Data Incident Notice
Everyday Health

6 Sneaky Reasons You’re Gaining Weight

Originally published February 24, 2020

Last reviewed November 14, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If your clothes are getting tight or the number on the scale is going up, one of these issues could be the reason why.

If you’ve noticed that the number on your scale is quickly rising or that your clothes have gotten snug, but your eating patterns and activity level haven’t changed, you might want to consider what else could be behind your sudden weight gain.

While there is no specific definition for what is considered rapid weight gain, it shouldn’t be ignored, according to Sharon Orrange, MD, an internal medicine physician at Keck Medicine of USC and clinical associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“Either the patient considers it noticeable enough to come in for a visit, or their body mass index measured during our visit has jumped from the normal weight to overweight category, or from the overweight to obese category,” she explains. “Both deserve a discussion and intervention.”

If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor. Here are some possible explanations.

1. Menopause weight gain

Around menopause, women may gain weight more easily.

“In the early postmenopausal years, we see weight gain and changes in fat distribution,” Orrange says. “The upside is that studies show that increase slows one year after your last period.”

2. Insomnia or disrupted sleep

If you’re not getting enough hours of sleep or have poor sleep with frequent wakings, you may be more likely to have excess weight.

“Several studies have found that not enough sleep is associated with weight gain,” Orrange says. “Studies have also shown that higher levels of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin are released when people are sleep-deprived.”

3. Certain medications

Some medications may also lead to gaining pounds.

“Certain antidepressants, certain diabetes medications and anti-seizure medications can cause weight gain,” Orrange says.

Corticosteroids can also be a cause.

4. Depression

Depression is also associated with changes in appetite and weight gain. In addition, “people with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, may also gain weight,” Orrange explains, “but treating SAD may help them avoid it.”

5. Certain medical conditions

If you can’t otherwise account for your weight gain, your doctor may want to test you for certain endocrine disorders. The endocrine system, which includes adrenal glands, thyroid and ovaries, helps regulate hormones that control several functions in the body.

“These are rarely an explanation for weight gain but worth a look,” Orrange says. “Irregular periods, acne and weight gain in women may indicate polycystic ovary syndrome, and fatigue may suggest an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).”

6. Bloating

Bloating is usually marked by a sensation of abdominal fullness, pressure or tightness, and your abdomen may appear swollen.

“It’s important to sort out whether a patient is really experiencing weight gain — pounds on the scale — because often, they are complaining about abdominal bloating or tight pants, and that’s very different,” Orrange notes.

“Bloating is commonly reported in people with irritable bowel syndrome and is handled much differently than weight gain,” she explains.

Constipation, lactose intolerance and premenstrual syndrome are other possible causes of bloating.


Dr. Sharon Orrange
weight gain
Tina Donvito
Tina Donvito is a freelance writer covering health, culture, travel and parenting.