddenly started gaining weight. I went from thinner than average (kids called me Heather Feather because of how skinny I was) and within two years I became the fattest kid in school. My eating habits didn't change (they couldn't- they were controlled by my family and my brother and sister stayed thin). I don't know exactly how much I weighed (it was such a long time ago) when I was super thin, but by 6th grade or so I weighed around 150lbs and the average 3rd grader weighs about 80lbs and i was smaller than average. If I was anything like my own son I'm going to say I was around 50-60lbs which means I gained about 100lbs in two years. By the time I hit 9th grade I weighed 240lbs so about another 100lbs.

Despite this massive weight gain (and signs of severe depression) no one ever took me to a doctor- 200lbs in 4 years for a child is a lot and, for the most part, I didn't understand what was happening. Everyone blamed me even though, at least in grade school, all meals were provided by someone else and I spent most of my time either in class, in recess, or working at home (we had lots of animals plus every day chores which left little time for relaxation time).

I later developed hypothyroidism but not until my teens and i also have bipolar and those early depression symptoms may have been the bipolar- which isn't a commonly accepted cause of weight gain, especially not that much. I've only ever had a single person tell me the weight gain and the depression/bipolar were connected.. i told her this story and she said "well of course, your body chemistry changed". I almost cried- the first person who didn't blame me for being lazy and eating too much and not trying hard enough (until I found the fat acceptance movement anyway!). The actual reason behind the weight gain? Hard to say since I never saw a doctor of any kind and wasn't even diagnosed bipolar until I was 23- i'm just going off of vague recollections of when the depression started.

Not sure if that's what you were looking for.. but it's weight gain not explained by typical medical problems (like i said, weight gain isn't a commonly accepted cause of bipolar unless you're on meds which i obviously wasn't).

Brooke said...

Yep. Me. I was 28 years old. I gained 50 pounds in 6 months. I went from being "overweight" to truly being heavy. Although, I think it was stress related. Then, I got pregnant at 6 months & continued to gain 60 pounds during my pregnancy. So, I gained a total of 110 pounds in 15 months. And, 4.5 years later, I've not lost it. During this time, my opinions on weight loss vs. being healthy changed. I feel, despite my weight, I am healthier than I have ever been. I eat less processed food than I ever have.

MPS said...

It started when I was ~22... I was making a life altering decision about college, went into a major depression and started a few medications that had me gain ~15lbs - but it never stopped from there even though I stopped the medication. My doctors think it was what triggered my PCOS and I ended up gaining ~80lbs in a year and a half with no ryme or reason - walking 1-2miles daily around school, no change in my diet, etc. I have tried the HMR liquid diet (developed stomach issues so I had to stop), tried weight watchers, and now I'm at the gym, Get In Shape for Women. I have lost some weight, but I'm still 50lbs to go to get back to where I was at 22 (I'm 27 now) - luckley with pregnancy I don't gain a lot and end up lower than I started... been my saving grace with both kids now (13mo and t-3mo to go!)

Anonymous said...

I have unexplained weight gain...I am in the process of seeing doctors for it. Getting no where. Since I was about 20 I have gained 110 pounds I went from 155 to 267 I am 28 now. I have always been a healthy eater & active. I am hoping to get this figured out soon :(

Hekateris said...

I gained 100lbs during high school - the most active period of my entire life. I also became incredibly depressed and went to about 6 hours of sleep per night. My eating habits did not change. When I was 34 I discovered I had PCOS, for which I blame my easy weight gain and horrible inability to lose weight (I am a glacially slow loser, even when paleo).

I currently weigh more than when I gave birth, but I blame poverty and pasta.

Hekateris said...

Oh, I need to add that I also went on Metformin, but apparently insulin resistance is not part of my thing as over the course of a year and a half I lost a total of...13lbs (while paleo). I did get heart palpitations and panic attacks in return, so, yay.

Julie said...

In my mid-twenties I gained 80 pounds in a year. My doctor asked ME what was going on, and I had no explanation. So she just proceeded to nag me about it, rather than try and find the cause (I had mentioned PCOS as a possibility, but she blew it off). My weight gain continues, and my health deteriorated. 10 years later, struggling with infertility, I was diagnosed with, surprise, PCOS, and later, after the Metformin caused me severe side effects, celiac. In both cases I pushed for the diagnosis after my own research. Reproductive endo didn't think I had PCOS (test came back very clear yes on hormone levels, later confirmed by ultrasound), and I self-diagnosed the gluten issue after doing research and making dietary changes that had immediate and unmistakable (positive) results in my health.

Katelyn Murray said...

at 18 and 19. I gained 50 LBS while in college playing a sport. I didn't understand how with more exersise an better diet could make me bigger. But it happened. Continue tests show that i am completely healthy. Yet im Fat.

Anonymous said...

I have put on 50 lbs since October. First we blamed one medication then another. I kept telling the doctors my thyroid has been monitored for years and never had a TSH greater than 2 now it was over 4 but no one seemed alarmed. I finally stopped taking one of the meds and got a different doctor. My vitamin D level was very low. My thyroid's coming back TSH is less than 2 again. I'm still 180 lbs but I have more energy. Going to see a nutritionist soon. At least they can recheck my basal metabolic rate and adjust my daily intake. Doctor says if no improvement come back in 6 weeks and we'll keep looking. I think you have to find someone who takes you seriously and be open to things like the nutritionist. They aren't saying listen fatty you must be scarfing McDonald's every day (maybe they are but then they're turds). They're saying obviously your body isn't processing food the same way anymore so we have to change how you eat. Then hopefully they figure out what's changed in your body.

April Allen said...

When I was 12 yrs old I went from 165 to 275 pounds by the time I was 15.I was a very active teen and did not eat as much as others. By the time I was 23 I was 356 pounds and I had a roux en y. I am now 30 yrs old and after the same eating habits as I have always had I have went from 197 pounds at 29 to 275 at 30. Now I am devestated because I never wanted to get that big again and I am trying by working out 45 minutes 5 x week, and going on a all liquid diet but my medical report states once again that I am morbidly obese :(

Anonymous said...

I have always struggled with weight. I went through precocious puberty and began menstruating at 8, but was put on a drug that they called "implant" and I started gaining weight, I was 80kg in 6th grade, I had been 48kg in third grade and hadn't grown since then. In 7th grade, I dropped to 53kg in a month, I stayed at that weight for about 18 months, then I started gaining weight and got to 65kg, where I stayed for another 18 months before gaining another 10kg. I remained at that weight for two years before dropping to 60kg in a month, where I stayed for roughly a year, gained 8kg, which I lost again in a few days. After 18 months I gained 15kg in two weeks. Now I'm 77kg and I gained 3kg in a few days. I went to a dietician for a year and followed her plan while also going to the gym and working out for 2-3 hours a day, I didn't lose weight or even gain muscle.

The only time I have managed to control my weight was when I ate one meal a day of steamed vegetables and exercised for 8-10 hours a day. Even then that only maintained my weight.

The doctors say all this is "normal for a girl your age".

I'm only 148cm tall, so while those weight values might sound really low I'm a tiny person so my healthy weight is 45-50kg.

Terri Thompson said...

My son's girlfriend told me she gained 50 lbs suddenly in high school (I think around 16). She also had dizziness and headaches. She was very athletic and her diet had not changed. She's not prone to moodiness. They took her to the doctor and did all kinds of tests, but got no answers. She's 19 now and has stabilized, but never been able to lose the weight. I'm trying to do some research for her. She's still a positive, happy young lady. Do you have any ideas?

Well-Rounded Mama said...

The first thing to consider would be her thyroid function. However, I'm sure they already tested for this. The thing is, she needs to know what her EXACT results were and the cutoffs they used to determine "normal."

It's not enough to be told her results were normal. They have changed the thyroid cutoffs in some places and not others. So borderline numbers are considered diagnostic by some doctors and not by others. Plus many people have borderline TSH numbers and still are symptomatic, so many benefit from a trial of meds.

Hashimoto's is an autoimmune thyroid disease where the thyroid cycles in and out of hypo- and hyper- thyroidism. Big sudden gains with no change in habits, then stabilizing, is a common symptom. If other family members have a history of autoimmune issues, this is definitely one to check out.

Other possibilities include certain medications (birth control especially but some SSRIs), a sudden sensitivity to certain foods (gluten in particular), or other endocrine issues. A naturopath might be more willing to explore all of these possibilities than a traditional endocrinologist.

Sorry I don't have any solid answers. Just keep seeking till she does find some answers.

Sandra Love said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bonnie Yingling said...

I weighed 110 lbs my whole adult life. I have gained 60 lbs in the last 4 years. I'm 45. Eating less exercising more still gaining. Can't seem to lose any. :(

Anonymous said...

I sure hope this discusion is still open I am beyond desperate:( I have gain 42 lbs in just under one year. I have been to every type of doctor imaginable and they all say that everything is fine. I have even used alternative medicine...acupinture, herbalist, and energist. I feel desperate that no one understands me. I have always been an extremely healthy eater (mostly becuase I have too). I LOVE to workout and have my whole life. There has not been a change in anything I have done and the weight keeps piling on. I feel like a prisioner in my own body, I walk by a mirror and dont recognize the reflection. I avoid social situations, because I am embarrassed of the way I look. My life seems bleek. Any help you could offer would be so much appreciated!!

Anonymous said...

I gained 25 lbs in 6 months. Im 40 years old and im a nurtionist and labs are within healthy limits. I eat well and maintain a healthy active lifestyle. The only thing I can think of at this point is hormones.

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Lipedema is also a possibility. See the series on lipedema on my blog. Be sure to read all the entries to see if this is applicable to you.

Medications can also cause weight gain at times. If you are on any meds, do some research on them to see if wt gain can be a side effect.

Thyroid labs "within normal limits" doesn't always mean normal, FYI. If your TSH is over 2.5 or so, you might benefit from a trial of meds. Subclinical hypothyroidism doesn't always show in the TSH.

Cushings can also be a source of weight gain in a few people. Google it and see if any symptoms fit you.

Hope you find some answers. Keep looking. Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I've gain 35 lbs in the last 5 months. I haven't changed my diet or exercise routine nor have I started taking any new medication. I'm 54 years old, have had a hysterectomy, but still have my ovaries. I'm taking a testosterone replacement therapy. (I have a capsule implant in my glut.) I have a thyroid problem, but am not taking any medication for that. I have conic back pain and take Norco, Klonopin, and Zanaflex for that. I also take Sonata for sleep. I have high cholesterol and high blood pressure and take Creston and Bystolic for those. My Gyn says that my estrogen is normal still so I'm not taking estrogen. Any help you could provide would be appreciated. Many thanks. Pam in Dallas

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Remember, I'm not a medical professional and certainly am not "up" on all the various medications out there. I also don't give medical advice. But I can ask you some follow-up questions and give you ideas to consider.

You mention a thyroid "problem" but without being on medication. That could be a source right there. Thyroid function can change without a lot of notice, esp as you age. Do you know what your TSH, free T4 and free T3 are? Do you know what guidelines were used to determine "normal"? Sometimes docs don't give thyroid meds to borderline cases, but many borderline cases with clear symptoms really benefit from a trial of meds anyhow. You might want to look again at your thyroid function. If you need thyroid medications, sometimes that helps lower some of your cholesterol too.

I don't know why a woman would be taking testosterone replacement therapy. Can you discuss that? And why did you have a hysterectomy? Sometimes women gain some weight after a hysterectomy, especially if they have lipedema too. Gynecological surgery seems to be a particular trigger for lipedema flares/gain. So that's a possibility too.

You are on an awful lot of medications, and I'm not familiar with the ones you mention. Could any of them be the source of weight gain? Or an interaction? Are they all truly necessary? What could you do to get off some of these medications? Have you ever seen a good chiropractor? Perhaps a combo of a chiropractor and an acupuncturist could get you off some of the pain medications?

You might want to consider a second opinion with another care provider to review what medications are truly necessary, how they interact, whether wt gain might be due to thyroid issues or lipedema or the hysterectomy or the medications themselves. Cushings is another one to rule out as well.

Sorry I don't have any answers for you, just things to think about and talk over with your provider.

Casey Dills said...

I have been gaining weight. 22 lbs since june and its now just the begining of december. I eat well not too much of anything bad. I excercise but have been more fatigued and not as productive with that. My clothes are too tight and i wont buy bigger clothing at this point. I am 43 mom of a 7 and 12 year old.

Jo Brocas said...

I have gained 16 kgs since last april , my hair falls out in chunks , i bleed most days of the month and constantly get horrific cramping pains out of nowhere. Have been given about 7 different kinds of the pill, gone off th pill and now on the mirena and have been for 7 months now because the funded specialist wouldnt see me until i tried that (which costed me heaps) . I live an active life and eat healthier than ever yet no doctor seems to want to help me . Life has been impossible putting up with this and its taken a big toll on my relationship. 5 years ago i had a cyst removed from my ovary that caused me lots of pain but have had ultra sounds and its not that, back then i was also tested for polycystic ovaries and it was negative. Im 23 years old and am going insane can someone please help me before this gets worse ?

Well-Rounded Mama said...

Jo, have you had your thyroid levels tested? Not just TSH but free T4 and free T3? That sounds like the most obvious possibility but surely the docs have tested for this already. Still, get your *exact* lab results and do some research on the differing thyroid cutoffs and see where your results fall.

I'd also point out that you can still have PCOS even without polycystic ovaries. Your ovarian cyst previously, all the hair loss, the weight gain etc. could certainly be PCOS. Many women with PCOS also have subclinical thyroid issues as well.

Or there could be another hormonal issue going on. Perhaps try seeing an alternative medicine doctor who can test some of these other hormones and see if they can find a solution.

I'm so sorry you are suffering like this. I hope you find some answers soon. Keep searching.

Jo Brocas said...

Hi there,

Have done hormone and thyroid tests but where i live the doctors can be quite hopeless, i had a really good lady from america that was pushing for me to be seen by a specialist but she went back to america so am back to square one seeing if i can change medical centres all together . My last letter from the hospital said they classed me as non urgent and i will hear back from them in 3 months but still havent heard anything . Sucks that something so horrible is classed as non urgent plus i hate the weight ive become , im 174cm and was weighing 74kgs which wasnt too bad carrying a lot of muscle but no i weigh 91kgs and cant fit anything , its caused a lot of issues in my relationship and sex life went out the window because 90% i will bleed heavy during or just after. I will try push to be tested for pocs again . Atm i am taking 30 plus natural hormone pills until i can get to the specialist

Unknown said...

Total hysterectomy last year but then I lost 17 lbs! Kept it off and then I lost my job and gained over 25 lbs in 3 months. Are more sweets, moved a little less. I'm 42, I have 5 kids and take HRT.